Traveling with kids? How to make them excited about the trip.

Getting kids excited about pretty much anything means engaging them in the process of planning and visualizing the experience. And kids are “concrete” which means that it works best if you engage their senses in the here and now. Kids also are pretty much at the whims of their parents so giving them some power over what happens will help a lot. And actually engaging them in decision making may improve your trip. When my daughter was 12 years old we went to France. She asked if we had a budget for the trip. That wasn’t exactly how we rolled in those days but that suggestions was indeed a wise one!

Here are some suggestions that will not only help your children get excited but will provide real learning and bonding experiences:

  1. At the very start of planning the trip, sit down with your family and talk about it. Let them know why you chose this or these destination(s) and what you are excited about. Be honest and authentic in this discussion.
  2. Get paper maps of the place(s) you are going and help your child mark your journey.
  3. Use the internet and other resources to download pictures of your destination(s) and place some of those photos on the map as a kind of collage of the trip
  4. Use your internet or high quality travel books (Dorling Kindersley eyewitness books are filled with great photos) to learn about places and come up with words that describe the location(s). Put those words on the map with the photos
  5. Use your travel books and high quality travel sites like “Lonely Planet” to search together for things to do where you will be going. Discuss activity options as a family and decide together on which ones you will choose.
  6. As you work together as a family to plan your visit, consider taking my daughter’s advice and put together a budget for the trip. Estimate the cost of travel (gas, airplane tickets, etc), food, recreation, etc. Involve your children in creating this budget so they can see that priorities have to be made and include them in weighing those priorities. Include them in as many decisions as you can but be clear in advance about the decisions that parents will make.
  7. If you know anyone who comes from your destination(s) or who visited there, together with your child(ren) brainstorm a list of questions to ask that person and invite them over or visit them to conduct an interview about the place(s) you plan to visit.
  8. Research books about the location(s) and make a trip to the library. Novels will be more fun than travel books. Read the books together as a family. You might include not only books about your destination(s) but also find out what are the most popular books of those regions and read those as well. And try to understand why those books are popular in those places during your visit.
  9. Get some recipes from the area(s) and as a family try cooking the food. Compare it to the real things when you get there. Be willing to laugh at yourselves as you try your hand at unfamiliar culinary efforts!
  10. Remember to avoid striving for perfection. While planning ahead is good, avoid too much controlling behavior. As the trip unfolds, stay in touch with your kids preferences and ideas. When things don’t go quite as expected, include them in the process of handling that. If they express unhappy feelings such as disappointment, frustration or boredom, you can use that opportunity to coach problem solving – acknowledge their emotions without judgement, be interested in their version of the problem, invite them to brainstorm solutions and to consider what might be the outcomes of each of their ideas and invite them to choose a solution. You don’t have to keep everyone happy every minute of the trip and it helps to accept all of your kids responses to it without having to fix their feelings.

Research tells us that when it comes to spending money, purchasing experiences is far more satisfying in the long run than buying things. While our family didn’t travel a lot, it is precisely getting out of the house and heading out into the world together that strengthened our connections, taught us the most and created the memories about which we laugh and talk the most. Now that the kids are grown with their own kids, I love watching our adult children pass down their legacy of adventure and discovery as a family.


Michelle Jacobik, is a Financial Wellness Coach

Michelle Jacobik, is a Financial Wellness Coach with a private practice in Connecticut. She has successfully led individuals around the country in rebuilding their financial foundations. Using her budgeting tools, debt reduction planning, and saving techniques she helps clients create realistic changes in order to forge their way in getting rid of debt payments and reclaiming their #1 wealth building tool… their INCOME.

Michelle is also a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst & Founder of Prosperity After Divorce for Women. She specializes in helping divorced or divorcing women regain their financial footing as they write the next chapter of their story.

You can learn more about her practice and offerings at  or catch her on Facebook at “Michelle Jacobik” OR “Prosperity After Divorce for Women”. You can also request a 30 min FREE Introductory call with her at


How to use the ‘first car’ as a great financial lesson with your kids….

Learn more about  teaching your kids financial responsibility >

Alex’s Dream Car

Guest post by Michelle Jacobik

My son revealed to me at age 14, that he wants his first car to be a Cadillac STS.

My daughter wanted a Jeep. Some kids want BMW’s, Mercedes, Audi’s or Land Rover’s to drive but it doesn’t mean we can run out and get them what they want.

We usually make sure that the purchase is a realistic one that makes sense. One they can afford to buy on their own (for some), or one that they can contribute to (for others).

Some kids are given their first car, but most parents aren’t buying their sixteen year old a new BMW.

Teachable Moments

There are many ‘teachable’ moments in terms of ‘finances’ that we can use in guiding our children. The ‘first car’ is one of them.

Putting your kids on a ‘commission’ at an early age and paying them once a week for their chore list, instills that they earn when they work.

They gain a sense of ‘ownership’ and ‘pride” in their efforts. They get to watch their efforts accumulate and they can set goals for how they will use THEIR money.

My son Alex is diligently saving HIS money as of this writing for his first car. I had established early on (age 12) that I am not buying him his car (same with his sister 3 years ago so he knows I’m serious) I will ‘match’ what he saves up to $3000.

I had to set a threshold, because Alex WILL work and save diligently to get the car he wants which could have turned out to be a $14,000 ‘first car’. Let’s face it, when it’s their funds they are using, they make more calculated decisions, versus when we are picking up the tab.

When we let our kids know that we aren’t paying for all they want because we already provide what they ‘need’ they may at first seem slighted, but they come around eventually.


They learn patience.
They learn contentment.
They learn to negotiate.
They learn to shop and research.
And most importantly they learn they are capable.

I believe these qualities are so important and if I can use the ‘first car’ as a way of invoking them, it’s a win win for both of us!

Have you thought about milestones that you can use to raise financially responsible young adults?


What Are 3 Ways I Can Strengthen My Child’s Emotional Intelligence?

“It is vital that when educating our children’s brains that we do not forget to educate their hearts.”
– Dalai Lama

Research suggests that people with strong emotional intelligence are more likely to succeed than those with high IQs or even relevant experience in the world of work. Emotional intelligence is also the key to positive and satisfying relationships. And kids with higher emotional intelligence tend to cooperate more. So how can we help our children get stronger in the area of emotions?

peace at home emotional intelligence in childrenOne simple definition of Emotional Intelligence is the ability to:

  • Understand your own emotions
  • Manage your own emotions
  • Understand others’ emotions
  • Take perspective on others’ emotions

All that might sound simple but many children and sometimes  parents struggle to recognize and acknowledge what they are feeling, manage how and when they will show those feelings, recognize the emotions of others and decide how to respond to others’ emotions.

Unfortunately many parents focus more on cognitive intelligence (IQ) than emotional intelligence (EQ). In fact while IQ has increased 20 points since it was first measured, EQ seems to have gone down.  We are seeing an epidemic of depression and anxiety with more behavior problems and aggression in families and schools. And while IQ tends to be more rooted in genetics, EQ is more teachable.

So how can you teach EQ to your child? Here are some initial steps you can start taking today:

  1. Enjoy frequent open ended conversations with your child in which you invite him to express his point of view. Refrain from trying to make kids see things from your perspective. Be curious about their opinions with regard to every day events and big issues as well. Ask open ended questions that help you understand why your child sees the issue in this way.
  1. Make a habit of noticing what you are feeling. If you aren’t great at naming your emotions, start by noticing what is going on in your body – big and small sensations. Shoulders tense? Heart pounding? Pressure in your chest? Emotions start in the body – try to name them. Find at least one person with whom you feel safe talking about your emotions and/or start journaling on a regular basis to reflect on what you are feeling and why.
  1. Notice your child’s emotions. Use the most important tool of teaching EQ – reflective listening. Observe your child and if they seem to be feeling something either positive or negative, be a mirror for them. Tentatively say something like:

“Looks like you are worried about your quiz tomorrow.”

“You sound pretty excited right now.”

“Seems like you are feeling angry with your friend right now.”

If you don’t know a lot of feelings words, you will have to gain some vocabulary. And don’t worry about getting the feeling word right – your kids will correct you if you are wrong. Accept whatever they tell you they are feeling.

Reflective listening is a gift. It gives the child the message that feelings are normal, I am here with you and want to hear more. Kids tend not to love a lot of questions and this is a respectful, gentle invitation to communicate. Your child may accept it or not.  If you offer reflective listening on a regular basis, your child is likely to open up to you a bit more and become more aware of their own emotions. This is a positive step toward increased EQ and will bring you and your child closer at the same time.

Ruth Ettenberg Freeman, LCSW is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Storrs, Connecticut. She has taught parenting education across the state for over thirty years. Ruth is the co-founder of the Connecticut Parenting Education Network and lead author of a University of Connecticut curriculum called “Building Family Futures.” You can learn more about Emotional Intelligence and other topics by joining one of Ruth’s live online parenting classes at or catch her on Facebook at “Peace At Home Parenting.” While Ruth has studied parenting for many decades, she has learned the most from her much loved biological daughter, stepson and foster son, all of whom gave her the inspiring gift of amazing grandchildren.

What is Charisma and how can I help my child get it (and get some myself)?

kids/teens learning social skills and charismaParents often ask about how to help their children improve social skills.

Here are some ideas you can share with your child if he or she motivated to learn some new ways of thinking about connecting with others.

Charisma is a way of being that draws other people to you and makes them want to be around you. Think about the charismatic people in your life. mentors, friends, or public figures like athletes, actors, and politicians. People think that charisma is something you are born with or without, but this isn’t entirely true. While charisma comes more naturally to some people, it is a set of skills that can be practiced and learned. Here are some of the most important skills to practice yourself or help your child practice to become more charismatic.

kids cooperateAttention

People like being around other people that make them feel interesting, funny, and intelligent. Giving someone your undivided attention shows them that you find them likable and are interested in what they are saying. You can demonstrate attention by using active listening skills like turning your body toward to speaker, nodding, making verbal affirmations (“Yes” or “I see what you mean,” or just “Uh huh’), and maintaining eye contact. Eye contact can be tricky to master. Too much eye contact can feel creepy and aggressive, while too little comes off as uninterested. I recommend maintaining eye contact just long enough to allow you to note the eye color of your conversation partner. Then you can look away before returning to offer more eye contact.


Remember that people are attracted to those that make them feel interesting The balancing act is to offer enough to the conversation to share your knowledge and experience, but listen with equal intensity so that your conversation partner has the same opportunity. It helps if you can steer the conversation toward an area you feel comfortable and confident enough to offer information, but restrain yourself from sounding like a know-it-all. Don’t be afraid to use humor. Effective humor makes everyone feel good and isn’t at the expense of anyone. Jokes about things that are core to people’s values or out of their control are off limits. This usually includes religion, politics, looks, abilities, family, and ethnicity. Continue reading “What is Charisma and how can I help my child get it (and get some myself)?”

Get Ready to be a Positive Parent for your Teen

parenting teensYou might be wondering if there is anything you can do now to get ready for the big change.

Yes – even if your child is a toddler or a tween (adolescence goes from 12 – 24 these days) – here are 3 actions steps to start today:

  1. Know yourself

Adolescents can be a magnet for your own unresolved childhood issues. One of my heroes, Dan Siegel, MD says,  “When it comes to how our children will be attached to us, having difficult experiences early in life is less important than whether we’ve found a way to make sense of how those experiences have affected us.” By “making sense” he means being able to tell a cohesive story of your childhood from beginning to end and understanding how your childhood influenced who you are today – both the good and the not so good. This may seem theoretical but consider some ways your adolescent might trigger childhood issues –

  • Maybe your child tends to be a loner and likes to be with just one or two friends at a time. Maybe you felt unpopular in school. Maybe you end up pushing your child to pursue more relationships and attend more social events because you are projecting on to them how you felt left out as a teen. Maybe your teen starts to doubt himself because you are pushing him to stop listening to his own inner guidance.
  • Maybe you didn’t achieve what you wanted to achieve in your career. Maybe your child’s aspirations don’t fulfill your dreams you thought your child would fulfill so you could feel better about your own outcomes. Maybe that pushing causes your child to doubt herself.
  • Maybe your parents didn’t give you the love and closeness you longed for as a child. Maybe your adolescent has felt like a best friend and now her brain is telling her to seek closeness and comfort from her friends instead of you. Maybe you hassle your child about this and she starts to feel guilty instead of confident.
  1. Start a practice of self-care or continue the one you have – and stick to it

The adolescent brain’s emotional center is running the show more than ever – in fact, more than at any other time in human development. They learn about who they are by deciding they are different from you. They might thrive on debate – sometimes about things near and dear to your heart like your faith or your most deeply held values. Their brains are often activated and since you have mirror neurons, your brain will likely be more activated now than it has been in a long time. You may experience more stress and more fatigue than ever before. How can you think about taking care of yourself – taking a walk, getting a good night’s sleep – when your kid is telling you that you’re the worst parent on the planet? Self-care is essential to keep you calm and focused, which is what your child need more than anything right now. He needs your adult self. Trust me – you want to be on your best game. You will need adequate sleep, regular exercise, healthy food, nourishing down time and maybe some meditation, yoga or other mindful practice. If you don’t practice self-care, start now. Even a little bit at a time. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Pace yourself and care for yourself so you can genuinely support your teen in the way he needs so you will still be connected at the end of the ride.

  1. Gather your tribe

Remember that part about the adolescent’s brain telling her to seek security, soothing and connection from peers instead of parents? This may be a source of loss for you. Most of us were our child’s anchor, the center of her world. Now she is turning away toward others. No need to pretend this isn’t a loss or at least a major transition.

You will also be encountering behaviors that surprise you, confuse you or maybe even offend you. You’ll need people to talk to about all this. Before your child hits his teens, it will help a lot if you have a circle of friends, family, a trusted faith community or whatever “tribe” means to you – it can be just one or two really trusted pals – whoever it is, you will need them. If you have a partner, yes that person will become more important. But you will likely need a little more support than that to navigate these new waters and move through the feelings of loss, confusion and frustration that are likely to arise from time to time. If you have had a strong, positive relationship your child, he will come back to you. But during these teen years his focus is elsewhere and you’ll need some “besties” to buoy you up during the rough times.

How to Teach Your Kids About Money

Financial literacy is as important as reading or writing. It is essential to your child’s well-being now and in the future. Understanding money will mean more opportunities, less stress, and more serenity.

Here are 3 ways to teach your child financial literacy:

  1. Give your child an allowance that is designed to cover specific categories of expenses and leave those financial decisions up to your child. Talk about saving, spending and sharing. Chat with your child about her decisions over time and be curious about what she is learning. Refrain from giving advice unless it is requested.
  2. Give your child the opportunity to be responsible for some part of your weekly food shopping. Give him a budget and put him in charge of buying fruit for the week or another specific category. Chat about how it went, how much things cost and his thoughts about the process – what he liked about his choices and what he might change next time.
  3. Allow your child to pay all your family bills for a month. Show him how much you earn during that time period and how it gets spent and saved. Help your child understand how you make your priorities for spending and saving, talk about your debt and limitations when it comes to money and discuss honestly anything you wish you had done differently.

Where do kids get money? Ideally your kids are getting money from allowance, gifts, earnings, inheritance, and investment. However, most likely your kids are getting it from what we call “the dole.” You dole it out to them based on pretty unpredictable logic – if you feel in the mood, if you happen to have money on hand, if you like what they want, if you approve of their behavior in the moment, etc. What does this teach kids about money? Perhaps that whining works after a while, that getting money depends on how persuasive or charming you can be, or maybe that it is unpredictable and you better get it when you can.

How do you learn about money? A lucky few of us had great role models as parents and we learned from them. Or an even smaller number of us had parents who went out of their way to teach us some skills. If you ask my daughter she will tell you that she learned by doing the opposite of her parents – money was not an important consideration in most of our life planning. That has changed quite a bit over time, thank goodness. But she also had a dad who taught her about compound interest and took her to the bank to open an IRA when she got her first job. You may want to learn more about finances yourself (and www.Michelle is the perfect place to start), but you don’t need to be a financial expert to give your children the opportunities to learn and find answers together.

Don’t make your child learn the hard way. Start early and be positive about the subject of money. As you take a careful look at the topic with your child, you might learn something yourself!