Tag Archive for: Lisa Cossey

By Lisa Cossey, MSW, LCSW

We’re in the midst of the holiday season. It is nice to look forward to time with family and friends and participate in ongoing family traditions.

A family tradition is something that is recreated year after year, enhancing family involvement and strengthening family bonds.

Each year at Halloween, my husband’s family will get together and spend an evening visiting haunted houses. It’s perhaps not a typical family tradition, but it’s one they’ve done for years and everyone looks forward to. A less frightful Halloween tradition observed by several of my friends and their families is camping Halloween weekend. My own family has planned fall camping trips two years in a row now; perhaps this will turn into a yearly tradition for us.

Another tradition in my own family that I look forward to every year is gathering in my mother’s kitchen to bake pies and other desserts for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It’s always a good time with much laughter, and now that my own children are older they are officially part of the family baking team as well.

Sharing traditions provides a sense of comfort and security to a family, especially the children involved. Children love routine and consistency; a family tradition provides this year after year. It also helps the children manage the changes in the year and gives them something to look forward to.

In addition, family traditions enhance family and personal well- being and add to the family identity. Strong family bonds are created and reinforced with traditions that are upheld and maintained. As children grow and mature, traditions can be altered to accommodate each family’s needs. For example, perhaps a family with young children has a tradition of singing Christmas carols around their Christmas tree. As the children age, their tradition could evolve into caroling around their neighborhood.

In recent years, my own family has added time to video call with our relatives after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. These are family members who may not have been able to travel in for the holidays or are stationed out of state or overseas due to military commitments. It gives us all a chance to stay connected as a family, even if we can’t physically be together for the holiday.

Family traditions don’t have to be formal, fancy or cost money. They don’t even have to revolve around the holidays. You can share in a family tradition any day or time of the year. My own family enjoys baking together to prepare for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays; perhaps your family opts to take a walk every Christmas morning or enjoys exchanging white elephant gifts during your celebrations. Traditions are what you want to make them.

Other ideas to create family traditions include:

  • Read a book, such as “The Night Before Christmas,” aloud prior to opening Christmas gifts
  • Weekly or monthly family movie night
  • Have a yearly family talent show
  • Create crafts together
  • Make candy or prepare meals together
  • Have an annual family camping trip
  • Have your own family sporting tournament with a traveling trophy to be awarded to the winning family each year

No matter what your family tradition is or what your family chooses to create, just having something for all family members to look forward to each year is important. Traditions help create warm, positive memories that can be recalled fondly and draw family members back to one another year after year.

By Lisa Cossey, MSW, LCSW, Youth First, Inc.

In a perfect world, all marriages would have the “happily ever after” promised in fairy tales. Unfortunately, in the real world, some marriages end in divorce. For families in this situation, the divorce may end the marriage, but it does not end the need for interaction to continue raising children together.

Some couples have no issues co-parenting beyond divorce. Others have great challenges. For couples who are struggling, there are several things to consider when determining the best ways to communicate with each other.

First, and most importantly, it is helpful to remember to love your child more than you may dislike your former spouse. As young children grow, there are birthday parties, holidays, graduations, weddings, and the birth of children of their own someday. On all of these occasions, you will most likely have to interact with your former spouse, so why not set a good foundation for communication.

In addition to making your life smoother, parents who communicate and interact well with one another set a good example of teamwork and collaboration. It is also helpful to remember you are modeling appropriate communication and behavior for your children; therefore, respectful interactions are key.

Keep your communication focused on the children and set a matter-of-fact tone utilizing appropriate language. Make requests of your former spouse rather than demands. In addition to being respectful to one another in front of the children, make sure you are being respectful when the other parent is not around.

Negativity or complaining does no good, as it only hurts children. The two parents may no longer love each other, but the children love both parents. Placing them in the middle, listening to negatives about either parent, will only cause more harm and hurt for the child. Avoid making your child the messenger. This only puts unnecessary stress and pressure on the child.

If communicating in person is something that cannot be managed, e-mail or texting are other options to consider. Remember to keep the tone professional here as well and stick to the topic that needs to be addressed. If you receive an emotional or heated e-mail or text, give yourself a calming period prior to responding. Wait at least an hour, if not more, before responding. This time allows you to compose your thoughts and rationally respond.

For those parents who absolutely cannot communicate without a breakdown occurring, there are resources available to make necessary communication with each other easier and tolerable. There are specific websites, such as ourfamilywizard.com and cozi.com, which cater to divorced families and their interactions. At cozi.com, families can create their own family calendars to manage visitation, scheduling of events, and communication between the parents.

Healthy marriages and family life are what we all strive for. However, for those whom “happily ever after” did not work out, consider these options when communicating and building your family life post-divorce.

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW – October 27, 2021

I’m sure it’s safe to say we’ve all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat” at some point in time. Recent research into food and its effects on the body and mind may have us saying a new phrase: “Change your food, change your mood.”

Our brains are made of neural pathways, transmitters, and chemicals that make up and regulate our thoughts and moods. The foods we eat impact the balance of these chemicals. Something as simple as our lunch choice could have the power to impact our feelings and emotions, for better or worse.

For example, serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter, makes us feel happy. When serotonin levels drop, one may feel sad or depressed. Serotonin is directly linked with an amino acid found in food, tryptophan. Diets consisting of foods with low or no tryptophan levels lead to depleting serotonin in the brain. This in turn then can cause irritability, aggression, lowered mood, and impaired memory.

Diets including foods with high levels of tryptophan can provide the opposite effect and raise serotonin levels naturally. Turkey is one food that is high in tryptophan, so don’t just relegate turkey to Thanksgiving dinner! Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds are also foods to eat to get a mood boost from tryptophan.

Another dietary tweak that could lower risk for depression, especially in women, is to drink coffee regularly. Coffee boosts dopamine and norepinephrine, which are also feel good neurotransmitters in the brain. A National Institute of Health study tracked women over a ten-year period (1996-2006) and found women who drank coffee regularly throughout the week had lower reported depressive episodes than non-coffee drinking women.

How about a sweet treat to go with your coffee? Dark chocolate has been found to increase serotonin levels naturally as well, leading to improved mood. Bananas can also be included on a list of foods that will decrease negative mood-related symptoms thanks to their high vitamin B6 levels.

Other amino acids, such as L-theanine and Omega-3, a fatty acid, minerals such as magnesium and zinc, and antioxidants can reduce anxiety symptoms. Salmon is a great source of Omega-3 and can also alter dopamine and serotonin levels, packing a double advantage to reduce anxiety and improve mood.

Dark leafy greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard, contain magnesium which can lower anxiety. Blueberries are another food with potential to alter one’s mood. Flavonoids, an antioxidant found in blueberries, assist in regulating mood, in addition to the other health benefits eating fresh fruit provides.

The foods listed above are not an exhaustive list. If you are considering a major change to your lifestyle, please consult a physician and/or nutritionist. Changing your diet, such as eating a banana for a snack, or swapping out the lettuce in a salad with dark greens, can impact overall health and mood for the better.

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW – July 7, 2021 –

Parenting can be like spending time on a seesaw. There are ups and downs. Parenting with your partner when you don’t see eye-to-eye on discipline methods, however, adds another challenging element to the mix.

In cases like this, both parties need to sit down and discuss discipline philosophy. Discipline means “to teach” and should not be looked upon as being punitive. Children are smart, and if they see that one partner does not discipline the same way the other does they may try to manipulate the situation, leading to conflicts between partners.

It is important that children understand they cannot get their way by winning one parent over. Children should see their parents as a unified team. Working together as a team and communicating daily will help guard against confusion and head off potential family arguments and conflicts.

Here are a few suggestions to help couples work together in parenting. These strategies can help cultivate healthier relationships between all parties within a household.

1)     Consistency is key. Both partners should agree on which behaviors are desirable and which are unacceptable. Both partners also need to agree on the parental response to their child’s behaviors. What will the logical consequences be? If possible, include children in creating a behavior plan or family plan to follow. Make sure that your behavior plan is age appropriate and has realistic expectations. We want both the children and the plan to succeed!

2)     Demonstrate and practice with children what exactly is expected. For example, if you ask them to pick up their toys, show them how to do that. (i.e. – It does not mean they hide them under the bed, but instead should put them in their toy box or in their closet). If they do not pick up, they might lose their favorite toy for a day (or more) depending on their age. This is an example of a logical consequence.

3)     Use logical consequences whenever possible. For example, on Wednesday, they are asked to have their room clean by Friday night in order to spend time with a friend. If they choose not to do that, then they will not be able to get together with their friend. Be sure to offer positive reinforcement with your children at every opportunity for making good choices. When they make mistakes, ensure that the consequences are logical and age appropriate.

4)     Make your expectations clear. Another strategy is to have children repeat back the request/command you have made. To ensure better understanding of the directions say something like, “What is it that I just asked you to do?” Using a chore chart or calendar assists with putting chores in better order and creates better rhythm and routine in the home.

5)     Engage in learning opportunities as a family. Reading a story to a preschooler or nursery rhymes with repetition all create the moments of simple directions and serve and volley interactions that improve brain development and learning as they grow. Encourage better focus by playing games like “I Spy” or “Red Light Green Light.”

Helping children become responsible adults is our goal. Kids build self-worth by doing and learning that they are capable of accomplishing things on their own. Behavior plans will also teach them to pay attention, focus on the task at hand, remember the rules and consequences, communicate and learn self-control.

Creating these positive interactions will help children grow into confident people poised for success.

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW – Nov. 12, 2019

With Fall officially here and Halloween already past, Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. It is nice to look forward to time with family and friends and to participate in ongoing family traditions.

A family tradition is something that is recreated, year after year, enhancing family involvement and strengthening family bonds. My family has planned fall camping trips two years in a row now; perhaps this will turn into a yearly tradition for us.

Another tradition in my family that I look forward to every year is gathering in my mother’s kitchen to bake pies and other desserts for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. A good time with much laughter is always had. Now that my children are older, they are officially part of the family baking team as well.

Families that share in their own traditions provide a sense of comfort and security to their families, especially the children involved. Children love routine and consistency; a family tradition provides this year after year. It also helps the children manage the changes in the year and gives them something to look forward to.

In addition, family traditions enhance family and personal well-being and can also add to the family identity. Strong family bonds are created and reinforced with traditions that are upheld and maintained.

As children grow and mature, traditions can also be altered or changed to accommodate each family’s needs. For example, perhaps a family with young children has a tradition of singing Christmas carols around their Christmas tree. As the children age, their tradition could evolve into caroling around their neighborhood.

In recent years my family has added time to make video calls with our relatives after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We call our family members who may not have been able to travel in for the holidays or are stationed out of state or overseas due to military commitments. It gives us all a chance to stay connected as a family, even if we physically can’t be together for the holiday.

Family traditions don’t have to be formal, fancy, or cost money. They don’t even have to revolve around the holidays – you can share in a family tradition any day or time of the year.

My family enjoys baking together to prepare for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays; perhaps your family opts to take a walk every Christmas morning or enjoys exchanging white elephant gifts during your celebrations. Traditions are what you want to make them.

Other ideas to create family traditions include:

  • Reading a book, such as “The Night Before Christmas,” aloud prior to opening Christmas gifts
  • Weekly or monthly family movie nights
  • Yearly family talent shows
  • Creating crafts together
  • Making candy or preparing meals together
  • Annual family camping trips
  • Family sporting tournaments with a traveling trophy to be awarded to the winning family each year

No matter what your family tradition is or what your family chooses to create, just having something for all family members to look forward to each year is important. Traditions help create warm, positive memories that can be recalled fondly and draw family members back to one another year after year.

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW – August 13, 2019

With most children already back at school for a new year, many families will find themselves in a struggle for the ages:  wants versus needs.  

Many families have difficulty finding a balance between work and play.  But what if the struggle is between your child’s academics and their extracurricular activities?

It would be hard to find a parent who would say academics aren’t important, but at times it seems academics are in direct competition with having fun.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for kids to have fun. They need active and sensory experiences to help them grow and develop.  Extracurricular activities can also be a great way to develop skills.  

But if your child’s academics are suffering or your child is upset, tearful, moody or more anxious than normal, it’s time to take a hard look at your family’s schedule. And if you’re spending more time in the car than you do in your home together as a family, it’s definitely time to step back and reassess your priorities.

What your child is doing?  Do they have one activity, or two, three, four?  How many hours a day are they away from home?  How many nights a week is your family away from home?  Is your child getting enough sleep at night?

A healthy balance is needed between school and extracurricular activities.  At this point in the year, your family will soon have a good idea of how much homework your student is going to receive daily. Evaluate what your child and family can handle.

For reference, according to Dorothy Sluss, President of the US Chapter of International Play Association, for every week of intensive activity, three weeks of less structured time and activity are needed to maintain a healthy balance for children.

If your child’s grades are not what they used to be, or if they are having more incomplete or missing work, it may be necessary to back off the wants and focus on the needs. It is ok to drop an activity due to falling grades or place a limit on how many activities your child is able to join to keep a healthy balance.  Putting academics ahead of sports, scouts, and dance is ok too.

We have a culture that encourages and supports many sports and other activities.  Encouragement is great.  The issue is when children feel pressured to commit and join.  It is ok to say no.  It is ok to put your family’s needs first.  It is ok to limit the number of activities your family is involved in.

If you have concerns for your child or need further ideas on how to strike the right balance for your family, please feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher or to the Youth First School Social Worker at their school.  We are here to help.

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW, February 26, 2019 –

Most of us have heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” Recent research into food and the effects it has on the body and mind now have us saying, “Change your food, change your mood.”

Our brains are made of many neural pathways, transmitters, and chemicals that make up and regulate our thoughts and moods. Serotonin, the ‘feel good neurotransmitter’, makes us feel happy. When serotonin levels drop, it can make us feel sad or depressed.

Serotonin is directly linked with tryptophan, an amino acid found in many foods. Diets consisting of foods with low tryptophan levels lead to depleting serotonin in the brain, which in turn then leads to irritability, aggression, lowered mood, and impaired memory.

Diets including foods with high levels of tryptophan can provide the opposite effect and raise serotonin levels naturally. Turkey is high in tryptophan, so don’t relegate it only to Thanksgiving. Ground turkey can easily be used as a substitute for ground beef in most recipes.

Cottage cheese is also high in tryptophan and could easily be included in daily meals. Skip the chips at lunch and have some cottage cheese instead.

Another way to lower risk for depression, especially in women, is to drink coffee regularly. A National Institute of Health study tracked women over a ten year period (1996-2006) and found that women who drank coffee regularly throughout the week had lower reported depressive episodes than non-coffee drinking women.

How about a sweet treat to go with that coffee? Dark chocolate has been found to increase serotonin levels naturally as well, leading to improved mood. Bananas can also be included on a list of foods that will decrease negative mood-related symptoms.

Other amino acids, such as L-theanine and Omega-3, a fatty acid, as well antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium and zinc can all help reduce anxiety symptoms. Salmon is a great source of Omega-3 and can also alter dopamine and serotonin levels, packing a double advantage to reduce anxiety and improve mood.

Dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, contain magnesium. Other foods found to reduce anxiety symptoms include, Oysters, green tea, and blueberries. Flavonoids, an antioxidant found in blueberries, assist in regulating mood, in addition to many other health benefits eating fresh fruit provides.

The foods listed above are not a complete list. If you are considering a major change to your diet, or if you have food allergies or other monitored health issues, please consult a physician and/or nutritionist. Changing what you eat, even small changes, such as eating a banana for a snack or swapping out the iceberg lettuce in a salad with dark, leafy greens, can impact overall health and mood for the better.

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 29, 2017 –

With most children already back at school for a new year, many families will find themselves in a struggle for the ages: wants versus needs.

Many families have difficulty finding a balance between work and play.  But what if the struggle is between your child’s academics and their extracurricular activities?

It would be hard to find a parent who would say academics aren’t important, but at times it seems academics are in direct competition with having fun.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for kids to have fun.  They need active and sensory experiences to help them grow and develop.  Extracurricular activities can also be a great way to develop skills.

But if your child’s academics are suffering or your child is upset, tearful, moody or more anxious than normal, it’s time to take a hard look at your family’s schedule.  And if you’re spending more time in the car than you do in your home together as a family, it’s definitely time to step back and reassess your priorities.

 What is your child doing? Do they have one activity, or two, three or four?  How many hours a day are they away from home?  How many nights a week is your family away from home?  Is your child getting enough sleep at night?

A healthy balance is needed between school and extracurricular activities.  At this point in the year, your family will soon have a good idea of how much homework your student is going to receive daily.  Evaluate what your child and family can handle.

For reference, according to Dorothy Sluss, President of the U.S. Chapter of International Play Association, for every week of intensive activity, three weeks of less structured time and activity are needed to maintain a healthy balance for children.

If your child’s grades are not what they used to be, or if they are having more incomplete or missing work, it may be necessary to back off the wants and focus on the needs.  It is OK to drop an activity due to falling grades or place a limit on how many activities your child is able to join to keep a healthy balance.  Putting academics ahead of sports, scouts  and dance is OK too.

We have a culture that encourages and supports many sports and other activities.  Encouragement is great.  The issue is when children feel pressured to commit and join.  It is OK to say no.  It is OK to put your family’s needs first.  It is OK to limit the number of activities your family is involved in.

If you have concerns for your child or need further ideas on how to strike the right balance for your family, please feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher or to the Youth First School Social Worker at their school. We are here to help.

Fireworks

By Lisa Cossey, MSW, Courier & Press, June 14, 2016 –

With the Fourth of July around the corner, it is nice to look forward to time with family and friends and participate in ongoing family traditions.

A family tradition is something that is recreated, year after year. Every July Fourth, my family hosts a party filled with food, games and fireworks.

Each year at Halloween, my husband’s family gathers and spends an evening going to haunted houses. Perhaps it is not a typical family tradition, but it is one their family looks forward to and has enjoyed for years. One of my good friends and her family observe the less frightful tradition of camping on Halloween weekend each year.

Another tradition in my own family that I look forward to is gathering in my mother’s kitchen to bake pies and other desserts for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. A good time is always had by all, and now that my own children are getting older, they are involved in the baking as well.

Families which share in their own traditions provide a sense of comfort and security, especially for the children involved. Children love routine and consistency, something a family tradition provides year after year. It also helps children manage any losses or changes in the year and gives them something to look forward to.

In addition, family traditions enhance family and personal well-being and can also add to the family identity. Strong family bonds are created and reinforced with traditions that are upheld and maintained.

As children grow and mature, traditions can also be altered to accommodate the family’s needs. For example, perhaps a family with young children has a tradition of singing Christmas carols around their Christmas tree. As the children age, the tradition could evolve into caroling around their neighborhood.

Family traditions don’t have to be formal, fancy or costly. They don’t even have to revolve around the holidays. You can share in a family tradition any day or time of the year.

If baking together for the holidays is not your favorite activity, perhaps your family would enjoy taking a walk every Christmas morning or exchanging “white elephant” gifts during your celebrations. Traditions are what you choose to make them.

Other ideas to create family traditions include:

  • Reading a book aloud, such as “The Night Before Christmas,” before opening Christmas gifts
  • Having a weekly or monthly family movie night
  • Holding a yearly family talent show
  • Creating crafts together
  • Making candy, baking or preparing meals together
  • Taking an annual vacation or family camping trip
  • Having your own family sporting tournament, with a traveling trophy to be awarded to the winning family each year

No matter what your family’s traditions are or what your family chooses to create, just having something for all family members to look forward to each year is important. Traditions help create warm, positive memories that can be recalled fondly and draw family members back to one another year after year.