Tech Presents for Kids: Tips for Establishing Healthy Boundaries

Stephanie Burstein, MS, LMFT

The holidays are here and shopping has begun. At the top of everyone’s holiday wish list are electronics. Even our littlest loved ones are enamored with the latest and greatest gadgets. Who could blame them? Our world runs on technology and our kids are part of that world. Whether they are using electronics for school or entertainment, the demand exists. And as every parent knows, finding the right balance for electronics is tricky. How do you give the gift of technology to your child without them turning into zombies?

The most effective step to take when giving your child a phone, iPad or other gadget is to set limits immediately. Yes, that even means the first night they have their new toy!

Here are a few other guidelines to follow:

1. Set time limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one hour of screen time for children ages 2-5 years old. Consistent time limits should be in place for children over the age of 6. An example would be allowing kids access to their electronic device for 10-15 minutes immediately after school. You can then block out another 10-15 minutes after homework or other school activities are completed. As children grow older, their access to technology will vary based on appropriate behaviors and responsibility.

2. Specify charging areas. Have a designated charging station in your bedroom, not your kid’s bedroom. By limiting where electronics are charged, you will help establish boundaries and reinforce time limits.

3. Establish electronic free zones. Create electronic free times for everyone. Ideas include electronic free meal times, family movie nights, and family outings that are focused on relationship building.

4. Monitor online activity. Remember, it’s not just your child interacting with the Internet. The Internet is also interacting with your child. Keep track of passwords to all electronic devices, social media accounts, game apps, and other online activities. Start device checks when you kids are young. As your kids turn into teens, routine checks will be something that they are already used to. Check with your mobile provider for monitoring tools, or visit for helpful time management and monitoring suggestions.

5. Keep activity age appropriate. Be aware of the latest games, social media, and online trends. A quick Google search can give you insight about the apps your kids are using. It’s also helpful for parents to have their own accounts on popular sites (Instagram, Snapchat, etc), which will help you monitor and understand how the technology is used. Research which apps are appropriate for your child’s current age range.

6. Modeling is key! Children are watching your every move and learning from the example you provide. If you are constantly plugged in, your kids will believe that is the norm. Model moderation and keep the conversation open about technology.

 When it comes to gifting technology, keep Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch in mind:

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

The best gift you can give is your presence. Let us all remember to put down our electronics and spend time together with our families. Happy holidays!

Contributor: Stephanie Burstein, MS, LMFT, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist


Snacking Sense

By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

If you’ve ever tried to have a clear and concise conversation with your child after school, you might find it a daunting and nearly impossible task.  Typically, you will find their attention, energy and desire to recount the day stretched thin, and much of that is simply because their bodies have run out of fuel. If it’s been at least 3 hours since their last meal or snack, or their previous amount of food was small, rest assured it is time for them to eat. They need a snack.

As Ellyn Satter so beautifully explains in her Division of Responsibility, one of the parental roles in the feeding relationship is to “provide regular meals and snacks”.  This provides stability and the reassurance that food will always be available, thereby allowing children to develop a regular rhythm of hunger and fullness signals which will serve them well throughout their life.  As they trust that we will provide food in a regular and timely manner, they can best develop a sense of trusting themselves and their internal signals.

Snacks, however, have many stigmas and much confusion abounds as we try to determine the “best way” to provide them to our kids.  Here are some suggestions that may answer a few of your questions:

  • Snacks are typically best thought of as little meals, not a single stand-alone item. Our culture has branded certain categories as “snack foods”, however anything you would serve at a meal could feasibly be a snack and will undoubtedly be more satisfying than a single-serve package of baked crackers!  How about a slice of leftover veggie pizza and some grapes?
  • Include two or three foods from amongst:  whole grains, protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and fats.  Make certain to also offer some ‘fun foods’, and pair them with foods that have a little staying power, such as chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk.  Having foods with a higher fat content will hold them longer, and create greater satisfaction.
  • Since all foods can be part of a balanced eating relationship, I tend to recommend buying full-sized bags of products (chips, crackers, cookies), rather than 100-calorie individual versions.  Not only does this save you some money, it most importantly avoids all of the subtle messages that we give our kids by placing “calories” as part of a food decision.  Have you ever had a 100-calorie bag of anything?  Were you completely and utterly satisfied after finishing it?  If you wanted another one, did you feel like you “shouldn’t”?  In my experience, they leave us hanging, wishing we had more. There is nothing magical about that number “100”, except that it’s an effective marketing strategy.  By focusing on the number, we have a much harder time listening to our tummies and the signals that tell us if we are still hungry or comfortably satisfied.  Instead, present these foods on a plate or in a serving bowl, allowing kids to fill their own plate and gauge the food amounts to their hunger levels.  For snacks you need to pack, keep some reusable snack containers on hand and make certain to include enough so that they can eat sufficiently.
  • A snack is not a treat, not a reward, not withheld in a punishing manner, not conditional.  It’s simply a consistent part of a normal day between meals.  It is just food.
  • Have your kids sit at a table for snacks (without TV, Instagram, or homework!), allowing them to better listen to their bodies and know when they’re satisfied, (not to mention the fact that running around the house is dangerous and messy if done while eating!).  If your child needs to go straight from school to a practice, event or appointment, make certain to have packed a few snack options, and give him time to fully taste and enjoy before running out of the car.
  • Sit down and keep your child company, listening to your own body’s signals of hunger or thirst.  Snack time is designed to relax and regroup.  Take a quick minute to breathe, stretch and transition from the busy day.  Don’t create a stressful conversation about the hours of homework they have yet to face!  Our children are watching us always, and modeling consistent snack and re-charge time is helpful for their development, as we as for our energy and patience.
  • Try to give at least two hours and not longer than 3½ -4 hours between a snack and the next meal.  For example, if dinner is at 6:00, aim to have snack time completed by 4:00, in time for your child to get hungry again by the meal.  In the meantime, make certain your little one has caught up on their water intake, adding in some fresh fruit, ice cubes or cucumbers for a little flavor and fun.
  • If your child is truly not hungry, they won’t eat.  They can then eat at the upcoming meal –  no grazing later on as the meal approaches.
  • When your kids are older, they can begin to make some choices about snacks, within the guidelines that you’ve demonstrated.  Remember to keep them planning and eating at a generally consistent time.

If you maintain the reliable consistency of meals and snacks, including a variety of foods, your child will regulate and be able to trust their body’s signals of hunger and fullness.  Happy snacking!


Ellyn Satter, Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense (n.p.: Bull, 2000),“Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” Ellyn Satter Institute, 2014,


Handling a Hurricane – Tips for Parents

With numerous activities involved in preparing for hurricane season, don’t neglect to spend a few minutes safeguarding your most important asset- your children. The “unknown” can create stress for families both before and after the storm. Taking the time to prepare you young ones for the hazardous weather can save you from unwanted meltdowns.  Children who have been prepared, and whose parents handle the disaster well, have a greater ability to cope with the stress. The following are some tips to help you teach, prepare, and play-out the storm.

Teach: Talking with your children prior to the hurricane can help to alleviate their fears. Be sure to explain why people board up their homes, what goes on outside during the storm, the sounds they will hear, and the likelihood of loosing power. The Internet has many resources that can help you teach basic concepts about the weather and its effects in terms kids can understand. Try

Prepare: Make preparations for hurricane season, just as you would for a house fire or other family disaster. Create a family plan that includes home safety, your family’s needs, and emergency actions. Allow children to participate in family preparations so they may feel less vulnerable. Simple tasks for children may include checking the yard for loose material, shopping for provisions, preparing a “safe place” with supplies, cleaning perishables items from the refrigerator, assembling an activity box for the storm, and being in charge of their own flashlight. Keep your family informed of evacuations, open shelters, government aide, and storm updates.

Play-out: In addition to a little wind and raid a hurricane brings time.. and lots of it! Schools and businesses can remain closed for days after the storm as they deal with unexpected repairs. This gives you plenty of time to be at home with each other so make it a fun memorable experience by thinking outside of the box! Keep to routines as much as possible and incorporate fun activities for the downtime. Here are some ideas to start you on your way:

  • Safe Camp: To make bunkering down even more fun, allow your children to set up a tent in your safe place.
  • Activity Kit: Gather family games, art supplies, and your child’s favorite toys together for easy access during the storm.
  • Entertainment: Have your children develop imaginary products that would be useful in the storm and the act out silly commercials.
  • Daylight Advantage: Let’s face it, there is more for children to do during daylight hours. Avoid sleeping-in and mid-day napping! Have your children go to bed early and rise early so that they do not find themselves restless and bored during the evening without power.
  • Driveway Movies: If you happen to have a laptop adaptor( or built in DVD player) for the car, you can go to the movies in your driveway.
  • Fondue Fun: Think of ways to make dinner a fun experience. Fondue, s’mores over candles, and grilled fruit can be sweet dinner adventures.
  • Explore: Take advantage of those bicycles or roller-skates you have always been meaning to use.
  • Volunteer: Encourage your children to help neighbors clear their yards and make repairs. Keep track of their unpaid volunteer hours during the storm. Many schools have volunteer coordinators who keep record of your child’s hours for future scholarship requirements.

Clara Bossie, M.S., B.Ed., LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach Florida.  She works with children and teens both individually and in groups, including DBT Skills Group for Teens and Pre-teens.

Apps for Kids – (That Parents will Love!)

Summer time! Kids can enjoy camp, playing outside, and down time.. LOTS of down time! Down time which turns into “boredom” which turns into “Can I use your phone?!” There are more than enough apps to keep kids preoccupied, however some give your children a little more than entertainment.

Here is a list of some apps to download today!

  1. Super Hero Comic Book Maker (Duck Duck Moose) – Imagination and creativity are key in childhood development. Creativity is a great outlet for ideas and emotions, it allows for expression of how they are feeling and an outlet for coping with every day stressors. It also helps children create problem solving skills and self expression!
  2. My Underwear (Thumb Arcade) This app is great for self directed play! It is goofy, colorful, and interactive, perfect for younger kids! The memory games, matching games, and creativity games within this app help your child build motor skills and improve memory, while encouraging self expression through self directed play.
  3. iReward (Grembe Inc.) This app brings positive reinforcement to your phone! Have your child earn rewards for completing tasks and good behavior. The child can track their progress and word towards accomplishing their goal.
  4. Your Turn Kid Timer (Blue Vire)  The above apps are great, but when you have more than one child using your phone or iPad it can create more chaos than peace! This app will give each child a user ID and you can control the time each user has with the phone. Once the set time limit has been reached, an alert pops up telling the child their turn is over and it is now the next persons turn!

Stephanie Burstien, BA is a Marriage and Family Therapy Intern and Child and DBT coach at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach, Florida.

From Illness to Wellness

Most people who know me, know that I am an avid reader of spiritual, psychological and health & wellness books.  A book I frequently use in my work is “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.  The title isn’t so appealing to most lay people, but the content is a treasure for all humans who endeavor to live life with fullness and passion.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not about sex, but living according to the practices will certainly improve all relationships, especially intimate ones.  During a recent perusing of the pages (as I often read tidbits from my favorite books each evening), I was caught by a quote that says, “Don’t do anything that is not play.”  And he really means ANYTHING!  I have read those words before, but this time it hit me differently because I’m in a different place in my life and what I consider play has changed dramatically.  We are programmed to “work” hard at everything and believe that having success, fame or a relationship will bring us joy and happiness.  However, those who actually have money, success, fame or great relationships and are truly happy, healthy and fulfilled would probably not chalk it up to hard work alone.  Most would say they loved the journey and had fun.  The connection between emotional wellness and physical health are well known in health psychology and related fields.  Since humans are social animals it is no surprise to know that healthy relationships can provide deep fulfillment and unhealthy relationships can cause deep pain.  Here is an exercise to help you understand the values behind how you choose to spend your time and energy:

  1. Make a list everything you do that you do not consider “play”
  2. Rewrite each item as: “I choose to_________”
  3. Acknowledge the intent behind your choice  and rewrite again as:  “I chose to _____________ because _____________”

So what is the difference between illness and wellness?  It’s as simple as the difference between “I” and “We”.

Dr. Patricia Shutt is Co-Founder and Clinical Psychologist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach, Florida where she helps clients achieve lifelong wellness.  For more information, call  (561) 278-6033.

Is Restricting Food Really OK?

“We don’t keep bread in the house.”     “One serving is enough – kids don’t need seconds.”      “We just have protein and veggies at dinner.”      “Why is my child sneaking food and snacking all the time?!”

Hmmm – at first glance, these may seem like separate, unrelated statements.  There is, however, a common thread and a chain reaction that is in play throughout the scenarios…and it all starts with restriction.  Carb restriction, calorie restriction, food restriction.   If you consider the unrelenting headlines that tell us obesity is an “epidemic”, that individual foods will either kill or save us, and the sneaking messages that lead us to think we’ll only be happy if we are sexy and skinny, then it makes some sense that people are grabbing at the latest food rule (aka, restriction), to take control of their or their kids’ lives.   Yet the more we reach for restriction, the more out of control we become.

Let’s keep it straightforward.  There are some basic side effects of over-controlled under-eating:

  • it confuses body chemistry, triggering it to more readily lose muscle and regain weight as fat
  • it causes feelings of deprivation and depression that often rebound to overeating
  • it creates a lowered self-esteem, and disconnects individuals from their emotions  and sense of well-being
  • it creates irritability, decreases concentration and memory, (especially if carbs are limited) and causes tension in relationships
  • it can disrupt a female’s menstrual cycles
  • it makes exercise ineffective, because there isn’t enough fuel to run your body’s basic processes

So when you feel the need to snack on cookies and chips after the kids have gone to bed, notice if you’ve eaten enough during the day or pulled carbs out of the meal prior.  We can’t function effectively if we are depriving ourselves of enough fuel – and we are destined to swing the pendulum the other direction to try to create balance.

And the next time you feel the emotional tug to try the latest fad diet, label carbs as evil or tell your kids to stop eating, take a deep breath and remember:

Eating is Normal.  Restricting is Ridiculous.   

 Christie Caggiani, RD, LDN, CEDRD is Co-Founder and Registered Dietitian at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach, Florida.



Say NO to “Fat Talk”!

More often than not, when we see someone who we have not seen in a while, it is not uncommon to make a comment about his or her shape or size. This is clearly not shocking when one considers the world we live in. However, even if body-focused comments are intended as compliments, I challenge each and every one of you to be mindful of body talk. For those struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues, even a positive comment can be misconstrued.

As parents, I implore you to be particularly mindful of your language around food, calories and weight, whether speaking directly to your children or conversing with friends. I will never forget the day my Kindergartener at the time came home from school and reported that a 5th grade boy on the bus told her that calories were “bad.” She innocently responded that we need calories to grow. I can only assume the 5th grade boy developed that belief from some adult in his life. Had I not happened upon that conversation, my daughter may have believed that statement to be fact.

So, let’s begin with new traditions. Let’s comment on how “healthy” or “happy” or “relaxed” our peers look. Let’s focus on learning about how friends are doing on the inside and get curious about their summer vacations. Let’s redirect conversations around fat and calories. Some of you may even be bold enough to say, “NO FAT TALK.” It’s up to you to take the power back, and one by one, we can slowly reshape the society we live in.

 Dr. Nicole Friedman is a Co-Founder and Clinical Psychologist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach, Florida.

What is Child Coaching?

Child coaching is a therapeutic tool that can be used to supplement existing therapy or on it’s own to help children cope with minor struggles or behavioral problems.  It is an economical and effective support to help children deal with school stress, disorganization, behavioral concerns and issue specific support such as loss of a loved one or a parent in recovery.  Child coaching at Therapeutic Oasis is based on a therapeutic model making it an ideal complement to individual or group therapy.  Child coaching can be recommended by therapists for children who need additional support during a time of crisis or to work on a specific skill development. It can also be requested by parents to address social skill development or behavioral issues.  At the Oasis, we try make child coaching a fun and creative experience at the same time teaching children to understand their own emotional mechanics and develop healthy habits and coping skills that will last a lifetime.

Stephanie Burstein is a Child Coach and Marriage and Family Therapy Intern at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach, Florida.

Mindful Parenting

Stephanie Burstein, Care Specialist

You ask your child to clean their room, or finish a chore and before you know it, the situation quickly escalates. Your child is now screaming and talking back. So what is your reaction?  How we react and problem solve when faced with a conflict is how our children learn to problem solve and react in a similar situations. Next time you see yourself in a struggle with your children take a step back, breathe, and then react. When we are being yelled at our bodies produce high levels of adrenaline and cortisol causing an even more emotional and less mindful reaction. When we are worn down in this way, conflict resolution will not be attained. Being a good role model for our kids goes far beyond work ethic, morals, and values, our behaviors are just as important. Think about how you handle conflicts in your home, and how your children handle conflict – what are the similarities? Challenge yourself to become more mindful in times of conflict, not only for your children, but also for yourself!

For more mindful parenting tips, try these great resources:

The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents by Deepak Chopra
Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Dr. Becky A. Bailey 

Women Who Walk The Line

Nicole Friedman, Psy.D.

In today’s modern world where women are required to juggle several hats, creating balance can be quite a challenging endeavor. As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and professional, I am all too familiar with walking that fine line on a daily basis. We as women are innately relationship based, and feel the need to give 100% of ourselves to everything we do, often at our own personal expense. However, attempting to be all things to all people leaves us feeling depleted, angry and resentful not to mention depressed and anxious. It took me a long to come to terms with the idea that giving a little to me goes a long way at home and at work. In fact, when I take the time to take care of myself, I am much more present in my relationships. Remember, it’s quality not quantity that counts. In all honesty, some days are clearly easier than others. On those more challenging days, instead of beating myself up, I remind myself to continue to set clear boundaries, prioritize, learn to say no, and accept that people may not always like that. If I lived a life trying to avoid disappointing others, I suspect my emotional resources would be quickly drained, and I would end up disappointing myself as well as those around me. With that said, I encourage each of you to evaluate whether your life and your relationships are in balance. If not, there is no time like the present to make life-altering changes that will ultimately bring peace, harmony and balance to your world.