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As the holidays approach, our thoughts may turn to traditional meals, beautiful decorations, and loving gatherings of family and friends. Unfortunately, the holidays can also usher in unrealistic expectations, heightened stress, family pressure and afterward, a bad case of the post-holiday blues.

How can we make the most of the positive aspects of the holiday season while minimizing its negative potential?

Minimizing the negative potential during the holidays simply requires a little preparation combined with some realistic expectations. To...

If I had to choose just one financial lesson for teens to learn before they head into young adulthood it would be the lesson of how money works in real life. In my last post, I said that I don’t believe you should pay your teen for doing chores or getting good grades. In fact, I don’t believe your teen should have to “earn” his allowance in any way. How, then, do we reconcile that with the fact that in “real life” money is earned, not just handed to you? I believe this question arises from a misconception about the definition of allowance. As I stated last time, I define allowance as...

I just finished reading the most marvelous coloring book! I know, I know, reading? A coloring book? How does that happen?
It happens when the words are as charming, brave, bold, humorous and touching as the pictures. It happens when the coloring book makes you not only want to go out and buy yourself a shiny new box of colored pencils to color again, but also when you want to quote the words you read to all your friends.
The coloring book, “Sometimes The Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon” re-imagines the gender biased world in which we live and celebrates the true...

I recently asked my son how he thought things might be different this Fall, using his AmEx PASS card rather than being given his allowance in cash on a weekly basis. Deadpan, he quipped, “It’s obvious. Cash is virtually untraceable so all of my illicit dealings will now have to be under the table or I'll have to go to the cash machine and pay a fee. I’m just going to have to be more thoughtful about what I do illicitly.”
So much for a straight answer! It did, however, get me thinking. One of the advantages of giving your child his allowance on a card rather than in cash is that...

It’s summer. My time is a little less restricted than it usually is because a lot of my clients are away on vacation with their children. I’m spending my free office hours throwing away papers that have accumulated during the past nine or ten months. Earlier in the year, making a decision about throwing these papers away seemed too Herculean a task. Now, they’re just papers and I wonder why I was keeping them and why it was so hard to think about throwing them away earlier. I do this every year though. It’s so predictable that now I laugh at the way I repeat these annual actions....

I’m going to admit, for better or worse, that when my children (ages 23 and 28 - both of whom are married or partnered) have a problem, it causes me anxiety.  Their problem may be with work, or insurance, or with their spouse or partner.  It may be with their feelings of sadness or anger or anxiety.  It may be with finances or their car.  It doesn’t matter, because the moment I hear of it I want to fix it.  In fact, I often take on the feelings as if they are my own.  I begin internally brainstorming about how to solve the problem.  I often want, desperately, to...

This past weekend represented a “first” for my husband and me in the parenting department: we went away and left our son home by himself for two nights. We did not come to this decision easily, mind you. While he’s a “rising senior” in High School and a really reliable kid, he’s only 16. We questioned ourselves: what if there was an emergency? Would he know how to handle it? What if he got ill: who could he call? How would he eat? Would he turn the flame off the burner on the stove if he cooked for himself? How would we know where he was? What if we text him and we don’t hear back...

When my son came home from his first day of school this week, I asked him how it went with regard to using his AmEx PASS card to purchase lunch, since this was one of the things he was wary about when switching from cash to card to receive his allowance.
“The place we went to wouldn’t take my card,” he said.
“Oh. How did you handle that?” I asked.
“I just borrowed money from a friend,” he replied.
Ok, but how are you going to pay your friend back, I wondered. Presumably, his friend doesn’t take AmEx either! But I bit my tongue and didn’t ask. I wanted to, I...

I’m not complaining. Let me say that right up front. It’s just that I didn’t expect to go from an empty nest to having not one but two college students living with us this summer. I knew that my son would be coming home, of course, and was rejoicing in that news. The unexpected part occurred when one of his best friends from high school asked if she could live with us this summer. (And no, they’re not dating. They really are just friends. No, I don’t have my head in the sand. And no, I’m not giving you a “wink, wink, nod, nod” as I write this. They are truly a testament to the...

When we gave our son his American Express PASS card, he immediately made a bid for more allowance. My reply: Let's sit down at a family meeting and we'll discuss it. In the meantime, I told him, he should think about what extra financial responsibilities he wants to take on with the additional allowance.
Family meetings are a great way to maintain an ongoing discussion within which you can both support and teach your teen about money. I highly recommend that you have a family meeting once a week (at least in the beginning) to check in and see how things are going; to determine...

Since many people seem to be posting and re-posting the article by Amy Chua (Wall Street Journal, 1/8/2011) about how Chinese mothers are superior to Western mothers and appear to appreciate her point of view, I decided to share my thoughts on her article. As a well-known parenting expert who has not only raised two successful, happy children of my own, I have also extensively and intensively studied and taught parenting strategies for the past 21 years.
With regard to Chua’s article, it was initially difficult for me to get past its decidedly racist slant. I couldn’t help...

At 18 years of age, I had already owned my first car for two years. Growing up in Texas, most individuals needed a car, and families often bought one for their teens to avoid scheduling snafus. I was in my first year of college and had always been adept at managing my money so as to never find myself in financial difficulty. Yes, I was a bit of a tightwad! But it served me well in terms of having money when I needed it.
One morning I went out to start the car, turned the key and … nothing. Not even a click. Oh no, I thought to myself. I’m going to have to get someone to jump...

In a recent conversation with an old friend that I haven’t spoken to in years, she alluded to my “recent” blog, “The Empty Nest,” saying “How is it having your son away in college?” It shook me up to realize that a year-and-change has gone by since I wrote that blog and that for people reading it for the first time, it’s as if time stood still. I’m reminded of numerous examples in our lives as parents when we haven’t seen each other’s children for a while and we exclaim, “Oh my God, look at how tall you’ve gotten!” It’s as if we can’t envision time moving forward unless we, ourselves,...

By Julie A. Ross, MA, with Seth Majnoon

“My daughter just told me that she’s non-binary and wants me to call her ‘they’ instead of “she.”  I asked her if that meant that she’s gay and she said, ‘No.’  I’m completely confused.  And what’s with ‘they?’ I mean, that’s plural, not...

I'm always astonished when I hear a parent proclaim, "I don't believe in giving my child an allowance." Sometimes this is accompanied by, "I'd rather just hand him cash when he asks" and /or "I don't want to spoil him." Either way, I'm puzzled by this attitude.
Our job as parents is to raise our children to be functioning adults some day and adults need to know how to handle money.
Children of all ages are experiential learners: they don't learn well if they're lectured about something – instead, they need to experience things themselves. This includes making mistakes...

7:30 a.m. this morning: buzz, buzz, buzz. I hit the button on the alarm and it stopped. Well, I thought, I feel pretty good! That extra hour of sleep really makes a difference!
Quick back story: my son, Dan, has been sick with the flu for 5 days. Last night he woke us up three times for various reasons, one of which was that he still has a 99.7 fever and couldn’t go to school today. That is when I reset my alarm from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m.
I swung my feet over the edge of the bed and stretched, looking back at my husband as I did so. Still asleep. My eyes rested...

Last night at around 9:30 p.m. my nineteen year old son, who is a new and enthusiastic runner, decided to go out to Central Park for a run. My fingers knitted together and my brow was close behind.
“Running? Now? It’s 9:30.” I said.
My son looked at me with a gently benevolent and only slightly patronizing expression, “Mom, I’m six feet tall, it’ll be fine.”
So he left. And I got ready for bed. And fell asleep the way mothers do – with one ear open waiting for him to come home. Which he did, of course. But it got me thinking about motherhood and the demon of...

I received an excellent question to my article “My Child is Non-Binary and I’m Confused.”  Someone wrote in and asked, “I have friends and work colleagues who are transgender. [Sometimes I slip up and misgender them.] Interesting that I am slipping more with my friends. It upsets me when I do it. I immediately apologize and try to validate what I imagine is pain, anger and frustration. I would … like to identify steps I [can] take to not misgender again. I have not asked my friend if he has suggestions as I don’t know if that would be more upsetting.” 

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While staying with my grown daughter during part of our vacation, I noticed that she seemed to have a clear financial plan with regard to spending money on items that she needs as well as on things that she wants, so I asked her how she creates a balance between the two. Interestingly, while I thought there was a clear differentiation between “needs” vs. “wants,” she asked for clarification. I explained that “needs” are things like toilet paper, food, gas money, etc. “Wants” are things like a new pair of shoes if you already have perfectly serviceable ones. She nodded and replied, “I...

Ok, in my defense I was asleep. Or at least I had been just moments before when I was awakened by my 17 year old son who said (in a neutral tone of voice), “Hey Mom. I got accepted into the Film department at UT.”
To backtrack a bit before confessing my parenting sin, you should know that my son has three top choices on his college list. The order in which he preferred one over the other seemed to be semi-fluid for a while, but University of Texas at Austin had risen to the top with two contingencies: 1) He would be admitted to his major – Film -- and 2) He would get into Plan II...