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.

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.

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? 

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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