Monthly Archives: August 2014

Stress infographic

Is your child suffering from toxic stress?

Not all stress is created equal. Some stress is good for us. It helps us learn, grow, adapt, and improve. Other stress is temporary, and teaches us resilience and to overcome fear. But some stress is downright harmful, and as parents, we need to be able to recognize the signs and know when to pull the reins in.

Let’s break it down:

Positive stress, according to Hahhhvahhhd, is “a normal and essential part of healthy development, characterized by brief increases in heart rate and mild elevations in hormone levels.” Examples of this in our tweens might be speaking in front of the class, performing at a talent show, or getting a shot at the doctor’s office.

Remember: this stress is good. It teaches kids how to stay calm when they step out of their comfort zones, and that it’s OK to be excited or nervous about a big event in their lives.

Tolerable stress “activates the body’s alert systems to a greater degree as a result of more severe, longer-lasting difficulties, such as the loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a frightening injury.” A broken bone or a lost pet is devastating, but not the end of the world.

Remember: this stress is also good, if you can manage it and decompress it. As adults, we cannot create a stress-free world for our kids. Shit happens, and will continue to happen. It’s up to us to prepare our kids for managing stress in healthy ways as adults. 

Toxic stress, on the other hand, can be dangerous. It is usually the product of strong, frequent and/or prolonged trauma such as physical/emotional abuse, neglect, or even caregivers fighting.

This stress is bad. Toxic stress can take its toll on a child’s brain and organ development when he or she is exposed to it for long periods of time, and can be compounded when there is not an adult to de-escalate the situation and reassure them that everything will be fine. Children can also develop stress-related diseases and be at the risk of cognitive impairment when they reach adulthood.

Some of the causes can be easy to spot – are you constantly fighting with your kids and/or your spouse? Well duh, that affects your kids negatively and can stress them out. But there are things that aren’t as easy to see.. Are your kids staying up all night to perfect their homework? Do they get depressed when they get anything less than an A? Is there a bully at school that they aren’t telling you about? Overscheduling and enormous school pressures can also be a source of toxic stress. 

The good news is, toxic stress can be identified, avoided, and mitigated. Here are a few cues to identify the signs of toxic stress and implement solutions if needed.

Signs of Toxic Stress in Children

The American Academy for Pediatrics highlighted five responses to trauma which can help parents and caregivers identify toxic stress.

  1. Irregular Sleep Patterns – Children suffering from toxic stress may have difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. Some may even suffer from nightmares, which may trigger the first two symptoms.
  2. Change in Eating Habits – Children suffering from toxic stress will either be eating less or rapidly. Some may even complain about lack of satiety or exhibit food hoarding habits.
  3. New Toilet Habits – Toxic stress will result in constipation or may change the toilet habits of a child, which could even involve enuresis (involuntary urinating), encopresis (fecal incontinence), and regression of toilet skills.
  4. Dissociation – Mainly the act of separating from immediate surroundings, this effect is most likely in females and younger children. The child will become numb to their surroundings and people and may prefer to hang out in a fantasy world in their head.
  5. Arousal – The second behavioral response to toxic stress, arousal targets males and older children, driving them to become aggressive, anxious, and likely to show exaggerated response to stimuli.

What You Can Do

If your child recently developed these symptoms or you fear that they are over stressed, don’t worry; you have options! Here are a few:

  1. Revamp the Schedule - Ask your kids if they truly enjoy every one of their activities. If your kids need a breather, maybe it’s time to cross a sport or lesson off the list. Kids need time to just be kids, as well. However, if they’re enjoying every minute of their hectic schedule, that’s fine too! Just remember to ask them periodically, “Are you still enjoying this? Do we need to slow down?”
  2. Put Yourself in the Child’s Shoes – Always think how your actions may be interpreted by your kids. For young kids or those on the spectrum, are also methods of training children to identify your facial and vocal expressions, which may help prevent them from escalating.
  3. Teach the Child to De-stress Themselves – Teach the child a set of exercises or breathing techniques to conquer their stress and prevent it from becoming toxic. 
  4. Open Communication Channels – Your child needs to be able to talk to you about anything that’s bothering them. Show that you’re accessible. Above all, don’t get mad when they tell you something you don’t necessarily want to hear, or they will learn that they cannot tell you everything.
  5. Ensure the Child’s Safety and Your Love – It’s amazing how far just letting your children know that they’re safe and loved can go. Give praise when it’s due or correct the child in a calm tone.
  6. If Needed, Seek Therapy – Toxic stress sufferers and their caregivers can take part in different forms of therapy, including Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT) or Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS).

Be aware of the signs and take action to ensure the mental and physical health of your child. It’s worth it, for their health and the health of your family, in the short AND long run!

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Are you STEAM’d up for school? [+SCHOLARSHIP]

And the winner is….


How do you know if you’re raising the next Thomas Edison, Stephen Hawkings, Vincent van Gogh, or Bill Gates? What these famous STEAM-y icons had in common was lots of curiosity, access to the right opportunities, and guidance along the way to encourage their dreams.

Thrively believes that if parents have deeper insights into their children’s individual gifts, and resources to shape those interests, their children can reach their full potential.

We welcome parents to discover their children’s awesomeness with Thrively’s online Strength Assessment. You’ll have a new perspective on your child’s talents and skills beyond what you can learn in a parent-teacher-conference or progress report (and so will your child). Thrively uses your child’s Strength Assessment to recommend club, camp and program recommendations to each child based on their specific strengths and interests.

We created Thrively so you’re kids will never have to say,

“I wish I had known about that awesome opportunity when I was younger.”

We are happy to announce that the Thrively Team has teamed up with our friends at Engineering for Kids to do exactly that! Sign up for Thrively today, and you may win a free Engineering for Kids** after-school program or camp.

The Prize

1 Scholarship to an Engineering for Kids after-school program or camp!

How to Win

It’s easy to enter to win this opportunity. Earn points for each step you complete. Click HERE to sign up for Thrively.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Some fine print:

*To our dear giveaway enterers: To ensure the fairness of the giveaway, we vet all of the actions you take on rafflecopter. If we pick your name and you have not completed the actions you’ve chosen (ie. signing up for Thrively and taking the assessment), we put your name back and pick someone else who has. This makes us a little sad, not only because we really want you to join Club Thrively, but also because you will be immediately DQ’ed. If you have taken the actions in the past for another giveaway, no worries! It will count as entries for this giveaway as well. Thanks for understanding, my lovelies :) 

**Please check to see if there is an Engineering for Kids location in your area before entering. Junior engineers must attend in person. 

mrs doubtfire house

7 Things Mrs. Doubtfire Taught Me About Parenting

“But if there’s love, dear… those are the ties that bind, and you’ll have a family in your heart, forever. All my love to you, poppet, you’re going to be all right… ” – Euphegenia Doubtfire

The 1993 movie Mrs. Doubtfire resonated for parents and children everywhere. It taught us all lessons about what family is, what love means, and how we can work through difficult situations. In the movie, Robin Williams portrays a husband whose wife has decided to divorce him. Their three children are caught in the middle and in order to spend more time with them, he comes up with a creative plan. What ensues is a lot of laughter and a few tears, and movie that has become a beloved family classic. As we all mourn the passing of Robin Williams, we can look back on the things his characters have taught millions.

Thank you, Mrs. Doubtfire, for reminding me:

  1. Be Happy, And Happiness Will Follow – Life is what you make of it, and it’s OK to grieve/vent/smash crap, but once that’s all out of your system, if you commit to being happy, then happiness will follow.
  2. Parents Make Mistakes – Big ones. And that’s ok. Parents can’t let the mistakes they’ve made determine their future. Let it go and make the most of what’s here and now.
  3. Show Your Love, Don’t Just Say the Words – Kids respond to actions, not just to words. And that doesn’t just mean hugs, though those are important too. Treat your kids the way that you know will make them feel valued.
  4. Make Housework Fun – Let’s face it, the chores have to get done. But singing to the broom or dancing with the vacuum sure does make it more bearable.
  5. The Kids are on Your Side – Kids desperately want life to work out and for everyone to win. They aren’t interested in holding grudges. It’s amazing how beautifully children strive to build up their families.
  6. Imagination is Your Ally – Being creative is an essential part of good parenting. Great parents learn to make it up on the spot and to be creative in the moment.
  7. Don’t Fear Change – The biggest lesson that I learned from Mrs. Doubtfire is not to be afraid of changes that happen in your life. You won’t break your children, and you won’t scar them for life as long as you approach change with an open mind and a loving heart.

And a bonus #8: Frosting makes for a great facial:

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dog banker meme

Investment bankers: don’t you know they’re human, too?*

Editor’s note: I thought of the title. Don’t hate us for cheesiness. *Sung to the tune of that at-first-catchy-but-now-stuck-in-my-head-please-make-it-stop pop song.

dog banker meme

Perhaps the greatest, most consistent lesson I have learned throughout life is the importance of helping others and being of service to the community at large. This was engrained from the early years, where community service was weaved into our curriculum throughout elementary and high school.

I have tried to apply these principles in everyday life, including my professional endeavors as an investment banker and advisor to emerging growth companies. While the investment banking trade gets routinely blasted as a purveyor of greed and inequity – and at times, rightly so – there’s an element of outstanding service that goes largely unrecognized by the public at large.

For me, the most fulfilling aspect of my work is truly helping entrepreneurs achieve critical events in their corporate life cycle that couldn’t be achieved one their own. In most cases, the results go well beyond the company itself, and have a meaningful downstream effect on the customers the company services, the entrepreneur’s family, and the economic paradigm of the industries in which they operate. At the root of all this, and what keeps me energized and passionate about my work, is my ability to help others and the relationships I develop as a result of this service, several of which are now decades old.

Like any endeavor, we reap the rewards of what we invest. If we show up with an attitude of entitlement – that we are here to receive rather than to give – then we keep very little. Alternatively, if we dedicate ourselves to service at every level, we gain rich and meaningful experiences that we carry with us forever. This has certainly been my experience and I would think this to be true of any profession.



Cary Hurwitz is the Managing Director of Investment Banking at MDB Capital Group. Prior to this position he spent tenures at several investment companies, where he oversaw the placement of millions of dollars in investments. Mr. Hurwitz holds a J.D.- M.B.A. from the Pepperdine School of Law and Graziadio School of Management and is a member of the State Bar of California.


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Not bad for a farm girl from Fargo

As a young girl growing up on a farm outside of Fargo, ND, I spent many of my days dancing around my living room (listening to Xanadu over and over) and dreaming of becoming a famous actress someday. Thankfully, my parents allowed me to dream and were willing to help me any way possible. They were in business for themselves, so they were not afraid of me trying to be something that can seem unattainable. I began with community theater at the age of 7. “Swiss Family Robinson” was the show, and I played the daughter. While doing the show, the production manager mentioned to my mom that if I wanted to be a “triple threat”, I’d need to start taking dance classes. Thankfully, he knew of just the people. A couple from NYC had recently moved to raise their family in Fargo, and teach at one of the local universities. I signed up for Jazz Dance and thus began my path to becoming the actress and performer I wanted to be.

The couple, Kathy and Eddie Gasper, had had the life that I wanted to live – movies, Broadway, ballet companies, musical theater, everything I wanted to be a part of. Eddie had been Bob Fosse’s assistant on Broadway for many years and now here I was learning the original choreography from “Sweet Charity”! When we did “A Chorus Line”, Kathy called Michael Bennett to get the original Broadway choreography. What a gift!

My whole life was up at the dance studio. I went to middle school and high school because I had to. Not that I didn’t plan on going to college, that was always a given, but rather nothing in high school interested me. My days and nights were all spent up at the dance studio. My mom would drop me off right after school, I’d assist one of Kathy or Eddie’s classes, I’d do homework, have some dinner from the restaurant down the street, take a dance class or two, and then rehearse for whatever show we had coming up until about 11 pm every night. The studio was my home and my family. The friendship that I share with the dancers continues to this day.

Kathy and Eddie taught me how to perform. They tapped the desire inside of me and let it grow. In the summers, they would teach at an arts park in Fargo, of which I was a part of every year until high school graduation.

The mornings began at 8 am, the day was filled with dance classes, voice lessons, acting lessons, stagecraft, and then rehearsal for the big summer production. This was every day of my summer, starting at 11 years old, and continuing until I graduated high school. I always wanted to be a performer and I can’t even imagine where I’d be were it not for Kathy and Eddie. Unless you’ve been a part of a theater company, it’s hard to explain what it’s like. It’s a family. You do everything together. We toured the US, we performed in Russia together, we would hang out at the studio and just dance – long after rehearsal was done. When I got married, my first dance was with my husband, the second with my dad, and the third with my “second dad”, Eddie. Eddie and I danced like Fred and Ginger at my wedding – him in his 70’s, whipping me around like it was nothing. The memory of him and I dancing is something I’ll remember forever and always cherish.

I attended Emerson College in Boston and then moved out to LA to pursue acting. I am so thankful that my parents never said I was crazy for wanting to pursue an acting career, and fostered it every step of the way. Being an actor is always a struggle. But, Kathy and Eddie instilled a work ethic in me that I am grateful for. Even when I was waiting tables, I was the hardest working waitress there! I give 100% because of them, and I’m no stranger to hard work.   Well, let’s be honest, them and the fact that I grew up on a farm and had to do chores my kids couldn’t even conceive of. I want my kids to find that thing they love and throw themselves into it. I knew I wanted to be an actor and performer from the time I was 4 years old. My parents found a way to get me out there and get the classes I needed. Kathy and Eddie shaped who I am as a performer and for that, I am eternally grateful. I feel I’ve had a pretty amazing life and career – not bad for a farm girl from Fargo, ND.




Rachel Quaintance was born in Moorhead, Minnesota. She is an actress, known for Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010), Camp Takota (2014) and High School (2010). She has been married to John Quaintance since 1997. They have two children. Check out her full bio on IMDB.

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Photo of lake with a house on it

Harrison’s dad

From where I’m sitting at the lifeguard station they start out as a dot, growing larger and taking shape as they slowly paddle across the pond. There he is, sitting straight and proud, for being 5 foot nothing, his barrel chest straining his yellow life jacket and his tiny son in his little orange life jacket, cinched around his neck so tight he has a chubby little double chin.

Halfway across the lake, I can start to hear his voice talking to his son. They keep paddling up alongside the swimming area and don’t slow down until they slide up on shore.

“Okay now Harrison, let’s pull the canoe all the way up and unload our stuff!” Harrison’s dad leaps out, looking like a hairy, stout, lumberjack leprechaun of sorts. It’s my job to watch every swimmer, but it’s hard not to just fixate on Harrison and Harrison’s Dad.

“Now Harrison you grab the towels and I’ll grab the cooler. Then we’ll head over to our favorite spot and set up our area. Then you can take off your shoes, we’ll put on sunscreen, and go swimming!” Harrison’s dad proceeds to narrate their every move. Harrison carefully gets out of the canoe, picks up the towels, and follows his dad, his little orange life jacket strap giving him a wedgie as he waddles up the beach.

Canoe sitting on shore

They plop their stuff down and Harrison’s dad whips out a bottle of sunscreen. He squeezes out roughly 3 cups of sunscreen into his lumberjack palms and proceeds to slather Harrison’s tiny pale body like it’s butter on a Thanksgiving turkey. Once Harrison is sufficiently covered in oily paste, they proceed down to the water to have some good old fashioned summer fun.

Harrison tip toes into the water gingerly, and Harrison’s Dad marches right in like he’s fording a river. Once they are in, Harrison’s dad proceeds to sidle up to some other young swimmers and introduce himself.

“Hi, I’m Harrison’s Dad. This is Harrison,” he says, pointing at his son, who is just standing there silent and wide-eyed. “What’s your name?”

“umm.. Sarah.” A sheepish girl looks around, confused and wondering if she should yell “stranger danger” or just go with it.

“Want to play catch with us?” Harrison’s Dad asks.

“umm. OK.”

One by one, Harrison’s Dad lures children into his friendship trap. Then, the game begins.

“Ok Sarah, I’m going to throw the ball to you, then you can throw the ball to Jimmy, then Jimmy throws the ball to Harrison, and Harrison will throw the ball back to me. Then we’ll do it again!” Harrison just stands there like a doll, a ring of sunscreen oil shining on the surface of the water around his body, a miniature freshwater Valdez (the swim teachers described their lessons as ‘trying to teach a greased watermelon how to swim’). This goes on; facilitated play by Harrison’s dad, until the ice cream truck shows up, or the other kids’ parents call them in for lunch. Later, Harrison’s dad introduces himself to the parents, also as “Harrison’s Dad.”

For seven summers I lifeguarded at this pond, and for five of those summers I watched this routine happen 3-5 days per week. Harrison and Harrison’s Dad make their way across the lake in their canoe, then Harrison’s Dad negotiates every move that Harrison makes at the beach. I watched him instruct children on sand castle making in great detail, I watched him introduce Harrison to a myriad number of “friends” who may or may not have been actually interested in making a new, painfully shy, friend, and he did it all covered in SPF 9000.

In five years, Harrison’s Dad not once spoke his real name. He was always “Harrison’s Dad.” In five years, Harrison never made a single introduction for himself, nor did Harrison’s Dad ever encourage him to do so.

It’s been 8 years since the last time I worked at that beach. I don’t know what made me think of him the other day, but I looked at my husband and said, “woah. If it’s been 8 years, and Harrison was about 9 or 10, that means he’s 17 or 18 years old now.

“Holy sh*t, do you think he is going to college?” My husband asked. “Do you think Harrison’s Dad will go with him to frat parties to introduce him to friends?” I tried to picture Harrison as a young adult. He most likely had excellent skin. My husband proceeded to imitate Harrison’s Dad teaching underage coeds how to play drinking games… “Now Jimmy, you’ll throw the ball into the red cup, and if you make it, Sarah must drink the whole cup. Then Sarah will throw the ball back to your side, then Harrison will have a turn.

I can’t make any judgements as to whether or not Harrison’s Dad’s participation in his childhood development ultimately helped or hurt Harrison. It probably was a combination of both. Harrison was painfully shy, and Harrison’s Dad was doing a great job of making sure that Harrison felt included and connected. But, whether or not that turned into a crutch, I can’t say.

Parents want the best for their children, and that includes positive play and healthy peer relationships. I can’t fault Harrison’s Dad for being heavily involved in his everyday childhood interactions. Whether or not he remained over-involved in his life into his young adult years is where I would take issue. The horror stories of kids sending home college assignments to their parents for editing, or even parents attending job interviews with their kids (seriously!?), makes me cringe. The best thing that parents can do to prepare kids for the road ahead is let them do the hard work, push themselves out of their comfort zones every once in a while, and make mistakes.

“Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” (Click to tweet)

I like to think that Harrison is out there killing it, and Harrison’s Dad keeps his involvement to Parent’s Weekend and graduation.



Develop Your Child's Strengths