We saw the abduction of yet another child from her home in Utah this month, but it had a celebratory result this time. Read tips for preventing home abductions, which are rare, from leading child abduction expert, Rebecca Baily, PhD. Read on


Re-posted from Redbook magazine http://www.redbookmag.com/love-sex/blogs/sex-stories/signs-youre-in-a-toxic-marriage#comments (Sept. 12, 2014)

1. You don’t respect each other.

When you start dating someone, you’re head over heels. But eventually, you discover their flaws, weaknesses, and the totally random stuff that drives you crazy. “You have to respect that people get to be who they are,” says Megan Hunter, author of Bait & Switch: Saving Your Relationship After Incredible Romance Turns Into Exhausting Chaos. “Remind yourself that your brains are wired differently, and asking your partner to change that is like asking someone to change their skin color.” It’s all too easy to resort to a disrespectful or condescending tone when we’re not getting our way, but research shows that speaking with contempt can be a big reason for a marriage imploding, adds Hunter. “When I see spouses begin to change their tone of voice and really pay attention when their partner is talking, I typically see that relationship become stronger again.”

2. You’ve unconsciously uncoupled.

Over the years, couples can devolve into more of a management team than a married pair, thanks to overwhelming to-do lists that include everything from managing a mortgage to caring for kids and aging parents. “By year 10, many relationships come to resemble that of two roommates,” says Debrena Gandy, author of The Love Lies. “Your communication becomes focused on the business of your lives, rather than meaningful topics related to the two of you.” The easiest solve? Date night. But making that a priority amidst other tasks can be tough. “I recommend that couples have a standing date night each month. Switch off planning, block it off on your calendar, and make a rule that if it needs to rescheduled, the other person must first agree,” says Gandy. “As time goes on, it becomes an integral part of the relationship, which both partners value and mutually support.”

3. You’re not putting in the extra effort.

Remember when you first started dating—you spent hours getting ready and he both shaved and put on cologne. “You stepped up your game to be in each other’s company,” says Gandy. “We call it the ‘honeymoon phase,’ but the fact that we identify the time when passion and interest are high as a phase suggests there is an underlying belief that these things are expected to eventually decline.” That can lead to your taking your spouse for granted and losing respect for each other, which in turn can spur emotional or physical infidelity, resentment, and frequent conflict. “The word respect is based in seeing the other again,” says Gandy. “By striving to see your partner anew each day, you’re committing to the idea that passion doesn’t need to fade, but can instead continue to grow deeper.”

4. You’re playing the blame game.

In a marriage, things happen—someone misses a credit card bill, someone forgets an anniversary, and so on. “But the more you get into that it’s-all-your-fault mentality, the more you stop taking responsibility for your own actions,” says Hunter. “When you’re not looking inward and trying to improve yourself, it can start to erode your marriage.” In a tense situation, you want to connect with your spouse on two levels, says Hunter: verbally, by saying something like, “I think I understand what you are trying to say,” and nonverbally, by using a calm voice or kind eye contact—anything that shows you’re paying attention. “The next step is to help the other person, and maybe even yourself, shift into problem-solving mode. Once you’ve dealt with the emotional aspect, you might say something like, ‘What ideas do you have to resolve this?’” suggests Hunter.

5. There’s no intimacy.

If your marriage has been reduced to an exercise in management, one of the first things to go is intimacy. “Marriage isn’t just about sharing your body, it’s about opening your heart,” says Gandy. “When those moments of closeness—both in terms of physical proximity and emotional bonding—disappear, the consequence can be accusing your partner of not meeting your needs, which can then be used to justify infidelity.” But if you’re not getting what you need in either area, the fix may be as simple as speaking up. “As women, we resist asking for what we want because our faulty gender programming tells us that our husbands should be doing it without us having to ask,” Gandy says. “Men respond well to action-based requests—even if it’s just for an extra hug or making time each night for a real conversation.”

6. Your union isn’t the centerpiece of your marriage.

Of course your children are hugely important to you. But if you’re able to make your relationship with your husband the number-one priority of your marriage, they too will benefit. “The health and vitality of that partnership creates a home environment in which kids are fed emotionally,” says Gandy. It’s easy to get caught up in the age-old societal construct, where the woman does all the work at home and the man becomes relegated to the sidelines. “As a result, the husband becomes increasingly disengaged and passive, and the wife becomes resentful from overexerting herself,” explains Gandy. “Try to ignore the instinct to constantly take on more, and instead work on building up your asking muscles. People around you—especially your husband—will feel closer to you when you let them help you out. And you’ll find you have time for your children and your relationship.”

7. Someone has control issues.

“The number-one sign of a toxic relationship is if one partner feels they have the right to check the other’s email, texts, and Facebook messages,” says Hunter. It’s a modern version of a tried-and-true-problem—the feeling that you can’t talk to friends or family, or that you must report what you’re doing and where you are at all times. “When someone feels trapped or stuck in a marriage, like they’re walking on eggshells, it’s a very toxic situation.” If that sounds familiar, it’s important to get a professional involved immediately.

8. You’re not willing to adapt.

Between years seven and 10 is when many marriages hit the rocks, according to Gandy. “That’s when a marriage is calling for a transformation, and we don’t know how to navigate it.” But really, it’s the ideal time to acknowledge that there has been a shift, and develop the skills to move forward. “The mark of a healthy, strong marriage is that you’re willing to adjust it by recognizing that there are stages where you may get bored or annoyed with each other; however, it’s at those times that you need to remind yourself why you married your husband, the ways you support each other, and the feeling you had when you first fell in love,” says Hunter. “Accepting that marriage isn’t always be rainbows and sunshine helps you keep a realistic perspective on the relationship as it progresses.”

9. There’s chronic emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is just as serious as physical abuse—and it’s unacceptable. But, as women, we sometimes disregard our inner knowing for too long in hopes of bringing things back to the way they once were. If that sounds familiar, you’re not in a good place to make the best decision for yourself—or to extricate yourself from the situation. However, if you’re in a toxic marriage and this has gone on for years, you do need the help of a trained professional and a support network that can help steer you onto a clear, safe path.

Megan Hunter is a speaker, trainer, consultant and CEO at Unhooked Media. She is co-founder of High Conflict Institute and was a Family Law & Child Support Specialist at the Arizona Supreme Court. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone whose relationships are forever changed by the shootings in Santa Barbara.

Blame abounds. Who or what is responsible? Video games, lax gun laws, a seriously flawed mental health system, garbage movies and video games, the parents, a kid suffering from Affluenza and narcissism?

Apparently, the shooter was a lost, lonely kid who we believe was mentally ill, but do we know his diagnosis? Schizophrenia? Antisocial Personality Disorder? Who knows? But his self-admitted ‘pining for his mother’ speaks volumes about the ugly seed growing in him. This guy experienced a lot of loss in his formative years.

Loss 1 – Parents moved him from Europe to the U.S. at age 5 = Loss of culture, home and possibly extended family

Loss 2 – Parents divorced at age of 6 = Loss of family, safety, and stability

Loss 3 – Dad quickly brought new woman into his life = Loss of hope of family reunification, loss of time with Dad

Loss 4 – Mom moved back to Europe = Loss of primary relationship…and hope.

Most kids, depending on their temperament, could handle this.

Instead of pointing all fingers at the shooter, we could take a look at a narcissistic society that lacks emphasis on commitment to marriage and family. I’m not blaming the parents for doing what most have done. Sometimes dissolution is unavoidable but in many or maybe even most cases we could make it work. Maybe we ought not to rely on the common thinking that we shouldn’t stay together for the kids. Maybe we should.

Here are a few suggestions for help in dealing with building a strong marriage, or helping kids cope when divorce is the only answer.

An evidence-based online program for kids whose parents are going through divorce. Children of Divorce – Coping with Divorce. Kids who take this course during their parent’s divorce, or maybe even after, have a far better chance at sustaining good mental health both now and into their adult lives. Highly Recommended

A helpful book on building a strong marriage: Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart

Great gift for anyone having a baby:

Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love

ImageNext week I have the pleasure of going to the St Louis area to teach brain-based interventions for teachers, clinicians and parents. We’ll explore neurocognition, self-regulation skills and enhancing executive function. Here is the slide show. Download it, view it, use it. Let’s spread the word that kids need skill sets not punishment.

JOIN US April 30, 2014 For a LIVE 6 hr webcast on brain-based interventions. Watch from the comfort of your home or office. For registration call 1-800-844-8260.

ON SALE 70% off TODAY ~ Find The Complete Parenting Package HERE. 75 pages of neurocognitive printables with a license for practice, Bloom: Helping Children Blossom and The Family Coach Method.

TN-217598_MarkB_BaerEsq_originalIn theory, it is best when parents with minor children are able to work out a custody and visitation arrangement on their own when they separate and/or divorce. After all, the matter involves their children/family and wouldn’t they know what is best for their particular situation? Not always!

I was recently representing a father of three (3) minor children in a divorce case in which he and his wife entered into an Agreement under which he would see his children every other Friday from 7:00 p.m. to Sunday at 4:00 p.m. He entered into this Agreement in Conciliation Court, which is the mediation program that parents are required to attend in Los Angeles County before going into court on a matter relating to child custody and visitation. For those who are unaware, lawyers are not permitted to participate in Conciliation Court.

Before my client ‘s Conciliation Court appointment, I warned him against entering into a Custody and Parenting Agreement that he would not be able to live with for a long time. As requested, my client contacted me as soon as he left the courthouse. During that conversation, he informed me that he had entered into a Conciliation Court Custody Agreement and Parenting Plan. As soon as he finished describing the terms of the Agreement, I asked him whether or not he realized that he would not see his children for twelve (12) days between each of his alternate weekend visits. I commented that most, if not all, of his children’s friends will see their fathers on a more frequent basis, regardless of marital status. I explained to him that his children will most likely assume that he sees them less than other father’s see their children because he loves them less and that this would most certainly negatively impact his relationship with them. After our conversation, he agreed with me that his children would most likely perceive their relationship with him in the way in which I had described, especially since he resided in close proximity to them. He then requested that I file an Objection to the Conciliation Court Agreement and Parenting Plan. As discussed in my article from the September/October edition of the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association Newsletter, I informed him that the Court might refuse to acknowledge the Objection to that Agreement.

I immediately contacted his wife’s attorney, who had not yet been informed of the fact that they had reached an Agreement regarding the custody issues. I explained my concerns to him and he immediately acknowledged the problem and validated my concerns. I requested that he see if we could modify the Agreement to include some visitation during the week. He told me that he would discuss the matter with his client. Meanwhile, I filed an Objection to the Conciliation Court Agreement and Parenting Plan. As an additional complication, the hearing on this matter was scheduled for the next Court day and therefore it was virtually impossible to resolve the matter prior to that hearing. As a result, I suggested that everyone arrive at the Courthouse at 7:00 a.m. the following morning (1 ¾ hours before the scheduled hearing) in order to try and resolve the matter without judicial intervention. Everyone agreed to my proposal and we were able to settle the matter outside of Court. With the assistance of their attorneys, the parents were able to work out a parenting plan that suited their particular situation and which was in the best interest of the children.

After entering into that Agreement, which was signed off by the Court and made into an Order, I received a copy of the Conciliation Court Agreement and Parenting Plan which the Court also signed off on, even though we had subsequently resolved the matter differently and I had filed an Objection to that Agreement. Under the circumstances, the fact that the Court signed off on the Conciliation Court Agreement and Parenting Plan in that case is of no significance. However, it is indicative of the fact that courts tend to disregard Objections to such Agreements. Although I knew and had previously written about such concerns, it bothered me that courts sign off on Agreements entered into by parents which most certainly are not in the best interest of the children and will negatively impact the children’s relationship with one or both parents.

Over the years, I have come across many situations in which parents enter into Custody and Visitation Agreements which are clearly detrimental to the children. Nevertheless, the courts sign off on such Agreements because they are “Agreements.” On several occasions, I have seen parents with multiple children enter into Agreements whereby each parent would have 100% of the time with particular children of the relationship in order to “avoid conflict with the other parent and to protect the children from being exposed to such conflict.” In other words, rather than learning to co-parent, the parents decide that it is in the best interest of the children that they have a relationship with only one of the parents and that their relationship with their siblings in the other parent’s custody be severed. Such a parenting arrangement is by no means in the best interest of the children. Under such circumstances, the children not only need to deal with their parent’s divorce, but also with the loss of one parent and certain of their siblings. Although courts would never make such orders, they do sign off on such Agreements, thereby making them binding Orders of the court.

Thus, while it is best when parents with minor children are able to work out a custody and visitation arrangement on their own when they separate and/or divorce, some parents need assistance in determining what is in the best interest of the children. Without such assistance, parents can do things that are very detrimental to their children, often without even realizing it. Should Judge’s just sign off on such Agreements, without even addressing the possible consequences? Who protects the children from such parents?

If you have a child custody issue, please contact Pasadena Family Law attorney Mark B. Baer, Esq. at Mark B. Baer, Inc. a Professional Law Corporation.

Imageby Dr. Lynne, The Family Coach

Surely I was the oldest person at the Miley Cyrus concert in Phoenix last week. I was wearing my riding boots, yoga pants and a black dog t-shirt. I looked nothing like the 20K screaming girls with their long polished hair, Michael Jordan Bulls jerseys and red high-top sneakers.

As we left the gym last Thursday my friend said, “Bring the family over for dinner tonight.” My response, “So sorry, we’re busy.” “What are you all doing?” she asked. I leaned in with the secrecy of a sleuth, “I’m driving five teenagers to the Miley Cyrus concert.” She gave me the head cocked chin up look and I knew I was in trouble. “Don’t tell anyone, I’m not sure it’s the right decision, but I’d rather have the girls ask me, ‘Mom will you take us, than say can we go alone with our friends.’”

I had solicited opinions on Facebook and my friends said, “I’d never take my kids to see her,” “It’s like musical pornography.” No one said, “Oh yea, I’m dropping my kids off, going out to dinner with my husband and then picking them up.”

In our kitchen at 5:00 pm as we ate, dressed and discussed the pending ritual, I heard myself say, “Miley’s parents must be having a heart attack.” Then I wondered, how do I know, I don’t really even know what Miley does on stage, yet. The videos online show her grinding and simulating sex but those are the snippets. Now having gone, I observe she danced, she sang, she spoke, the energy was awesome. The music was great.

We used the days leading up to the concert as an opportunity to talk about our teens’ views on sexual expression.

“What about our sexuality do we want to keep private?”

“How open do we need to be?”

“Where is the line between self-confidence and self-exploitation?”

“Do we have to do what others are doing, just ‘cause they are doing it?”

“When your children ask about your 20’s what do you want them to know?”

In the car driving to the concert, I asked the teens “Do you feel fully armed?” “Do you know what you are about to see and are you ready for it?” “What will we learn from this experience that will help us be teenagers who take responsibility for our choices?” As we parked, to an audible sigh of relief I said, “Okay parent education is complete, now let’s go enjoy the music.”

Miley sang everything from cover songs like Jolene to Wrecking Ball. The costumes were tiny.  She wore a beautiful black and white striped flamenco costume that was stunning and a thong we only wish we looked good in. The dancing was simple yet rhythmic. The graphic display at the top of the stage was creative and artistic. The audience loved her.

This concert was not pornography, it was exhibitionism. The fact that Miley had to show us she knows how to gyrate, is a sign of her youth. She is a 21 year-old exploring her sexuality in an era when we hear the F word, the N word and the C word on itunes.  Yeesh. It’s all around us, what we need are teens who are critical thinkers and problem solvers; growing adults who can make informed decisions about keeping control of and respect for their bodies and their hearts.

Elvis was too sexy for our parents. Our parents felt that Madonna was too sexy for us.  There is no sexual revolution going on here. It’s simply youth in development. Use it as a teaching opportunity, not yet another thing to fear.  Most of all, talk with your teens then just enjoy the music.


Lynne Kenney, Psy.D., is a mother of two, a practicing pediatric psychologist in Scottsdale, AZ, and the author of The Family Coach Method. She has advanced fellowship training in forensic psychology and developmental pediatric psychology from Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Harbor-UCLA/UCLA Medical School. Dr. Kenney speaks internationally about enhancing executive function, social and academic skills with motor movement. Her NEW book with Wendy Young Bloom: Helping children blossom is revolutionizing classrooms and homes worldwide. Combining her love for motor movement and brain development, Dr. Lynne’s recent endeavor, Play Math, is helping children ages 6-12 learn their math facts with playground balls and hoola-hoops for better algebraic thinking. For more visit http://www.lynnekenney.com.



By Caroline Choi, Family Law Attorney and Child Advocate, www.divorce-confidential.com
Anger, sadness, guilt, anxiety, grief and loss are just some of the various emotions that you may be experiencing as a result of your divorce. Due to this vortex of emotions, it’s not uncommon for you to act and behave in a way never imagined, nor should you beat yourself up about it. Can someone say “social media” as the new therapeutic emotional outlet?

However, acknowledging and being aware of your emotions during the divorce process is the first step in managing your emotions. And it is managing your emotions that will help you overcome some of the more difficult aspects of your divorce, not to mention it will also help you build a foundation for peace and harmony with your former spouse once the divorce is final. 

As a family law attorney, clients contact me constantly when they are having a difficult time resolving issues with their spouse. And while many of these issues are of significant importance, there are many times when these issues can be resolved without the assistance of a professional. Calling your attorney every time you experience a stressful event is extremely costly and does not lay a foundation for problem solving once the divorce is complete. That is why I encourage individuals to think creatively about how to resolve these issues on their own so that their well-earned money can be used for another useful purpose and not always towards attorney’s fees and costs. 

In my last blog post, I discussed some practical applications on how to cope with an impossible spouse during and after a divorce. Here, I am also going to discuss some practical applications on how to manage your emotions during the divorce process in hopes that it will help ease the difficult divorce process.

1. Flexible Thinking: Flexible thinking means that you don’t automatically reject what your former spouse may say when new ideas are discussed or decisions need to be made. Bill Eddy, President of the High Conflict Institute and author of several books related to high conflict divorce, explains that flexible thinking includes having the ability to think of several proposals for solving problems rather than just fighting for your first idea. This in turn results in making better decisions.

2. Check Yourself: It is always important to check yourself and your reactions to your spouse. Are you saying no because you’re angry and upset over what your spouse did to you during the divorce? Are you saying no to spite your spouse? Or are you making decisions based on the situation at hand and what is best for you and your family going forward? Ask these questions before you respond to your spouse. When you make decisions that are born out of a rational and calm thought-process, you may find that you are making better decisions. “Being able to focus on changing yourself and not trying to change the other person will make your life less frustrating and more successful” says Eddy.

3. Focus on the Big Picture: Look at the big picture and write your goals down on paper so that you can keep track of what you are hoping to accomplish at the end of your divorce and beyond. For example, if your goal is to be cost conscious, then you may think differently about constantly picking up the phone to call your attorney asking him or her to intervene on your behalf. If your goal is to make the divorce a peaceful and as seamless as possible transition for your children, you may think differently about how you react and respond to your spouse in front of your children. Focusing on your goals will help you avoid sweating the small stuff and focus on what’s really important.

With all of this being said, don’t beat yourself up when you are immersed with a sense of overwhelming emotion. Divorce is a difficult process and it is important to allow yourself to indulge in the emotions you are feeling during the process. Be sure to contact trusted family and friends and seek professional assistance from psychological experts if you need a safe place to process through your emotions. Do your best however to keep your emotions out of the divorce process because divorce is essentially a legal business transaction.


            Follow Caroline Choi on Twitter:             www.twitter.com/@carolineychoi