Category: Toddlers

Dear Kerry: “Bed Rest with a Toddler”

Dear Kerry: Pregnancy Bed Rest with a ToddlerDear Kerry,  
I am on very strict bed rest with my second pregnancy and only allowed to be up 5-10 minutes total per day.  I have a house under construction, a working husband, and an active 19 month old.  What do I do?  Help!

Bed Rest with a Toddler?!

Dear Bed Rest with a Toddler,

When I was due to give birth to my third son and had two very active boys (ages 4 and 6), I didn’t have time for the bed rest prescribed by my doctor. I was knee deep into repair projects and remodeling to my house and big housewarming party I had already sent out invitations for.

After the initial shock, I decided I could see the restriction of bed rest as a prison sentence and sulk through it OR I could see it as a gift and look for the blessings that bed rest had to offer. I asked myself, “When will be the next time I can lie around, day after day, and have my husband’s blessing as he does the dishes and shuttles the boys everywhere?” I took a deep breath and laid down (as prescribed).

Besides being well-rested before the arrival of baby #3, I found two great gifts from my time on bed rest. The first was the opportunity to reflect on the normal pace of my busy life and to observe it from a horizontal, slowed-down perspective. In the book Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry author Katrina Kenison writes:

The adage of our age seems to be “get more out of life!” and we do our best to obey. Grab a snack, round up the kids, and we’re out the door – to do, or buy, or learn something more. We do too much and savor too little. We mistake activity for happiness, and so we stuff our children’s days with activities, and their heads with information, when we ought to be feeding their souls instead.” Just as our children depend on us for three meals a day, they also need us to prepare peaceful spaces for them in the midst of this busy world.

One of my favorite suggestions given by the author is to “create pause in our days.” Even if we can’t or won’t change the entire pace of our day, we can build in the little space of time to stop and exhale. Creating a broader margin in our days can take the form of arriving at piano lessons ten minutes early and sitting under a tree to watch the clouds. Or someone suggests tea before bed and the family gathers around the table, lights a candle, and drinks tea in the evening. As I neared the end of my bed rest, I renewed my personal commitment to leave some space around the edges of my days and build the margins to keep my days from being inscribed too densely.

The second big gift I received was from the amazing people around me who displayed how to truly help another person. The most comforting, supportive words that I heard were “How can I help?” What a different ring that has than “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” When someone said, “How can I help?” and then waited for an answer, many times there actually WAS something that my family or I needed.

Several friends simply assumed different roles, without asking, saying things like, “I’ll be here to pick up the kids for school on Tuesday morning.” or “Have your grocery list ready for me tomorrow.” One friend was persistent, asking what I missed and craved, and finally found out how much I missed the treat of a bagel and coffee from the bagel shop – something I would have never asked someone to bring to me. But oh, how my friend lifted my spirits that morning when she dropped them off.

The biggest appreciation I had while on bed rest was for TIME. Time to reflect. Time to appreciate. Time to feel grateful for all the meals made, the errands run, the playdates extended, the projects done around the house.

So, knowing that it may be hard to let go of some of the responsibility you are currently holding onto in your life, being on bed rest can offer you something that you would have never otherwise gained – precious, illusive, ever-moving….. time.



Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Dear Kerry: “Toddler Full of Pasta”

Dear Kerry: My Toddler Won't Eat Anything But PastaDear Kerry,
My daughter is 2.5 years old and refuses to eat anything but the following: cheese, pasta, cheerios, milk, and bread. I have tried everything – being encouraging, being stern, offering “dessert”, talking, early bedtimes – nothing works! When I put something other than pasta in front of her, she screams “I no like it!!” – what else can I do?

Mom of A Toddler Full of Pasta

Dear Mom of a Toddler Full of Pasta,

You and so many other parents are going nuts with toddlers who want to live on dough and dairy. Think about how many common, well-liked kids’ foods are nothing more than white flour dough and dairy: pizza, grilled cheese, cereal, mac and cheese, noodles and butter, nachos, quesadillas. Getting kids to be adventuresome eaters who love healthy food is learned behavior, made from a lifetime of positive associations with tasting, trying and experimenting. Here are 10 great tips and tricks to help you along the way: Read more

Five Ways to Stop Preschool Drop Off Separation Anxiety (Yes, They Really Work!)

CryingThe hardest part of my day used to be prying my preschooler and kindergartners arms off my legs when I had to drop them off at school. My sons’ howls of protest hurt my heart at the same time it made me wonder what I was doing wrong or what was wrong with them. All three of my boys did it at some stage or another. I can reassure you that this does pass…. my oldest son did absolutely no leg-holding or crying when he left for college last week.

After surviving three kids’ separation anxiety, or “drop off dramas” and talking with many parents about what has helped them, here are a few ideas to experiment with. Please let me know how they work!

Drop off drama usually follows hot on the tail of “Getting Ready in the Mornings Drama” which for many families is the worst time of day. Drop off drama is about a young person experiencing a painful transition from their beloved parent to a room full of new kids and adults. This is very stressful for some little people, especially those who prefer to be at home.

1. Fill the Bucket!

If mornings are stressful, drop offs are bound to be stressful as well. I love the idea of taking a few minutes right before drop off… either in the car or while still at home… to “fill the bucket” of your little one. Imagine if you said something like this, “I know that saying goodbye is hard some days, so how about if we take some time to snuggle and get you all filled up with mommy/daddy-time?”

2. Acknowledge the Sadness and Encourage Communication

Acknowledge your child’s sadness. Invite her to “get her sad out” while you are there to hold her. This can be a good time to read one of the children’s books that address the pain of goodbye The Kissing Hand, The Invisible String, Love You Forever, Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You). It can be fascinating to ask your little one to get out all of his/her sadness while you are together. She might cry, he might protest. You can just be there and say things like, “I know, it’s hard to say goodbye, isn’t it?’ “I love it when you can say how you feel.” You can even invite some fit-throwing. It sounds counter-productive but I promise, it has helped many parents tone down drama and end tantrums in some children. Encouraging your child to feel all his feelings and share them ahead of time lets them feel strongly but do so in the safety of your presence and the privacy of home.

3. Teach Self-Soothing

When it’s NOT the critical drop off moment, have a conversation with your child about what he can say to himself that will help drop offs go better. Hint: He won’t have a clue. That’s when you get to teach positive self-talk by saying something like: “Some kids find it helps to say, ‘I can have fun at school even when I miss my daddy.” Or, “It’s ok to feel sad and mad about saying goodbye. I can handle it.” Or “My mommy/daddy’s love is with me wherever I go.”

4. Give Choices from a “Go To School Menu”

Give them three choices for the three days they go to preschool and each week they can pick which day they use each style. Write them on a simple chart.  No repeats are allowed in a week.

The choices are:
1) Scream and cry and hold onto Mommy’s legs all the way into the classroom.
2) Scream and cry in the car and then walk in holding mommy’s hands, give a big hug and say “goodbye.” 
3) Snuggle with a book before getting in the car and play follow the leader into school, blow kisses and smile.

On the days they chose the scream and cry model, really encourage them do it as intensely as they can. If they start to cry on a non-cry day, warmly remind them that they already had their crying day for that week. After all the build-up and permission to do some good fit-throwing, some kids simply no longer feel the need to do “Drop-off-Drama” and the situation can resolve itself fairly quickly.

5. Make a Fun “Going To School” Book Starring Your Little One

Take them to preschool on a day that they don’t actually attend. Take pictures of them every step of the way. Since there is no impending good-bye, there won’t be any drama. Photograph them smiling in their carseats, smiling in front of the school, walking down the hall holding your hand and standing in the classroom waving a pretend goodbye. Then leave the school, go for a treat and talk about how it felt to go to school so happy. Next, print up the pictures and make a super simple little little book with your child’s name in it: For example: “William Goes to School” book.

Each morning after that, ask your child if they want to go to school happy or sad and let them look at the book. This reinforces that they were able to go to school happy and by looking at the pictures, they will remember the experience of going in peacefully. This technique worked so well with one mom that her child never fussed after that.

Important Things to Remember:

Show compassion for your children who fuss at drop off — saying goodbye to their “home-base” is painful for them. It’s a life skill they must learn, but acknowledge that it’s a hard one.

Have no expectation that this should be easy for them or you. If it’s not, it’s not. It can be a great opportunity for you to teach them different ways to master this important skill.

Put some time and effort into switching up the pattern and you could save yourself and your child a lot of drama and heartache in the long run.



Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

Compassion is the Key to 5-year Old Bed Wetting

sleepy boy in blue bedclothesWe all have expectations as parents. One thing we don’t usually expect is for our school age child to still be wetting the bed on a regular basis. So when it happens over and over again, we can forget that they are little people trying hard to learn and we can end up being negative and shaming – which can prolong the bed wetting episodes.

I recently worked with a dad who was frustrated with his 5-year old’s constant bed-wetting.

So we tried a new approach.

“My 5-year old son, Will, still wets the bed at least half of the nights. Each time it happens, he’ll walk into my room in the morning in different pajamas than he wore to bed with his chin tucked and a sad look on his face.  I asked the pediatrician who politely brushed me off, saying that it’s not uncommon and that I shouldn’t worry about it. I try to get Will to use the bathroom every night before bed, I have him help me change the sheets and I don’t get upset about it but I’m just not sure what else I should be doing.”

This is an issue with two levels of solutions: the physical and the mental.

The Physical Aspects

Ensure you are following these steps:

1. No liquids after dinner.
A belly full of water can equal a bed full of regret. Cut off all liquids after dinner, and if a bedtime drink is requested – make it small – 1 -2 swallows is plenty.

2. Use the bathroom right before bed.
Be certain that he goes to the bathroom before bed (make it into a game if it helps).

3. Sleepwalk to the bathroom.
Wake him up right before YOU go to bed.  Keep the lights low, speak quietly, and guide him into the bathroom, even if you have to carry him and help him sit.

The Mental Aspects

Kids are emotional little creatures. They pick up on meaning and subtext that we don’t even realize we’re giving off. With that said:
1. Show no irritation or intensity when he doesn’t make it through; sounds like he’s already bummed about it.

2. Have him set up an incentive to celebrate when he stays dry through the night. When he does stay dry, be happy with him.

3. Be kind and matter-of-fact about him helping put the sheets and pajamas in the washer.

4. Come up with something sweet and reassuring.

Here’s the part that can make potty-training an exercise in developing important life-long skills: have him come up with something sweet and reassuring to say to himself on the days he’s not successful staying dry.  Ask him what a good coach would say to encourage a player.  Some possibilities:

  • “No worries, better luck next time.”
  • “It’s ok, I don’t have to be perfect.”
  • “My body might not be quite ready but it’ll get there soon.”
  • “Lucky for me, people in our family are lovable even when they wet the bed.”

5. Envision the Positive
Each night before he goes to bed, have him say out loud: 1) what his reward will be for staying dry and, 2) what sweet thing he’ll say to himself if he wakes up wet.  Even better?  Have him get in bed and pretend that he is waking up wet.  Have him go through each detail of opening his eyes, checking his pajamas, smiling and saying his kind statement.  Then do the same drill with him pretending that he is waking up dry and enjoying his incentive.

If you do this, not only will you some day have a son who won’t need Pull-Ups but you’ll also have a son who can be compassionate and gentle with himself and others even when things aren’t perfect!



Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

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Empty Threats Make Weak Parents

A father had no less than a gaggle of children in the grocery store…

little girl in supermarketGranted it was a Saturday, granted they were in the toy isle, and granted he was alone. I watched him try to corral all of his kids for about five solid minutes – he would get two listening and then another one was waving a small plastic sword around as if she was fighting some sort of eight-armed dragon. It was funny – but also a bit sad. He was struggling.

He kept saying things like “get over here,” “stop that,” and “c’mon” – pretty typical things for someone trying to gain control of a situation teetering on uncontrollable. And then we heard a large fart noise. It was super loud and all the kids fell into peals of laughter. The middle boy had stomped his foot on a whoppie cushion, which was now lying deflated on the floor.

This sent dad over the edge.

“You know what, now you are going to pay for that! Where is your money?? Get it out RIGHT NOW.”

Now, we all knew he wasn’t going to make the kid pay for it. I knew it, the store clerk knew it, and the kids especially knew it. The kids ignored the dad and all ran down the isle and around the corner – probably to find someone whom they respected.

So, what really happened here?
The kids knew they were pushing dad to the brink.
They knew no matter what they did, he didn’t have any follow through.
They kept testing – and finally found his trigger.
They laughed at his angry outburst and empty threat.
Dad was left feeling ineffective and outnumbered.

When you’re in this situation, take a few moments to form your plan of attack. What reasonable consequence might you propose right now, in this situation, that you will actually follow through with?  THEN DO JUST THAT.

No compromising. No empty threats.

Your kids will be mad. They will backtalk or cry or they might even throw a fit. But in the end, they will know you are a person of your word. That what you say is truth.

And that is something they will respect.

One final note: next time, plan ahead.  Have a game plan in mind since history tells you that the kids are likely to be unruly. Set up an incentive for good behavior. The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is definitely true when it comes to parenting.
Roxann Blue
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Roxann is a new mom, graphic designer, and contributing author for Head & Heart Parents. In her spare time she likes to sleep. You can learn more about her at www.roxannblue.com

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“I Overreacted and Gave My Child Too Harsh a Consequence…. Now What..?”

Dad: Kerry, I’m a single dad and wondering how I can gracefully back out from having overreacted and given my son a harsher consequence than I should have?

Clever kidHe’s 4 and was throwing water out of the bathtub. I got mad and told him he had to go straight to bed with no stories. I cooled down a few minutes later and realized I had overreacted. I told him I was sorry that I’d gotten so irritated and I had reconsidered and that he didn’t have to go to bed yet. But now I’m worried that I’ve lost credibility with him. Was there a better way to handle that?

Kerry: Chris, I think the way you handled it was completely appropriate. It’s ok to teach your kids that sometimes we adults re-think things and change our minds. It’s also ok to model that a normal part of being a grown-up is making mistakes and then fixing them.

If you want to bring a little more playfulness into your parenting, you can try a “re-do.” That’s where you tell your son that you didn’t like the way you handled the bathtub scene and that you would like to re-do it. You playfully back out of the bathroom and pretend you are talking backwards. Then you stick your head back in and ask if he’s ready for you to do that scene over. You can say, “Bathtub Scene, Take Two.” You might even ask him to splash the water again! (That’s optional.) Then you go in and handle the situation the way you wished you had done it in the first place.
Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and
Family Therapist
and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps
parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Happy Starts to Preschool

Dear Kerry,
I’m a stay at home mom of twin boys and I knew that starting preschool would be difficult for them to deal with. New places, new faces, a new routine and the absence of mom would be a lot for them to digest so; I decided that instead of dreading this wonderful event in the lives of my boys, I would embrace it with Love and Logic® parenting. Following are some of the ideas that were a success for me and my boys; I hope your readers find them useful.

Loads of Love

Before we head to class, I gave each of them plenty of hugs and kisses. Not just a few, I overloaded them with lots of love, snuggles, hugs and kisses while asking them if they had gotten enough to last until pick up time. I also asked if I could give one more kiss on their nose, forehead, cheek, chin, etc. just to make sure that they were covered from head to toe in love. When they decided that they had received enough loving to make it through the day, I would take them into class.

Practice Makes Perfect

In order to get my boys accustomed to a new experience, I decided to practice the preschool routine in an effort to turn their jitters to joy. I held preschool practice sessions on days when my boys didn’t have to go to school. From walking out the door with backpacks in hand, to walking into the classroom and saying goodbye, my boys became familiar with the process and what to expect. I made sure to document this process with lots of pictures in order to remember our practice routine and show my boys how to successfully arrive at preschool with zero anxiety and fuss.

Preschool Platter

Another great idea that worked well for my boys was a menu board. The board showed pictures ranging from a crying and screaming child that’s holding his mother’s leg to a happy and hopping child that’s glad to be going to school. There was enough variety on the board that my boys were able to plan out their week of going to school, which allowed them to decide how they wanted to arrive at school. If either boy started to fuss on day one, I would offer a reminder that we’re “happy and hopping into class today” and that “crying and fussing” isn’t on the menu until Wednesday. This was a perfect way to create a positive experience while having fun.

Lastly, I found the following books to be helpful; “The Kissing Hand”, “The Invisible String” and “I Love You All Day Long”. They were great tools that prepared my boys for preschool while helping them to understand and enjoy the experience. I hope these ideas are helpful!
Thanks,
Jan
Auburn, CA
Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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How To Turn Your Words from Garbage to Gold

Little boy with shoes on

TWIN TERRORS CAN CAUSE DOUBLE TROUBLE

Every parent knows how exhausting it can be to raise a child, especially toddlers. For parents of twins, that exhaustion is enough to make you see double, literally. What do you do when faced with temper tantrum throwing twin terrors at dinnertime and how do you elicit a positive response from one or both when they seem to feed off each other? It’s not easy but, with a little Love and Logic®, this mom turned her misbehaving minions into terrific toddlers.

DINNERTIME DISASTER DUO

The day was winding down and, as the sun sank low in the sky, mom thought it would be a perfect fall evening for a dinner on the patio. The only problem was her defiant 3 year old that refused to put his shoes on before joining them. While mom sat patiently at the dinner table, this twin toddler put up quite a fight. Refusing to put his shoes on and causing quite a scene was enough to send this mom over the edge. Luckily, her toddler’s tantrum didn’t throw his twin into the same tizzy. As they both sat waiting for the storm to calm, mom had an idea. She decided to try an enforceable statement in hopes of turning his tantrum into a lesson of love and patience.

With a calm voice and a steady gaze, mom simply said “anybody who has their shoes on gets dinner” and turned her defiant son’s seat away from the table. While mom and the rest of the family began to enjoy their supper, her surprised son decided that he wanted to join them for dinner and, if it meant he had to put his shoes on to do it that was OK. As mom watched, what had become a customary dinnertime meltdown, turned into an easy fix. Her son put on his shoes and joined his brother and mom at the table. Mom couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for the actions of her baby boy.

ENFORCEABLE STATEMENTS THAT STICK

When mom decided to use an enforceable statement, she sent a message to her son that his actions or inactions would warrant a response. This type of enforceable statement can reinforce to the child that what they’re doing is unacceptable and that there is a repercussion for their behavior. Additionally, using enforceable statements can also let the child feel that they are in control of the situation. By forcing the child to claim control of his actions mom allowed him to make the decision to put his shoes on and join in dinner, while letting him know that his actions would not be tolerated. Enforceable statements are a great way to elicit the response you want without all the fuss. This mom took care of business without losing her cool.



Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents


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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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“I Want What’s On TV!”

 
IWantThatonTVMy 4 year old son wants everything he sees on TV so the other day when he said “Mom, I want that!”  I used my “brain dead skills” and replied, “I know.”   He finally stopped asking after 4-5 times of me saying “I know.”

Then Daddy came home from work and my son looked at his daddy and said “Daddy, I want that on TV!”

My husband replied “I know, buddy.”

My son looked at him with wide eyes and said “Daddy, you can’t use the same words Mommy uses!!”

I guess he’s figuring out that limits are getting firm around our house with both Mom and Dad!  It felt good to set the limit in a loving way and I didn’t have to hear him whine about it!

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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My 1.5 Year Old Hates the Car Seat

assorted sweets in a square box
My 1.5 year old son didn’t want to get in his car seat.  He wasn’t responding to the choices I was giving him and instead was fighting me.  I finally got him buckled in and wondered what  Love and Logic skills I could use for a consequence for his sad decision. 

He is too young for a delayed consequence, so I used an enforceable statement.

I had a bag of M&M’s that I opened up and shared with his 3 year old brother saying  “ I only give treats to boys who get in their carseats for their Mommy.”   Yes, of course he started crying and screaming.  But I know that it worked because later that day when I needed him to get in the car seat, he jumped right in!    It felt good to have some skills to use.

–Margaret

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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