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

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.

 

 

 

 

26 Years of Parenting

parenting

As of today, I have been a parent for 26 years.  Most of those were good, actually all the years were good, but we sure did have some rough moments.  Let me take some time to review a few of our struggles now that time has put them into perspective.parenting

Croup – there is not a parent in the world who wants to deal with this one.  Your tiny little baby is so sick.  Leaving her in a croup tent for a week, just about killed me!!!

Asthma – probably should have seen this one coming.  Other than a few misguided supply staff at school this wasn’t a big one.  Just the odd trip to emerg for a quick treatment and we were good again.

Rockin John – your imaginary friend.  Not sure where he came from, but he lived under the stairs and you loved hanging out with him.

Sister – you were skilled at tormenting your sister.  I’m not sure how many times I had to rescue her from the clothes dryer….come to think of it…I should have seen this one coming too – I vaguely remember lifting the lid to the toilet at 3 am and having a very pissed off cat jump out at me…..

Pulmonary Embolism – this was the worst.  I was never so scared.  But you were a trooper, took it all in stride…

High School – had I known, I probably would have sent you to an all girls school….

Driving – you were so happy when you bought your car, you were never home.  You were everyone’s chauffeur….until you weren’t…

Car Accident – “you hit a mailbox, took out 7 trees,  jumped a fence and did a barrel roll in your car and lived to tell the tale…”  Please don’t do this one again….

Concussion Collection – the next few years were interesting….I’m glad you are finally receiving recognition for the symptoms.  Try collecting stamps…

Boyfriends – some were abusive, some were just idiots and a couple of them were really nice guys.  I kinda like the one you have now, he’s my fav so far…

College – I am so proud of you for choosing a career path that suits your nature and desire to work with people!!!

parenting26 years and we’re both still alive.  I have never been more proud of you (I know I say that every year, but honestly you amaze me time and time again!!!)

Here’s the point of my story, parenting, in the moment, is difficult, confusing, heartbreaking and gut-wrenching; but when you look back on all of it, the pain, the suffering and the heart ache melt into love, pride, admiration and the realization that all those tiny moments, were just pieces of a greater puzzle that is creating the most beautiful memories.

Hang in there parents, it will all be worth it.

If your family is struggling to adjust to or accept some of life’s hurdles, I can help you all get “Back On Track“.

Loads of Love

<3 Andrea

What is the most outrageous thing your child ever did?  Leave a comment below.

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Surviving Life with a Teenager

Surviving Life with a Teenager

Back when we were teens

Twenty-five – thirty years ago, the world was a different place.  The internet was in it’s infancy, cellphones were massive & usually installed in your car and satellite dishes were just making their way into homes (or backyards).  Kids played outside with their friends and were involved in after-school programs, community groups and sports teams.  At home, there were chores to help out around the house.  In high school, you had a part-time job with the responsibility of getting there unsupervised.  School projects were researched in the library using a very heavy set of Encyclopedia’s and pictures cut out of magazines (cut & paste had a much different definition).  If there was a question to be answered, you had to go find an adult.   Back in the 80’s or 90’s, life was a little simpler and the world just a little smaller.  Our basic needs were met through interpersonal relationships that do not exist today.

Today, with the internet at our finger tips and cable TV, our children have access to information 24/7.  Not all the information is helpful or accurate.  Today, we have an extreme influx of Teens diagnosed with Depression & Anxiety.  Today, we also have a government that feels they are being helpful by making prescriptions free to those under 25 (but we’ll talk about that in a later post).

I recently read an article  by Johann Hari “Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?“**  Hari talks about his search for answers regarding his own clinical diagnosis and comes across some very interesting points to ponder.  The outcome is a new thought process surrounding depression & anxiety – yes there are biological components in some cases that may require medications combined with therapy to over-come, however; there are key factors to how we live today that directly contribute to these diagnosis.

So, let’s compare 1980 to 2018.

 

In the 80’s, kids played outside.  Their friends were physically connected, by streets, school, teams, relations.

Face to face relationships teach us a multitude of skills:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Social skills
  • Team-work
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Compromise
  • Accountability
  • Honesty
  • Self-esteem
  • Patience

Physically connecting with people also serves our basic psychological needs of belonging, acceptance and value.  We, as humans need to belong to a group.  We were not designed to be solitary and thus we live in colonies or families and communities.  We need to feel as though we are a valued member of the group; our thoughts, feelings and opinions matter.

It is believed that some diagnosed cases of depression or anxiety are rooted in denying basic psychological needs and thus we have the influx that we are seeing today.  There is also growing research that tells us that technology has the same effect on the brain as heroine or cocaine.  Creating a strong, debilitating addiction.

Creating Stability

If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair, is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs – a deep connection, to the things that really matter in life. ~ Johann Hari

If you have a Teen that is struggling, take a look at the broader picture.  Are their basic needs being met? Do they have the skills they need to succeed?  Do they belong to a group?  Do they feel valued?

When one member of the family struggles, the entire family struggles.  I have found that the best way to create stability in the family is to look at the family as a whole.  Raising children today is difficult, I know that.  We are rather quick to point the blame to external forces rather than admit that perhaps we are less than perfect.  There are no perfect parents, but I will tell you, the best ones are the parents who are willing to take a look at themselves to find solutions for their children.  It’s not about what you’re doing wrong, it’s about finding processes that fit your family, and the needs of every individual in your family.

Getting your family back on track may not be a long, complicated process.  We may be able to find solutions and implement processes  that will see dramatic results in as little as 6 weeks.  Together we will explore the processes that work for your family, and through simple conversation, a few fun & engaging games, we will begin to implement strategies that ensure basic needs are met.  We will expand your awareness and allow you to visualize your family’s unlimited possibilities.

Let’s start a conversation.

I’m ready when you are,

Loads of love,

~Andrea

 

Reference:

**Johann Hari 

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

Joy

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!

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The Phoenix Rises

How The Hell Did I Get Here?

How The Hell Did I Get Here?

Written by: Staci Hissong – Staci is a gifted & compassionate Life Coach using her story to empower others.


Standing with my back against the wall, literally and figuratively, with his hands on either side of my shoulders and it struck me; “How the hell did I get here?

Of course, that is not how my story started. That is not how any survivor’s story starts. Most stories start with glitter and rainbows, with affection and love, with gifts and adoration. And then it’s like a fucking switch flips and you are left standing in the dark with confusion and hurt. My story is not the exception. It starts when I was a 19 year old, college sophomore during “Welcome Week,” out with my friends and deciding to leap up and kiss a ‘friend’ that would turn in to so much more. It started innocently enough; a lot of flirtation, hook-ups, and laughter. Feeling carefree and understood, moving from the occasional hook-up to actual dates to staying the night with each other every night. Sleeping alone became a thing of the past, which is quite hilarious to me now that two full sized humans slept in a twin-sized loft each and every night because the idea of being apart was more uncomfortable than the actual closeness the beds provided. The first year continued with butterflies and unicorns and I did not believe it could be possible to be happier. Then summer hit. We were thankfully from the same hometown so we did not have to figure out distance in our relationship, but we did come from different socioeconomic situations. His Dad would write a check for his tuition each semester, and I sit here 12 years after graduation still paying off my loans. This meant I had to work every day that summer, so I did.

 And that is when the switch flipped.

He no longer was the center of my life. I had to do what was best for me, and that was finding a way to sustain living through the upcoming year with work. He started getting angry at me all the time because I could not go to every party. I could not stay out all night. And I would say no to things, which was completely different from how the previous year of our relationship had been. The arguing started, and really never stopped. Everything was consistently my fault because I did not put our relationship first. He hated this and let me know with his words. Very loud and hurtful words at times which I will explain later. He then decided we needed to “take a break until we got back to school,” which I later found out meant he was sleeping with another girl from home but wanted to get back to our relationship when he had my undivided attention. I was devastated, heartbroken; but I figured there were only a few weeks before we went back to school, so it would all work out.

 “Welcome Week” was upon us again and I anticipated things going right back to normal. But little did I know, that was not his plan at all. He wanted his cake and to eat it to. He invited this girl up to school, and SHE was the one to tell me she started sleeping with him. Are You Fucking Kidding Me? This has got to be a joke. All while he was telling me we were “working things out,” he “loved me,” we were “meant to be.” Well fueled by heartbreak and a lot of liquor, I walked in on him with her at this party and instead of being the stereotypical girl and going after the “other woman,” I went after him. I punched him repeatedly in the face and busted his nose. His very fit friend had to lift me off of him with such force I had finger bruises on arms from the strength he had to use due to my adrenaline. As I stood there, he just kept calling me a “crazy bitch,” over and over and over. A term he used quite often when speaking to me. A term that set something off inside of me due to my history with depression and anxiety, as well as self-harm behaviors. All things that he knew about me and used against me at the drop of a hat. Knowing that I was terrified that I may actually be “crazy,” he took every opportunity to reinforce that fear. Every interaction over the last few months between us had been toxic. Ending in screaming and crying and just plain ugly words being spewed.

 At this point, I should of walked away.

That’s what you would have done right? He had finally made it apparent I was worthless and everyone else thought I was crazy, so why in the fuck would I ever even speak to him again? Well, because I loved him. Did you just say, “how?” to yourself? Don’t worry, today that is what I say too, but understand he had taken the power and control from me and from our relationship well before this situation happened. I was dependent on any morsel of attention and positive words he would give me. And without fail, two days later he called, we talked, worked it out, and went back to dating. The thing was, he continued to sleep with this other girl…for what I found out later was months. And I caught him many more times; and he managed to convince me I was the crazy one for driving by his house to see if she was there or going through his phone when he walked out of the room. So, I forgave him every time. Each time, losing more and more of me. I lost like 30 lbs in a month from the stress, lost friendships because I would not allow myself to see what they saw, and just chose to look the other way.

 The Honeymooning

The thing was, if you did not know what was being done and said behind closed doors, you would have thought we were good together. Until we added the alcohol and my insecurity crept out and his vulgarity towards me crept out and we would cause a scene at every party. And then go home together afterwards like nothing was abnormal. He consistently told me what a worthless piece of trash I was and how lucky I was to be with him.

 I stayed in this relationship until right before my 22nd birthday. Almost three years. Three years of questioning my sanity. Three years of him whispering “You’re crazy” to me in front of people where no one else heard until I would lose it and he would be like what are you talking about? Legit, making me look crazy!! In front of friends, at the bar, in an elevator with a stranger in Chicago. Any time he could. Three years of on and off toxicity. One time I followed through with ending the relationship. He called me 53 times in an hour without me picking up. He called my parents who told him I was back at school, when in reality I was not. I got a call from my roommate shortly after that he was at our door screaming and pounding on the door and she did not know what to do. I recommended she call the police, but that never happened because he left and started calling my phone again. Then he left me a voicemail stating he needed to talk because his mom was sick, and he needed me. I fell back in, and within a week, right back to the screaming and name calling. On my 21st birthday, I went hard as many people do on their 21st while away at college. He carried me back to his house, which everyone gave him so much credit for taking care of me. We went into his room and started having sex. Well I was definitely too drunk to do that, and the motion made me vomit down the side of his bed. He picked me up, threw me in the shower and left me on the floor in there for I could not even tell you how long. The next morning his roommate told me he could hear me crying through the wall; saying that I was going to die and he wanted to come in and help me but knew I was naked and felt like that would violate me. My boyfriend was upstairs, so the roommate went up to tell him he could hear me, and my boyfriend did not budge. He kept drinking and left me there. When he finally came to help me out of the shower, we went back into his room where he brought new sheets and stood there while I was made to change them since I was the one who got sick on them. I stayed with him still for almost another year!!!

 It finally ended, 

It finally ended one night when he picked me up from the bar after a bar crawl and he was yelling at me and I just did not care anymore. I had no reaction. He yelled more, I just did not have it in me to fight back. He said it was over and I said ok. (He was also sleeping with a mutual ‘friend’ of ours by this point as well). I felt free. I was ready for it to be over. I finally was done, relief! But it again would not prove to be so easy. He had expected me to fight to keep the relationship as I always did, and when I did not, he became infuriated. He began calling me repeatedly again and telling me he wanted everything he ever bought me back. I finally just said fine and threw up my hands. If that would end this, then I would give it all back. I walked over to his apartment, which by this point we only lived like seven minutes apart on a walk and gave him the bag of stuff. He said he was going to give me back everything I had bought him. I stated repeatedly I did not want anything back because that was not how gifts worked and he got so angry. He began screaming and yelling at me that I was going to take it all. Upon refusal again, he picked up the DVD player I had bought him and threw it at my head. Now I don’t know if you all remember how heavy DVD players were, but they were not these lightweight things like Blu-ray players are today. I moved and did not get hit, but I remember being completely frightened for the first time of him in that moment. He emotionally hurt me, verbally abused me, spiritually broke me, but he had never laid a finger on me. But in that moment, I felt that possibility upon me. He lunged at me and I flinched. I will never forget what happened next. He backed me up against the wall in his dining room with his hands on either side of shoulders and said “You think I’m going to hit you? You really think I am going to hit you? If I was going to hit you, I would have done that a long time ago!” I moved out of the way and left the apartment. That was it, it was the moment, the breaking point. I knew we were completely over. On that seven-minute walk home, he called my phone numerous times and left me four voicemails. The final voicemail stating I was a “fucking cunt who should’ve killed [myself] a long time ago” and would “never amount to anything and be poor” and would be “worthless without [him] because no one else would ever want [me].” I got home, locked that apartment door as hard as I could and sat in my room and sobbed.

 We saw each other out in public regularly following that. There are only so many bars in a college town after all, and we had many of the same friends. Many more ridiculous exchanges, or avoiding one another, for the final two months before graduation. I saw him a few months later back in our hometown. I broke down and slept with him only to find out he was still seeing that mutual ‘friend’ of ours and made sure to let me know after we had sex that he was glad he was done with such a “whore” like me. And that was that. We were over, ties cut. Until three years later when he was at a bachelor party I think, and he called me and begged to see me, still with the same girl from the end of college. He had nothing but negative things to say about her and just showered me with words of affirmation. He just kept saying we were too young when we met and the love he had for me was just too intense for that age. And even then, there was a part of me that believed that to be true. I refused to see him though so at least there was some progress on my part.

 The Journey to Myself

Fast forward to five years after graduation, I was beginning an internship for my Master’s degree in counseling at a domestic violence shelter. Before you can work there you have to go through an intensive 40-hour training course. The first day of the training they defined domestic abuse. HOLY SHIT! I had been in an abusive relationship? Are you fucking kidding me? But he never laid a finger on me! How is this possible? But it all made so much sense. I cannot be around men who raise their voices, I had severe trust issues in relationships, and I felt pulled to this internship for some reason. I had been going to therapy for about four months at this point and I walked in to my next session and said, “Did you know my college relationship was domestic abuse?” My therapist threw her hands in the air and said “Oh, thank god! I have been waiting for you to get there!” I suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following this relationship. My view on a relationship was so fucked up it made sense why I could not make one work and I kept choosing the wrong men.

 So here I am.

Twelve years removed from the relationship, seven years after realizing that I was in an abusive relationship throughout college. This is the first time I have ever put pen to paper about it, or more so fingers to keys. I actually just verbally told my story for the first time last October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month to do my part in spreading the word that not all abuse looks the same. I can tell you in writing this, I still cannot believe that was me. I am such a different person today than I was then. First of all, I am older and wiser and the regular grey hair I have to color proves that. But more than that, I have grown as a person and as a woman. I was so quick to judge when I was younger, and I can guarantee if someone else told me this is how their relationship was I would ask them what the hell was wrong with them to stay? And now, I understand there are so many underlying factors to an abusive relationship that others will not understand. And yet, almost all of these relationships are the same at their core. It is about power and control for the abuser and stripping you of who you are.

 Healing

This process has taken a very long time for me. This is not something that I got out of magically found glitter and rainbows again. Um, fuck no. It did not happen like that at all. It is only over the last year that I can share this story without shame; still not without anger but I am working on that. It took therapy, self-reflection, and a lot of personal development to get here. And where is here? Well I now own two of my own businesses, I have a Master’s degree and am a Licensed Professional Counselor, and I can finally say that I can see some good in the world. I am mindset coach now for women to help them build their confidence and learn how to move forward in life.

 Empowering Others

I love that I get to empower women each and every day. If you find that you are still in a toxic relationship, YOU ARE WORTH MORE! I know nothing I say to you can make you fully believe that, but I hope that in reading this story you can see that you are not alone and there is a strong network of women who will help uplift you when you are ready.

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Tina’s Story

LeeAnne’s Story

Denyse’ Story

Kim’s Story

Are You Excited To Go Home Every Night?

Remember When….

…….this relationship first started; full of curiosity, excitement, joy?

……The hopes & dreams that flooded your heart when you first held your child in your arms?

…….You & your partner watched your child achieve all those first milestones; sitting up, holding a bottle, first steps, first tooth, first day of school?

Where did that excitement go?  That feeling of desperately wanting to hang on to a moment and cherish it forever?  Never wanting it to end.  The feeling excitement when you spoke to your best friend about this new adventure, new person, new milestone?  Let’s get that back!! 🙂

Today…

…..you are multitasking meals, work emails, homework, sports, laundry and quickly scanning a blog.  Are you able to offer your full attention to any of them, do you have the  time?

Every member of your family is in a different room, on the internet chatting with friends, responding to emails, checking quotes, playing games,  watching videos, and everyone has 1 thing in common.  Do you want to know what that is…..

Let’s back up….

Remember that feeling the first day you left your tinny toddler at the day care?  Going back to work was something you dreaded for months.  You have to work, but this tiny little creature full of poop & snot somehow brings you so much joy and again, we have a feeling we don’t want to let go of.  We have bills to pay, college to save for and all the toys, sports, clothes that comes with being a parent.  Kids aren’t cheap.  And somewhere down the line, we lost that feeling of excitement.  Somewhere, bills, tantrums and deadlines sucked the excitement out of parenting.

You were so full of joy, it spilled out of you and the whole world knew how happy you were, but now there is barely enough joy to fill your big toe.  The rest of you is filled with stress, frustration, anxiety, worry and expectations.  Now you have teenagers and life is no fun anymore.

I Want YOU To Get Excited About Your Life & Your Family!!!

What’s on your To Do List?

Are you getting everything you possibly can out of LIFE, or is LIFE getting everything it can out of you?

We all have a “To Do” List and most of us have a “Bucket List”.  Which one is more important for you?  What’s on your partner’s wish list?  Do your kids have wish lists?  Start a conversation!!

 

 

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

~Ghandi

Be the change you wish to see in your FAMILY!

~Andrea

I have faith in you!!  Mom to Mom, I know how hard it is to see members of your family struggling.  I understand how incredible hard it is to reach out and ask for the help you need.  There is so much judgement, and we are expected to know how to keep it all together.  I am a Mom and I, too, had a child who struggled.  I spent hours searching the internet for help.  Any piece of wisdom I could grab, and use to make my family better.  From that struggle, I gathered loads of the most useful pieces of information and compiled them together to create a plan to unify my family and all of us  help you create a plan, strategies that will actually work!!!

I know you have the drive, determination & motivation to create positive change in your family and that all of this is fueled by the LOVE you have for each of them.  Get started today.

Reach out with any questions, I’d love to help you stir up some excitement!!!

~Andrea

 

 

Why do I suggest a Family Approach

Family Approach

I receive calls all the time about way-ward teens and a family in distress from parents at their wits-end, trying to figure how to control this child who refuses to go to school, get a job or is involved in the wrong crowd.  The most common phrase I hear is: “I did not raise him/her to be like this“. The majority of these parents want me to work with the child to motivate them, set them straight or fix the problem.  I’m good, but I’m not that good.  YOU are that good!!  You can motivate them, you can set them straight, you can fix them.  I can help you do that, if you will allow me explain a little further.

The Heart Attack

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 it’s 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.

The Evolution of Parents

As a family grows, it develops processes for every situation.  These processes are rooted in our own childhoods.  Most of what we do as parents was taught to us by our parents.  Whether you feel it worked, or it didn’t, this is what you know.  Some parents (like me) choose to parent the opposite from what we were taught.  In times of stress, we hear our parent’s words fall out of our mouths.  For some of us, this is a pivotal moment.  “I have become my mother/father. ”   

Every generation of parents has new struggles.  Our Grandparents raised our parents through the 50’s & 60″s.  The hippie movement was not something our Grandparents new how to deal with.  Our grandparents came from a generation of a stiff up lip.  Feelings were not validated, it was all about the presentation.

Our parents were fighting to express their emotions & loosen the restrictions & expectations.  As our parents grew older, they blended their parents with their own generation and we ended up with parents who want their children to be free, but still expect a level of socially acceptable behaviour (meaning we still are expected to put on the stiff upper lip and deal with it).

Now we are parents, and we want to abolish the stiff upper lip, express emotions and genuinely connect with our kids, but someone thought we should do this through the internet.  What the @#$% do we do now?

Your Family

You have a child who is not acting in line with the values you tried to teach him/her.  You have tried everything.  You have exhausted all possible resources.  Your family now looks like this:

Mom is stressed beyond her limits, she’s not sleeping, struggling to find the energy to function at work.  She is consumed with worry for her child and out of desperation she focuses all her attention on the one who is struggling.  Mom, you are the nurturer.  You feel like a failure because you can’t find a way to help your child.

Dad is also stressed, but it comes out in anger or distance.  Dad has firm lines on acceptable behaviour.  Dad is tormented by the effect this one child is having on his wife, his family.  Dad, you are the hunter, the gatherer, the protector.  You can’t see a way to protect this child, so you protect the rest of the family from this child.

The other siblings are watching all of this with a very attentive eye.  They see Mom crying, they see Dad’s blood pressure go up.  They see and feel the family disintegrating.  They react to the situation in different ways:

The Pleaser – takes care of Mom 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.  (usually the child I am called to fix).

The Hero – The golden child.  Works hard at school, get good grades, helps out 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. (this may also be the child you want me to work with)

Working with the Family

Your family is a living, breathing entity that is connected on a very deep emotional level.  Your family is a body.  Each member of your family is a vital organ that is required to sustain life.  One child – the heart – has an episode.  You have seen it coming for a long time.  It didn’t just happen.  But now that it has, what do you do?

Just like treating a heart attack, we assess the family, the body.  We look at all the processes you have in place to nurture this family.  We look at some of the processes you brought in from previous generations.  We build on what works, we tweak what isn’t working.  We re-engage as a family with meaningful, purposeful, effective communication.  We take ownership for our own mistakes and learn to not project them on others.  We create a safe place where honesty is valued, nurtured and appreciated, no matter how much it hurts.  Every member of the family will have a specific set of strengths and we will enhance those strengths to not only create a vibrant future for that member, but create peace & harmony within the family.

The end result will be a family that once again is connected on a very deep emotional level.  A family who encourages individual talents, strengths and relies on that to enhance the family and each other.  The child who was struggling will find balance in the new processes.  The behaviours will cease and every member of the family will flourish.

Summary

You are already half way there.  Reading this post (this really long post), suggests that you can relate to this information.  You are not a terrible parent.  In fact you’re just the opposite!!  You are able to see an issue.  You are searching for a resolution.  You know that it is possible to return your family to the fun, loving, energetic, slightly crazy unit it once was.  You have the power, the drive, the motivation and the love to help your family.  You can see the  unlimited possibilities on the horizon. You realize that now is the time.  Today is the day.  You see the natural talents in your family and it is your dream for everyone to live the best life possible.  

I can and will work with your child that is struggling.  The more effective approach is to work with the family.  When you are ready, please find more information on my coaching packages.

FREE Downloadable Guide to Parenting Supports & Resources

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As always, loads of love,

~Andrea – Family Coach

The Day My Child Lost Her Joy

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.”

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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?

Join a Community of Parents just like you!!

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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