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East Coast / West Coast Families

June 24, 2012

My colleague, Judy Zexter, and I have had countless personal and professional discussions about theories, techniques and even trends in the world of parenting. Despite the fact that I am based in NY and she has a practice in LA, we’ve noticed that there are common themes, pressures, “shoulds” and contradictions in the parenting world that span the distance between us.

We have decided to share some of our thoughts in our ongoing dialogue given that we continuously encounter parents who question their instincts and struggle with their decision making when it comes to their children. There are definitely some common threads to successful parenting, along with the familiar challenges, but each family is unique in terms of its needs, its expectations and what seems to work best for its family members. Our horizons have been broadened through our professional and personal experiences in terms of how best to foster healthy development in children, while maintaining a sense of satisfaction and confidence as a parent.

There is no one formula, one manual, one approach or one theory that holds all the answers to raising children. We are both often asked for book recommendations, sometimes with a seemingly desperate tone for a “tell me how to do it” guide. It would definitely be simpler if there was one recipe to happy children/parents/families, but the fact is that we all are different, so there is no one guide fits all. The personalities and characteristics of our selves, our children and our family units all need to be taken into consideration as we embark on the parenting journey and make efforts to provide our children and ourselves with a positive and empowering experience. Educating yourself about theories and research around healthy parent/child attachment can provide important tools to help guide, support and reassure you through the parenting process. However, knowing yourself and your child(ren) inclusive of strengths, limitations, sensitivities and temperaments is crucial in determining the most appropriate means by which to foster healthy development and a strong bond with your child(ren).

What seems so important and at times forgotten in the parenting process is to maintain a sense of awareness and consciousness. What we mean by this is to continually acknowledge our children’s emotional states and developmental phases (as well as our own) as we continue to revisit our intentions. What is it that we are trying to achieve as we guide, teach and interact with our children? It is so important to realize how one’s own childhood experiences can trigger reactions that can become automatic responses that may not necessarily match one’s intentions. For instance, if you felt emotionally deprived in some way by your own parents, might you unconsciously replicate this dynamic or perhaps overcompensate for it in your role as a parent? Are these actions really in the best interest of your child and do they truly match what you are trying to provide for them? By acknowledging and understanding reactions (triggers), you can then respond with awareness and mindfulness. In this way, your child’s needs are very present in your relationship and you can act according to your identified objectives and motives. It’s hard to steer clear of the “should” frenzy, proclaimed by other parents, specialists and authors. Learning to fully consider who you are and who your children are as well as developing the capacity to trust your own instincts can make YOU the expert of your family.

Judy Zexter, LCSW

Filed under: East Coast / West Coast Families, Parenting — Tags: — Jessica Shapley @ 10:38 pm

Some quick food for thought…

April 17, 2012

Not necessarily related to my Sleep Workshops, but this certainly makes you think! I’d love to hear your thoughts..

Filed under: Information — Tags: , — Jessica Shapley @ 10:45 am

It’s been a while and now I am sandwiched.

January 27, 2011

I have hand written blog entries, thought about blog entries, wanted to list a few things and say a few things but, alas, it has take a few months to do it.

I, actually, had to relearn how to post.

Well, it’s a snow day and boy oh boy am I happy about that. I’ll still run my new mom’s groups but NOT HAVING to get the kids up, ready for school, dog walked  and everyone out the door (let’s add a parent-teacher meeting this morning) before 8 is a huge relief. I will also add that life has taken a way too busy turn.

You know when the baby boom media talks about the sandwiched generation? Well, here I am.  Sandwiched between my parent’s declining well-being and my kids struggling preadolescence. And this is where it sits, let alone what it feels like when i project into the future and start predicting stuff.

I asked my kids, “How do you define being a grown up”?  Their answers were “when you can tell someone else what to do”, “when you can do what you want” , “when you can drive”.  Their answers are very reminicent.  The feeling of freedom, of choice, of independence.  I think as a kid I  had those feelings, too;  “when I can wear makeup, when I can go to bed when I want”.  However as an adult,  a defining moment of being “grown up” has been caring for my aging parents. Some might say that’s strange since I became a mom years befoe that happened.  I had been in the work place and on my own even fruther back.  The  first, concrete,  glimpse at being gown up, or maybe an adult in a new way, was when my mom had open heart surgery about 8 years ago.  I remember bathing her and her allowing me to help.  Her revealing her vulnerability and letting me assist. WOW! She let me take care of her.  It was profound, sad, sweet, and moving.

Fast forward to today. My parent’s wellness is on an obvious decline. While they balance the tightrope of being able to be independent (sort of) and could easily be completely dependent on the other side.  A moment, and hour a day makes the difference. As the adult child, I am needing to shift constantly.  What my parent’s don’t realize is how much I do for them and how much more they need done. I have found a big part of  my role with them is to care with respect.  I don’t want them to think they are burdening me, I don’t want them to give up ALL aspects of independence, but there are times that they need to know this is either too much for me, or too much for them.

A great challenge to me is balancing this and the emotional (and logistical) tug  of my kid’s growing needs (school, behavioral, relationships, food/shelter etc) with my parents growing needs (0versight, safety nets, backup plans etc).While my kids are entering their middle school years, academics have taken on a new look and behavioral changes or exaggerations are precarious. If you are partnered, the relationship can be strained during this time or can be a strong piece to holding it all together.

Oh, have I forgot to mention my New Mom’s Groups, my private practice, my sleep consultations work? I have really cut down on promoting my practice.  I am fortunate I am partnered with some wonderful places that do the administrative pieces: the outreach etc (Prenatal Yoga Center, Discovery Programs, Wiggles and Giggles Playhouse and Bread and Yoga), but my involvement with pulling in people has had to give.  I have whittled my practice down to the essence, lending support, assisting new moms and parents in identifying and building on their strengths as women, moms, dads and parents.  Sometimes we just need to know we are on the right course or need some support in steering the ship from an outside perspective. well, that’s no different for moms and dads of school aged and adolescent kids, or of adults taking care of their aging parents.

Whatever adult stage of development one is  in there are challenges and joyful moments. Each needing to be acknowledged for what it is (emotional, logistic, financial, pure, muddled, whatever). I need to remember that I am not in control of all things around me and that my daily life with my kids have all these components  (sometimes in the moment and sometimes with some perspective) and even my relationship with my folks at this point still hold all of these components.  This is what life looks like for me right now.  Much I am overwhelmed by, some of which is me, some of which is the situation.

So, how do I take care of myself during all of this. It’s is very easy to disconnect, to retreat.  I feel a bit flat, socially, sometimes. Like, when you are a new mom- you’re home with the baby and it’s like WHOA! How’d this happen? Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel? But as you reach out to others, talk, connect, take in the support, care, love (where you can) those feeling of self appreciation and care build. So, while you still might have struggles with nursing or your baby still might not be sleeping, the support around you helps  hold up and build your own self confidence.

I do believe reaching out for support and finding the right people to surround yourself with can give the journey perspective and insight.  Can help build one’s own confidence and to help feel cared for (while caring for all these other people and situations). Life is messy much of the time, can be uncomfortable and can require more from you that you think is possible. I need to remember I do have my limits, I will do nothing perfectly but I can do things to the best of my ability (which has its variables).

So, perhaps if I am part of the sandwiched generation, the supports and  friendships are the condiment.

My body knows it’s September

September 10, 2010

The last three weeks before school begins my cellular memory kicks into gear, often with much ambivalence.  For blah blah years my body senses the  transition of back to school time and the busy-ness of September even before my mind realizes it. Since having kids this has continued and morphed into adding other’s schedules and fall plans into the mix while coordinating childcare, after-school programming and getting back into a daily routine.  I must remember to breathe!

We have kept back to school time conversations on the table, wondering about teachers, friendships and possibilities while exploring  emotions, intentions, hopes and fears around these and getting motivation from the best inspirational quotes online.  My almost 9 year old shared what she wished for herself, for the year. Wow, blessing the year with intention, what an incredible idea.  So, this evening we each went around and stated what we were interested in striving for this year.

And then there is sleep.  With the whole non-schedule routine happening, there had been a go to sleep late/wake up late thing going on. For the sake of everyone here we started working on this a few days before the first day of school. As a sleep consultant that works with families, I will put some of my own advice into actions.  1. Start with the beginning of the day, even if the night before was a late one.  By waking your child up at a particular time, going to bed at night might have  less struggle.   2. Keep the kids active during the day.   3. Start a wind down an hour before bed (for us this means turning off electronics and beginning our evening routine).  4. Lights out in time to have approximately 10 hours of sleep (for school aged children).

So here’s to September, the beginning of school, my daughter’s birthday month, my dog’s birthday month, my anniversary month and the Jewish New Year, kicking off my work season and whatever else life seems to offer. Hmmm, maybe I should take a deep breath and catch up to myself.

Filed under: Information — Jessica Shapley @ 8:41 am

Lots Going On with MOMSUPPORT

June 22, 2010

  • Inwood Sleep Workshop: June 29th 12:30
  • Upper East Side Sleep Workshop June 30 at 1pm
  • Inwood Infant MassageJuly 1 at 11:30
  • Morningside Heights Sleep Workshop July 7 at 1:30
  • Prenatal Yoga Center on W 72nd: 3 Session Summer’s New Mom’s Group July 8, 22 and August 5
  • Riverdale Sleep Workshop: July 10

Keep your eyes and ears open for the upcoming Working Mother’s Support Group

Questions about these and my infant massage parties and sleep workshop private gatherings: Contact  Jessica  at 347-875 7123

Filed under: Information — Blog Admin @ 9:56 am

Spa Castle made me feel like a Queen.

May 18, 2010

So went to Spa  Castle in College Point Queens, right over the Whitestone Bridge. It’s such a vacation going there.  I”ll tell ya- it’s like Korean bath house meets Disney World.  It’s sparkling clean, relaxing and a fun family destination.  We spent 4 hours, which is our typical “run” when we are there. I take the girls and go to the hotbaths, off the women’s locker room.  We go from pool to pool, jet to jet.  Then we usually head upstairs to saunas (all different kinds). M loves the LED light sauna (different lights, different moods), J bounces from one to the other and I like the cold sauna.

We usually do lunch- where I stay away from the fries and sushi and head for the salads and fruit. Then we head upstairs/outside. There are hot pools and jets and massage showers.  IT’S GREAT.  It was beautiful out so it was glorious to be up there.  Highly recommend this place for the family or for your own escape.

Filed under: Information, Motherhood, family entertainment in nyc — Tags: , , — Blog Admin @ 9:56 am

Babies…the movie

May 17, 2010

I saw it with my daughters, we all really liked it.  Sitting in the first row of mezanine seats, helped.

I am sure you have heard the description- following 4 families, different countries, different cultures- in the babies first year of life. Namibian, Mongolian, Japanese (from Tokyo) and US (San Fran)

– 1hr 19min‎‎ – Rated PG‎‎ – Documentary‎ -
Director: Thomas Balmès – Cast: Ponijao, Bayarjargal, Mari, Hattie – : Rated 3.5 out of  5.0
Re-defining the nonfiction art form, Babies joyfully captures on film the earliest stages of the journey of humanity that are at once unique and universal to us all. The film simultaneously follows four babies around the world — from birth to first steps. The children are, in order of on-screen introduction: Ponijao, who lives with her family near Opuwo, Namibia; Bayarjargal, who resides with his family in Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her in San Francisco, Calif.
The Namibian family moved me the most. What seems to be a matriarchal culture, at least the raising the babies part (I didn’t see any adult males). These babies were give such a rich experience to explore their environments.
Here is a review:
Great go to- movie

New Mother’s Groups around the City: Discounts galore.

May 7, 2010

Upper West Side: New Mom Support Group at Prenatal Yoga Center
for moms with babies 0-6 months
Attention: This is NOT a drop-in class!
Pre-registration required
Mondays or Thursdays | 2:30-3:30pm

Mondays, May 3 – June 28 (8 weeks, no meeting 5/31) a lovely group of women, space still available.  Pro-rated fee applies.

Thursdays, May 13 – June 17 (6 weeks)
Mondays beginning May 3 | $135 this is the pro-rated fee
Registration still open, call 212-362-2985 for details!

Thursdays beginning May 13 | $135

Inwood: New Mothers Support Group at Bread and Yoga
8 session series, a lovey group of women with babies aged 3 weeks to 4 months.  Ask about pro rated and sliding scale fee.
Tuesdays at 12:30
Washington Heights: New Mothers Support Group at Wiggles and Giggles
8 session series, baby’s age range 2 weeks to 4  months. Pro rated fee $110.
Thursdays 11:45
Call to register:
Upper East Side Group at  Metro Minis:
Wednesdays 11:30
A facilitated support and discussion group for moms with their babies (newborn – 6 months), led by certified social worker and mother of two, Jessica Shapley. Find the power to embrace the journey of motherhood with confidence and connect with new moms just like you. Share experiences, ask questions, and make supportive friendships. Topics include: mom and baby wellness, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, introduction to solids, sleep issues, staying at home versus working outside the home, isolation, childcare, family life, self image, and more.
Filed under: Information — Blog Admin @ 1:01 pm

Washington Heights in the Bloggersphere

New kids on the block in Washington Heights

Posted on November 9th, 2009 by Yaffi Spodek in Education, Featured, Living

Reported on Oct. 22, 2009

A typical morning for 20-month-old Josie Dean includes painting, singing, baking and knitting, all done in the company of several friends. Whether it’s story time, music class or “Mommy and Me” yoga, there is no shortage of kid-friendly activities in Washington Heights.

“It’s just a great place to raise children,” said Josie’s mother, Jennie.

As younger families populate Washington Heights, the numbers of infants and toddlers are noticeably increasing. According to the 2000 census, there were 14,389 people under the age of 5 living in Washington Heights and Inwood, comprising 6.9 percent of the district’s population. A 2008 census analysis by the American Community Survey found that the number of children in the area under the age of 6 totaled 21,594, accounting for 9.9 percent of the population.

The baby boom is not unique to northern Manhattan. In 2006, The New York Times documented a similar increase in the rest of the borough, as the number of children under age 5 grew by more than 32 percent over the last decade, and anecdotal evidence supports these statistics.

“From my own observations, I can definitely say that the rate of births is up, and yes, there are more children,” said Ebenezer Smith, district manager for Community Board 12. “Just walking on the street, you see so many mothers pushing their baby carriages.”

Others, like social worker Jessica Shapley, have noticed the trend as well. For close to nine years, she has been leading support groups for mothers in Washington Heights. A new group starts every eight to 10 weeks, Shapley said, with more than enough new parents to attend each cycle of sessions.

I started this group out of my own need when I first moved here because there was nothing,” she said. “Now there are definitely more children and young families than ever before.”

Shapley also moderates a “Parent and Me” Yahoo! group, which boasts over 1,000 participating families from Washington Heights and Inwood.

One local hub for kid-friendly activities is Fort Washington Collegiate Church. The church hosts an educational program called Bloomgarden, which began there in early October and meets on Mondays and Wednesdays. The program, which emphasizes artistic expression through interactive classes, now caters to a small group of eight parents and their children, with expansion plans on track for next semester.

“We wanted to create a place where parents and children can grow together, and ‘bloom,’ so to speak,” said Rachel Lederman, Bloomgarden’s co-founder. “It’s a place for creative expression.”

The Tuesday Toddler group, a free program funded by optional donations, features story time, guitar-led singing, and free play. Nearing the end of its fourth year, the program has expanded well beyond its original eight families, and now attracts close to 80 families each week.

“It’s a chance for both kids and parents to socialize,” said Troy Schremmer, the church’s director of education who runs the program. “It’s really about meeting a need for young parents in the community.”

What Shapley likes about Washington Heights is that “it’s a unique place with a small-town feel, where people really know the faces of their neighbors,” she said. “These different programs speak to the needs of the community, and people are moving here from other parts of Manhattan because they want that kind of kid-friendly atmosphere.”

New programs continue to spring up as more and more people opt to raise families in the city. On Nov. 1, the Jewish Community Council of Washington Heights-Inwood started a lending service for maternity clothes and baby supplies that includes pregnancy and parenting books, and items such as best double stroller for infant and toddler, swings, and booster seats.

“I had been receiving phone calls asking for baby items,” explained Anat Coleman, community affairs officer for the Jewish Council, a not-for-profit organization that provides a range of free social services. “In the last five years, I have seen many young families moving into the area, and many don’t have space in their apartments or can’t afford to buy these items, so this was created in response to their needs.”

New York New and Expectant Mothers Event

May 2, 2010

So- I was a part of the new and expectant moms event, yesterday.  It was sponsored by New York Family. I shared my table with Katie Kheil one of the dance instructors (and moms)  of Discovery Program (100th and West End).  Their program has been around since the 70s and provides programing for families from newborn through adolescents. Mommy/daddy and me, movement, dance, support, parenting programs and more

I got to see past participants from my groups and sleep clients on to their own mother-business ventures.  I have always felt that mother hood gives birth to new and different careers, as well.

I got to see friends and colleagues like Deb Flashenberg from Preantal Yoga Center, Felina from the Upper Breast Side www.upperbreastside, Joanna and Bianca from Metro Minis (, Laura Heller from babyfingers ( I met Lance of  NYC Dads Group, which is “an active group of involved fathers in NYC”.  Tracy Gary from . I got to meet people in person who I have only had a virtual connection with.  People like Lara Paul from ikidsny, The car seat lady and more

This is the first of one of these “trade show”  events I have embarked on.  I smiled a lot, schmoozed and collected a lot of goodies from the other tables.  They even had a free Gelato booth.  NO sugar for me tho, I kept a safe distance.

I also got to see a lot of my “past new moms”.  We are talking like moms onto their 2nd or 3rd baby- the oldest being 7 years and me feeling like the proud “grandma”- YIKES : )

I have been providing support and services to new moms and families for over  10 years.  Prior to this, I had worked with individuals and families; facilitating groups and providing service, for another 10 years. WOW, I’ve been at this a while. But it’s interesting, or maybe not.  It always feels new.

This work is something quite precious to me about working with a new mom or parent or family.  There is usually such an openness, a desire and need and want to build community around you and your (new) family. Each relationship, each family unit, each group of new moms finds a different energy and a different need and it’s great to be a part of this growth, inquiry and connection.

Thank you Mommies and New Families and Happy Mother’s Day!

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