Family Coach. Mom. Teacher. Lover of Life.

Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Similarities Attract

It is no secret that compatibility is really important for a healthy relationship. The misnomer that opposites attract has gotten lots of us in trouble, so I was really curious to see just how compatible my husband’s character strengths are with mine.

I LOVE a good survey, and the VIA Character Strengths survey was a fun self-learning activity. I wasn’t, however, so sure that my dear husband would be so eager for a little self-reflection. Being the good guy he is, he agreed to take the survey. He agreed on one condition—I couldn’t peek at his screen as he went through the questions.  He also made it clear that he didn’t need my help, so I sat by quietly letting him do his thing. Once he was done, he was ready for us to compare notes.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 6.53.20 PM

Not to toot my own horn, but that’s right…4 our of 5 of our core strengths are the same! Research shows that when people pick partners that share values and interests, they are happier in their relationships. No wonder we have made it 17 years and are going strong!

Even bus rides are fun in Hawaii!

Even bus rides are fun in Hawaii!

I’m pretty sure that if we had completed a movie genre compatibility survey we might not have been ranked as compatible. I’ll watch a Sci-Fi film to make him happy and he’ll happily surf the web next to me as I watch realty TV, but it turns out we are not compatible in all things. That is human. There are lots of couples that are highly compatible that have very different strengths. At the crux of a happy relationship is shared our values and interests. I was pleased to see that our character strengths lined up so well, and I think that speaks to our shared values.

What does this mean to me? I’m not sure there is research specifically about this, but I’m pretty sure it means that we are compatible and that I made a good choice 17 years ago. More importantly, though, it means that we are both making choices every day to make our relationship a priority and that over the past 17 years, we have grown closer and possibly more alike. And taking the VIA Character quiz with my husband was fun—it created a romantic moment and helped us feel connected.


Dr. Kim Allen is a Family Life Coach and Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University. She has been married to her husband for 17 years and they have two girls together.

A Word from My Daughter

I write a lot about my 13 year-old daughter, Fiona, and her struggle with mental illness. She actually does a lot of writing herself, so today I share with you something she wrote for her school newspaper.

green ribbon


By Fiona Allen

About 40,000 people will commit suicide this year. That’s the same amount of people that will die of breast cancer this year. In fact, it’s predicted that by 2030 suicide deaths, which are most commonly caused by depression, will outweigh the number of deaths from stroke, cancer, accidents and even war.

Today I am here to talk to you about mental health awareness and the lack of it. We talk about breast cancer often. You probably know the awareness ribbon is pink. Right? But can you guess what color suicide, mental health or self-harm ribbons are? Not very many people talk about mental health or suicide. The ribbon color for suicide is yellow. The awareness ribbon color for mental health is green, and the awareness color for self-injury is orange.

The reason that we don’t have much awareness for mental health issues is because it’s taboo to talk about mental illness in our society. Is also seen as “not a real issue”. Mental illness is an illness just a serious-if not more serious-than other illnesses that receive a whole awareness month.

Kids all around us that are our age are suffering and dying from mental illness on a daily basis. In fact about every 15 minutes somebody dies from suicide, and that does not include the kids who are passing away because of anorexia or those attempting to kill themselves. It’s a scary thing to look at. It’s scary to think about too, but I challenge you to look at it and to make a stand about it.

If you suffer from a mental illness you can get help and get treatment. If you’re feeling like you’re going to kill yourself please, PLEASE call this number-it’s the national suicide prevention lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

Talk to your parents or another trusted adult about your feelings. I know it’s so hard because I’ve been through it before myself. But I know you can do this.

I would like to challenge all of you guys out there to spread awareness for these horrible disorders. I challenge you to wear a ribbon or a shirt that’s one of these colors (yellow, orange or green) every Tuesday. In our school we need to not only stand up against bullying, but we also need to stand up for mental health disorders.

I also challenge you to try to make somebody feel better. Be kind. Be friendly. Just try to lighten up someone’s day. And I challenge all those folks out there that are suffering to stay strong. You can do this. I’m so proud of you.


Love is a piece of cake. Love is a biscuit recipe at the State Fair

I have many perks to my job, one of which is getting to be a judge for the cookies, cakes, breads, and candies submitted to the North Carolina state fair. I love this job! One, I get to eat cake. Oh how I love cake. Two, I get to judge with my husband. How I love getting paid to spend the day with him, eating cake.

This year, my dear colleague that supervises the judging was ill, so I got to sit in her place. While I didn’t get to eat cake with my dear husband (my stepson took that role for me—see the image below), I did get to meet many more amazing people that come to Raleigh to judge.



One of the people I met this year was a lovely lady that had been judging for over 20 years, and she had stories to share! She told me about the most memorable time she judged biscuits. Biscuits are a big thing in North Carolina, and people take them very seriously when they submit them to the fair. But one particular year, there were several entries of biscuits that were, well….she said they were beyond bad (bless their heart). They were so hard the plastic knife broke trying to cut them. There were clumps of ingredients that hadn’t been mixed well and overall, it just seemed that the biscuits should not be in the competition. The whole room got in on the joke-those notorious biscuits got a lot of attention and laughter that year.

After the judging had ended, the supervisor came over and told my new friend that the biscuits had been entered by a grieving widow whose wife had entered her biscuits in the fair every year that they had been married. For decades, she had won blue ribbons. For a lifetime, her biscuits had been the source of great pride and precious family moments. To honor his wife’s memory, he had taken out her recipe card and for the first time, he made her biscuits and entered them in the state fair competition. He was mourning the loss of his life-long sweetheart, and showing love for his wife by entering her biscuits one last time.

Of course there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when she first learned about the biscuit origin, and there were a few tears dropped when I heard the story. What a wonderful reminder of why we judge foods at the state fair; of why we take time to create and share a meal with our families and friends. What a lovely reminder of why food is so important-food connects us to those we love. Most importantly, what an important reminder of what love looks like. Next year I get to return to my role of judging cake with my husband, and I plan to think of this lovely couple as I eat biscuits. I will also take a moment and cherish that special time with him.

Using technology to engage families.

One of our VIP Dads using social media in a parenting program.

One of our VIP Dads using social media in a parenting program.

Greetings from Portland, Oregon where I’m about to do a seminar on using social media to better reach families at the Oregon Parent Education Conference #OPECConf. I did a similar seminar last week in South Carolina for a group of Adlerian psychologists. I’ve done this seminar enough to know that there are the lovers and the haters of using technology to reach families. So I have a few questions for you to consider if you are thinking about using technology to engage families. Question 1. Who DOESN’T use Social Media?

Clearly, early everyone uses social media! Every generation is using the Internet/SM in some capacity. Check it out here: Question 2: Are current and future parents online? YES!

  • 95% of young people use the internet.
  • 93% of young people have a computer or have access to one at home.

Here is the capper:

  • Parents prefer participating in activities with their kids that involve older media
  • Namely, families love love to snuggle up and watch TV together for family time.
  • Teens (73% of them) are spending more and more time on social media.

I know, I know…enough numbers. But the truth is, I love watching TV with my kids. They love watching any screen time. It is common for me to hear my 13 year old posting comments on Instagram on a minute-by-minute basis. Another truth is that many of us get our information online, and much of that is from social media. I follow many parenting education programs on FB and Twitter, and I know many other parents do so as well. Here is one more truth.  If we want to better reach families and help educate them on family life issues, we must use technology (especially social media) to engage families. That can look different depending on what you do or where you do it. And it might mean a strong learning curve for us (hence the webinar). But in the end, we need to reach parents where they are. On technology. And if we are PARENTS, we need to be a bit more selective about where we get our parenting information. But that is a blog for another day.

Please let me sleep, Mom!

I suspect anyone that has to wake up teens already knew this, but the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends a later school start time for middle and high school students. This is because of the natural sleep cycle and schedules of our busy teens. Lack of sleep = public health and academic performance issues. And this is for typical students. Many students with mental health issues have additional issues when it comes to sleeping.

AAP sleep recommendation article

I find this interesting because at an IEP meeting for my daughter yesterday the LEA said, “perhaps you could try giving her an earlier bedtime so that she can get more sleep”. Hmmm…wonder why I (nor her therapist nor the medical doctor) never thought of that. Oh wait…that was the 1st thing we tried back when she was a preschooler. And in elementary school. Every single year.

My daughter has had sleep issues since, well, since she was in my womb. That child has a natural nocturnal sleep pattern, and her ADHD and anxious brain will just not let her rest. I get it. I have the same brain. It takes me an hour to get to sleep most nights, just like it does Fiona.

I am usually the consummate professional that can understand people sometimes have a lack of information. But this made me mad! First, I’m a psychologist with a PhD and I am a parenting expert. Not that that even matters because truth be told, all parents know their children. What parent wouldn’t start with an earlier bedtime? This vice principal was outside of her knowledge base, and I got mad when something as easy as an earlier bedtime is the solution being offered. And I told her such. In fact, I might have mentioned that she might need to get a bit more training on adolescent brain development. I might have said a few more things, but I can’t remember it all clearly now.

You should know that this reaction stemmed from my request for a later start time accommodation for my daughter. Fiona has always had sleep issues, but it is really catching up with her this year. She is stick, tired, and sick and tired of school. I have a letter from the doctor documenting the medical concerns. More sleep might be just what she needs to be successful. My thinking was that if we all want Fiona to be successful, then perhaps a modified schedule could be a first start.

The answer is no. It can’t be in a formal IEP. She can have an excused absence if she is sick. Next.

Fiona's Haiku: These are the kinds of things she writes in her room as she is trying to sleep.

Fiona’s Haiku: These are the kinds of things she writes in her room as she is trying to sleep.

What did I learn yesterday? There is room for education on the importance of developmentally appropriate practices and mental health realities for all of us that work with youth and their families. And when it comes to my kids, I recognize that I may have a bit of a temper if you question my kid or my parenting. But then again, I do have red hair.