Dr. Amy Stark

Child Psychologist, Author & Speaker

Specializing in:
Teaching Families How to Live Divorced
and Self-Esteem for Girls and Boys

Food For Thought

Food For Thought


Kids are addicted to their cell phones. It has gotten much worse after the pandemic, when the only way kids could relate was through their electronic devices. Since then, I see isolation and kids not actually spending time with other kids socializing. Their idea of socializing is gaming and being on headphones, often not even really knowing just who they are gaming with.

A Bright Spot in the Day

The bright spot in the day for myself and my neighbors is the butterfly nature habitat I have established, outside my office, on my front walkway. For a small area, it really performs and has attracted all sorts of wildlife to the area. 

I have bluebirds, coming daily to the bird feeder, now bringing their young to eat as well. The nature habitat has also attracted an athletic squirrel, who performs gymnastic-like tricks in the trees surrounding the habitat. 

Back-to-School Help for Divorced Parents

Back to School during COVID-19 is presenting every family with challenges. Things seem to change daily, with coronavirus numbers rising, and kids don't know what they can count on. Adding the challenges of being a family of divorce sometimes magnifies these challenges. It’s hard for parents to plan when things change daily, both in terms of what school or childcare can be like and with what job expectations may change as well.  

Talking to Your Kids About Justice and Human Rights

There are many images on television and the internet that are hard for adults to comprehend, much less children. I have encouraged parents to minimize television contact for their much younger children. For children of school age, they are asking their parents why people are protesting and what the stealing is all about. It is confusing for them.   

Co-Parenting Through COVID-19

Trying to navigate co-parenting during COVID-19 has been a bit of a challenge for many parents. There are so many questions and issues that arise. The courts are closed and once they do open up will be so backlogged, getting issues handled seems daunting.  Here are a few tips to consider:

1.  Think about your children and how hard this is for them. Talk to them in a way they can understand about how important it is to keep connections going with both parents. Be open to hearing their fears and worries about COVID-19 and help them feel safer. 

Surviving and Thriving at Home School

For kids who have never experienced home schooling, having mom or dad – or both – now play that role is very hard. It’s important to:

1.  Create a learning environment somewhere in the house. Treat it as the classroom and separate it out from other areas in the house. 

Hope for the Future

One of the most difficult things about the stay home order is the big impact on kids. Their entire life has been disrupted. In kid years, a month seems like forever. Not going to school, no sports or important activities, no scouts or clubs, no socializing. Adults are facing lay-offs and job change and everyone is trying to cope the very best way that they can. Here are some ideas for how you can help your kids:

Talking to Your Kids About Coronavirus

Most kids in my practice know all about the virus, but are taken aback with the cancellation of parties, sports, and school. This can feel overwhelming to parents, too. Here are several ways parents can help their children keep calm and carry on in this new reality.  

·       Acknowledge your children’s disappointment and validate their feelings. Tell them everyone is disappointed, but health is the most important thing. Be honest. Tell them “we are all pulling back on everything to stop this virus from spreading and that means all of us have to do our part.”

Meaningful Conversation

I recently heard an interesting statistic. Parents have only 37 minutes of meaningful contact with their children daily. When put in these terms, all the communication you have is much more important. In those very few minutes, we need to convey values, check in on feelings, discuss the schedule for the next day, check on homework, and try to have a few minutes of laughter. Here are a few things to think about, to ensure that you give your kids depth.

Leave Your Worries Behind

I usually have a theme on the blackboard on the wall of my waiting room.  All my clients – child, teen and adult – always respond thoughtfully and the messages are read by everyone who comes in. This month’s theme is Leave Your Worries Behind and the responses have been a learning opportunity for everyone.

Achievable Goals

The hardest thing about yearly goals is that they are too broad. It’s lovely to have a far-reaching goal, but unless we divide it up into little do-able bites, a lofty goal remains unachievable. So this year, why not:

Are Your New Year’s Resolutions the Right Size?

New Year’s resolutions. Why do we make them? Every year we have the desire to start the year off right and vow to correct troublesome behaviors or turn a new leaf in our relationships. Typically people pick impossible to do goals that have not been successful before, which make them believe that goal-setting does not work.

Electronic Control

The next time you go out to dinner, take a look around the restaurant. Chances are you will see people, at most tables, not engaged in conversation with each other. You will likely see people checking their phones or gaming on their electronic devices.

Ask yourself this: can you get through a meal without checking your phone for emails or texts? Do you get up first thing in the morning and check your messages? Are you on your phone or lap top right up until you go to bed?

How to Have a Water-Safe Summer

The largest cause of death for children under the age of 5 is drowning. Often times, parents think they are too busy for swim lessons, or they can do it themselves, or that floaties will work. Even scarier, parents assume that if they don't have a safety gate around the pool that they will hear the door opening and will know when their child falls into the pool. In order to have a safe, fun summer, parents should consider the following steps to insure their child's safety.

Unplugged for the Summer

Most children and adolescents are addicted to their electronics. How you can tell is their reaction to its removal. Children are gaming and texting until wee hours of the morning. It’s impacting their sleep, causing them to feel disconnected to others, interfering with reading, schoolwork and exercise. It is causing depression and anxiety. Parents are not emotionally connecting as much as th

5 Easy Ways to Start a Summer Learning Plan

Did you know kids lose nearly three months of knowledge over summer vacation?  This is why parents need a summer learning plan. 

Parents need to insist that kids become a part of the plan, with incentives, and their involvement as well. These 5 easy ways may help your children start school remembering last year instead of being behind the learning curve:

·       Ask them to read a book every two weeks

·       Review a math page one time a week

·       Ask them to figure out costs at the grocery store or restaurant

Divorce: Put Your Child First

A sixth grade boy is up at bat. Instead of focusing on the pitcher and whether or not he should swing, his mind is focusing on his parents in the stands. Will his dad yell at his mom? Will his mom give a dirty look at his dad? Will there be a fight in the parking lot on the way to the car where his friend's parents feel the need to call the police to "keep the peace"? Will he be able to recover from the embarrassment he feels as EVERYONE on his team sees his parents behaving badly? He wonders if he should quit the team...not because he hates baseball.

Kids & Phones: What's a Parent to Do?

Gone are the days when parents plan an activity for their children to do in waiting rooms or in the car. When I walk into my waiting room, kids of all ages are on their cell phones or electronic devices.


I have a Giving Board in my office during the holiday season. I want kids to think about what they give. Rarely do children earn money for family gifts. They sometimes don't even think about giving to family members. I remind them it’s not all about what they get, it’s about what they give. 

Make a Difference

Sometimes, in the midst of recovering from divorce and child related issues, reaching out to help someone else makes a difference and helps redefine family priorities. Children often get so caught up in their own issues with their parents and all the family changes, they forget how much they do have and just how fortunate they are - even in the midst of challenges.

Maybe you can help them by asking your kids what issues are important to them. This does not have to be a super big project, because if everyone did something on a regular basis, it would make a difference.

Back-to-School Tips

So many of the kids in my practice stress every year when it's time to start school.  When that fear is also coupled with a new divorce or separation situation for their parents, it's a lot for children to cope with.  There are a few things parents can do to help:

Greetings Matter

Have you noticed, people don’t greet each other anymore? We just start in with our own needs, with retail clerks, restaurant workers and sometimes even our friends.

When was the last time you asked someone how their day has been? Are we really in that much of a hurry? Is this what we want our children to see and how we want them to grow up? 

Mr. Pitt's Story

Mr Pitt's story. He was crying outside our office so we went outside to see. He was a 5 month kitten...part Abyssinian..and since he was crying we started to feed him.


It is important to have a holiday tradition that you share with your child every year.

Dogs can help calm us down

When we are stressed and upset, dogs can help us calm down. My therapy dogs do that with patients in my office.

Dog Love

My dogs teach me so much about love. They are so accepting of everyone’s moods…

Transitions and the Family Pet

Whenever possible, its so helpful to send the family pet when a child goes back and forth between parents.

The Dinner Hour

I am amazed at how many families, divorced or otherwise have forgotten about the importance of the family meal. Lets look at what this magical time gives you and your family.

The Magic Age

Children and teens in divorced families often complain about their other parent. Since children often know their parents with alarming accuracy, they might even voice some ...

Dream The Dream

Parents in the midst of divorce conflict are missing the boat…and so are their kids. When the focus is on who gets the most time, who gets to pick the kid’s activities, who should make the medical decisions, there is often not enough time to help...

The Sensitive Child

Some children are much more sensitive than others. They react to feelings and changes in their environments much more than other children do.

Its Not Me

Very often parents come in, amidst court difficulties and immediately state that its really not THEIR fault. They point out they have done everything they have been asked to do, and IF ONLY their ...

Therapy Dogs To The Rescue

I am often reminded of how important animals are in the healing process when I see my dogs with children who come to work with me.

Un-common Courtesy

Common courtesy is NOT common. In fact, it is very rare. I think some niceities have been lost in everyone’s rush to multi-task. Even if you don’t have your kids full time, they can still learn simple yet elegant manners and kindnesses. One of the first things is ...

Try A Little Tenderness

Sometimes during a divorce, parents are so distraught and upset, they forget to consider that their children might be grieving in their own way. Children of all ages are just as impacted by the divorce as...


What does it mean to be a gatekeeping parent. The term is widely used among the family court judicial officers. When you are the gatekeeper parent you are the one that has the children the majority of the time. So, how can you do your job when ...


Often times, either during or after a divorce, parents find it hard to feel positively about their ex partner. Because of the hurt or anger they feel, they then find it even harder to encourage their child to have a relationship with the other parent. Everything they do not like about their ex is ...

The Dream

It's the New Year. Have you taken the time to discuss goals with your child? I don’t mean just material ones like a new bike or more games for the gaming system. I means true goals that you might like to help them achieve and perhaps goals they might like as well. Right around this time of year I like to ask kids ...

Summer Tips for Kids

I am sure that you have counted the last days of school and know when vacation starts down to the second. Summer is a time to travel, relax and hang with friends. When your parents divorce though, your summer schedule seems to change. Each of your parent's gets to take you on a vacation. Sometimes in the summer you also have to divide your time equally between both of your parents. Here are some tips that might help you deal with your parents better this summer:

When Parents Date

Sooner or later, after your parents divorce, they will start dating other people. Because I know you want your parents to be happy, and not be alone, there are some things to think about that might make watching your parents date easier for you.

Two Bedrooms To Clean

The majority of the teens that come to see me for therapy live part time with each of their parents. They have had to learn which days they are at dad's house and which days they are at mom's. Although they love both of their parents, the going back and forth thing is sometimes challenging. Chances are, you to go back and forth between two homes and you also know how hard it is to adjust to. There are some things you can do to make it easier for yourself:

Holiday Tips For Kids

The holiday season is here. I'll bet you have already made your holiday gift wish list and are wondering what presents you are going to get. Since your parents are divorced, chances are you will be spending time with each one of them during the holiday season. Although it's different than past Holidays when your family was altogether, this holiday can be just as much fun. Here are some ideas to help make things better for you and for your family:

Happy Thanksgiving For Kids

When parents get divorced the court helps the parents make a schedule so that each of your parents gets to spend time with you. An important part of the schedule is helping your parents spend time with you on the holidays. Judges try to make sure that you will get to see both of your parents either by dividing the holiday in half or letting you see one of them one year and the other parent the next year. Thanksgiving is usually one of the holidays that the court gives to one parent one year and your other parent the following year. This is because the holiday is a one day holiday.

Getting Ready for School

I am sure you all have noticed that school commercials started in July. One of the teens who comes to me for therapy told me that he felt that he did not get a rest from thinking about school because of the commercials. As much of a bummer as it might be, it's 'that' time again. Besides the usual worries (what teacher you are going you have? Will any of your friends be in your class and what clothes to buy), you have your parents to deal with. Going back and forth is sometimes a pain. However, there are some things you can do to make it easier:

When Parents go to Court, for Children

If you have ever been sent down to the principal's office...or know anyone who has...that's about how it feels to go to family law court. It is scary and sad at the same time. It's not like your parents are in trouble, or that they have done something bad, it's just that they can't agree about how to split up the family and need a judge to help them.

Trick or Treat Tips for Kids

Halloween is so much fun. I am sure that you have been thinking about what you want to be for at least a month now. It's so much fun to dress up and go door to door to get candy with your parents and friends. I'll bet that you can hardly wait.

Because your parents are divorced you must wonder if your Halloween will change...especially if your family used to celebrate the day together when your parents were still married. That must make you a little uncertain about how this Halloween will go.

There are some things you can do to make the night go better for you.

Summer Vacation Tips For Parents

As summer vacation approaches you may have a few more challenges as a single parent. Depending on how the custodial schedule changes for the summer, your child might be with the other parent for as much as 50% of the time. Your child could also be traveling with the other parent for as much as two weeks at a time. This might be the longest you have ever been separated from your child. Add to that the fact that since school is out, you are now in need of full time child care for the summer.

Post Divorce Dating

Sooner or later you will want to start dating again. You will discover that dating after a divorce is a lot different than when you dated in your single days. Now there are babysitting issues and sleepover issues that simply did not exist before. Since you are a parent, you know that it is important to convey the right message about relationships and sexuality and because of that it is important to think things through, remembering that your behavior is sending a message to your children and that they will eventually model your behavior in their relationships.

The Importance of Co-Parenting

Children need rules, structure , boundaries and consistency to be healthy and well-adjusted adults. Sometimes when couples divorce, they lose sight of the big picture and forget that they need to come to terms about parenting for the sake and well being of their children. If you are not very careful, your children become pawns in the revenge cycle that often happens during the divorce proceedings.

Holiday Tips For Parents

Holidays are for families to be together. They are magical times of giving and sharing special moments. When you are divorced, you can no longer spend the entire Christmas or Hanukkah season with your children. Chances are the custodial timeshare is that you have half of the time and you ex has the other half. Even if you wanted the divorce, not spending a part of the holiday with your children hits your heart. The shift in the family also impacts your children, who now must be shuttled back and forth instead of being home with everyone at the same time.

Happy Thanksgiving For Parents

Thanksgiving is the first of the big holidays that are emotionally charged for most divorce families. Chances are that when you were still married, your nuclear family had established your own holiday traditions. You celebrated Thanksgiving in a certain way every year-- most likely with either close friends or extended family. Now, with a shared holiday schedule, you may not even be with your children every holiday.

Getting Ready for School

It's official: school is starting. I can tell things are gearing up because of the commercials on television for school clothes and supplies. As a therapist who works with families in shared custodial situations, I find myself running into the same problems over and over with families as they learn how to be divorced, share custody and interface with the school system. Therefore, I thought I would take a few moments here to address the most frequently seen problems, as well as possible solutions:

Going to Court, for Parents

On the day you married, amid promises to love forever, who would have imagined that you would ever find yourself outside the family law courthouse. At what point did promises disappear, only to be replaced by acrimony and hurt. Here you are, none-the-less. You are now being forced to learn how to be divorced and how to help your children shuttle back and forth between two warring parties.

Trick or Treat Tips for Parents

Halloween is a BIG deal for kids. They begin thinking about their costumes in September. Kids of all ages are swept away by the excitement of being someone else for a day. In fact, the energy and excitement of Halloween is really second only to Christmas or Hanukkah. They plan well in advance not only what their costume should be but also who they will trick or treat with, how long they can stay out, how many houses they will be able to get candy from and how much candy they will rake in.

* Disclaimer:
Dr. Stark's Web site is not intended to take the place of a court-ordered advice or the advice of another professional. Although you may use the input found here to your best advantage, we recommend that you do so in conjunction with the work that you are doing with your individual therapist. Remember: this Web site is not therapy; it's knowledge and support.

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