Parenting is hard. That's a given.
When the voices inside your head and all around you are telling you that you should know what to do, it can feel like an admission of failure.
And when you’re worried that assumptions about your lifestyle preferences will be tied directly to your kid's problems, it can be even harder to reach out.
Hi. I’m Kathy. I invite you to take a brief rest stop. Whatever else is going on in your life - right here…right now…there is just this breath.
I know you have a story that has brought you to this point. I look forward to hearing it.
My stories are the threads that weave together the fabric of who I am now and why I am able to help parents in situations that have felt quite hopeless to them, as mine did.
The missing piece of the parenting puzzle
I get you’ve tried so many things that haven’t worked for your child. That’s because they’re missing this key piece of the parenting puzzle - Behavior is communication. Perhaps you’ve ended up here as a last resort.
You'll find my work is based on the understanding that your child’s behavior is communication. (Yes, I said that three times in two paragraphs!) It’s their first language. When they’re infants, we learn to read their cues without any words. Then, as soon as they start to speak, we’re delighted and think, “now they can use their words to tell us what they need.” But behavior is still their first language.
Surprisingly, they resort to their first language even into their teen years! When we learn to hear what our child's and teen's behavior is telling us, we support them in using their words and cultivate the connected relationships we want through the teen years and beyond.
Story #1 My son comes out to me after pizza
It’s 15 years ago. It’s yesterday. My 19 year old and I have just walked the three blocks back from our weekly date sharing pizza and dripping garlic knots at Rosa’s. We pause in front of the brick stoop of our Queens apartment and he says, This is hard to tell you, but I know you’d want to know. And then he comes out to me as trans - at least as much as he understands himself at that moment. In that moment, he includes me in his process and I remain closely included as he goes through his transition over the following years.
Would you be surprised to know that 6 months earlier, I had a kid who would barely talk to me? He would hide in his room and be like a brick wall when I’d try to get through to him. A single parent of three I’d been struggling with these confusing, disruptive and overwhelming behaviors since he’d been in 3rd grade.
By the time he was 19, I was on the brink of losing my relationship with him.
Things turned around 180˚ when I found the right support and came to understand that his oppositional, withdrawn, non-communicative (fill in the blank) behavior was his best attempt to communicate his own stress, anxiety and overwhelm. They were his cues.
I built a bridge back to his heart and changed my own reactive patterns of taking his behavior personally. Hope replaced fear and helplessness. I experienced first hand, the miracle of relationship repair that is wired into being human.
Behavior is communication
I needed to understand the science behind this miracle. I was already a nurse, a dancer, an EFT practitioner and Family Constellations facilitator. Now I began to voraciously study the connection between physiology, brain development, trauma, attachment theory, self-regulation and a child’s behavior, from experts in the field like Bruce Perry, Peter Levine, Bessel Van der Kolk, Karen Purvis, Bryan Post and Heather Forbes.
Story #2 I felt the rug pulled out from under me
It’s 32 years ago. My newborn is 10 days old when my marriage falls apart. It’s like the rug has been pulled out from under me. We also have a 3-year-old and a 9-year-old and I find myself feeling overwhelmed, and alone. I cry a lot and tell the kids I have allergies. Two years later I would become a single parent.
Unlike, back then, I have now come to understand how important it is to avoid a disconnect between a child’s felt sense experience and what they’re hearing from the grown ups. I understand it in my own body from my own childhood.
I’m passionate about teaching parents how to be honest about their emotions in an age-appropriate way. It models healthy emotional well-being and helps their kids feel safe with their own big feelings. They learn to trust themselves. Rather than developing unhealthy coping skills, a child gets to develop healthy regulation skills, and emotional resilience.
Susan & Jason’s Story
(an artist, a teacher and parents of two boys)
When we first reached out to Kathy, we were exhausted and unable to enjoy our family. My 9-year-old was so stressed out about school that he often refused to go. We were left-fielded by unpredictable explosive outbursts from him and stuck in a cycle that we couldn’t get out of.
The practices, perspective and calmer foundation we worked on with Kathy over the following six months made a seriously huge difference! We’re now three months into the new school year and it’s going SO WELL for our son!!!!! He’s been on time to school, barely an outburst, bravely trying to write, having big math success and making friends. He’s only had two mental health days out of 13, which was unheard of to date. Seeing him way more “present”, and so happy, is overwhelmingly beautiful.
Update: It's been a year since we completed our work with Kathy. Our intense work last spring and summer created a reset – a new, steadier foundation from which things have continued to get better. Our son's last year has been a banner one! Tantrums are rare. When they happen, he can pull himself out quickly. At the same time we know how to set up better expectations, give him space and support him, while also keeping our cool as we ride out the hard moments. He made it to nearly every day of school and was really part of his class for the first time in his school career. Overall, it’s harmonious here and much more like the family I envisioned and hoped for. We're ever grateful we did the work with Kathy.
Children are born hard-wired for connection
Children are born hard-wired for connection. It’s their survival. You, the parent or caregiver, are biologically given the job of being the connection that installs the software for resilience. This is the science behind why I work with the parents and caregivers rather than with the kids to create change at home. I call it a Parent-Centric approach. It allows you to become your own best parenting tool.
Story #3 Surprise! Poly…
It’s two years ago. I find myself with out-of-control anxiety from being thrust unexpectedly into non-consensual non-monogamy by my partner. I feel confused and begin to question and blame myself, accommodate my partner and ignore my own needs and gut signals. In this compromised state, I am unable to speak up for what I want and need. I am about to have a reckoning with the insecure attachment patterns of a lifetime.
It took me a good part of the following year working with an experienced trauma coach to climb out of the fog, and find myself - not again, but in a new way. Through the attunement of that therapeutic relationship, the anxious, insecure attachment patterns of my childhood were slowly replaced by new patterns of more secure attachment. In essence it felt like my nervous system got re-wired.
Through this experience, I learned how to self-regulate when “triggered” in a way that put me in the driver’s seat of my own emotions like never before. I was able to let go of a relationship that didn’t serve me and create the possibility of making different choices about future relationships based on shared values and healthy attachment.
Story #4 Not what I expected at a Kink presentation
It’s seven years ago. I am immediately and hopelessly smitten as I sit amongst a crowd listening to the well-known kink educator, Midori, at an event in R.I.
She talked about the nervous system, reacting and responding - just like I do with parents. She talked about the importance of the soft skills of humaning like presence, consent, communication, listening, self-reflection, autonomy, play and self-expression - just like I do.
As she talked about kink, I felt a resonance with my parenting approach. Not at all what I expected! I was drawn to her, like a magnet. She embodied being human in a way that spoke to my soul, sparked my imagination and inspired me in my life.
Story #5 I wake up this morning...
and I know all three of my adult kids are doing well in their lives. My relationship with each one of them is outstanding and beautiful and unique. I feel incredibly fortunate. At the same time we have had to seriously work to get here and I have had to do the ongoing work of being who I need to be for that to happen. My kids have shown me that repair and closer connection is possible at any time and at any age. They are the reason I do this work with you.
My 6 year old and 8 month old grandsons make my heart dance every day and provide the much needed on the ground continued training!
I have come to believe that having a non-traditional family stretches us to give even closer attention to self-reflection, personal growth, clarity of values, communication skills and personal responsibility -
the stuff of thriving!
The following values are at the core of my parenting approach:
These values are built into my 7 Guiding Principles which integrate brain science, developmental trauma, attachment theory, inter-generational family dynamics and parents’ inner wisdom.
(Click on the image to read more about my philosophy)