How To Plan For Your Next Parenting Chapter

How To Plan For Your Next Parenting Chapter

Click here to subscribe

Modern Parenting is all about transitioning from one chapter to the next. As much as you might want to, you just can’t stop change.

There are some common chapters that all parents experience at one point or another:

  • The transition of going from parenting babies to toddlers, then toddlers to big kids, then big kids to teenagers, etc.
  • The kids are now dating chapter
  • The kids are now driving chapter
  • The empty nest chapter.

Then there are some transitions or chapters that not all families experience, but can be disruptive to the family:

  • Divorce and or re-marriage
  • Employment changes (i.e. new jobs, loss of job, going from part time to full time)
  • Moving from one home to another (maybe even to a whole new state or country!)
  • Illness or death of a loved one.

Family transitions happen whether we like them or not, and the more we can plan for these transitions to happen before they get here, the better off we will be.

I recently had a huge family transition occur – my youngest child went off to college and I became an empty nester. You can read all about that event HERE. I started planning for this new chapter of my life three years before my daughter, Belle, actually went away for college – and I’m so happy that I did.

Because of this planning, I’m feeling like this chapter of my life is just as meaningful as the previous chapter that was spent raising wonderful humans. 

I did not go through a period of re-discovering who I was (as is common for new empty nester parents). I put effort into this during my planning stage, so I was all ready to dive head-first into the friendships, interests, and career that I spent time envisioning during my planning stage.

YOU can have better family transitions too with a little planning. This post today is all about how to plan for the next big stage in your life – whether it’s a common transition such as the empty nest stage or the new driver stage; however, planning for the disruptive life transitions is just as important.

Read on to find out how to feel confident in your next stage of parenting.


Identify Where You Are Now and Where You Might Go Next

It’s super important to know exactly where you are now, and where you might go next. For example, if your oldest child is in middle school now, then you know that high school is next. That is your next big transition. 

It’s best to always have in mind one to three possible transitions coming up.

Now that you know your next possible transition, what do you want that transition to look like? How do you want to feel during that parenting chapter?


Once during a training I attended, the instructor reminded us that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

Be intentional about where you want to lead your family – and how you want to grow as a parent and as an individual  in the next stage; otherwise, might end up on a whole other path.

Let me use my recent transition into empty nesthood as an example. I have two kids who are three years apart in age. My son’s transition into college was the trigger that got me to thinking about my next stage. When I dropped him off at college, it made me think that in three years when my daughter was scheduled to go off to college, I would have a lot of time on my hands. 

Here are some of the questions I asked myself:

  • What did I need to be happy when I wasn’t consumed with parenting 24/7?
  • How did I need to bring meaning into my life?
  • Who did I want to be a part of my life, and why?
  • What interests did I want to make time for in my next chapter?


These questions allowed me to start having a vision of my next chapter.


Keep In Mind Your Passions, Values, and Beliefs

I’m a broken record about knowing your personal passions, values, and beliefs and aligning all of your parenting and personal decisions with these important guidelines.

Don’t know your personal passions, values, and beliefs? Download the workbook that I created that will help you uncover them now.

Using your passions, values, and beliefs as a guide in making your parenting and personal decisions gives you the confidence you’ll need to tackle that next stage of life.

For example, one of my passions is Modern Parenting. By asking myself the questions mentioned in the previous section and using my passions, values, and beliefs as a guide, I determined that I needed to have a career that I not only enjoyed, but allowed me to work on my Modern Parenting projects. 

Another example is that one of my values is connecting with good people. I also knew that I wanted to feel connected to family and peers that made a positive impact in my life. Unfortunately, by working on this exercise, I came to the realization that I had let many of my friendships go over the years because I simply didn’t have the time or energy left over after parenting my kids to maintain good relationships with many of my family and friends. 

Over the three years that I planned my empty nest next chapter, this is exactly how I used my passions, values, and beliefs as a guide in determining how I should prioritize my planning.


Design the Big Picture

Research tells us that the hardest part of any project is starting it!

Before you get overwhelmed and give up on your project of planning your next transition or chapter, simply give yourself permission to just design a rough outline of the important things that will need to be accomplished before the next stage gets here.

Don’t get tempted to look at the details yet. Just design the big picture.

So, using my empty nest example, I knew that career, family/friends, and Modern Parenting needed to be prioritized in the planning of my next chapter. 

As I considered my empty nest life, I roughly envisioned myself going to a job that paid me enough where I didn’t have to worry about my bills and would also allow me to financially help with my kids’ educations. This job made me feel good about myself because I was helping people as a child psychologist and making a difference in people’s lives. Most importantly, this job would either allow me to work on Modern Parenting full time, or leave me enough time to work on it outside of work. Finally, I also saw myself spending time with family and friends.

Once the overall picture felt right, I moved on to planning the details.


Now Plan The Details

Once you have the big picture nailed down, begin planning the details.

What steps do you need to take to accomplish the goals included in the big picture?

What tasks need to be completed before the start of the next chapter?

Who is involved in your next chapter? How do you need to prepare them? What conversations need to be completed?

Take as much time as you need to plan the details. However, once planning is done, then execute on your plan.

Again, let me give you a glimpse into my planning process for my empty nest stage. As stated above, I wanted to have close connections with positive family and friends in my empty nest chapter. Because I had not kept up with a lot of my family and friends over the past several years, I knew I had some work to do to get this area where I wanted it to be by the time my daughter moved to college.

Slowly and intentionally, I began to make it a priority to re-establish relationships with certain family and friends. Instead of waiting for people to ask me to lunch, I asked them. I texted people encouraging words when I knew they were feeling down or when I knew they had an important event happen. And I gave myself permission (and this was a hard one for me) to balance having a social life with also being a mom.


I can report that by making that effort to reestablish old relationships and encourage new ones over the last year or so, I now have the social life that I envisioned three years ago. I’m so happy that I put in this effort!


When To Start Planning?

You know the old saying about the oak tree, right?

When is the best time to plant an oak tree?

The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago – the second best time to plant an oak tree is TODAY!

The best thing you can do for yourself is to start planning your next transition or stage today. 

Thinking of transitioning from a parent who works part time to one that works full time? Start planning now in order to ensure a smooth transition on your kids and to feel confident in yourself.

Will your oldest child begin high school in 2 years? Start thinking about which high school is best for your child. Do they need to be taking certain classes in middle school to apply for a certain track in high school? What extracurriculars will they need?

You can never begin planning too early – but if you fail to plan then you plan to fail (I know! Cliched, right? But still true!!).

You can do this – I believe in you! 🙂



Are You Using The 3 Important Elements That All Successful Modern Parent Use Religiously?

To Find Out, Download The Free Guide ==>

The Modern Parenting Blueprint: The 3 Elements That All Successful Modern Parents Use Religiously

Family Transitions and Taking Breaks

Family Transitions and Taking Breaks

Recently, my Modern Family went through a major transition.

My youngest child moved away to college!

Wow! I can’t believe that I’m an empty nester now.


It’s just me, the chihuahua, and the cat roaming around the house all by ourselves now. While the quiet feels strange, I’m also excited – excited to watch my kids pursue their adult dreams and excited to begin my next chapter in life, too.


I had heard horror stories about how the empty nest transition can be a hard one on Modern Parents (especially single parents), so about three years ago,I began planning to make my empty nest chapter a positive and exciting one. I’m glad I did, too, because I definitely feel ready for this next chapter in my life. 


There’s a lot I have to share about my experience with planning for the empty nest stage, so I’m going to share all those thoughts in next week’s blog post


However, in today’s post, I want to share how my Modern Family came together to make my daughter’s college move a special one, and why it was important that I took a break from blogging over the summer in order to be fully present for this important time in my daughter’s life.

I hope that by sharing my experiences, you will 1) feel more confident in developing creative ways to make your family events special no matter what your family looks like, or what unique challenges your family might face, and 2) to give yourself guilt-free permission to take breaks from some responsibilities to focus on your family.


How My Modern Family Handled This Transition

As many of my readers know, I co-parent my son and daughter with my ex-husband and his new husband. We are a mixed orientation family – one parent is straight while the other parent is gay. You can read more about my family here. We’ve been parenting pretty successfully this way (admittedly, with several ups and downs) for the past 11 years.


Jeff (my ex-husband), Keith (Jeff’s husband), and I are not only co-parents, but friends, so this makes co-parenting fun and easy. Sometimes it’s a challenge to get together because we live about 90 miles away from each other and as the kids got older, they had their own busy lives that didn’t always include wanting to hang out with parents. But overall, we try to make sure that we are planning get togethers semi-regularly.


We also make an effort to ensure that our kids feel special and loved during important life events such as graduations, birthdays, holidays, etc. so coming together to move our daughter to college was pretty natural for us.


As is typical for most Modern Families, sometimes special occasions conflict with work responsibilities and social events, so we had to be creative with fitting in everyone’s goals during this trip. Belle was scheduled to move into her dorm at the University of California Santa Cruz on Friday, September 13th. Unfortunately, I had already committed to speaking at the Diversity in Parenting Conference that same Friday and Jeff and Keith usually attend “Out at The Mountain” at Magic Mountain each year and it fell on the 13th as well this year.


The way we chose to solve this problem was to ask Belle to contact her school to get permission to move in on Saturday the 14th (gotta learn these life skills at some point, right?) and, thankfully, they allowed her to move in a day late. On Friday, I stayed overnight at the conference in Anaheim and Belle attended the event at Magic Mountain with her Dads where they stayed the night at a hotel close to the park. Early Saturday morning, I drove to their hotel, and then we all loaded into the Dads’ SUV and we drove the 5 hours to Santa Cruz together.


We had a fun, but emotional weekend together experiencing moving our last kid into college. Experiencing special moments with each individual kid is always uniquely different. Although I had experience moving my son to college three year earlier, he only moved to Los Angeles which is only an hour away from me. I didn’t expect that I would feel so emotional leaving my daughter in Santa Cruz – she feels so much farther away from me than my son! 



Keith, Me, Belle, Jeff                                              Belle & I Saying Goodbye


Even though driving away from Santa Cruz was hard, my heart feels so happy and proud when I speak to my daughter on the phone each day and she is loving her on-campus job, meeting lots of new friends, and enjoying her classes. This is a great new chapter for her!


All in all, this Modern Family event was a success for us, but it was also VERY exhausting.


Which is why I chose to take a break over the summer from everything except for seeing patients in my private practice  – and this allowed me to soak in all of those last moments of being a full time mom.



Why I Decided To Take a Break From Blogging This Summer


I’ve talked about the benefit of taking a break from optional commitments in order to focus on family before. Sometimes we need to “circle the wagons” around our families in order to provide the support our family needs to overcome a certain event. 


The origin of the expression “circling the wagons” came about in the 1800’s and refers to settlers arranging their wagons in a large circle, protecting women, children, farm animals, and valuables on the inside of the circle from an enemy. 


Modern families, at times, need to “circle the wagons” against the modern enemy of overcommitment, unhealthy relationships, and/or ineffective bad habits in order to provide the support that families require to remain loving, warm, and close. 


This summer definitely called for circling the wagons around my family.


What was my purpose for doing this, and how did I make it happen?


My purpose for “circling the wagons” this summer – or taking a break from unnecessary activities or commitments – was to:


  • Provide emotional support for my daughter when she got nervous about moving to college. 
  • Communicate to my daughter that she was loved and that she mattered to me
  • Soak in all of the “little things” like laughing over the antics of our cat, hearing her complain about having nothing to wear, or even making dinner together – these things won’t happen on a daily basis for me anymore.

I knew I could have dinner or lunch with friends anytime. I could write blog posts and post on social media another day. I could turn down speaking engagements over the summer because there would be many more in the fall and winter. 


This was a unique time in my daughter’s life and I wanted to be there all I could.



In order to make this happen, I relied upon my assistant to ensure that I only scheduled patients in the afternoons and early evenings (it’s hard for me to say no to my patients!). This allowed me to have slow mornings to hang out with Belle. We also cooked together each night and watched a show or two together.



When friends would suggest lunch or dinner dates, I let them know that I was going to be out of the loop of a while to focus on family. All of my friends understood and supported my decision. 


Even after the move to Santa Cruz, I still needed a few weeks to recover from all the emotions and busyness of the past month. Taking this time to myself was great for my own mental health, and now I feel fully recharged.



Great Things To Come


So now my “next chapter” is here – and I’ve got some really BIG plans for Modern Parents. 

You’ll see some new ways to learn about Modern Parenting and I’m working on providing new opportunities to engage more voices in conversations about current Modern Parenting topics.


I can’t wait to introduce these new projects to you, so keep an eye out for announcements over the next few months. The best way to keep up on all of the changes is to sign up for my mailing list and to like me on Facebook. I would love to keep in contact with you!



Are You Using The 3 Important Elements That All Successful Modern Parent Use Religiously?

To Find Out, Download The Free Guide ==>

The Modern Parenting Blueprint: The 3 Elements That All Successful Modern Parents Use Religiously

How I Became A Modern Parenting Expert

How I Became A Modern Parenting Expert

NOTE: I’m in the middle of writing my Modern Parenting book, where I share my personal experience with the events that happened to make me a Modern Parenting Expert. While writing the intro to the book, I realized that I haven’t really shared my experience on the blog in a while. Now that my kids are older, I especially like to share my story so that Modern Families of all types can find inspiration in the fact that both traditional AND non-traditional families can raise great kids while finding fulfillment and enjoyment in their parenting. 

I became a Modern Parenting Expert out of necessity when my husband of 14 years came out to me as a gay man and I found myself suddenly raising a young son and a daughter within the context of a non-traditional family. There weren’t any parenting experts out there who could advise me on how to raise great kids in a non-traditional family. Pretty much all of the current experts were very traditional-family oriented, which isn’t a bad thing in general, but that wouldn’t work for me. And it wouldn’t work for millions of other non-traditional families either. So I had to become my own Modern Parenting Expert for the good of my family.

This all happened back in the early 2000s, when having a LGBTQ parent was still considered to be controversial. This was before Caitlyn Jenner, before the hit tv show Modern Family, and before many states changed their laws to include gay marriage. Back then, being a good parent meant being married to your children’s father and raising the kids together under one household. It didn’t mean being divorced or, worse yet, having to explain to young kids why their father is different from all of their friend’s fathers.

While my relationship with Jeff, my ex-husband, was long and spanned many years and many chapters in both of our lives, his coming out and our subsequent divorce happened pretty fast. To give you context, let me start at the beginning. Jeff and I had the quintessential boy next door/girl next door relationship. We grew up in a small town in Southern California and attended a small Christian private school starting in preschool and going all the way until 12th grade – we literally grew up tougher. As an example of how enmeshed our lives were from such as early age, to this day  when Jeff’s parents show old family videotapes, I often pop up in the background as one of many young kids running around their yard attending one of the many elementary school pool parties or birthday parties that they hosted over the years. If Jeff and I weren’t in the same class each year, we at least saw each other on the playground every day and had the same, small circle of friends.

We started to become super close when my childhood best friend left our private school for the local public school at the beginning of 8th grade. I was lost. Who did I hang out with, joke around with, and share my most intimate thoughts with now? It seemed so natural that Jeff became my new best friend, and he remained in this role all through junior high and high school. We finally started dating during our Senior year and became even closer in a new, romantic way. We remained dating our freshman year of college despite the fact that we went to different Southern California colleges, but this distance caused us to miss each there terribly and we got engaged by the end of the year. By our sophomore year, I had transferred to Jeff’s college and we married that summer.

I look back on our marriage warmly. I think Jeff does too. After college, Jeff went on to law school and I worked full time to support us. Even though we were often broke, these were fun years together. We had our first child, a son, in our 4th year of marriage and our daughter 3 years later. In case you’re wondering, our marriage seemed normal to me. Comfortable, even. I loved the security and the warmth that our marriage provided. People ask me all the time whether or not I knew deep down that Jeff was gay. No. I really didn’t. Maybe it was my small-town, protected childhood, but I didn’t even think the scenario that my husband might be secretly gay even existed. When I thought of gay people, it was of nameless people I didn’t know living in San Francisco or Palm Springs. I didn’t even know anyone who was gay at the time (or so I thought) and I believed that gay people wouldn’t even want to get married to someone of the opposite sex, so the fact that my husband could be gay never in a million years entered my mind.

It wasn’t until our 13th year of marriage that things started to change. By this time, Jeff had graduated from law school and had been working at a prominent Southern California law firm for about 7 years. After staying at home with the kids for the past 7 years, I just started graduate school to become a psychologist. Jeff was on the partner track at his law firm and he was being scrutinized for partner material pretty intensely at this point, which was very stressful. Many of Jeff’s clients were cities and other public entities, and this forced him to attend city council meetings and other similar meetings late into the night. Initially, these late night meetings occurred about once per week; now they were happening several times each week. He also started going to the gym a lot and staying there for up to 4 hours at a time. He just was suddenly never home.

Things had become strained between us. What was once such an easy and mutually supportive relationship, now had become distant, secretive, and poisoned. As you can probably imagine, I started to suspect that Jeff was having an affair – but with a woman, not a man. Maybe it was my very protective upbringing (remember I went to a teeny tiny Christian school with basically the same 30 kids my whole life) but I didn’t even think to consider the possibility that my husband might be gay.

But gay he was, and he finally admitted this to me. I was devastated, and I know it was hard on Jeff too. Even though Jeff and I have had many conversations about his coming out over the past decade, I still don’t pretend to fully know exactly what he went through on his difficult and emotional path to accepting his true self, and I want to be considerate of that. This is just an experience that I will never have to go through, so I don’t want to misrepresent what he went through.

But I will tell you that I was scared out of my mind about what this meant to me and our 2 kids. Would I be able to support myself? Would my kids find it hard to fit in with other kids, or, worse yet, would they be the objects of ridicule by their peers? Would they develop the stereotypical behavioral problems so many people blame on divorce? Will they be able to be emotionally close to their Dad? And more personally what did this mean about me that I didn’t see this coming?

I was scared out of my mind that this was the start of a whole new and scary chapter for me and the kids – and that’s where I decided to purposefully to do everything in my power to figure out a way to ensure that my kids felt normal, that we would all stay close as a family (including Jeff), and that we would create a family that supported all of our hopes and dreams for the future. I decided that I wasn’t going to rely on the world to come around and make this happen, or to hope that someone would do all this for me, but I knew I had the power to make this happen for my family if I put in the required effort and devotion.

Some people say that it was lucky that I was going through graduate school to become a psychologist at the time, and I will admit that my classes and training experiences provided me with an unexpected support system and a healthy way of looking at my new situation. I intended on specializing in child psychology when I first applied to graduate school, but now my focus became somewhat personal too. I searched out training experiences that would put me into contact with all different kinds of families in order to become an expert at understanding and helping kids and families with whatever modern challenges stood in their way.

* * *

So, Jeff and I were divorced almost exactly 9 months after we made the decision to divorce. Remember how I said everything moved fast? I didn’t even know what to tell people about our divorce at first. Initially, I just told people that Jeff and I had broken up and let them draw their own conclusions. Most people assumed it’s because Jeff had outgrown his stay-at-home, uninteresting high school sweetheart and found a younger and prettier model. I let them think this for the first couple of years because I felt like the alternative might mean that my kids would suddenly become outcasts or that Jeff might lose his high-profile job. I just couldn’t imagine that anyone would understand; I had never heard of this situation happening to anyone that I knew before.

But the funny part is that as I slowly felt more comfortable opening up to people (mostly people that I was close to) over the next couple of years, I began to hear stories of this same scenario happening to people I knew – or people that they knew – and I didn’t feel so alone. Over time, I became emboldened and I began to see that I set the tone of how people treated me: if I acted confident and secure about my little non-traditional family, then others treated me in kind, but if I adopted the persona of a victim, then that’s how I was treated. Again, it was a good lesson that I set the tone for my family, so I began to have an attitude that people could take us or leave us, but we would be fine either way.

Over time, I became more confident about letting people know about my Modern Family. I always let the parents of my kids’ friends know that while Jeff and I were divorced, we were still really good friends and he was at our house a lot. Oh, and that he now identified as gay. I wanted to be fair to others and let them decide whether or not to allow their kids to be friends with my kids or to let their kids come over to my house. I wanted to be respectful of the points of view of other families, but not one family ever had a problem with it.

I think the reason was because even though we were a non-traditional family, we functioned a lot like a traditional family. It was obvious that all four of us were close to each other. Jeff and I were friends (I’ve always felt that Jeff was my biggest supporter while I was in graduate school), and the kids knew that Jeff and I would attend all their school events together without any kind of weird awkwardness.

People began to look at my family as an example of good parenting. Even though we were a divorced, mixed-orientation family (a term for when one parent is gay and the other parent is straight), we had smart kids who did well in school, they were well adjusted and fun to be around, and our family did fun and interesting things together because we enjoyed each other’s company. The parents from my kid’s school began asking my advice a lot. How did I get my kids to be such good readers? What were my guidelines about video games, television viewing, social media use? How was I able to balance work and family? I kind of became this small town guru for practical parenting advice – no matter what the family looked like because the advice was pretty much the same for every family type.

In 2014 I even began this blog that initially was meant to help other mixed-orientation and non-traditional families, but as my kids got older and did not want their personal lives on the internet, it became less about my own family and more about general Modern Parenting advice. I started to see that all kinds of families needed guidance on topics that the current parenting experts just did not touch on. Topics such video games, social media, self-esteem, academic pressure, and mental health problems among others needed to be addressed not only by someone with a mental health background, but by someone with lived experience with tackling Modern Parenting topics.

Flash forward to today and my kids are practically grown up. My son is 2) years old now and is finishing up his studies at USC in the pre-law program where he hopes to become a lawyer just like his dad. He is a great young adult who still loves nerd things like Star Wars (he and I always attend Star Wars Celebration as a mother/son trip every year) and is involved in many activities on campus with his friends. As I write this manuscript, my daughter is a few weeks away from turning 18 and about to graduate from high school. Her Dad has been taking her on weekend trips all over California and Oregon to look at colleges. She’ll be making a decision on where she’ll go to college very soon. She is a sweet, kind, and smart young lady who volunteered at our local medical center in the summers and started her own feminist club at school. Jeff has been married to his husband, Keith, now for about a year and while this changed the dynamic of our little Modern Family a bit, we all still remain close as a family.

All in all, my little Modern Family made it. And this means the world to me. If my family can weather the storm of modern parent challenges, then I know yours can too.



Are You Using The 3 Important Elements That All Successful Modern Parent Use Religiously?

To Find Out, Download The Free Guide ==>

The Modern Parenting Blueprint: The 3 Elements That All Successful Modern Parents Use Religiously

Update on My Modern Family

Update on My Modern Family

One of the things that I absolutely believe – and science is beginning to back this up – is that nontraditional families can raise great kids.

Now, I’m not saying that traditional families – ones where mom and dad are married – do not raise good kids; rather, I’m saying that nontraditional families can also contain the same ingredients that a lot of traditional families have that serve to raise kind, moral, intelligent, motivated, and interesting kids.

I have to believe this because, as many of you know, I found myself raising my own two kids in a nontraditional family when my husband of 14 years came out as a gay man almost a decade ago. This was definitely something that I had not planned for my life. I had grown up in a traditional family and my goal was to create the same life for myself.

So, life sent me a curveball, and I needed to accept the fact that my life – and the life I wanted for my kids – was not going to be the traditional path that I had planned. I needed to figure out fast how to raise good kids in a family that didn’t look like the societal norm, and I needed to do that because my kids’ futures depended on it. I owed them this.

When I first started this blog, I wrote a lot about my little Modern Family, but I stopped doing that as time went on because I felt like we were a work in progress. I might have been able to report on what worked for me in the moment, but I wasn’t sure if what I was doing in the here and now would positively affect my son and daughter’s futures.

Now that my son is 19 and my daughter is 16, I’ve started to allow myself to acknowledge that some of the decisions I made post-divorce actually helped my kids become the young adults I always hoped they would become. I’m beginning to psychologically let go of all of the worries and fears that I’ve kept pent up since my divorce and recognize that the hard work of parenting in a nontraditional family raised some pretty awesome kids.

Now, I’m not saying that I’ve been 100% successful as a parent (there is no perfect parent!), but I do want to share some of our recent news with you in order to:

  1. Educate others that as long as the basic elements of successful parenting is present (unconditional love, emotional support, and chaos-free stability, etc.) in a family, even nontraditional families can provide a happy home for themselves and their kids
  2. Nontraditional families can raise successful kids – kids that are kind, moral, and motivated to pursue worthwhile passions and interests
  3. Challenge the notion of what a “successful family” really means – I think a successful Modern Family is one that supports and encourages the exploration and pursuit of each individual member’s passions and interests while maintaining a close relationship between all members of the family.

As such, I hope you’ll allow me to share with you some of my family’s news so I can illustrate how I believe the above 3 points are so important to Modern Parenting – no matter if you are parenting in a traditional family or a nontraditional one.


The Successful Pursuit of A Lifelong Passion – Even When it Seems Impossible

I’m so happy to report that my son, Patrick, has been accepted to the University of Southern California!

Now, most people think that I’m super happy about this because USC is such a prestigious university – and I am pretty proud of Patrick that he was able to get accepted to such a notable school –  but the real reason I’m BURSTING AT THE SEAMS WITH PRIDE is because this represents the successful completion of  a lifelong dream for Patrick. Let me explain…

See the picture below? That’s a picture of one-year-old Patrick attending his Dad’s graduation from law school. Where did his Dad go to law school? You guessed it…USC. Since he was a little boy, Patrick has told anyone who would listen that he wanted to grow up and go to USC and become an attorney just like his Dad.

When it came time to apply to college during his senior year, Patrick applied to USC, but didn’t get in.

Devastation does not do justice to the intense feeling of disappointment that I’m sure Patrick felt.

But that’s when the magic happened – Patrick didn’t give up on his dream.

A week after receiving the rejection letter from USC, Patrick also received another letter form them letting him know that they offered an Expedited Trojan Transfer Program and invited him to participate.

I saw him wanting to succumb to the all-too-often comforting feelings of anger, resentment, and victimization, but instead, he decided all by himself to rise to the challenge.

He applied for the program and was offered an interview. He attended the interview and was told to attend another college for a year, but his counselor at USC had to pick his classes for him and Patrick had to report to the counselor at USC on a regular basis. In addition, Patrick had to get all As during this time period or he wouldn’t qualify.

I’m sure you can see why I’m so proud. Patrick took this challenge and ran with it. He did everything USC told him to do to the letter. It was a long wait to hear from USC over the summer, but in August, a tell-tale package was sitting at the front door one afternoon. When I bent down to see what it was and the USC symbol was on the front, I immediately knew what it was and ran it upstairs to Patrick.

I think the vision of Patrick’s face while he opened that package will forever be one of my favorite memories. He did what he needed to do to make something that he was passionate about come true.

To me, this is successful Modern Parenting – being the parent your child needs you to be in order to allow them to become the person they were meant to be.

During Patrick’s childhood, he needed me to be the parent that believed with him in his dream. There were other times that I needed to be the parent that reminded him that studying instead of playing video games allowed him to stay on track with his dream. On the other hand, when he got older, I needed to be the parent that let him figure this out for himself – even if that meant backing off and letting him get a bad grade or two.

And then on the day he received his acceptance package, he needed me to be the parent that beamed with pride with him. And I was SOOOOO happy to be that parent for him.

I’m not saying that I knew exactly what I was doing during my kids’ childhoods, but I did try to always ask myself what kind of parent my son and daughter needed in each moment in order to assist them to figure out for themselves how to become who they needed to be.

Over time, I learned to trust that my kids both have a unique future path all their own, and if I set their environment up correctly by allowing them to pursue their innate talents, gifts, and passions, then they would figure out this path on their own.

Patrick is well on his path to attending USC and becoming an attorney, and now my daughter is beginning her path of conquering her own passions as well. I’m sure I will update you soon on her story of pursuing her passion.


Maintaining Positive Relationships In a Nontraditional Family

Another development in my little Modern Family is that my kids’ Dad is marrying his longtime partner very soon.

Both kids will be in the wedding and I will be attending as well.

Maintaining a warm and positive relationship with the kids’ Dad and his partner since the divorce was really helpful in allowing the kids to grow up without a bunch of unnecessary chaos. I’m not going to lie and say that it was always easy, but I believe it truly benefited the kids to be able to have their parents together for important events.

In the past, the kids and I would get together with their Dad and his partner more frequently – we would even do fun family day trips and vacation together – but with the kids getting older, their Dad moving farther away, and everyone getting busier with school and work, it’s been harder to make those little events happen.

Now that my kids are older and more independent (especially now that they both have their driver’s licenses), I’m giving myself permission that I don’t have to micromanage the relationship between the kids and their Dad anymore.

Again, this goes back to being the parent that my kids need me to be in the moment, and I think that my kids are at a certain stage in their lives where they are ok managing that relationship on their own. In the past, I felt obligated to make it a priority to take my kids to see their Dad when the occasion arose, but now I see that they are ready to take charge of this important relationship on their own.

In the future, I see all of us continuing to have a great relationship with each other.


Supporting Each Other’s Passions, Values, and Beliefs

I’ve written before about how smart Modern Parents identify their unique family passions, values, and beliefs so that they use these items as a guide in making parenting decisions. In my experience, parents who are not absolutely clear on their passions, values, and beliefs parent reactively (i.e. they parent in response to a specific emotional event). Smart Modern Parents use their passions, values, and beliefs to parent intentionally; thus, during an emotional event, they already know how to act.

As I touched on earlier, one of my family values is to allow both myself and my kids to pursue their passions and dreams.

Now that my kids are older, I’ve noticed, and really appreciated, their support while I’ve pursued my passion with my career.

As many of you know, I went through graduate school to become a psychologist when my kids were younger. My Son was 14 and my daughter was 11 when I graduated, so they definitely observed all the effort that goes into getting a degree.

Now, they are witnessing me use that degree to pursue a career in my community and online. During the day, I work in administration in County government. I really love this job – it puts me into contact with great people and I get to do some really rewarding work. My son and daughter have also been there to see the beginning of Parenting The Modern family and my other writing pursuits.

It’s been so heartwarming to have my kids wish me good luck out of the blue when they know I have an important event at work or they know I’m working on something new for the blog. My son evens edits my blog posts and Huffington Post articles and my daughter gives me some great social media advice.

This awesome support from my kids has shown me that they’ve picked up on one of the values that guided my parenting decisions – the value of the importance of pursuing individual passions and interests.


Take Home Message

The point of this blog post isn’t about bragging about the accomplishments of my Modern Family (believe me – I left out all of our embarrassing mistakes on purpose!!). Rather, the point is to show how any kind of family can raise successful kids – and be happy in the process.

Maybe you don’t agree with my definition of a successful Modern Family, and that’s ok. What’s important is that you know what your definition is so that you can work towards that goal.

I believe that as long as certain core elements are part of a family, then any kind of family can be a successful one. Take a minute to evaluate whether or not your family includes the following factors:

  • Unconditional love for each other
  • The support and encouragement to pursue individual passions and interests
  • Prioritizing warm, close relationships with one another
  • Creating a family environment that is free of unnecessary chaos and stress
  • Having the confidence that your child is a worthwhile person and that they will discover their path in life – all you have to do is allow them to explore their interests.

What do you think? Did I leave anything out?

My hope for you after reading this post s to take some time to really think about and envision what you want your family to be like in the future. Then ask yourself: is what you are doing now contributing to or hurting your goal of a future successful Modern Family?



Are You Using The 3 Important Elements That All Successful Modern Parent Use Religiously?

To Find Out, Download The Free Guide ==>

The Modern Parenting Blueprint: The 3 Elements That All Successful Modern Parents Use Religiously

How I conquered Graduate School as a New Single Mom

How I conquered Graduate School as a New Single Mom

So many of you already know my story, but for those of you who are new to my blog, you can read the long version here.

The quick version of my story is that I married my high school sweetheart almost right out of high school. We divorced 14 years later when Jeff, my ex-husband, came out to me and everyone else as a gay man. At the time we divorced, our 2 kids were 10 and 7 years old and I had just started the first year of my 6-year doctoral program in clinical psychology.

Before starting graduate school, I was a stay-at-home mom, so my kids and I were used to a very laid-back schedule; therefore, the sudden change of becoming a single mom and a full-time student all at the same time could have been a recipe for disaster. In order to not let this happen, I had to get my act together – and quick!

Below, I will give you several tips that were lifesavers for me. Without them, I could not have met my 2 goals: being the best mom possible for my kids and completing my personal objective of becoming a child psychologist. I knew that “having it all” was an unrealistic goal – but I wanted to get as close to having it all as possible!


My Lifesavers

Create an awesome support system. I could not have managed a class schedule that changed from quarter to quarter or been able to see patients without the help of my support system. My support system included my sister and Jeff who both helped with childcare and driving my kids to and from school on the days that I had to be on campus early in the morning or during the afternoons.

Your support system should also include emotional support too. Both my family and my good friends provided the emotional support I needed to stay focused on my goals. Believe it or not, but Jeff has always been the biggest supporter of my career goals by helping me stay focused on the future. As a single mom, it is easy to feel selfish for pursuing personal goals, so having someone there to root you on when you feel like giving up means a lot.


Prioritize what’s important… Always keep a mental list of your most important goals in mind. This list might change from time to time, but by constantly having it in the forefront of your mind, you are better able to make decisions that coincide with your goals. I found that when I didn’t simply react to things, but, instead,  purposefully took the time to think through my decisions based upon my most important goals, I made better decisions for me and my kids in the long run.


…And let the little stuff go. Once you know your major priorities, it becomes easier to let the “little stuff” go. Give up on being perfect! Nobody’s perfect! Little stuff like having a spotless house or serving dinner at 6:00 on the dot every night really don’t matter as long as your kids are healthy and happy and you are moving forward with your life.


Routines! Routines! Routines! Morning, afternoon, and evening routines kept me sane and organized. I had routines for getting homework done, paying bills, making sure the laundry got done, and for going to bed with a clean kitchen every night – you name it and I had a routine for it!

Routines also gave my kids an understanding of their role in the family too. They knew exactly how they needed to contribute to the family system by doing their part to get ready for school in the morning, starting their homework, and going to bed on time every night. Even now, I notice that my kids still live by the routines even as they have gotten older.


Prioritize family over everything else. There were many times during my graduate school life that I had to choose between my kids and my career. I always chose my kids over my career and this decision has never hurt my career. Sure, I could have trained at more popular or well-known training sites or published more research articles like some of my peers, but ultimately I did what i could based around my family schedule and still met my goal of becoming a child psychologist. I have never regretted these decisions.


If I Can Do it, So Can You!


So now I want to hear from you. What challenges are you currently working hard to overcome? What is working for you and what is not? Tell me in the comment section below – we can be each other’s emotional support system as we pursue both our parenting and personal goals together.



Are You Using The 3 Important Elements That All Successful Modern Parent Use Religiously?

To Find Out, Download The Free Guide ==>

The Modern Parenting Blueprint: The 3 Elements That All Successful Modern Parents Use Religiously

My Modern Kid Wins An Award: How To Encourage Your Child To Find Their Passion

My Modern Kid Wins An Award: How To Encourage Your Child To Find Their Passion

I love writing posts like this one.

Patrick (he said he was “cool” with me using his name on the blog) won not only ONE award, but TWO awards during this year’s high school mock trial county-wide awards ceremony.

What Is Mock Trial? I’ve NEVER Even Heard Of That Before!

According to the National Mock Trial Website, a mock trial team provides many different opportunities for high school students to learn about and experience the judicial system from a variety of different perspectives.

“Every fall, thousands of teenagers from across the country get ready to go to court, not because they have to, but because they want to. From September to January, these young people immerse themselves in the inner-workings of the justice system — after school, in the evenings, and on weekends.

All across the country, before real judges, high school students try the cases they have been preparing. From opening statements to direct and cross examination of witnesses and closing arguments, they present each part of a legal case. Each team has its own “attorneys” and “witnesses” and must be ready to present either side of the case before “juries” that score their performance. Trial by trial, the teams compete for the championship of their jurisdiction.”


This is the third year that Patrick has participated on the Mock Trial team and each year he has been chosen to be an attorney for the team. At the end of the season, Patrick’s team as a whole received second place in the county championship and Patrick won Best Defense Attorney as well as Best Support Role “Unofficial Timer” Defense.

How To Encourage Your Child To Follow Their Passion

Needless to say, Jeff and I are so proud of our Awesome Son! Being a part of the Mock Trial team has been a great experience for him. It has provided a natural opportunity for Jeff and Patrick to spend time together over something they both enjoy (Jeff is an attorney so he helped Patrick prepare) and I have enjoyed simply being on the sidelines watching my kid do something that he enjoys AND BE REALLY GOOD AT IT.

I wasn’t always the kind of parent that was so laid-back about her children’s activities. I used to think that I had to micro-manage their interests and their education or they would never be good at anything.

Do you see the flaw in that line of thinking? It assumes that my kids cannot find their own passion. IT COMMUNICATES TO THEM THAT THEIR PARENT DOES NOT TRUST THEM TO LIVE A WORTHWHILE LIFE. This was NOT the message that I wanted to communicate to my kids! So I decided to change the message by changing MY behavior.

I decided to back off and let both of my kids decide for themselves how they wanted to spend their extracurricular time. I wanted to communicate to them that I TRUSTED them to figure this out for themselves – because I knew they could do this. And you know what? They did a great job ON THEIR OWN in finding a passion and developing that passion into (hopefully) a life-long interest.

And the best part of this plan is that the kids not only found an activity that “looks good” on a college application, but it’s obvious that they really enjoy their activities and will probably participate in these activities as adults as well. My Awesome Daughter chose to play music (she started out with the piano, then the violin, and now has moved on the playing the cello) and I never have to remind her to practice – she has found the discipline to figure out her own practice schedule and enjoys playing music outside of her assigned songs. And Patrick has developed the same discipline – I never had to remind him to work on his Mock Trial briefs, openings, etc. – he worked on these assignments because it brought him personal enjoyment and fulfillment.

So if your child is struggling to find a passion or hobby that they truly enjoy, here is my advice:

  • Let them know that they need to be involved in 1 extracurricular activity and you can help give them ideas, but it is up to them to choose.
  • If the activity has meetings, events, or practice times, make sure that this fits into the family schedule.
  • Don’t put pressure on them that they need to be the best, or the captain of the team, or to win an award – communicate to them that you simply want them to enjoy their time in the activity.
  • If they ask for advice or help, give them that help – otherwise, stay out of it.
  • Don’t give them vague, general complements such as “you did a good job today.” Instead, provide them with effort-based praise such as “I really enjoyed hearing you practice today” and “You looked really happy when you finally figured out that new song.”
  • If they want to quit the activity, that’s ok if they have given it a good try – we need to try things to see if we will like them, right? Just make sure they have a plan for something they want to try next.
Take Home Message


Encouraging your child to develop their own passions, values, and beliefs while they are young is so important. As a parent, you can help guide them in researching and exploring new interests, which can provide an opportunity for some bonding time (just like Mock Trial has provided for Jeff and Patrick). In addition, this time of exploration and self-discovery can also be a time when you can share how you developed your own passions, values, and beliefs with your child.

If you found this blog post helpful, feel free to email it to another parent who might be struggling with helping their child find a passion. You could also re-post it on Facebook or Twitter as a resource for other parents.

Finally, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic – what has worked for you and what hasn’t. Feel free to leave a comment below, email me, or you can start a conversation with me on Facebook. I love to hear all of your thoughts, stories, and successes!




Are You Using The 3 Important Elements That All Successful Modern Parent Use Religiously?

To Find Out, Download The Free Guide ==>

The Modern Parenting Blueprint: The 3 Elements That All Successful Modern Parents Use Religiously