How to Break the Cycle of Dyfunction

Recognising Family Dysfunction

Every family has a level of dysfunction, those family secrets that are not talked about outside of the home; abuse, addiction, problem child, mental health.

Did you know that these dysfunctions are passed down through generations?

  1. Violent men raise violent boys.
  2. Addicts raise addicts.
  3. Codependent women raise codependent daughters.
  4. Anxious parents raise anxious children.
  5. Victimized women raise girls to be victims.

Now this does not happen in every single case, but there is an increased likelihood that dysfunction will be passed down to the next generation. A child of dysfunction will either follow suit and continue the cycle, or veer the opposite way and take a left-wing stance for their own lives, but will continue the cycle by choosing a life partner who mirrors the dysfunction.

Why the Cycle?

This answer is simple; we can only teach what we know.

  1. If we know that the best way to get what you want is to threaten violence, then that is what we teach. (abuse)
  2. If we know that the best way to handle stress is to drink, then that is what we teach. (addiction)
  3. If we know that the best way to stay safe is to appease our partner, then that is what we teach. (codependence)
  4. If we know how to worry ourselves crazy about everything, then that is what we teach. (anxiety)
  5. If we know that our lives are dictated by the events that happen TO us, then that is what we teach. (victim)

Take a Look at Your Own Family

As I said, every family has some dysfunction. The first step to breaking the cycle is to recognise the cycle. What runs in your family? The best way to truly assess the toxicity or dysfunction in your family is to create a Genogram.


I used my own family in the example and I am child #2. As you can see, we have a long history of mental health issues & addiction. These issues did not directly effect everyone, but it did effect the course of their lives.

How Do I Break the Cycle?

Your past is not your fault, your future is your responsibility.


Breaking the Cycles of Dysfunction is Possible.

  1. Create Awareness – start with your own genogram. grab a large piece of paper, pencil crayons & a ruler. Start with you, your siblings, children; working down. Then add your parents, aunts, uncles & grandparents. Use the legend in my example or create your own. When you are done, assess your diagram. What stands out? What have you learned?
  2. Ownership – What role do you play in the cycle of dysfunction? Are you anxious, a victim of abuse, child of addiction? You see, you only ever have 2 choices – You are part of the problem – or – you are part of the solution. Which will you be?
  3. Observe – with your new information, observe family interactions. How are difficult situations handled? Who over-reacts & when? Is conversation assertive or passive/aggressive? Do you recognise any of these behaviours in yourself?
  4. Children of dysfunction adapt a certain role or persona. Which one are you? Which persona have your children adapted?
  5. Find Support – There are several groups that help you recognise & offer support through family dysfunctions. Women on a Mission is a great place to find support on-line. You may also choose to Google groups in your local area.
  6. Social Awareness – take a look at all the people you surround yourself with – does the toxicity extend to your social circle?
  7. Patience – be patient with yourself. Having this new information or awareness can be overwhelming. Understand that the dysfunction in your family has been building for generations. It will take time for you to adapt to a new way of life.
  8. Seek Assistance – the most effective way to break the cycle is too seek assistance from a professional. If the damage runs deep, you may need to seek therapy or counseling. A Life Coach will help you assess your new information & work with you to overcome old habits.

Fast Track your Success

Your life experiences include fear, uncertainty, insecurity, loss of power or control. However; all of these have given you a very unique set of skills. Skills that can & will propel you into a much brighter future!! I know this because you are reading this blog post. You know that your current situation is NOT your final destination. You know that you want something different, but you’re not sure how or where to start.

If you’d like to know who you really are, without the weight of dysfunction, follow this link to experience your very own life-changing Power Hour.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist.

Andrea Scarborough Life Guide

Are you in a relationship with a narcissist?

Are you in a relationship with a narcissist?

Here’s a scary statistic; 35% of women report either a current or past relationship with a narcissist.  35%.  Are you one of us?  Are you uncertain?  Let me help you clarify.

~ You firmly believe that your partner is smarter, wiser & more capable of managing life.  You depend on him/her to help you navigate your life because they have helped you realize that you are unable to do this on your own.  Your thoughts & choices cannot be trusted because you have made some grave errors in the past.  He or she is more likely to provide a solution to the sticky situations you find yourself in.  Without their constant guidance, instruction or input you would not be able to complete even the simplest of daily tasks.  Tasks you thought you could manage, such as choosing appropriate outfits, how to properly clean a home, effective discipline for children and managing finances are too much for you.

~  Your partner is very compassionate about the abuse you have suffered in the past and understands that because of the damage done to you, you are too broken to survive on your own.  He or she is your protector, your hero.  Your partner can see through the manipulation of your family & friends.  He or she knows that you are unsafe with them alone.  Your partner has suggested that you start to create distance between you & the people you thought loved you.  To keep you safe from these people causing further harm to you, perhaps you should cut ties all together, because your partner is the only one you can trust to keep you safe.

~  Your partner is always considerate enough to point out that little changes would be a great improvement.  “It’s too bad you can’t put together an outfit like her.  She’s hot in those heals with her hair up like that.”  He is also very careful to point out that you do not suit an up-do in heals, because it makes you look like a hooker.

~  Your partner encourages open dialogue to discuss the relationship.  You feel valued when you offer suggestions for improvement and he explains the reality of your situation: “I wish you looked at me they way you look at her.” “I look at her that way because she is strong & confident, something you will never be because you’re too broken.”

~  There have been times when you have doubted the wisdom and the authority of your partner, but each time you question this, he is able to mention a friend or co-worker who feels the same way he does, thus proving that you are once again to broken to form an opinion about anything.

~  You are fully aware that you are damaged goods and are so grateful that your partner was willing to take pity on you and love you in spite of your past.  You are unlovable to everyone and without him to save you, you would be lost.

If any of this sounds familiar, then you are in a relationship with a narcissist.  Let’s insert the appropriate terms for each point above:

Gaslighting – creating uncertainty in your thoughts, beliefs & abilities.  This is used to diminish your self-worth and create dependency on the narcissist.

Isolation – creating distance between you & your support system.  With your family & friends out-of-the-way, your abuser has more control.  You are no longer guided by outside positive influences and are fully dependant on him.

Shaming – sounds like a compliment, but leaves you feeling small & insecure.  Used to reduce your self-confidence.

Deflecting – blames you for their indiscretions.  Narcissists are unable to accept responsibility for their actions.  They deflect accountability and choose to be the victim of others.

Triangulation – Bring a third-party into a conversation to back up their thoughts & beliefs.  Used to force you to second guess your thoughts & beliefs.

Projection – they are unable to accept their own feelings of worthlessness, so they cast these feelings on to you in such a way that you are convinced they are true.  They project their insecurities onto you.

How do I know this?

Because I was one of the 35%.  I was in an 11-year relationship with a narcissist.  I was told that he was forced to sleep with other women because my being pregnant made me fat (I gained 12 pounds in 9 months).  I was told that cocaine & hookers were necessary because of the burden I placed on him.  I was told that he deserved the settlement from my injury for dragging my sorry ass around all these years.  I was told that I was lucky to have him because no one else would put up with my stupidity & laziness.

I was also told that it didn’t have to be this way.  I heard whispers of strength & determination.  I saw the fear in the eyes of my daughters.  I heard the inner voice tell me that this is not what I would choose for them.  This is not the example I wanted them to structure theirs lives on.  They were worth more than this.  They deserved more than this.  They, my girls, gave me the strength & the courage to want more, believe more and hope for more.

How do you break free from a narcissist?

Start by listening for that voice.  The voice buried deep inside you that tells you this isn’t right.  The voice that brought you to this article.  The voice that has led you to secretly seek out alternative solutions, choices & possibilities.  Look around you.  Find your source of strength.  Is it in your children, your family or even a memory?  When you’re ready, reach out.  There is always someone close by that will support you.

  1. Contact your local abuse shelter: they will help you with a safety plan, housing & Legal Counsel
  2. Contact your local Police & tell them you are planning to leave a toxic relationship& ask for a Police Escort if needed. Let them know of any weapons in the home.
  3. Begin to slowly save & hide money.
  4. Pack a bag of essentials & leave it with a friend
  5. Download this Safety Plan for Domestic Violence 

You cannot fix this person.  They do not see themselves as the problem.  They feel you are the problem.

The honeymoon (those moments when you are treated like a queen, the apologies, the gifts, the promises) won’t last.  You know this.  This is just another manipulation tool to get you to stay.

You are never alone in this.  There are thousands of narcissists in this world, but there are millions of survivors.  When survivors band together, we begin to thrive, to dream, to create & to conquer!!  Together, we will change this world.  We’re ready for you to join us.  Let us know how we can help.

Click here to read more stories of survival.

Andrea Scarborough
Life / Parenting Coach

How Not to Raise Self-entitled Children – Part 3

If you’ve made it this far in my Blog Series, then you have already read about Basic & Essential Life Skills.  In this post, we will first discuss self-entitlement and then begin to discuss ways to both prevent & undo the damage.

What is Self-Entitlement?

When an individual perceives themselves as deserving of unearned privileges,  the belief that life owes them something; a reward, a measure of success or a particular standard of living, this is self-entitlement.

Narcissism is the key component.  The exaggerate self of self, self-importance coupled with a lack of regard or empathy for others.

There is an unbalanced sense of ownership  in that they believe they have access to whatever they want, but are unwilling to share with others.

There is a belief that they have the right to start at the top of the ladder.  They deserve the best, not because they have worked for it, earned it, but because they want it.  This bottom-up approach infuriates those that struggle to climb rung by rung.

Self-entitlement and self-awareness are opposites.  Self-entitlement lacks accountability and will seek excuses and blame when confronted.  Self-awareness demonstrates a high level of accountability and empathy; an ability to see different perspectives.

Extreme anger when confronted, often fits of rage; physical or verbal aggression, or passive eye-rolls or a death-glare are all signs of self-entitlement.

When the anger does not help them reach their goal, they may resort to the “poor me” game.  Self-pitying behaviours coupled with manipulation and attention-seeking will follow the dominant, aggressive behaviours.  They are likely to punish themselves, but make it appear as though you are punishing them.  There is a strong victim mentality.

What is behind all of this negative behaviour?

This person is lost, lonely and longs to be admired.  They are not happy with themselves and lack the skills to express that effectively.  Instead they lash out at the people they blame for their own misery.  There is a constant need for validation, and  they attempt this by demanding respect.  The level of insecurity is frightening and they are unable to fully acknowledge it, so they project it onto those around them.

They lack the essential life skills to navigate the world on their own and this frightens them to their very core.  Therefore, they try to ensure that others will pick up the slack by demanding, arguing, lashing out  and disrespecting those they hold dear.

What can we do to help?

Depending on the age of the person, this can be a long road; but it is possible.

We first must accept that no-one is born self-entitled.  We create this mess by giving them what they want before we give them what they need.  They wanted new headphones – they needed to earn the headphones.

Positive ParentingIn order to effectively undo the self-entitlement, we must first look at ourselves.  This child is merely reacting to the environment the parent has created.  A child needs boundaries, structure and expectations.  If we as parents, do not have our own boundaries in place, it is very difficult to teach our children to have boundaries.

Your children will become who you are, so become who you want them to be. ~Virginia Satir

Demonstrate the behaviours you wish to see in your child.  Your actions must line up with your words.  Yelling at a child to be quiet – is a mixed message.

Our children need role models – someone they watch intently.  A role model will teach our children which behaviours are acceptable & which are not.

There are plenty of exemplary role models out there – Oprah, Dwayne Johnson, professional athletes, even movie stars.  Your child is not interested in any of this.  They want & need to be exactly like you.  You are their Hero.  You are who they are striving to be.  You are the one who, through your own actions, will teach them how to navigate this world.  They will gain their own sense of self, by watching you.  They are not learning by listening, they are learning by watching.

Back to the Basics

Go back  to the Basic & Essential Life skills.  Assess yourself, do you have all of these skills?  Do you effectively regulate your own emotions, or have you been known to fly off the handle?  Do you have a strong sense of connectedness; to family, friends, groups or teams?  Are you patient?  Are you accountable?

It is possible to learn these skills at any age.  You may not have learned them as a child, but you can still learn all of them, if you want to.

It is not our job to fix our children.  It is our job to teach them how to fix themselves. ~ Andrea Scarborough

Teach your children how to fix themselves, by allowing them to witness your own journey of healing.

Your past is not your fault. Your future is your responsibility.

This is what I know of you so far:

  • You are aware there is an issue. – We first must acknowledge the problem before we can begin to correct it.  You are on the right path!!!
  • You are seeking change. – The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over & over again, expecting a different result each time.  You are willing to make changes!!!  Congratulations!!  You’re off to a great start!!!
  • Ghandi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – You are trying to do that!!  I’m proud of you!!
  • You have everything you need to succeed.  You have all the tools, knowledge, wisdom & experience you need to make the changes you need.
  • If you have read this far, you are willing to go farther.  You are ready to do something different, BE something different!!  This is what makes you an amazing person & parent!!

I’d love to have a strategy session with you, to create simple, effective strategies you can begin to implement and see amazing results.  

This session is FREE and you will gain valuable insight into helping your child create a life they are proud to live!!  

Schedule your FREE Parent Strategy Assessment Session NOW!

Join our Solution-Focused Parenting Group to receive helpful hints, support & encouragement through your parenting journey. 




How to Not Raise Self-entitled Children – Part 2

This Blog Series ” How to Not Raise Self-entitled Children”  is focusing on reducing self-entitlement.  If you haven’t already, please find the first in the series here.

In the first posts we discussed the importance of the family working together to maintain the home.  By everyone pitching in to do the their part, we have reduced the strain on the Parents to do it all, taught our children valuable skills to ensure their survival in the real world and begun to insert some of the Essential Life Skills that are so import to their individual success.

“It is not our job to fix our children, it is our job to teach our children how to fix themselves.”

Essential Life Skillsessential life skills

  1. Interpersonal relationships are not developed by chatting with people on line through video games or messaging.  This is real, face-to-face, human interaction.  The opportunity to look another person in the eye & understand their point of view.  The greatest lessons come from our elders who have lived, lost & learned.  Grandparents, neighbours all have a story to tell.  Encourage your child to listen.
  2. Communication is the greatest tool we have as humans.  We have the ability to express our thoughts, concerns & opinions.  This is what sets us apart from the animal kingdom.  Encourage your child to speak with respect & compassion. Encourage them to listen to understand & not listen to respond.  If you are able to do this with them, they will learn how to do it in their own lives.
  3. Problem-Solving is a really tough one for parents.  We don’t want our children  to fall, but it is necessary.  Our children need to learn to resolve their own issues.  Helping them talk through problems, exploring different options, choosing the appropriate action & then assessing the outcome will go a long way to reducing the number of problems your child encounters.
  4. Critical-Thinking is key.  This is the lessons we have learned from past mistakes that we have problem-solved and applying this information to current & future situations.  “Last time I went out in the rain, I didn’t take an umbrella & I was sick for a week.  Today, I will take an umbrella.
  5. Imagination / Creativity is how we develop a strong sense of self.  This is where we learn what we like, what we don’t like, our strengths, weakness and our passion.  Help your child to explore a variety of outlets to find whatever it is that will light their flame!
  6. Connectedness; true, honest & deep connections are what keep us grounded.  Humans were designed to live in communities and having a strong connection to this community will keep you safe from harm.  “You have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything“. Teaching your child to stand with a group of individuals who are searching for a similar outcome, will prevent them from being recruited by negativity.  Help your child to surround themselves with positive, supportive, like-minded people who will nurture their sense of self.
  7. Sense of self is knowing who you are and firmly believing in that person.  When a child has the freedom to explore their likes/dislikes and effectively communicate that, we are encouraging their individuality.  We may not like everything they do, but as long as it isn’t illegal, immoral or fattening, give it your blessing.
  8. Natural Consequences are a must for our future adults.  Imagine if we have world leaders who did not understand the value of natural consequences.  Leaders who believed they could do, say & act anyway those chose, regardless of how it affected those around them.  It would be a truly sad planet.  “You are free to make your own choices, but you are not free from the consequences of those choices.”  Hold you children accountable to their indiscretions.  Be sure they know that every decision they make has an effect on someone else.
  9. Emotional Regulation is the ability to self-sooth, calm strong emotions and release negative energy. Help your child to understand the array of complex emotions that we all have.  Use feeling words while talking to your child.  “That must have been frustrating” or “That’s really sad, I’m sorry to hear that.”  By inserting the proper emotions, children can then begin to process the situation.
  10. Patience is the ability to understand that good things come to those that wait.  By not giving your child everything they seem to want right now, you are instilling an understanding that one must work to earn privileges.  This is where their work ethic will be taught.

There is a very simple & effective way to teach your children everything they need to know about Basic & Essential Life skills & I will talk about that in my next post

I’d love to have a strategy session with you, to create simple, effective strategies you can begin to implement and see amazing results.  

This session is FREE and you will gain valuable insight into helping your child create a life they are proud to live!!  

Schedule your FREE Parent Strategy Assessment Session NOW!

Join our Solution-Focused Parenting Group to receive helpful hints, support & encouragement through your parenting journey. 

I have created a FREE download to help with emotional regulation.  Please comment below, if you’d like a copy sent to you.  

How to Not Raise Self-Entitled Children

One of the chiefs complaints from parents, teachers & coaches is the level of self-entitlement in todays youth.

So many kids today are lacking the appropriate skills to navigate this world on their own.  We have created a generation of children who win a ribbon for showing up, not trying their best & working to achieve a goal.  We have raised our children with technology, not people.  It’s easier to send them off to be entertained by video games, then it is to get them to help make supper.

We, as adults tend to complain about the lack of skills our children have, but not many are willing to put in the work to correct this.

Join a community of Parents who are working to make a difference.

Basic Life Skills are required to navigate this world effectively.  Without them, we have self-entitlement, a strong need for immediate gratification in our youth, but we also have some very burnt-out, frustrated parents as well.

Start with Basic Life Skills

Basic Life Skills are the fundamental tools to ensure independence.

Basic Life Skills teach very important lessons:

Value of a job well done.

Cooperation & team work

Respect for belongings

These skills should be introduced at an early age, but can be taught at any stage.

Personal Hygiene enhances their sense of independence, self-esteem.

Cleaning encourages team work & self-starting tasks without reminders.

Cooking teaches self-sufficiency & proper nutrition.

Laundry again enhances the respect for possessions & instills a level of control.

Care for Plants / Pets is where the self-entitlement decreases.  They learn to care for something other than themselves.  They learn empathy, compassion and are rewarded when they see the flower, or can eat the fruit.

It is not a parent’s job to do all these tasks for everyone in the home.  It is the parent’s job to ensure everyone in the home knows how to complete these tasks to the best of their ability.  Parent’s who do all of this & work full time, will be burnt out before their children are teenagers.  Believe it or not, the teenage years are where you need to bring your A Game.

Little side note about allowance – I get asked this one all the time:

Allowance is a great time to teach financial responsibility & budgeting.  Teaching your children the value of a dollar will go along way to encouraging financial independence.

Method A – Chore List

Have a family discussion to create a list of tasks that must be completed in the home on a weekly basis.  This should include tasks such as maintaining individual spaces (clean your room) but also maintain community spaces (mop the kitchen).  You can either pay a flat rate at the end of the week, or assign a dollar value to each task.

Method B – The Extra Mile

If you choose to not pay your child for being an active participant in your home, there is still a way to earn money.  Have a list of tasks that are not required everyday; raking leaves, household laundry, cleaning windows, organize the garage, weed flower beds, help a neighbour.  Assign a dollar value to each task to be paid upon completion of task. 

I’d love to have a strategy session with you, to create simple, effective strategies you can begin to implement and see amazing results.  

This session is FREE and you will gain valuable insight into helping your child create a life they are proud to live!!  

Schedule your FREE Parent Strategy Assessment Session NOW!

Join our Solution-Focused Parenting Group to receive helpful hints, support & encouragement through your parenting journey. 

Continue reading about Essential Life Skills.

Your Life on Your Terms

You Are Not The Failing Mom – There is Hope!

Dear Mom Who Feels Like She Failing

I see you watching your child struggle. Struggle with anger, aggression, anxiety or depression. You watch helplessly, as your child sinks further into an abyss you fear they will never return from. I see you tell yourself “this is just a phase, I struggled in high school too.”, but a piece of you knows this is bigger than that. You see how the behaviours of one child affects the entire family.  How it affects you.

  • You are riddled with emotional injury – every angry outburst directed at you, is like a gunshot wound straight to the heart.
  • You are exhausted – you can’t sleep at night because your child is out somewhere, with someone and all the horrible scenarios are playing through your head.
  • You are isolated – there is no-one to talk to about this.  Friends & family tell you how to “fix” your child, but they truly don’t understand just how difficult that is.  You are a social outcast, because everyone is judging you as a failure, and you know it’s true.

You have tried everything;

  • You buy them all the latest gadgets, brand-name clothes, vehicles – because they said that would make them happy.
  • You are spending hundreds of dollars on Therapy, but your child refuses to fully participate, if you can even get them to go.
  • Legal fees, court appearances and probation are forcing you to take too much time off work, but you have to go, because you know they won’t go if you don’t drag them.

Searching for Answers

You have spent countless hours searching for answers and all you’ve found is another vicious cycle of hopelessness:

  • Therapy
    • Too expensive
    • Free Programs are short term
    • Your child won’t go.
    • And the worst – “Your child is not bad enough to meet our service criteria.”
  • On-line Parenting Groups
    • Finally a place for you to openly talk about the issues at home.
      • But still – no real guidance, no solutions, & loads of underlying judgement.

What Am I Looking For?

If you could take a few minutes, with a clear head and really assess what it is that you are looking for in a solution, what would you come up with?

  • Something that can help me decide what kind of services we need?
  • A group just for women who support, guide & empower each other? No judgement, just unconditional acceptance? A place that will allow you to rediscover YOU?
  • A group of forward-thinking Moms who truly understand the emotional turmoil of raising a child who is struggling and are sharing helpful tips, suggests, support & understanding?
  •  Someone who could remind you who you were before all this negativity weighed you down?  Remind you of your inner Badass?
  • On-line courses that understand that you are over-stressed, under-appreciated, exhausted, overwhelmed and will still provide simple solutions to begin the healing process?
  • A person who has “been there, done that” and is able to support, guide, listen & understand (and it would be nice if this person was available exactly when shit hit the fan to help you effectively get through it)?
  • Hope, possibility, encouragement, support, guidance, love & acceptance?

I was searching too,

I spent over 10 years searching for solutions for my family.  I know the anguish, so I have done all the research for you!!  All the services, all the resources & all the supports; complete with direct links – and it’s FREE!!  Because someone needs to cut you a break!!

A clear, practical, easy-to-follow guide to the services, supports & resources that specifically meet the needs of you & your family?

I’ve made this so simple, because I know you don’t have the patience for complicated right now.

  1. Click on the link above.
  2. Enter your email address.
  3. Check your “other/junk/spam” folders.

That’s it.

You got this, Momma!  You are on the right path now. 

Much love to you & yours.

If you need me, I’m here.





My Name is Jenny

My Name is Jenny 

Written & submitted by Jenny Ambrose of Puree Fantastico

I am the Best Small Graphic Design Business in Los Angeles for 2014-2017, winner of Addy awards, owner of all of the awesome. Spreader of the joy, font knowledge, and endless gradient (and glitter!) love. Encourager of the silliness, the feeling of freedom, and the loudest laughter.

But I am also the same person who suffered through PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder from 10 to 28, has had to deal with colonoscopies and laparoscopies BECAUSE of those disorders, but I am also the person that found a way to heal. Really, fully, entirely heal. I’ve changed things about myself I used to take wholly for granted. In my mind and my heart, I’ve changed right down to the cellular level. My mitochondria sing the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma


To walk away fresh and renewed, happy, fulfilled, and whole by 32; walking away from a life of chaos and parents each emboldened with their own special flavors of narcissistic personality disorder and into a life full of heart and authenticity. My inner voice is my own, and the boundaries I have are grown from a solid foundation within myself. I lovingly nurture a life composed of a wonderful equally strong and tender marriage, FIVE relentlessly needy (but totally loved) animal babies, hilarious, intelligent, grateful friends and colleagues who lift me up, support me, challenge me, and contribute to my craziness (aka The Kubrick project!). I am loved in my life, and most importantly, I am loved BY my life.  

I truly believe that it was my multitude of passions that allowed me to connect deeply with my truest self, carving a pathway overriding all of the nonsense that was to come. It was listening to my truest voice when all others tried so hard to drown it out. It was following my gut even though I thought I was diving head first into the deepest pools of insanity. There were times when nothing made sense, and times when even the things I thought made sense was nonsense but sticking with myself has always lead me exactly where I need to be.
So, whatever you do, wherever you are, and whatever you are faced with– always choose you. You will always make the best choice there is. I promise.

Thank you, Jenny, for sharing your story!!  As I said to you, your energy precedes you!!  Thank you also for contributing the artwork for this post!!  It is beautiful and expressive!  

Please Leave Jenny a Comment below and be sure to subscribe to my blog to read more fantastic stories of triumph, adversity, success & survival!

If you’d like to share your story, schedule your FREE Session NOW!

Denyse’ Story

Tina’s Story

LeeAnne’s Story

Kim’s Story

Staci’s Story

The Phoenix Rises

The Day My Child Lost Her Joy

In an especially chaotic rush out the door to go on a family vacation, I sat in the passenger seat fuming. Mad because I didn’t have time to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Mad because we were late getting on the road. Mad because the garage door was acting up. I’m talking trivial, insignificant, minor inconveniences here, but that was the state of a distracted woman who could no longer see the blessings, only the inconveniences, of her life.

Before we were about to pull out of the driveway, my husband looked at me as if someone he loved very much had died. In a barely audible whisper he said, “You’re never happy anymore.”

Click here to find the original post.

I wanted to defend.

I wanted to excuse.

I wanted to deny.

But I couldn’t.

Because I knew he was right.

Where had that happy woman gone? The one who smiled at people she passed on the street just because. The one whose friends often spoke of her positive outlook on life. The one who felt happy simply because she heard her favorite song or had a pack of strawberry Twizzlers in her purse. The one who could laugh off mistakes because mistakes happen, and they are certainly not the end of the world.

Where had she gone?

And that’s when I glanced to the backseat to see if my children, then ages six and three, had heard my husband’s words. Staring back at me was my older daughter picking her lip with worry the size of a small boulder weighing down her small shoulders.

As she pinched that tiny piece of fragile skin on her upper lip with wide eyes, I could practically read her mind:

Mom’s mad.

Mom’s tired.

Mom’s stressed.

But there was more. I could practically hear how a young child would interpret her mother’s unhappiness.

Mom’s mad at me.

Mom’s tired because of me.

Mom’s stressed because of something I did.

That’s when an even more powerful question hit me.

Where had my happy little girl gone? The one who woke up with the most gorgeous bedhead and good morning smile. The one who beamed at the words “sprinkler,” “cotton candy,” and “pet store.” The one who laughed so hard tears came to her eyes. The one who licked beaters with sheer pleasure and danced happily to any song with a beat.

Where had she gone?

I knew.

Because my happiness was based on external measures—on tasks being completed, plans running accordingly, goals being met, hairs being in place—I was continually disappointed … upset … impatient … and stressed. In the process of making my own life miserable, I’d funneled my unhappiness straight into my daughter’s once joyful heart and spirit. Her pain was a direct reflection of the expression I wore on my face.

I desperately wanted to bring a smile back to my daughter’s face. I knew I must bring it back to my own. I began praying for small steps I could take to become a more positive, present, and peace-filled person. On brightly colored sticky notes, I posted daily goals and positive mantras that came to me during morning prayer time. Especially prominent on my mirrors and cabinets were these two go-to phrases: “Only Love Today” and “See Flowers Not Weeds.”

I used the phrase Only Love Today to silence my inner bully. Whenever a critical thought would come to my mind or my mouth, I’d cut it off with Only Love Today. I used See Flowers Not Weeds as a pathway to gratitude, to see what was good in situations and people.

As Only Love Today and See Flowers Not Weeds became a daily practice, I felt a profound transformation occurring in my heart and home. No longer were my goals exclusively items that could be measured or checked off—they consisted of immeasurable items like listening, laughing, dreaming, playing, connecting, and loving. With a more meaningful daily goal, I was able to see the blessings in my imperfect self and in my imperfect life. My eager-to-please, helpful older child looked different too. I saw her for who she was, not an annoyance or a bother, but a loving child with clever thoughts and ideas. For once, I could see all the things she was capable of doing—not perfectly, but good enough for today. The tightness in my face relaxed and the smiles came more easily for both of us.

One morning, I looked out the kitchen window to see her making a little garden right there in the middle of the yard. I watched as she tended to her miniature plot. Her joyful smile made me take pause. Clearly, she was at peace tending to her garden. I took a picture and sent it to my parents. Nothing could have prepared me for the response I received. My parents wrote:

“Thank for this precious picture of our beautiful granddaughter. Over the last two years, we have seen a tremendous change in her. We no longer see a scared look in her eyes; she is less fearful about you being upset or impatient with her. She is much happier and more relaxed. She is thriving and growing into a content, creative, and nurturing person. We know for a fact the changes we see in her coincide with the changes we have also seen in you.”

I covered my mouth to muffle the sobs.

When I was struggling to breathe beneath the weight of perfection, distraction, and self-induced pressure, my child was too.

My daughter had absorbed my tension.

She had absorbed my frustration.

She had absorbed my anxiety.

She had absorbed my unhappiness.

And as my negative emotions were being filtered down to her, they impacted her ability to grow, thrive, and blossom.

If I didn’t know it before, I know it now:

Our children are our garden. They absorb our stress, just as they absorb our peace. They absorb our negativity just as they absorb our joy. And we have the power to control what they absorb, but first, we must tend to ourselves.

It might sound like this:

Dear one, you have feelings. They are worth listening to and acknowledging.

You have limits. They are necessary to keep in place as a means of valuing your time and honoring your health.

You have dreams. You are worthy of time to pursue what makes your heart come alive.

You have needs. You deserve affection, rest, sustenance, and grace.

Perhaps you forgot that it is necessary to look after YOU. It’s okay. I forget too. But we still have today. Thank God, we still have today.Today let’s tend to ourselves as we do our loved ones. Perhaps we can make it a habit. We’ll never know how much we can grow and flourish until we take time to tend to what is most precious.

***Negative behaviours in your children are often a direct result of your own emotions.  Emotions your children feel, cannot understand, but simply react to If you’d like to reduce the effects of your emotions on your children, please contact me for a FREE Consultation.  

This post was written by Molly Kathleen.  Thank you Molly for articulating this in a way that I couldn’t.  This is powerful, raw, and direct.  

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Family Structure

Inner Workings of a Family

Family, the first group of people we know.  We depend on our family to help us create a sense of self.  Our Family gives us anchor in a crazy world.

Think of someone you know who has suffered a heart attack.  The immediate response is not to shame the heart for stepping out of line.  We do not ask the kidneys or the liver to pick up the slack.  We certainly don’t kick the heart out until it changes its behaviour and try to go on with out it.   We don’t blame some external force for the heart attack.

To effectively treat a heart attack, we examine all aspects of the body, internal functions & external forces to create a well-rounded plan to prevent further episodes.  We look for ways to reduce both internal & external stressors.  We improve our diet, our physical exercise and work to reduce the toxins going into the body.  We find ways to reduce our stress at work & at home.  A heart attack is a symptom of a much larger problem – lifestyle.  To prevent another episode, we change our life-style.

The same can be said for how we address challenges within the family.  A struggling child is merely a symptom of a dysfunction within the family.    These dysfunctions can be addressed quickly providing the family as a whole is willing to look at both the internal & external stressors and adjust the lifestyle of the family to prevent further episodes.  But how do we do this?

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Let’s first begin by defining your role.  I’ve met many families where roles are reversed – the man is the mom and the woman is the dad, or same sex parents, or platonic friendships raise the children, whatever your family looks like, let’s first figure out who you are.

The Mom

  • Nurturer – provides the soft, emotional guidance to children
  • Nester – creates a loving, stable environment
  • Sustainer – provides essentials to sustain life – nourishment, medical care
  • Teacher – promotes transition of milestones – sitting up, first steps
  • Soft skills – interpersonal relationships, empathy, critical thinking
  • Emotional – guided by gut instinct and emotions

The Dad

  • Provider – earns the most money
  • Protector – creates a level of intimidation to outsiders
  • Gatherer – brings in food, clothing, shelter
  • Disciplinarian – teaches the hard lessons – natural consequences
  • Hard Skills – problem solving, using tools, maintenance of home/car, catch a ball
  • Logical – guided by reason & logic

These are just guidelines.  The Mom may be the nurturer, the nester, the sustainer, the provider and the teacher of hard skills.  My point is, which one best describes you and your role in the family?

As we continue in this post, these are the terms I will be using, not the stereotypical mom is a girl, dad is a boy.

Roles of the Children

The children take on various roles as well.  Depending on the level of conflict in your home, your children will adapt to their surroundings. Psychologists have studied family dynamics and determined that there are 4 personas a child will develop to manage their family situation.

The Pleaser
  • Takes care of the emotional parent and the other siblings.
  • He/she tries to ease the stress in the family.
  • Steps in during times of conflict to try to minimize the situation.
The Scapegoat
  • This child is blamed for the faults of others.
  • The result is anger and self-defeating behaviours.
The Hero
  • The golden child.
  • Works hard at school, get good grades, helps around the house.
  • Truly believes that if she/he is perfect enough, the family problems will go away.
The Lost Child
  • Quiet, withdrawn, depressed & anxious.
  • Chooses to be alone.
  • Takes the blame for the issues in the family.

Murray Bowen – The Bowen Centre for the Study of Family

It is the nature of a family that its members are intensely connected emotionally. Often people feel distant or disconnected from their families, but this is more feeling than fact. Families so profoundly affect their members’ thoughts, feelings, and actions that it often seems as if people are living under the same “emotional skin.” People solicit each other’s attention, approval, and support and react to each other’s needs, expectations, and upsets. The connectedness and reactivity make the functioning of family members interdependent. A change in one person’s functioning is predictably followed by reciprocal changes in the functioning of others. Families differ somewhat in the degree of interdependence, but it is always present to some degree.

This “emotional skin” that Bowen speaks of explains a lot about what happens in your family.  When your teenager screams something very hurtful at you, you take this personally.  She has rocked you to your core.  No-one will ever hurt you as much as a member of your family because you all share the same deep-rooted emotional connection.

When your children were little, you could see that their emotions mirrored that of the emotional parent.  They were learning from you how to react to situations.  If you were scared, they were scared, if you were stressed, they were stressed.  You eventually picked up on this and tried to shield your emotions from your children.  But it always seemed as though you had a fussy child at the most inconvenient time.  Temper tantrums would erupt when you had to race around to complete errands, meet deadlines, clean the house and put on your happy pants because the in-laws were coming for dinner.  Today was not the day for this child to be miserable – you did not have time!!  The reality of this scenario is that your child was simply mirroring your stress & frustration.  Their little worlds were out of balance because you were out of balance.  You ask them what’s wrong and the usual answer was “I don’t know.”  How could they know, they were just picking up on your emotions and reacting the only way they knew how.

During times of adult stress, we tend to focus our attention on the stressor; bills, errands, relationship, politics or world drama.  We create space between us and our children to shield them from these stressors.  Our role as parents is to protect our children.  However; we have unknowingly created the opposite effect.  As we will discuss in a future module, the connection between family members is so strong that it will predict future outcomes.  Children develop a sense of self by watching you.  They learn what scares them, what pleases them and what nourishes them.  Their likes, dislikes all come from the family.

The less developed a person’s “self,” the more impact others have on his functioning and the more he tries to control, actively or passively, the functioning of others. The basic building blocks of a “self” are inborn, but an individual’s family relationships during childhood and adolescence primarily determine how much “self” he develops. Once established, the level of “self” rarely changes unless a person makes a structured and long-term effort to change it. – Murray Bowen

In short, if a parent is unable to truly connect with a child, this alters their sense of self, their place in the family.  They will search for ways, either actively, or passively to find a connection – to someone or something.  This is the root of family issues.  This is where the regression started.

In a regression, people act to relieve the anxiety of the moment rather than act on principle and a long-term view.– Murray Bowen

Let’s fast forward to today.  You are sitting here desperately seeking information on how to help your teenage child.  They have lost their way.  They are struggling, and it is manifesting in a variety of ways; poor grades at school, victim of bullying, hanging out with the wrong crowd, lack of motivation, experimenting with substances, self-harm or addicted to technology.

You are a strong parent and your child is not living in line with the values you tried to teach them.  You taught them to respect others, do their best, and be a productive member of society.  So where did it all go wrong?  How did we get here?

Think about the emotional connection you have with this child, the connection they have with other members of the family.  Could it be that they feel a disconnect?  Whether or not it is physically present, could they perceive themselves as an outsider, or not worthy?  Was there a time, when your attention was focused elsewhere?

I want to take some time here and explain that I too had a child that acted out.  She was the Lost Child, spent most of her time alone, engaged in self-harm and lacked enough drive or determination to pursue her own goals in life.  I spent countless hours searching for answers.  We spent years going from one psychologist to another, treatment programs, emergency rooms, and I eventually had to take a year off work to care for her after a rather serious attempt at suicide.  I felt as though I had failed her.  She was this vibrant, beautiful little girl with an infectious smile, and somehow, she became withdrawn and highly introverted.

In my years of research, I discovered several helpful hints and an equal number of not-so-helpful hints.  My goal is to spare you the years of searching for answers.  I may not have them all here, but this will be an excellent place to start.  This will give you the foundation to move forward.

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Like you, while I was raising my children, life happened; abusive relationships, divorce, single parent, job loss, and older daughter became seriously ill and was involved in a potentially life-threatening car accident.  These are things that I couldn’t control.  I now know, that these are all considered trauma.  Traumas that I did not have time to deal with.  Traumas that I pushed aside for the betterment of my children.  This is where my younger daughter lost her connection.  I am very happy to report, that we have worked hard to re-establish her sense of self & her sense of connection.  We still aren’t perfect, but we keep trying.

Today, all my children have tools that will serve them well as they become parents.  We have learned to openly, respectfully & effectively communicate.  We have learned to lean on one another and rally to support each other.  Together, we have created a legacy that will continue through future generations.  You can do this too.

I can’t promise you it will be easy, but it will be worth it!!

It is my hope that you have a greater understanding of how you got to where you are.  My intent is not to blame you for the position you find yourself in, but to create awareness.  Dr. Phil, and so many others like him, tend to blame the parents for the mistakes of the child.  This is not my intention.  My intention is to create awareness that while you were busy, parenting, working and reacting to the situations before you, things happened.  Things that are not apparent in the beginning.  Sir Isaac Newton said, “Every action has an opposite & equal reaction.”  This is what happened.  You did not fail your child or your family, you simply reacted with the information you had at the time.

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Changing the face of anxiety


We live in a world where everything is indoors, online, quick and easy. Today’s generation understands immediate gratification, social media and “as seen on TV” (or any other screen).
We’ve lost the social interaction, patience, gratitude and quality time spent with family and friends (in person).
This week, our family rented a little cottage on the water in Muskoka. My husband and I enjoy the outdoors, waterfalls, fishing, boating and hiking. All of these activities were completely foreign to our foster child. She struggled with debilitating anxiety just thinking about this trip. But once we got here, her world changed completely.
She is in awe of the beauty all around her. The huge rock formations that suddenly open up to vast lakes, the height and density of the trees, the stillness of the water, the people are so friendly. All of this was something she just couldn’t understand because she had never been outside the city.

Cottage Life

The first day, it was obvious that she wanted to try everything, but didn’t know how to do any of it. I fitted her with a life jacket and we hopped on a paddle boat to tour the lake. Her fear of being on the water vanished as she allowed herself to just breath. She told me that it’s so relaxing here, she can’t get anxious about anything, even the things she would get very upset about at home, don’t bother her here.

Learning to Kayak

After that, she quickly learned to Kayak, Canoe, fish and eagerly looked forward to our little day trips. She can rig her own fishing pole (including the worms), and somehow managed to catch a huge snapping turtle (which we quickly released).

Snapping Turle
Frank the Turtle

We took her to High Falls, just North of Bracebridge and she was off like a shot. She became our tour guide and lead us to several little falls in the park. She crossed downed trees to reach the other side of the river, she climbed steep rocks, stood on the edge of a cliff looking down, snapping pictures the whole time.
We sat down to chat one evening and I asked her if all the excruciating headaches and anxiety were worth it? No, she said, it was all just a waste of time, this place is amazing! I asked her about her fear of heights and she replied that apparently she doesn’t have that fear anymore.

Anxiety about the canoe
Canoe Trip

This trip has been an interesting point of self-discovery for this bright, beautiful and now; highly spirited young lady. She is going to camp for the first time in August and prior to this trip, had spent enormous amounts of time stressing and worrying because she didn’t have anything to compare the experience too, and now she does. Now, she is looking forward to camp and all the activities, the people, and especially the scenery.

Moral of the Story

if you change your view, you can change your point of view.”