Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year, New Life...

As New Years' Eve is almost upon us, rather than continuing to look back, (as all of the TV stations are doing) let's look ahead!  What's on the agenda for you for 2011? 

I have big plans!  I'm starting a doctorate program January 1st (what am I thinking?)  I finished my Masters program 21 years ago and I feel as though it's time to update my education!  In a field that's only around 60+ years old, being out of school for 20 years means that I've missed the last third of the research!  Time to remedy that!

I continue to participate in the Good Morning America Advice Guru Search - which, of course, I hope will continue into 2011 and beyond!  Whatever happens with it, I know that I'm meant to reach large numbers of people and I'm ready to do just that! 2011 is going to be a big year for me!  I have a lot of work to do in this world and I'm more ready than ever to do it!

So, I begin the New Year with bigger thinking than ever, bigger goals than ever before and bigger wishes for you all for YOUR big dreams to come true this year! 

Happy New Year, Everyone!!!  Feel free to share your wishes and dreams for the coming year for yourself and for others!

Wishing you balance,

Bette Alkazian, LMFT

Monday, December 20, 2010

Reflections on 2010

Well, it's hard to believe that 2010 is coming to a close in only 11 days.  How is that possible?  Time certainly seems to be running in fast-forward right now.  The days go slowly, but the years seem to fly by!  My kids have grown a year older and I'm so proud of all they have accomplished.  They are truly becoming the young women I'd hoped they would become. They are 3 of the many things for which I'm so grateful! I love you, girls!

2010 was a bittersweet year for me, as most are.  There were amazing successes and accomplishments and there were sad and unimaginable losses...a reminder for us all that life is to be embraced and lived to the fullest, because we never know what tomorrow will bring.

The most important lesson that I take away from this past year is that we can get through it all - the good, the bad and the mundane.  All we need is some good, old-fashioned support of our loving family and friends and a positive attitude that tomorrow will be a better day.  On the tough days, hope is all we have and we must remember to have huge amounts of gratitude on the good days.

So, here's to a happy, healthy, successful, dreams-come-true and growth-filled 2011 for us all! 

Please feel free to share your hopes and goals for the New Year!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Holiday Crazies

The holiday season comes with much joy and some baggage, too! For example, gifts to buy for so many (and enough money for only a few), parties to enjoy and some to merely tolerate, traveling to be with family, or having family travel to be with you...it's all wonderful and it's also a lot of work!

Be kind to yourself this holiday season and simplify, simplify, simplify!!! In lieu of gifts this year, make a donation to a worthy charity on behalf of those you care about. Perhaps get the same gift that will appeal to many of the people on your list making shopping easier. How about online shopping? Have those gifts delivered to your house directly! Easy!  Choose recipes that don't take all day to give yourself a little extra time.

Be kind to yourself and to others to maximize the joy of this wonderful season!

No matter what you celebrate, I wish you and your family the happiest, joy-filled, and wishes-come-true holiday season!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More gratitude thoughts...

If you pay close attention, there's so much to be grateful for in each day.  A freshly bathed child smells heavenly! (My daughter just let me smell her after her shower.)  The colors of the leaves in my neighborhood are magnificent! Nature is definitely the most creative painter with color!  Today, I was stuck in the canyon trying to get over the hill to Malibu to visit my dear friend, Heidi.  They were doing so much construction that traffic was literally stopped.  We didn't move for nearly 20 minutes when I decided to take another route.  It took me more than twice the expected amount of time to arrive at her beautiful home, but I was grateful for the breathtaking views along the way that I never would have seen had I taken the direct road.  I'm not always aware of living in such a beautiful place! Once I arrived at Heidi's home, I was blessed with the reminders of dear friendship, I was moved by the absolute awe-inspiring beauty of our coastline and as Heidi calls it, the "diamonds in the water" as the sun reflected off of the ocean water.

I feel so grateful, as we inch our way towards Thanksgiving next week, to live in such a beautiful place and to be able to have the opportunities to take time to truly enjoy the view!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Wish Thanksgiving was a Month-Long!

November has become my favorite month of the year.  The weather is beginning to cool, the leaves are changing color, the breeze is blowing and Thanksgiving is only a matter of days away.  I've always thought that Thanksgiving gets a raw deal.  It's sandwiched between the spooky and sugary days of Halloween and the indulgent, jolly days of Christmas and Hanukkah. 

From my perspective, Thanksgiving is the best holiday of all.  Ok, I love the turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie eating that lasts for days and I love the family time of being with relatives from far and near, but truthfully, those aren't my favorite parts of Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks; being grateful and expressing it! How cool is that? While we spend a lot of time giving gifts and receiving gifts all year long, how wonderful to have a day that's just about being thankful for what we already have!  Here are some rituals that I love to do with my family around Thanksgiving!
  • I post gratitude quotes all around my house like decorations
  • I have a plain white tablecloth on the coffee table along with colored Sharpies and everyone who comes for Thankgiving must write the things for which they are thankful with their name and the date. This has turned out to be a very precious ritual as we have lost some dear family members and going back and reading what they wrote in years past is comforting.
  • Use past years' gratitude tablecloths as this year's food table cloth.  (Using a plastic cover, of course)  It's colorful and filled with special meaning for us all!
  • Gratitude is a common topic of discussion this month.  We talk about that for which we are grateful and remember how lucky we really are.  (This is a great practice for any time of year!)
I encourage every family to create their own Thanksgiving rituals! Giving some real time and attention to Thanksgiving communicates to our kids that we believe in its importance.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

Wishing you balance,


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Trapped Miners Touch the Hearts of the World

I don't know about you, but I was rivetted to the television for 23 hours as the trapped miners were brought to the surface one-by-one.  I cried as each was reunited with family (we won't mention the mistress in THIS blog post - but it is a great subject for another day!)  Everyone I talked to had been watching, too, and commented on what a miracle it was and the jubilation in what could have been a huge tragedy.

I can't help but think that we are all touched by this story because we all feel trapped in some way or another.  We all want to be optimistic that we will be liberated from our confinement (real or imagined) and we were just shown proof positive that it happens! 

I hear from parents every day in my private practice that raising kids is harder than they thought it would be.  They feel stuck and even victimized by their kids' behavior.  Let's look more closely at the miners and what they have to teach us about staying sane under challenging circumstances. 
  • Like the miners didn't anticipate the 69 days of isolation, many parents don't anticipate the feelings they experience when they become parents. Isolation, fear, stuck-with-nowhere-to-go, wondering if and how they'll get through it, looking for hope and tools for coping.
  • Adjustment to the unknown - It took 17 days for the outside world to find out if the miners were alive and to let the miners know they were working on their rescue.  When we bring our little ones home, it takes at least that long to figure out what the heck we are doing, what the cries mean, what life will look like now on so many levels and the adjustments continue for about the next 20 years and beyond!
  • Order and structure - One of the most important things that the miners did was to develop a hierarchy and a sense of order in their days. Someone had to be in charge, there had to be routines.  The same is true for our families.  Our kids need to know that we are the leaders, we will take care of the big decisions,  and that we know what's best and will act accordingly. Kids need to know that there are rules and boundaries and that those don't change from day to day.  That order and consistency creates a sense of safety, security and predictability that are essential for family health and harmony - just like it maintained the mental health of the miners.
  • Responsibilities - Every miner had a job. One was the medic, one was in charge of documenting their days, etc... This gave them a sense of purpose and focus.  Again, the same is true for families.  We have to give our kids age-appropriate responsibilities to give them a purpose and a buy-in that makes their contribution feel important as a member of your family.  It also makes them feel responsible for each other which is an essential element to being a member of any team.
  • Resilience - As each miner came out of the mineshaft, they were examined by doctors.  In fact, I believe those medical and psychological evaluations are continuing today.  The reports are showing that these men were incredibly resilient.  Their health is better than expected, in most cases.  Some of the men were reported to have run in place each day to exercise while in the mine.  Maintaining optimism and under those circumstances - WOW!
  • Joy! - Their hard work and hopefulness paid off - big time!  All of the men got out safely, in much less time than was expected.  Their sticktuitiveness enabled them to feel successful.  I hope that every family learns from their experience.  By sticking to their rules and most closely held values, families can have positive and joy-filled outcomes, as well!  ...and maybe even have fun along the way!

  • Stick with it, even when times get hard! 
  • Find whatever tools you need to keep your wits about you.  
  • Be a member of the team and a strong link in that chain.
  • Take good care of yourself so you can be helpful to others.
  • Never give up your hard work!
  • Never give up hope!
  • Keep your eye on the end-goal!
  • Get help when you need it!
I hope this feeling of overwhelming happiness from watching the events in Chile stay with us all for a long time to come!

Wishing you all balance,


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Magic of Setting Limits

Imagine if you're a blind person and every morning when you wake up, you find that someone has moved all of the furniture in your house.  You bump into things at every turn and struggle to find your way even to the next room.  Eventually, you would probably stop getting out of bed or would go so crazy that no one would recognize you! 

The same is true for our kids.  I know it's kind of a stretch, but stay with me here.  If the rules change, shift or disappear altogether, our kids become confused.  In order for our kids to feel safe and secure and to be able to explore the world, they need consistent limits.  When their world is predictable, they aren't expending any energy on testing (ok, any more than is absolutely necessary!) and they are free to blossom and develop without any delays. 

Testing is a typical part of growing up, but when our kids test the limits and the limits are just where they found them the last time they checked, they move on.  That's why kids who have inconsistent limits have to test with their behavior on an on-going basis.  They are saying, "please take this power away from me!"  Kids with no boundaries experience anxiety, because kids need the adults in charge to BE IN CHARGE!

I challenge you to look in the mirror and see where your limits are a little loose that might be causing your kids some anxiety.  Do them (and you) a favor and give them the limits and boundaries they want and need!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back to Center

I have a confession. I have been a bit lazy about my own parenting lately and it showed in my youngest daughter's behavior. She has been argumentative, angry, anxious, yelling, obstinate, defiant and just overall a total brat! Her older sisters were no longer willing to babysit for her because she was so defiant with them. She has been arguing with her dad and me and I knew something was out of balance. I just wasn't sure what was going on and, honestly, I kind of ignored it. Ok, truth? I was avoiding dealing with it. Of course, what happens when we avoid something? It gets worse until we finally decide to do something about it, right?

Things really came to a head this weekend. There was fighting, screaming, a telephone call from the kids interrupting our adult dinner out, and even something thrown at her big sister (that REALLY crosses the line!) I decided to dig my head out of the sand and to finally address what's been going on in my own house.

My husband and I sat down with our ten-year-old. We told her that her excellent brain, her wonderful athletic talents and her adorable face meant nothing if she wasn't a good person on the inside. We told her that her disrespect for us, her sisters and even her coaches was over! The consequence of throwing something at her sister was that she was forbidden to use anything with an on/off switch for two weeks.

This is the first time she has ever been "grounded". She has had many other consequences along the way, but we wanted her to know that we meant business and that we weren't letting her get away with anything this time!

Her reaction was astounding! She didn't argue. She didn't cry. She didn't even seem angry with us. In truth, there was a peacefulness that fell over her. She was the most delightful child to be with for the remainder of the day and evening. She took care of her responsibilities, she took her shower the first time I asked (that had never happened before) and she went to bed willingly and hugged me tight before she fell asleep.

I have been telling my clients for years that when you set the limits your kids need, they will thank you with their behavior. It's about time I took my own advice! More about why this worked like magic, to come!

Ahhh...peace feels good.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Value of Perseverance

What do you think of as your greatest accomplishments? Raising my daughters is definitely up there, but I'm not quite done with that one.

Looking back, I consider getting my Marriage and Family Therapist license and finishing my new book two of my most rewarding accomplishments.

What makes them so significant to me? The fact that initially I didn't think I could do either of them! I just didn't have the confidence that I had what it took. Regardless, I took the necessary steps to embark on the journeys. Literally, leaps of blind faith!

Along the way, there were many moments in which I felt hopeless that the goals would or could be achieved. It was just too hard! Giving up would have been much easier!

But I kept moving forward. Some days felt effortless, but others felt like I was traveling through thick mud. Worse yet, some days felt like I was headed in the wrong direction altogether!

Then, the end became closer and more visible. In both instances, I remember feeling a little bit of disbelief that I might actually accomplish my goal! I also felt a little bit scared of what comes next.

The most important part for me was that I never gave up! Even when I REALLY wanted to!

My deepest hope is that I can now teach my daughters about the value of perseverance. Perhaps I've been teaching them all along?

At the end of that long road, is definitely the sweetest of rewards!

Tell your kids about your own difficult challenges and the wonderful benefits of

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to School

Well, today was the bittersweet first day of school. Bitter because of the wonderful lazy mornings of summer, the relaxing days on the beach and by the pool (in-between working, of course) and the slower pace we've all enjoyed.

My girls and I traveled to Washington, D.C. and enjoyed the sights of that great city along with a delightful visit with family. We went away for a long weekend and luxuriated by the pool. The best part, of course, was not having to do homework or make lunches!

The sweet part of starting school is that we'd all had enough of our togetherness. My kids were bickering like crazy and I think they were getting a little bit bored! (They probably wouldn't admit it, though!)

So here we are...school has started and a new chapter begins. I can't believe how big they've gotten and how much their friends grew during the summer.

With a new school year comes new responsibilities. Making lunches, putting backpacks away, keeping track of homework, washing gym clothes, and so much more!!!

What responsibilities can your kids take over that are age-appropriate?

Have a great school year!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Early to Bed, Early to Rise...

I'm a night person. I've been a night person for as long as I can remember. There is no greater joy to me than to stay up late and to sleep until noon. Maybe I'm getting old, but things are beginning to change for me.

For the past 4 weeks, I have been getting up most weekday mornings (ok, sometimes I need my beauty sleep) at 5:30 and heading to the gym. My daughter, Lauren, has begun joining me, too! Bonus!

I confess I have even grown to love it and look forward to those early mornings. I still don't like getting up in the dark or heading out in the cold, but those workouts work wonders for my psyche, not to mention my derriere! (Is that how you spell it?)

The best part of getting up to work out in the early mornings is that it doesn't take time away from my family (I used to go to the gym in the evenings when I went) and I don't have any excuses for not going. It's not like I have appointments to attend at that hour of the day.

It took a lot of motivation and some thinking outside of my typical comfort zone to get started. Now, it's just a given.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year 2010

I'm often so amazed by the passage of time. Wasn't it just yesterday that we were looking ahead several years to 2000? Thinking about how old we would be in the year 2000 and what life might look like then. How, then, is it possible that it is already 2010? Where do the years go? Where do the decades go?

There is no better evidence of the passage of time than looking at our children and how much they have grown. In my mind, I still see myself as the mother of young children, but in reality, my kids are not so young anymore. My oldest is 18, my next daughter is 14 and my youngest is already 9!

The passage of time is a beautiful reminder of how precious each day is, how important it is to live in the moment and appreciate right now!!

Let's all resolve to worry less about the past and the future and to stay in the moment - we wouldn't want to miss it!!