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16.03.2017
High Functioning Family
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The weekend came that my husband was taking my son away for a retreat weekend. My husband is a great dad so why was I so anxious about it? I suppose like most moms I feel like I have to take care of everything, as though I am “Super Mom” who can fix any and every situation for my kids. This feeling often consumes me and if I'm being honest it is quite exhausting at times.      I know I drove my husband crazy the week before they left. I must have repeated 1,000 times the things he needed to do to take care of our son as if he didn't know.  He gave me those looks like “You are being nutty”, but he knew my stress was coming from simply wanting everything to go well.             I started thinking there must be something wrong with me. My husband and son were going away for a nice weekend experience and my daughter was going to be away at a sleepover. What mom wouldn't rejoice in having a weekend to herself?    They left Friday and I couldn't wait to hear from them to calm my mommy nerves. My husband finally texted me late that evening saying, "We got here ok but he's having a little bit of a tough time". I  jumped to call him and wanted to say just come home. My anxious thoughts were swirling telling me my fears were right. I had to STOP and BREATHE and get my thoughts together before I got on the phone with my son. My son, like many boys, is a "mommy's boy". He seeks me out when he needs to know that everything is going to be okay. I got on the phone with him as he began to tell me how much he missed me and he wished I was there with him. My heart sank, but I knew that giving into my fears of wanting to make it all okay for him was taking the easy way out; it would not teach him anything. I told him I missed him too but was so excited to hear all about the awesome adventures he would be having with his dad. I told him that I loved him and knew he would love his time there. I told him to focus on the fun rather than things that were stressing him out. I got off the phone and thought, “How can I expect him to do that if I can't do it myself?” I also thought about all the clients I work with and knew they too feel this way at times. This gave me the inspiration to stand in integrity of what I believe, of what I teach.  So I dropped my daughter off at her sleepover and went home to rejoice in the quiet time I would have to myself. I watched my favorite shows and took a long quiet shower. I applied a face mask and took the time to take care of me. I did so knowing and trusting that all would be okay for all of our "adventures". I learned that by pushing past my fears of what could go wrong, I opened a space for us to learn all the wonderful things that went right. Trusting others to help me is sometimes hard for me to do. However, I learned that it is necessary for me so that I can be a better mom and teach my kids to trust themselves in the process. It's also so important for me to be able to take some of the pressure off myself that only I can "fix" everything.  What I learned that weekend is if I want to be the best mom I can be, I have to let go of having to be in control all of the time. I have to have faith and trust in my husband.  After all, one of the many things I love about him is what a great dad he is.   We work really hard together on our parenting and I need to believe that it has helped our children to be who they are - great kids!! By Margarita Daskalakis
09.01.2017
High Functioning Family
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When our children are acting out or being defiant it is natural for us to be reactive and get angry.  Let’s face it, who wants to get yelled at, talked back to, or ignored by their own child.  I was raised with the “I have to teach them a lesson” parenting style.  I have noticed if I am flipping out it isn’t actually teaching them anything other than more disrespect, more anger and more annoyance.  I have gotten the best response and had the best teaching moments with my kids when I am calm.  I end up connecting with them.  We all take our responsibility and I leave feeling much better than when I lose it.  Staying calm is easier said than done, right?   The first step is to figure out what works for you.   Here are our favorite strategies: Breathe: We tell our kids to breathe all the time but we have to remember to do it as well.  It is actually the first step to getting you out of reaction mode because it gets you to stop. It will also get you to  think about how you want to respond to the situation. Talk to yourself:  I know this sound crazy but it works.  It helps get the focus off of what is triggering you.  I have said things like,  “You can do this, don’t fall into the trap, what’s my goal, what do I want to happen right now”. Walk away: Even if it’s for a second to regroup, just do it.  Walk in and out of the bathroom or your bedroom.  Just get away from the stressor for a moment. Ground yourself:  Too many times we get sucked into our children’s anger and frustration and we create a story around it.  Ever thought, “Why are you doing this to me?”.   When you ground yourself you take yourself out of the story and back into reality.  You do this by asking yourself, “What is really happening”. You don’t look at the story but instead you look at the action.  An example of this is, “They are purposely trying to delay doing their hw.”  (the story) to “They are moving around, they are fiddling with their pencil, they are talking” (what is actually happening). Laugh: Because sometimes you just have to.  We need to not take everything so seriously.  Sometimes laughing at the craziness of the situation helps us to let it go. This doesn’t mean that our kids are going to magically be perfect or even know how to get themselves calm without some support from us.  It gives them good and appropriate behavior to model after when we use the strategies we want our kids to use as well.  Ever find yourself yelling at your kids to stop yelling?  When a problem arises take a moment to reflect on how you are reacting to the situation. Now ask yourself if that is how you want your kids to respond when something is stressing them out.  If the answer you come up with is “Yes” then awesome give yourself a pat on the back and keep up the great work.  If the answer is “No” it’s not a bad thing it simply means we get to learn and grow from it.  Reflection gives us the opportunity to learn what’s working and build it up. It also helps us learn what’s not working so we can change what we want and need in order to be calm parents.
19.12.2016
High Functioning Family
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New Year, New RulesThe older I'm becoming the faster time seems to be going. I feel like it wasn't that long ago that it turned 2016 but here we are again waiting to celebrate the turn of a new year. As many people do, I often like to reflect on how my year went, the good and the bad. I like to use it as a learning experience so that we, myself and my family, keep moving forward.  I am working on bringing this awareness to my kids as well because let's be honest, it's really easy to stay stagnant and not challenge ourselves to grow as human beings. We were all sitting in the kitchen after dinner and I began talking about  "new year, new you".  I started to verbally reflect on things we could change as a family to make our lives better. It occurred to me that it's been a while since we revamped our family rules and I thought this would be a great time to do it. My husband and I thought of areas that we get frustrated with our kids and we created rules around it.  For example, cleaning up after themselves; all toys, games and books must be cleaned up by being put back where they belong after they use them. If they are left out they will lose them and have to earn them back with chores. This was agreeable with my kids but they wanted to create their own rules for their dad and I. One of their rules is in collaboration of the above rule is that they get one calm (no yelling) warning from us to put all their stuff away. They will have ten minutes to comply after said warning and if at that point anything is left out it's gone. We both agreed to this and agreed to no yelling at each other because of it. This will help us all to be accountable to stay calm and be responsible for how we respond to each other. We also each took responsibility for areas where we need to improve and discussed  actions that will help us better those areas. There  were many other rules and responsibilities we added. We all walked away feeling happy about the new year to come. It was a check in with our family and ourselves to see what's working and what's not.   Now we can grow and nurture what we want to create for our family and ourselves. Margarita Daskalakis
20.10.2016
High Functioning Family
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 When I first found out that my son had epilepsy I felt so helpless.  I felt like I didn’t know how to help him or why this was happening, but most importantly I wanted to know how and if we could make the seizures stop.  As his mother I just wanted to scoop him up and make it all better, but I felt powerless and at the mercy of the doctors.  We went from doctor to doctor until we finally found one we felt comfortable with.  Once we were happy with our doctor, we went from medicine to medicine until we finally found the one that stopped his seizures.  And when we finally found the medicine that worked for him it caused him to be tired, have mood swings and we had to keep watch on his liver for possible damage.  All the while, I sat in the passenger seat letting the doctors tell me what was right for my son.  Don’t get me wrong, we were blessed with the doctor that finally found the right medicine to stop his seizures.  He was caring, held our hand and listened as we asked countless questions.  But I thought that he held all of the answers and I had none. I remember one appointment where I was telling the doctor that this new medicine was making my son agitated and he was having major mood swings.  I was assured that it couldn’t be the medicine because this particular medicine actually was found to sedate children and stabilize mood swings.  At the same appointment I asked why my son was having these seizures and I was told it was hereditary, yet we could not find one family member that had ever had even one seizure.  That is when I stopped being a passenger in my son’s life.  I reclaimed my mother’s instinct and said, “enough is enough”.  I knew there had to be some answers out there.  Now did I go a bit to extremes? Yes, but only because my gut was telling me there was another way.  So I went back to school for nutrition and in my studies I learned that there was a possibility that since my son was a highly allergic child, certain foods could trigger his seizures.  So we cleaned up his diet.  I also learned that essential oils could support some children with seizures, so we started using it externally with him.  You see, I started working hand and hand with his doctor, rather than just sitting back helplessly.  Working together with the support of our doctor, within four years my son was weaned off his medicine and has been seizure free and med free for more than two years!   We were blessed to have such an amazing turn of events.  However,  it wasn’t until I stopped being consumed by my lack of power and instead empowered myself as a mom that things changed.   I needed to say to myself, “ I was put on earth specifically for this child.  I know what he needs. I am his mother.” And I needed to believe it!   I don’t claim on being an expert of all things, but I do know my children better than anyone else on this planet and my maternal instinct is strongest when conflict or turmoil arise.  From now on, I know to rely on the experts to support my decision making as a parent, but at the end of the day I truly believe  Momma knows best! By Juarline Stavrinos
21.09.2016
High Functioning Family
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Surviving the Homework Battle School is in session and if your home is anything like ours, the battle of routine is amongst us. It seems as though our kids come home and they are simply DONE.  Their brains are on overload.  Rightfully so, the demands on our children nowadays are much higher than what we had when we were in school.  The other thing is they are always STARVING as if they haven’t eaten all day.  One of the top complaints we hear from families is, “My kids don’t want to do their homework.” It seems to always turn into a battle. What do we do so that we are not all pulling our hair out by 4pm?  Here are some of our top tips to have homework time go smoother. Have a structured routine so your children knows exactly what to expect. Having a routine so your kids know exactly what is going to happen when they get home is really important and truly helps to alleviate the HW battle.  We have found many of the families that struggle most don't have a set routine. This allows for arguments and power struggles to occur.  When there is no set structure in place, both sides have unexpressed expectations that do not get met, which often leads to the homework battle.  Our children need us to guide them and knowing exactly what we expect from them helps ease the anxiety and miscommunication.    Give them a healthy snack.  Like we said before, many kids come home “starving”.  Giving them a snack allows them to take a break and have their brain rest.  It also gives them a boost of energy to allow them to complete their tasks. Have a homework basket where all supplies are located.  We use a pencil case.  In there we have pencils, erasers, crayons, markers, glue, scissors and anything else I find they need for HW.  This eliminates their opportunity to procrastinate by looking for supplies. Pick a designated homework spot.  Have your children sit in the same area to do their homework each day.  This area should be free from distractions and comfortable for them. Don’t be attached to what you think doing HW looks like.  Remember the demands on our kids are so high.  When they come home they have been holding it together for over 6 hours.  They have been sitting up straight and quietly for many hours.  Allow them to move if they need to.  Some kids may need to stand  or use a bouncy chair.  Others may need the use of a fidget. Many kids think and focus better when they are allowed to have some movement.  My son HATES math homework. We make it fun by playing his favorite song right before he starts and we just dance out the frustration. Whatever the case may be, let go of ridgeness.  What is our main goal? It is to complete HW without it being a battle, so let go a little.  As long as it is getting done and they tried their best, let them sit how they need to. We recommend having kids complete their homework sooner rather than later.  The longer you wait, the harder it is for them to get back into school brain.   We always tell my kids the faster we get it done the more time they have for themselves.   If you find your child is consistently struggling with the homework, make sure to reach out to their teacher and let them know.  Homework should be something that your child understands and it doesn’t need to be a battle.  Taking these simple steps can help make it easier for all. We want our kids to feel good about themselves and their schoolwork. by Margarita Daskalakis and Juarline Stavrinos  
06.04.2016
High Functioning Family
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The voices in my head...Yes!! There are voices in my head and sometimes they drive me crazy!! I signed my kids up for swimming lessons.  This should be a fairly simple thing for most people but the voices in my head started up with, "Should I tell them that my son has autism?” and “If I don't tell them and he acts out, what will they think?".   This is a scenario that is often played out in my head.  When we first moved to our new home I was contemplating, “Should I tell the neighbors about him?”  Then I think, “Well if I tell them will they treat him differently?”  “But if I don't, will they wonder why I am always so paranoid when we are sitting on our front porch?”  Fear can be my worst enemy. Those voices in my head have done great things for me too, like knowing my son needed help early on.  The thing I am working on lately is how to filter the good from the bad.  Listening to what will move and forward my life into the direction that I want it to go.  I’m also human and sometimes allow the fear to take over.  It was possibly the first few weeks we moved into our home and I was so worried about my son wandering off.  I saw our new neighbor and went to introduce myself and one of the first things I blurted out was, "My son has Autism so if you happen to see him wandering off please stop him."  You can only imagine what was going through my head in the instant the words came out of my mouth.  I came home and told my husband, "Well the neighbor thinks I am crazy so there goes our kids’ social life".  Needless to say, I have since learned to filter my thoughts before they come out of my mouth, especially in front of new people. So this past weekend we were waiting to start our first swimming lesson and I held myself back from telling the instructor about my son.  He did awesome and as a matter of fact, so did I!  The thing I am coming to terms with is, “Who am I trying to protect by telling people about my son?”  The truth is, it’s me!!  He is perfectly content being who he is.  It is my ego that wants to tell people before they look to judge us.   I need to start having more faith in people.   I am also learning to not be so affected by what others may think.  The fact is pre-children I was the person who would look at a parent in the store with their screaming child and think, "They have no clue what they are doing."  Fast forward to today and that's me the parent with the screaming children...and so the saying goes "Until you have walked in my shoes don't judge".  The thing is we all do that.  We see someone and automatically place a label on them.  We really don't know what is going on in their world.  So, today I am choosing to smile and feel confident with humanity.  When I hear the "Voices in my Head" I will stop for a moment and listen.  I will do my best to distinguish fear from truth.  I will allow things to play out before I try to "fix" them.  I know this doesn't mean people will stop judging me, but I will just be there to help them understand. 
14.03.2016
High Functioning Family
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Why I Stopped Talking to my Son when he was Angry It is really challenging to stay calm when your child is having an angry moment; but believe me, it's what gets you the most peaceful results. There are times that my son has some tough behavioral breakdowns that can drive me to lose it. The thing is, when I don’t stay calm, it only makes matters worse and then I feel like a bad parent at the end of the day. I do my best to practice what I preach.  Here are four steps that help me stay peaceful and in control so that my son’s anger doesn’t become my own:    1. Breathe!! It helps to calm my mind and allows me to think in a rational way. I usually ask myself while I take the moment to breath, “What do I need to do to help my son?”    2. Connect  He is not being bad.  Rather, he is acting out because he cannot appropriately deal with his anger and frustrations in the moment.  3. Don’t Take it Personally  I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a personal attack and absolutely not a reflection of me as a parent. 4. Give Calm Cues   Instead of getting sucked into his anger I calmly repeated every so often what I wanted him to do.  “When you get calm, I will talk to you.” I have to remind myself that he needs me to help him work through this difficult situation that he is experiencing. If I allow myself to get sucked into his anger spiral I will not be able to help him at all.   Instead, I will escalate his angry situation and turn it into mine. I have to talk myself through it because believe me, getting through these steps and staying calm is not easy. However, as I have experienced before, staying calm is so worth the end result of helping my child. It allows me to teach and show him by my own example how to stay calm when things make you angry or frustrated.      As I was practicing these techniques today I had to do something to distract myself from engaging as he was screaming and acting out. I kept reminding myself that if I stayed calm, he would get there too. His screaming lasted several minutes and I could see he wanted me to engage, but I stuck it out and gave him calm cues every so often. "When you get calm I will talk to you" is what I kept repeating in a calm voice.  I suddenly heard his cry go from one of anger and rage to one of sadness and I knew the release was coming. He looked at me and said "I need a hug!!"       It was definitely challenging staying calm because I believe we are wired to be reactive, but the connection and trust we are building with each other is so worth the effort.  By, Margarita Daskalakis
My husband and I spent a year planning a surprise trip for our children to go to Disney.  We had visions of what their reactions would be when they opened up their t-shirts saying they were going to Disney.  Yet when the time finally came, one of our kids did not give us the reaction we were expecting.  He was excited, yet worried.  He asked about a million questions.  "When are we leaving? When are we getting back?  I am going to have to miss a day of school?!?" I will admit, I was a bit annoyed.  Didn't he appreciate this amazing gift?  I took it personally when it had nothing to do with me.  My son was having an internal struggle.  You see, he is a planner.  He likes to know what he is doing, when he is doing it and how it is happening.  He thought we were doing one thing with his week off and then we blew his organized plans out of the water. It took him a few hours to wrap his head around it and get excited where as my daughter was jumping for joy the moment she found out. What I learned is that it is OK.  My son needed time to process and plan before he could show his excitement. So often we have these expectations of our children and when they don't meet them we get annoyed or angry.  The lesson I took from reflecting back on this was that I was looking at my child as being ungrateful rather than struggling to process it.  When I see him as being ungrateful it only made me angry.  But when I understand that he is struggling then I can support him and have a positive experience instead of a negative one.  Then we all win. By Juarline Stavrinos
04.12.2015
High Functioning Family
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Responsibilities and The Future We often here the term Helicopter Moms which basically describes a style of parenting that parents are doing everything and anything for their children.  Personally, I think it doesn't come from a bad place for some its wanting to give their children things and time that they never got from their parents.  For others,  it may be from fear and simply wanting to keep our kids safe from the world around us.  I think if possible I am cross between Free Range and Helicopter if that is even possible (hahaha).       I often reflect back to myself as a child and I grew up as a latch kid key.  I was in the first grade when I started to walk home from school with my brother who was in third grade.  We had our own set of keys because both our parents worked.  Yes, does part of me wish I had my mom waiting for me outside of school at times sure, I w ould be lying if I said no.  However, with that being said I truly believe that having working parents and being a latch kid key made me resilient.  I had no choice but to become responsible for myself at a very young age.  I didn’t have anyone home helping me with homework or organizing my day.  I had to do it myself and learned early on how to organize my time at home so that I could get homework done and still have time to play.  In today’s world we structure every minute of our children’s time and fill every second with activities that we as parents organize.  It’s also a controversial thing to leave your kids home alone or send them to the park alone.  I sway back and forth on this one I am sure my upbringing has a lot to do with it.  I too like other parents have fears and want to keep my children safe.  I can recall the first time my daughter who was 7 years old at the time asked me to ride her bike around the block by herself.  There was a part of me that wanted to say “No” but a little voice inside my head said “you can’t hold her back from growing and learning how to navigate in this world on her own”, so I let  her go. I sat in front of my house with my heart racing but I knew it was for the greater good and the confidence and experience she would gain was so worth it.  When I saw her coming around I smiled and reminded myself how much I learned by doing things on my own when I was her age.      Life experience is the best gift we can give ourselves and our children.  I share this with you not as who’s doing it wrong or right but as a reflection of what we can do to help our children grow into the responsible adults we want them to be.  I have read many articles that speak about kids in high school or college  that don't have a clue about being responsible for themselves.  I even know parents who write their children’s college applications and essays and then we hear that these upcoming generations are having a harder time finding and keeping jobs.  I question why is that, what can we do differently to help our children now before they get to this point that responsibility becomes so overwhe lming to them.      We need to reflect back to the past where children were given more responsibilities and expected to help out in their homes.  Thinking back to those times it was normal to see young kids in the laundromat doing their families laundry or in the supermarket picking up some groceries that their family needs. Sadly, if we saw a a child even about 9 years old in the market picking up milk for their mom we would all think they are being neglected and someone would probably call CPS on the family.  I told you earlier that I am a cross between free range parenting and helicoptering.  I think its a battle I go through in my head trying to figure out how to foster  responsibility, independence, confidence in my children while they are out in the world.  When I was 8 years old I would ride the elevated train to my mom’s job a few train stops away.  I knew how to buy a token and where to get off.  I can recall feeling scared once or twice when a strange man would be starring at me but I gained real life skills that helped me.  I would have never been able to learn those things without experiencing them on my own.  I know some of you are going to ask me if I would let my daughter ride the train now and the answer is no.  I don't think  she is ready to do so.       This brings me back to the story  of her riding her bike around the block.  She asked me to do it.  It made me realize even though I honestly was afraid I thought somewhere inside of her she is ready for this.  She wouldn't ask me if she wasn't and I of course gave her 100 rules she had to follow while she went around the block.  So, now I ask you how will you answer when your child ask you to do something on their own.  Will you allow them to go and learn how to spread their wings or will your fear of the million “What if’s “ hold you back and in turn hold them from becoming responsible for themselves.  While you are reflecting on this, I invite you to fast forward for a bit and think if your child is 8 now, in ten short years they will be going off to college.  Many of them will be going out of state and for most of them this will be their first experience of being on their own.  Don't you think we should start teaching them from now how to navigate through some of life’s challenges that will more than likely come up.  Most people I know don't even let their children go to the rest room alone in a restaurant for fear that someone will harm them in the bathroom.  Sometimes, depending on where we are I am one of those parents but I do my best to not let the fear of the “ What if’s” consume me.        I am still cautious but now I give my kids the freedom to grow and learn from their own mistakes and choices.  I am always with them to gently guide them and hopefully be the voice in their head that directs to make the best decisions.Take the time to reflect where can you give your kids more freedom so they can go, grow and learn.  Give them their wings now so they will be ready to conquer the world instead of be overwhelmed by it. the best way I can hopefully one you up to allowing the growth is to think about this.  How do you teach someone to ride a bicycle? You can tell them what they need to do but the only way they learn is to actually get on the bike and do it.  
18.11.2015
High Functioning Family
2 Comments
It was just a few weeks ago, when I was going to bed stressed out over all the things I had to do the next day.  I had a big meeting with a client, a ton of errands to run, a meeting at the kid’s school, an evening workshop to teach and a long list of emails to write.  My mind was racing and I had a hard time sleeping. The next morning my daughter came downstairs.  I had everything prepped for her.  Her breakfast was on the table, her lunch was made and her backpack was packed.  I was ready for the morning race to get her off to school on time.  But instead of getting ready for school I was rushing her to the ER.  She came downstairs that morning with her lips blue, having cold sweats and her heart was racing.   After a call to her doctor we were off to the ER with concerns of her high heart rate. While in that hospital room all I could think about was my baby girl, and praying that everything would be all right.  There she was, scared of all the machines and poking and prodding.  I was so scared for her, but somehow I found a strength I never knew I had to hold back my fear and crazy thoughts and focus only on getting her through this. That day we were admitted into the hospital for observation.  All the stressing the night before was for nothing.  I didn’t get to run those errands or get to the meeting at the kids' school. I didn’t get to teach the evening workshop or write the long list of emails.  I had something much more important to worry about...the health of my daughter.  That night, instead of stressing over the next day's events, I was praying and counting my blessings.  Blessings that I found even in that crazy day.  I was grateful for the doctors and nurses that helped my daughter.  I was grateful for the Life’s Work volunteers who brought her gifts and crafts that made her smile.  I was grateful for a private room and all the get well wishes we were given.  I was grateful for all the prayer warriors who had my daughter in their thoughts. Thank goodness my daughter was discharged the next day.  She ended up having a virus and dehydration that made her heart rate so high.  That crazy day taught me a lesson: It is never worth worrying over things that haven’t happened yet.   It’s actually a waste of time and energy.   Instead, when I start to get that little voice creeping in my head with the million things I need to do the next day, I stop myself.  I start to look at all the blessings I have had in my day.  Things that have actually happened and I choose to focus on that. This reminds me of a great quote by Mary Engelbreit "Worrying does not empty tomorrow of it's troubles, it empties today of it's strength."  Why worry about things that may never actually happen?  I learned to be grateful for the rays of sunshine in my day and to focus on those blessings, because what you focus on grows and that’s what I want more of in my life. By Juarline Stavrinos

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77 Jericho Turnpike

Mineola, NY

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“High Functioning Family has proven to be a wonderful resource for families and our school!  Margarita Daskalakis and Juarline Stavrinos are easy to speak to and very personable.  They are extremely informative and well versed in Early Childhood.  High Functioning family hosted workshops at the Growing Tree that provided strategies and tips for everyday frustrating situations that occur with our children.  Parents were able to open up and share their own stories.  It was an enriching learning experience!”

Dawn Friedman, Managing Director Growing Tree

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Helping families and educators gain the awareness and tools needed to create calm and peace in their homes and classrooms.