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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What If? Wednesday: What if Life Was...

Thought for the Day: It is Wednesday again so it is time for What If? Wednesday. I hope this short video (a little over a minute) will make you think about life & how you are spending your time. I had some fun adding music & hope it will not bother you, just turn the sound off, if you can't listen in. Both personally & professionally, as a psychologist, I have always wanted to live life without regrets & encourage my clients to do the same. Would you do things differently if...

Remember, I will post the best comment, photo response or video that you share with me on my blog once a month. Feel free to e-mail me photos or video comments ( You can post an answer to something I have brought up or your own thoughts or questions. So get creative & share your thoughts on what you might do if....

Monday, January 28, 2013

Manic Mondays: How to Turn Monday Into Your Favorite Day

Thought for the Day: The Bangles captured how hard it is for most people to start their work week in their 1986 hit song Manic Monday (see video below). Since Mondays come after Sundays which are for many people their "fun day," it's hard to be back on the clock & rushing to work. I'd like to dedicate my new Monday blog series to tips to help you change Mondays into a more positive way to start your week. They will be looking at improving the start of your week from a psychological perspective. I hope you like it & that you will share this post with friends & post your comments, questions & tips on how you feel about Mondays & how these suggestions work for you.

Since I am a psychologist who also writes songs, I pay attention to lyrics. Many people only hear a chorus or ignore the words to songs. They still get the gist of a song like Manic Monday, since the chorus does a great job of illustrating how most people feel about Mondays. However, if you listen to the lyrics, it may help you find the clue to turning Mondays into your favorite day of the week. The song written by Prince for The Bangles, opens with the words, "Six o'clock already, I was just in the middle of a dream. I was kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream. But I can't be late cause then I guess I just won't get paid."

Those of you who have been reading my blog over the last year know that I believe that dreams should not be reserved for sleep & that money is not the only thing that motivates us to work. Ironically, The Bangles & Prince turned the universal fear of not "getting paid" if we let our dreams run our lives into their ticket to their dreams of successful careers in music with the financial freedom to travel & have control of their schedule.

I'm not suggesting that you should quit your day job; however, I do believe that you can start building your dreams into your life. The Bangles, like most artists, were not an overnight success. They started singing together (with some different members & names) in 1980. It took hard work before they reached their audience & the pop singer Prince's attention. However, without their dreams, practice & persistence they may not have achieved their hit songs & success. 

For you to begin to look forward to Mondays, you need to first discover what your dreams are. What would you like to be doing. If you did not have to worry about paying your bills what would you do? Let's pretend that your dream would be like that of the singer in the song to spend time with Valentino in Italy. Do you want to go to Italy for a vacation, to study or to retire? What would you need to make your dream happen? Time, airfare, room & board are a few of the things you would require. Would you need to learn Italian? How long do you think it would take you to acquire all these things? What if you spent some time researching all you would need to accomplish this dream in your spare time on weekends or after work? Perhaps Mondays could be your day to make sure you were staying on track of your "dream" project. Your current job could be helping to make sure you saved enough every week to pay for the trip. Your employer might provide assistance in your learning a new language. You could investigate whether your company had any projects in Europe that you could apply to do. Or you might start looking into other jobs that had travel opportunities. The options are endless. To make anything happen, you do, however, have to give yourself permission to weave your dreams into your life plans and start working to implement them.

The singer in the song Manic Monday had to wake up & abandon her dream. You don't have to abandon your dreams when you wake up. Take some time every Monday to dream & start looking forward to a life that includes your dreams. If you don't like what you are doing, find a way to change it or add things you love into your week. Why not start today? How about spending you 1st coffee break today to start exploring your dreams & finding out what you will need to make them happen? Hope this helps you have a great Monday and a wonderful week!

Friday, January 25, 2013

#FF Friday's Fabulous Finds: Special Needs Support Map, Organizing for Action, & Liability Insurance for Gun Owners

Thought for the Day: Here are my #FF Friday's Fabulous Finds. There is a story by
about how a mother of a special needs child made sense of her intricate tasks & the support network she had to understand & utilize. See how she used her discovery to help others. The second find is about a new creative program that the Obama administration is launching to keep people involved in being the change they wish to see in their communities. Finally, there is an article by Mark E, Ruquet proposing that gun owners be required to have liability insurance for every gun they own, just like car insurance. I'd love to hear your thoughts & hope you enjoy these finds! Have a great weekend!

1) This article includes an intricate multi-colored map of a special needs child’s support system. It demonstrates how difficult it is to raise one special needs child. It shows how one mother, Cristin Lind, “learned about herself. Seeing the 70 colored ovals, each representing an area of care she (the mother of a special needs child) was expected to understand and coordinate, helped her see her life with new clarity. “No wonder we had so many piles of unfolded laundry,” she jokes.”

2) I was pleased to see the new initiative, Organizing for Action,  as a way to keep the momentum of the Obama campaign working to develop local groups working for change across the United States. Take a look at the video by Jon Carson which explains how this new initiative will work.

3) Here’s a great idea from By : liability insurance for gun owners. Just as drivers need to have insurance to drive a car, gun owners would be mandated to have liability insurance for every weapon that they purchase.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What If? Wednesday

Thought for the Day: I have decided to organize my posts in  a different way. I have  chosen themes for Monday, Wednesday & Friday.  I started this week with a Milestone Mondays post. Mondays will be either Milestone Mondays relating to important events happening that week or Manic Mondays with tips to help start the week off with less stress. Above is the first What If? Wednesday post. Click on it to view the video.

On What if? Wednesdays, I will raise questions using video & photos to raise important questions. On Wednesdays, I hope you will pose your own questions & responses to my posts. You can comment here or e-mail me ( photo or video responses. Once a month, I will choose the best comments, photo or video & post it here & on my facebook page. The winner each month will receive a free copy of my book, The Wake Up and Dream Challenge, as a thank you.

I started #FF Friday's Fabulous Finds last Friday. Each week, I will highlight interesting articles that I discover over the week. 
      I hope you like this new format & look forward to your feedback& What If? Wednesday entries!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Milestone Mondays: Would Martin Luther King, Jr. Use Social Media? & What Advice Would He Give to Barack Obama?

Thought for the day:  I was going to start a new series today, Manic Mondays, Tips To Reduce Stress as you start a new week. However, given the double milestone events today, I decided to start something slightly different. When there is a milestone event happening, I will post a Milestone Monday post. Today's Milestome Mondays' post is Would Martin Luther King, Jr. Use Social Media? & What Advice Would He Give to Barack Obama? Next week I will start the Manic Mondays series.
          After completing this post, I saw this post on Maya Angelou's Facebook page: "On this day of celebrations, I believe Martin Luther King Jr. would have said to President Barack Obama, "Continue. Be loving and be strong. Be fierce and be kind. And don't give in and don't give up.'" I decided to add her comment today.

          Today is a double milestone. As we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. we also celebrate the inauguration of President Barack Obama to a second term. Last year, I paid tribute to MLK's "I Have a Dream," speech. His dream has inspired myriads of dreams for people of all races, religions, & cultures. I took a look at the famous speech again. He spoke to all humanity when he said,
              "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village & every hamlet, from    every state & every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men & white men, Jews & Gentiles, Protestants & Catholics, will be able to join hands & sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
       Much has changed in our country & in the world since that memorable speech.  The civil rights movement in the 60's had a strong influence on me. Growing up in Texas, I remember volunteering with a predecessor of Head Start in a black neighborhood. I taught kids ballet & tutored them in the three R's. My father was a lawyer & an activist who represented clients from all races & religions. I believe Pete Seager visited our home, although I was too young to remember the visit. When I rode on a bus from Texas to New York not long after desegregation, I was surprised to see that even though the signs were taken down, people were still segregated in the bus depots.
       Until four years ago, it was just a dream that an African-American would become president of the United States. Regardless of your political viewpoint, this was a victory for the American dream & for democracy. There are still battles to be fought to reach the "freedom for all" that MLK spoke of, but we are moving in the right direction & the doors he helped open have led to many other opportunities for people from all minorities. The importance of educational equality is paramount to enhancing creativity which will lead to finding new solutions for the problems that confront all human beings in our complex modern world.
         This year after four years of president Obama's administration, the political gridlock threatens to stymy the dreams of our elected official & those of the majority that elected him. Even as a nation is reeling from a financial crisis, a devastating hurricane & the tragedies of the madness of warfare in our schools & public places, there are people opposing the leadership we desperately need in Washington. On Friday, I recommended an article entitled "Would Ghandi Use Social Media?" Today On this Milestone Monday, I ask would Martin Luther King, Jr. use social media? He was a powerful orator who could stir people into action. I believe that he would have used whatever means he could to empower people to make change happen. Barack Obama has used social media to help activate voters to show up at the polls. He uses twitter & I hope his program to build support for better gun control will activate those who want to change the gun control laws as well.
           MLK's strength came from his strong religious beliefs. He urged us to see the discrimination in our society & do something to change it. Today an article by , MLK Support For Economic Justice Overshadowed By 'I Have A Dream' Speech, discusses his fight against poverty. The levels of poverty have risen above those that MLK, Jr. was protesting just before he was assassinated. Hopefully, our President will find ways to open the minds of those who oppose him to end the gridlock & start overcoming the major issues that threaten our nation. The trick in the use of social media, however, is not just to raise awareness, but to get people activated & involved in the difficult conversations with open minds that will lead to creative nonpartisan problem solving. It is too easy to just read articles using social media & click to the next article, game or facebook page. If you are impacted by something on social media sites, don't just like it. Share it with your friends. Post it, g+ it, tweet it. Your action will help make things go viral. You can sign a petition online in just a few seconds. You can also take conventional action & go to a public meeting to discuss it or attend a march. If you want change, you must take action.
             Are you ready to join the conversations & take action online & elsewhere? Make this a Milestone Monday & take action to let your senators & congressmen know that you want an end to the gridlock in Washington.

Friday, January 18, 2013

#FF Friday's Fabulous Finds

Thought for the Day: Instead of writing a post today, I decided to start a new type of article on the blog. Every week, on Fridays, I'd like to bring you some of the best articles I have found this week on current topics. I read a wide variety of articles every week. Therefore, my #FF Friday's Fabulous Finds will be a mixed bag and may range from psychology, self-help, social media, & inspirational articles. The articles will be connected to things that interest me or which I may have written about in the past. I hope you will find them helpful & informative. Please feel free to forward & share them with others. Let me know your thoughts & comments on this approach & on the articles which I bring to you.

#FF Friday's Fabulous Finds:
1) The first find: Three Ways to Help 'Loners' and Improve School Safety,
Schools must support isolated students, was . Rappaport is a psychiatrist whose posts tend to be down to earth & informative. She presents some great simple suggestions for schools to promote safety.

2) Would Gandhi Use Social Media? is my second find by Nipun Mehta, a UC Berkeley graduate, left Silicon Valley and founded a non-profit that builds free websites for nonprofits. His offers an interesting analysis of social media & how it can lead to social change. Since I have been using social media for social change, I find his perspective to be interesting & enlightening.

3) My third find is by a colleague who is also one of my facebook fans Dr. Craig Malkin.
Dr. Craig Malkin is an author, clinical psychologist, and Instructor of Psychology for Harvard Medical School (HMS) who writes for the Huffington Post. This article presents a very interesting question: Can Acting in Love Help You Stay in Love? His findings may help couples who have found that their relationships have lost some of their luster.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Sandy Hook Promise

I Promise to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
I Promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence.

Thought for the Day: It has been a month and a day since the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Yesterday grieving parents spoke to the press and announced a nonprofit organization, The Sandy Hook Promise. Their promise is to turn this event into the beginning of the end of these kinds of horrific attacks on our children. I commend their initiative and their strength to speak publicly at such a difficult time and for taking action to be change agents. I urge all parents, teachers and concerned citizens touched by this senseless act to follow these brave parents' lead by supporting their promise and taking action as well.  In their words,
"This is a Promise
To do everything in our power to be remembered
not as the town filled with grief and victims;
but as the place where
real change began.
Our hearts are broken;
Our spirit is not."
You can click on the image above to go to their website & donate to help. May the memory of those lost be a blessing to all those who mourn and help us prevent future losses of innocent lives.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Dear Mr. President: Help Us Make Right Something So Wrong

Dear Mr. President: Help Us Make Right Something So Wrong

Thought for the day: This should be my thought for the year & not the day, since it will take much longer to make this dream happen than just a day. In my new children's book, When Bad Things Happen to Children, there is a verse which says, "When bad things happen, we must think hard and long. We'll try to make right of something so wrong." The process of making things right will take effort from people from around the country. Barack Obama has started the process, first by addressing the families & sharing his sadness for the world to see. He then started the next phase by putting in rapid motion, what I hope will be better gun control laws across the nation. However, to make something right of something so wrong will take additional efforts on multiple levels. I decided to write a letter to the president & would love for you to send your versions & suggestions along to him as well. The more parents, teachers & concerned citizens write to their senators, congressmen & the President, the more chance we have to insure that the lives lost in Newtown were not in vain. So here is my letter to the president. Feel free to forward it to anyone you think may be able to help.

Dear Mr. President,
        First, let me introduce myself. My name is Dr. Barbara Lavi. I am a psychologist, licensed in both CT and MA. I began my career in Israel where one of my areas of expertise was helping children & families cope with the perils of war & terrorism. Since returning to the United States, whenever traumatic events occur,  I find my expertise jumps into action like a knee jerk reaction. However, I also know that the impact of trauma does not disappear when the news about the events dies down. I may be the only therapist in the United States who routinely asks new clients how 9/11 impacted on them & their families. I use this information in developing a treatment plan & often find that the events have impacted on clients' current dilemmas.
         The recent tragedy in Newtown sent me into crisis intervention mode right away, since I live & work in Weston CT. I went to corporations impacted by the tragedy in Stamford & Danbury CT. I volunteered to do EMDR with survivors and to speak on radio talk shows on how to help children cope with the horrendous events targeting children. It prompted me to write & offer a free download of a children's book, When Bad Things Happen to Children, with a guide for parents & teachers to help them air their feelings & ask questions about what happened. All of this was my gut reaction to what had occurred. I wanted to give parents & children a sense of control by helping them express their feelings & find ways to do something to help them cope with the tragedy. I thought that I was doing enough to help.
         However, today I am writing to you because I know that what I am doing is not enough. I need your help as do all the parents, teachers & concerned citizens of this great country. I applaud your ability to show your tears & model that it is appropriate for everyone to show their sorrow when bad things happen. I also am encouraged by your promise to make rapid changes in the gun control laws around the nation. However, I am concerned that this too is not enough.
         I congratulate you on hopefully averting the fiscal cliff which was lurking & threatening this country; however there is an educational, mental health cliff that is equally, if not more threatening to our nation. This cliff requires the same kind of concerted, bipartisan effort by senators, congressmen & all our citizens. The tragedies in Newtown, Aurora, Michigan, Columbine & too many others are symptomatic of this invisible cliff. My experience as a psychologist in Israel may offer some ideas to help with these urgent issues.
         In Israel, there is one Ministry of Education which sets the guidelines for the entire nation's school system. Since Israel has been under attack since it's inception, they have had to confront traumatic issues that impact on children head on year round. Home room teachers don't just check attendance. They are also the children's touch point for all social issues that arise. They teach a class called, "Chevrah," which happens a few times a week with the homeroom class (which remains virtually the same through out each of the school experiences, elementary, middle & high school). The best translation for the word "Chevrah" is social studies, but it is more than that. When bad things happen, in the social relationships of the students, in the news or in their homes, there is a built in safety net where the students & teachers are already comfortable talking about tough events. In the USA, when a tragedy occurs, each school reacts, calls in psychologists & counselors who do crisis interventions & then disappear from the school. This is simply not enough.
          In addition, counselors & teachers are burdened with academic testing results & have little time to address the mental & social health of their students. The ratio of students to counselors in our schools must be examined if they are going to be able to preform their jobs and help children cope with family, social as well as academic pressures. In Florida, this concern is being addressed by considering new legislation. Republican State Sen. Nancy Detert filed a bill this week that would require most of the state’s school districts to hire more guidance counselors, based on the number of students at each school. State Senator Detert says, “We don’t have enough guidance counselors to deal with the personal problems of the kids, the family problems at home — let alone helping them get into college.” The same problem exists across the nation.
           Another pressing problem that is symptomatic of the social, mental health cliff is that bullying is running rampant in our schools. Although most school administrators will say they are handling the problem with zero tolerance policies, not only are these policies ineffective in treating the problem, they may also be exacerbating it. Like disgruntled employees who come back to the workplace where they have been fired & do harm to their old boss or co-workers, students expelled from school may become future attackers. Schools need ongoing, comprehensive programs that include training for parents, teachers & the broader community. These programs must help the bullies and the victims if we are to improve the situation in our society.
           Another major area that needs to be addressed is access to care and early intervention for mentally ill children and young adults. Currently, parents of special needs students must fight for the therapeutic programs for their children due to budgetary constraints.  NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness reports that, "Half of all chronic serious mental illness begins by age 14, three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, most youth go without. Screening, assessment and early intervention of mental health conditions for children and youth should be an integral part of health care delivery systems." There are far too few home and community based services for mentally ill adults around the country. By under serving this population, we may be spawning the increase in acts of violence by the mentally ill in our nation. Perhaps with ObamaCare some of the mental health services of the special needs students and adults will be better addressed.
           Television, movies & violent video games also play a part in the increase in violent behaviors. Eugene V Beresin, M.D., Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training at the Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital, addresses the impact of violence in the media on children and adolescents. He reports that, "The typical American child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders before age 18. Television programs display 812 violent acts per hour; children's programming, particularly cartoons, displays up to 20 violent acts hourly." He voices concern about the impact of such violence on young children who not only are taught that violence is a "cool" means of conflict resolution, but also desensitized to violence seeing it, "as a fact of life and, over time, lose their ability to empathize with both the victim and the victimizer."
             Freedom of speech did not include media representing terror in more & more realistic ways to highly suggestible children or mentally ill adults, which make violence seem unreal or an acceptable path to follow when angry. When I spoke with young adults in CT following the attacks, many of them said, things like, "I'm fine. I'm used to these kind of things, like 9/11." We must not let our youth become numb to these kinds of assaults on human beings.
           As the President of our country, I call on you lead our country to address each of these important issues. Hopefully, together we will develop laws, guidelines, private sector programs that can help fund innovative programs to address the educational, mental health cliff. There are many wonderful programs,  however, each community is trying to reinvent the wheel leading to wasted energy & resources. By bringing together, educators, psychologists, psychiatrists, businessmen, Nonprofit organizations, lawyers, philanthropists, law makers, creative thought leaders to come up with programs & guidelines, hopefully, we will find ways to make right of something so wrong & not let any more innocent lives be lost in vain.
                                   Barbara Lavi, PsyD

Thursday, January 3, 2013

When Bad Things Happen to Children: Helping Children Process Traumatic Events

As Children in Newtown Return to School a New Children's Book to Help Parents, Teachers & Children

Thought for the Day: Those of you following my blog know that I have been working with families in Connecticut impacted by both Hurricane Sandy & the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown CT. I have appeared on radio shows (Sandy Hook on Dec. 17, 2012 on The Bachelor Pad & Hurricane Sandy on 11/21/2012 live on "Paying It Forward" with Josephine Geraci) in response to questions about how parents can help their children deal with traumatic events. It is an area of expertise that I have had throughout my career & use whenever the need arises. It is important for us to remember that we all have been impacted. Even those of us who do not live in Newtown, or on the east coast where Hurricane Sandy left devastation in her path, have been traumatized by these events. Television & newspapers bring the images home instantaneously. Teachers & parents have been crying around the nation (& around the world) in reaction to the attack in Newtown (The memorial pictures are heartbreaking). Children, even when we try to shield them from the news, see & hear things about these events & need the help & guidance from the adults who care for them. Our lives go on & we are surely not as effected as those directly harmed by the tragedies, but it helps to talk about our feelings & help children know that we will do whatever we can to keep them safe. I hope you will download the book & use it as a way to start these difficult but important conversations with your children. The book offers some ways to take action with your children & feel more in control as well. Here is a press release about the book, When Bad Things Happen to Children. Please share this with parents, teachers & counselors who could use it with the children in their care.
      As always, I would love to hear your thoughts & reactions to this post. If you use the book with your children, please share some of the discussions & art work that it inspires.

Press Release:

-->Dr. Barbara Lavi, psychologist and trauma specialist, offers free e-book, When Bad Things Happen to Children, in response to the Tragedy at Sandy Hook ElementarySchool   
        Responding to the pressing need to help their children across the country cope with the news of the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dr. Barbara Lavi and Lee Delzingo prepared a children’s book, When Bad Things Happen to Children. The book is available to download for free at: 

         Dr. Lavi, licensed psychologist, author and trauma expert has been helping families deal with trauma for many years. She reports that she began as, “a Master’s student in clinical child psychology while living in Israel during the Yom Kippur.” When the tragedy occurred in Connecticut, she knew parents and children would need help She has appeared on talk shows and worked with clients in Connecticut. Since the event targeted children, as an author and a psychologist, “I felt compelled to write a book to help as quickly as possible.”
          The book was written in collaboration with her daughter, Lee Delzingo. Since Lee is completing her Master’s degree in Special Education, works in an elementary school, and is the mother of a 7 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son, Dr. Lavi asked her to help with the project. Some of the touching conversations Lee had with her children have been included in this book.
        The book, a series of verses in a poem, is geared towards elementary school children. It was designed for parents, teachers and counselors to read with children. Since talking about traumatic events helps process them, it can be used as a tool to help start conversations about the recent tragedy. Parents and teachers may choose to work on it one verse at a time over several days. Adults can set the pace they feel is appropriate for the age and maturity level of the specific children they are helping. There is blank space on every page where children can be encouraged to write and/or draw to express their thoughts and feelings about what has transpired.
        Parents are encouraged to read through the entire poem and the annotated Parents’ & Teachers’ Guide before reading it with children. If any of the verses do not seem suited to a child, the adult can leave them out. As adults read the book with children, they can decide which verses to share. There is also a list of additional resources to help children understand and cope with death and loss.
          Dr. Lavi and Lee Delzingo hope this will help parents and educators deal with the difficult task of helping children cope with the most recent traumatic event and other trauma as well. They encourage readers to share it with family, friends and other educators.

Dr. Lavi can be contacted via her website: