Tag: choices

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.

Three Different Parenting Styles

Drill Sergeant | Helicopter | Consultant

Different Parenting StylesWere you raised by a “Drill Sergeant” always telling you to “Jump,” and you asking, “How high?” or were you raised by a “Helicopter” always hovering, ready to swoop in and rescue?  Did you ever think about what kind of a message these parenting styles send to your kids? Drill sergeants are communicating these messages:  “You can’t think for yourself.  You can’t make it without me.”  Helicopters send these messages: “You are fragile. You need me to protect you.”

Are these the kinds of messages you want to send to your precious children?  If not, what can you do instead?

Consider adopting the “Consultant” approach to parenting.  Consultants send this message to their kids:  “You do your own best thinking.”  How do consultant parents do this?  One way is to offer choices and alternatives instead of giving orders or commands.  Commands give something for the kids to fight against.  Choices keep kids in thinking mode.  Here are some guidelines for giving choices effectively:

Give only 2 choices, either of which you are happy with.

“Do you want to do your homework before or after your snack?”
“Do you want me to change your diaper over here or over there?”

If the child doesn’t decide in 10 seconds, you decide for them.

Only give choices when things are going well and before any resistance.

Build up your choice savings account so you can make a withdrawal.

“Sweetie, don’t I usually give you choices?  It’s my turn now. Thanks for understanding.”

Kids Cooperate Better When They Have Choices

Many of the parents in my classes have been happy when they report how they’ve gained their child’s cooperation by giving choices.  Parents report their toddlers successfully choose which bib to wear or which shoe to put on first or what song to sing when getting into the car seat.  Parents share that their school age kids choose between washing the plates or the glasses first, going to bed now or in 10 minutes, or brushing their teeth before or after putting on their pajamas.   Adding the tool of choices to your parenting toolbox can be just what you’re looking for to adjust your parenting style to the more consultative approach.

Shelly Moorman
©2010 Shelly Moorman, 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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Energy Drain: Consequences for Children

Would you like your life as a parent to be complicated?
Would you like to live in a constant state of confusion and anxiety?
consequences for childrenWould you like to feel unsure about how to deal with the problems your children create?
Would you like to frequently think to yourself something like, “Oh, no. Now what do I do about this?”

Here is a tried and true recipe: Adopt the belief that every child’s misbehavior must have a different and unique consequence.

In our fast-paced world, none of us has the time or energy to use this parenting style. 

 Instead of approaching parenting this way, Love and Logic parents try to keep it simple. For one reason, something that is simple is something that we can remember during stressful times. 

 Love and Logic parents find it easy to remember that anything that causes a problem for the parent drains energy from the parent. That energy needs to be replaced in some way.

It can be replaced when the child does some work for the parent, or it can be replaced by relieving the parent of some duty such as taking the child to an activity. 

 This is most effective when the child has a choice about how to replace the energy. It might sound like, “When I see you throwing things when you are mad, I worry about you and it drains my energy. How would you like to put the energy back? Would you like to do one of my chores? Would you like to excuse me from driving you to cheerleader practice so I could have some time to myself? Or would you like to do something really nice for the widow next door? I always feel better when things like that happen.”

This generic consequence works for all situations for kids of all ages. Just adjust for the age of the child.

So when you don’t know what to do, have an energy drain.

©2009 Jim Fay, Love and Logic™ Institute



Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 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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Don’t You Know You’re Supposed to Behave Today?

For many years now, my children have unwittingly been actors in a drama… the play could be titled “Kerry’s Fantasies.”

These fantasies consist of dreams and stories created by a much younger me in which my children are happy and well adjusted, squeaky clean and smiling.

In this dream, there is an act by the name of “Easter morning” in which the happy children wake up excitedly on Easter morning and search for colored eggs and candy, delighting appreciatively in each find.

Some years, my children have cooperated quite nicely with my little storyline. One year, however, my older two boys were cantankerous and fought over who found which egg first, whose basket was better, who had more. They squabbled and argued. I found myself very irritated with these ungrateful little children who were not acting according to my script for them. If they hadn’t been so obnoxious, it might have been funny.

I took a photo of this unpleasant scene: Palmer pulling Keaton’s shirt, Keaton grimacing and hollering. I thought I’d use it when they were older to show them how ornery they used to be. Instead, that picture has served to teach ME a lesson.

What that morning and my aggravation taught me is that kids will be kids, regardless of the sacredness of a day or holiday. Some days will be fun and full of smiles. Others will involve hassles and irritation. I learned that it is better for my sanity if I just show up in the moment, ready to accept the day as it is. No more scripts that the kids know nothing about. No more trying to get them to behave a certain way because it is a certain day.It is better to just show up and accept my three sons in whatever form they appear on any given day.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 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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This is Not a Dress Rehearsal


On my kids’ first day of school this year, I first dropped off my high schooler.

Gasp. How can I have a kid that old?

I always thought being the parent of a high schooler was for grownups! Heck, I remember when I thought that having a child in elementary school was for grownups. As I sent off my son to fend for himself in the big new world of public high school, I thought about how it seemed like just yesterday that he was a babe in my arms.

After dropping off my middle schooler, I was off to the elementary school for my 3rd grader’s first day of school. I stood there, looking at the sea of little kids milling around, and thought “oh my goodness, there are still so many active years of parenting left.”

How do we navigate this push-pull, zoom-plod through this chapter of our adult lives? On one hand, it seems like time flies by… and that’s what all the “older” people tell us. On the other hand, some days of parenting can last forever and find us counting the hours until bedtime stories are over and lights are turned out.

Perhaps the best we can do is to create snippets of time where we are fully present in the moment. Right here, right now with our kids. Two things that I’ve found help me savor the here and now with my kids and have left me with sweet memories of being fully present:

1. Say Cheese!

It can make such a difference if we just stop and be intentional about looking our children in the eyes and smiling at them throughout the day. In my family, if the kids start to leave without eye contact, I will say, “Eyeballs!” That is their reminder to stop and look me in the eyes. It’s my reminder, as well, to look at them. In our times of zoom, zoom, zoom, it can feel so good to stop and look in the eyes of the most precious little people in our world.

2. Stop and Feel the Love

Parenting involves so much giving, caring and work. Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in all the tasks of parenting that we forget to really feel the love in our hearts for our beloved children. We can get grumpy when we forget to do that. A woman whose parenting advice I respect, Joyce Vissell, once suggested that each day, just for a few minutes, we close our eyes and picture our child at his/her sweetest. Then take a moment to see and feel all the love we feel for that child pouring from our heart to his/hers.

When it comes to parenting, “The days can last forever, but the years fly by.” I hope we’ll have fewer regrets when we look back if we make sure to live some of those moments to the fullest… as though this life is the real thing and not just a dress rehearsal.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 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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Quick Tips for Dads

1.  Speak Your Family’s Love Language

Read The Five Love Languages of Children, a quick, interesting book to improve how you express love to your family. Want to know the secret to making sure your child feels loved? Kids desperately need to know how much you love them. But if you don’t know their special “love languages” you might as well be speaking gibberish. Every child (like every adult) expresses and receives love best through one of five communication styles. Find out which one of these your child speaks: QUALITY TIME, WORDS OF AFFIRMATION, GIFTS, ACTS OF SERVICE, PHYSICAL TOUCH. Click here to view book info.

2.  Keep the Fire Burning by Getting Down and Dirty

Men who want a more active sex life need to get down and dirty, according to new research – by doing more housework. “Therapists say there’s a direct correlation between men doing more housework and the frequency of sex, and wives reported greater feelings of sexual interest and affection for husbands who participated in housework.”  To read more about this, click here.

3. Spend “Alone Time”

Spend some time every day with each child with the motto: “No questions, no commands.” This is not the time to ask if they’ve done their chores or to tell them how they can improve themselves. Just be with your child.

4. The Little Things are Huge

Smile at your wife.  Smile at the kids.   Implement the “Good neighbor policy” where you don’t speak to anyone in your family in a manner that you wouldn’t use with a good neighbor.  Be conscious of having eye contact with your family.

5. Two Ears, One Mouth

Just listen to your wife and kids.  Don’t try to fix “the problem,” especially if it’s emotionally based.  “There’s no place in heaven for people who give unasked for advice.” (Jim Fay, co-founder of The Love and Logic Institute)

6. Appreciate, Appreciate, Appreciate

Look for the good.  Notice, thank, and acknowledge at least three things each day that your family members do. You don’t need to judge or label, just notice….  “I see you really worked hard on that.”

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 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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Blessings Box

Ten years ago, when my children were young, we began a ritual that the whole family still enjoys today.

It all started because I wanted to teach Joshua, then age five, and Joel, then age two, about thankfulness in a way that was more fun and tangible than simply lecturing, “Be thankful.”
The idea took shape one day when Joshua charged into the room, held up a dime, and said “Mommy, will you take down my piggy bank so I can put this in?”  Stretching that concept a bit, I wondered if the boys would go for a special bank that, instead of saving money, saved their blessings – those big and small events that bring happiness.

I rummaged around for just the right container… I then rounded up the boys and plopped a small gift box on the kitchen counter and asked, “Do you know what this is going to be?”  Puzzled, they shook their heads.  “Well,” I said, “when something really good or exciting happens in our family, such as when you lose a tooth or you’re kind to someone, we’ll write it down on a piece of paper.  You can slide in the papers, kind of like a piggy bank.  We’ll call it our Blessing Box.” 

“We’ll keep the Blessing Box on top of the refrigerator, and when we want to add something we’re thankful for, we’ll bring the box to the dinner table to take special time to write a note and put it in the box.  Then on Thanksgiving, we’ll open the box and read everything so we can remember and celebrate all of our blessings.”

Since the kids were young, we discussed their ideas and my husband and I wrote notes for them.  They suggested events such as “Joel no longer gets up and eats a banana in the middle of the night” and “Joshua was kind to Joel even when Joel hit him.”  It turned out that in addition to inspiring thankfulness, the box often provided an extra bit of recognition for a good deed or good behavior.  And then there was the fun of sliding the notes into the “bank,” which the children particularly enjoyed when they were little.

As their reading and writing abilities evolved over the years, the kids were able to write notes themselves.  As parents, Kevin and I found it enlightening to see what each child counted as important: losing a tooth, acquiring our dog, winning a basketball game, or Dad’s return from a business trip. The kids learned that even the tiniest events or accomplishments were fair game.
Some years, we added notes only every two or three months.  Now that the kids are older, we have a more regular schedule.  At the end of each month, on a night when we’re all home for dinner, our son sets the table with paper and pen by each plate.  Then, while we dish up food or butter the rolls, we share our thoughts and write them down.

Although everyone enjoys these monthly thankfulness feasts, we really look forward to our annual grand finale on Thanksgiving morning.  We open the Blessing Box, pass it around, and randomly pull out slips of paper to read.  It definitely starts off the day on a positive and thankful note.  After breakfast, I gather the pieces of paper into an envelope that I date and file.  With ten envelopes tucked away, I know the Blessing Box helps our kids practice thankfulness year-round.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 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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Disarming Defiance

For parents who deal with children being obstinate, defiant and challenging, here are a few thoughts on power struggles:

If we deal with resistance by struggling back, not only will we damage our relationship with our kids and set them up to be rebellious, but we will be very frustrated.  It is a child’s JOB to eventually claim control over his life and become independent.  “A child who feels he has no control over his life will spend much of his energy trying to manipulate the system and adults around him. A child who feels she has some control over her life will spend little time and energy trying to manipulate and control the parent” (written by Jim Fay).  We can create win-win situations and avoid power struggles by giving children choices.

Choices can make all the difference in the world.  Giving your child lots of choices gives him lots of opportunities to be in control.  “Would you like the red cup or the blue cup?”  “Would you like to hold hands in the parking lot or be carried?”  “Would you like to leave the park now or in five minutes?” (Ask five minutes before you really want to leave.)

The key to using choices is to offer two options, either of which will make you happy.  Always pick two choices you can live with.  “Do you want to wear your coat or carry it?”  Either way, I know my child has a coat if he needs it.  “Would you rather clean up your toys or have me do it?”  If I do it, the toys go to toy jail. (See short video about implementing Toy Jail below!)

If the child doesn’t choose, be prepared to choose yourself.  Also, never give a choice unless you’re willing to allow the child to live with the consequences of his/her bad choice.  Remember:  “I can live with either choice.”  If they protest the choice that gets made for them, apply loads of empathy and do not engage in arguing or explaining. Allowing our children to make choices and live with the results gives them valuable real-world experience in making decisions and learning about the consequences of their actions.




Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 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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Everybody Does Better with Family Meals

You know that family meals are important, and the research backs up what you know. Adults who have regular meals eat better, are healthier and are slimmer.

Children and adolescents who have regular family meals do better nutritionally, socially, emotionally, academically and with respect to resistance to excess weight gain, drug abuse and early sexual behavior.

In fact, family meals have more to do with positive outcome in children than family income, whether the child has one or two parents living in the home, after-school activities, tutors, or church.


But today’s families are increasingly likely to eat on the run than have meals together, especially as children move through the teen years.

Here are some additional reasons it is important to hold the line with family meals:

*Meals support adults’ and children’s ability to learn to like and enjoy a variety of food.

*Going to the table hungry and eating until satisfied is key to adults’ eating the amount they need to maintain stable body weight and children’s eating the amount they need to grow appropriately.

*Meals give a reliable opportunity to do the work of the family: Checking in, giving emotional support, keeping up with what’s going on with family members.

*Meals allow food to keep its place as only one of life’s great pleasures. You pay attention and enjoy it when it is time to eat, forget about it between times.

Ellyn Satter
©2009 Ellyn Satter

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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’m Bored”

How often do you hear this? And how often are your kids happy with the suggestions you make? Typical parents say, “I hear it often, and the kids are never excited with my suggestions.”

I know a man who says that he once made the mistake of telling his parents that he was bored. For the rest of his childhood he lived in fear that these words might slip out of his mouth again.

His dad responded, “Great! I’ve got some jobs for you to do. I’m sure they’ll keep you from being bored.”

Many parents suffer from the myth that it is their job to entertain their children. Actually, the opposite is the truth. Give this problem back to the child with, “How sad. I’m glad I don’t let myself get bored. I’m sure you can work that out.”

Kids who believe that they are responsible for their own happiness and entertainment live happier lives and are better learners.


Jim Fay
©2010 Jim Fay, Charles Fay, Ph.d.& Love and Logic® Institute

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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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