Self Care

Processing Your Feelings After Watching ‘When They See Us’

For those of you that have tuned in to watch the four part Netflix miniseries, “When They See Us”, directed by Ava Duvernay capturing the story of the five falsely accused and wrongfully convicted Black boys, it is by no surprise that you may be “feeling some type of way.” Over the last couple of days I have seen many posts on Facebook and Instagram trying to find the words to articulate and describe what viewers are feeling after watching the series. I have seen several posts from people expressing feelings of anger, sadness, irritation, lack of hope, isolation, and basically just being “PISSED OFF”. While many have been able to find the words to describe the feelings they felt in the moment and following the series, I also noticed and paid attention to those that felt “numb.”

Then there were those like me who decided not to watch the film series right away for various reason. I recall studying this case in undergrad in my criminal justice program and watching the 2012 documentary regarding the case. I remember feeling unsettled, disturbed, emotionally upset, and angry with the criminal justice system back then. Fast forward 2019, following the numerous senseless killings of unarmed Black men and women by the hands of police officers, the unrest in cities following not guilty verdicts, and me now having my own Black son…I CAN’T DEAL WITH THE HURT. With that being said, I have decided like many others to refrain from watching the series right away. To allow myself the appropriate amount of time to be able to watch the series while also being able to take care of my “whole self” (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually).

If you have watched the series and are still struggling to make sense of your emotions or you’re finding it difficult to manage your feelings related to the series, here are a few tips that might help.
  • Limit your time on social media. With the series being newly released, many people are using their social media channels to share their thoughts and feelings about it. You may find it comforting to participate in the conversations and to find community with others sharing your feelings, but it might also be overwhelming. When we become immersed in highly charged conversations, it sometimes results in a compounding of whatever we were already feeling. So if you were already feeling hopeless after watching the series and then see several friends on Facebook sharing their feelings of hopelessness, it may make your feelings more intense. So monitor your feelings and how much time you’re spending on social media. Take breaks when necessary or mute certain words or people if you find the conversations triggering for you.
  • Take time to identify, acknowledge, and process your feelings. Being able to pinpoint exactly how you’re feeling during and after watching the series may be really helpful for you in figuring out how to manage your feelings. One way you can do this is through journaling. What kinds of thoughts are you having about the series? Were there particular scenes that felt more impactful than others? What about the series reminds you of experiences you or loved ones have had in your own life? Allowing yourself to really tap into what impacted you about the series can give you helpful information about next steps and where there may be some work to do on your own healing.
  • Engage in an activity that allows you to connect to yourself and others. When we’re feeling flooded by emotions, it can be helpful to participate in activities that allow us to feel more connected to our bodies and to others. Try something like going for a walk or a run, listen to your favorite meditation track, take a little person in your life out for ice cream, or grab your girls and head to your favorite restaurant and really pay attention to the flavors of the food you eat. Any of these or others you come up with may help to recharge you and improve your mood.
  • Practice a grounding technique. If you’re feeling particularly impacted and like your feelings are out of control and difficult for you to manage, try a grounding technique. Grounding techniques are designed to help you stay in the present moment and connect you to reality. One of my favorites is the 5 Senses Grounding Technique. Sit up straight with your feet planted firmly on the ground and take note of 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Take action in your community. Often, feelings of helplessness are remedied by doing something to get involved with preventing others from being mistreated in our communities. If you’re feeling anger, resentment, and disgust towards the legal system after watching the series, your feelings are valid! It may help to get involved in a program in your area that does advocacy work for those accused of committing crimes. A great place to start is The Innocence Project which shares lots of information about how you can get involved either locally or globally.

RELATED: Race Related Stress

I think it’s also important to note that if you feel like watching the series will be too much for you, it’s ok not to watch. Not watching is not an indictment on your humanity or how much you care. Ultimately, it’s always ok to do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. You can find other ways to advocate and support that don’t involve submitting yourself to situations that may be traumatizing.

The impact of social media on our lives and self-esteem

You can admit it. You do it. We all do it. You scroll and scroll and scroll analyze and analyze until you’ve wasted 20-30 minutes on the device of your choosing. The time you spent scrolling and analyzing is followed by the inevitable. Comparison. You compare yourself and your life to those you see on social media with the question of how you measure up floating faintly in the back of your mind. And you don’t always take notes from celebrities, although many of us would be quick to take a makeup tip from Gabrielle Union’s or some fashion advice from Beyoncé—no, the people we compare ourselves to most are the people closest to us. Our friend, people we work with and folks in our circle.

As mentioned in an earlier post, social media has become more than a platform for connecting our lives with those that we love, like our friends from around the world. It’s evolved into something deeper than that and it affects our mental health in more ways than one.

Social media has morphed into a tool used to put the best picture of ourselves out there—our highlight reel—our extremist of highs. While the wins we experience are derived from massive amounts of hard work and focus, the residue of all of our wins clustered into one small Instagram page and made to appear like the picture of who we REALLY are is in many ways manufactured. It’s what we want people to see. Comparing yourself to someone else’s version of this is harmful and could be downright dangerous.

While knowing your follower’s significant milestones is a great way to keep in touch, if not consumed and digested in moderation, comparison can yield to damages to our mental stability. No matter how successful you are, online scrolling can consciously and subconsciously force you to ask yourself the question: am I doing enough? And on the flip side, that brief release of dopamine associated with the likes we receive on the gram or Facebook can lead us to a constant quest for more. So, we post more good news. We focus our cameras, snap the pic with the best angle and lighting, filter and post it up for all to admire.

If you don’t see yourself reflected in this commentary, let’s get specific. Have you seen an influx of engagement announcements on your timeline? Is everyone having children, getting married, promoted and living out major #lifegoals? Sure, they are! And it’s natural to think “but what about me,” even though your life may have seemed great five seconds before you saw the post of your friend who just passed the Bar (and believe me, you’re happy for her), a human reaction we all face is the need to share in the same sense of accomplishment. And when we simply don’t have anything that we think will garner the most likes, we feel a sense of shame…like not being able to compete.

If you feel yourself ever falling into the comparison trap, here are a few things you can ask yourself:

  1. Could I argue, in a court of law, that I’m really not doing anything in my life and convince a judge?
  2. How often are the people you compare yourself to posting?
  3. Am I part of the issue? Am I spending too much time on Instagram when I could really be channeling the time and energy toward accomplishing things that are meaningful to me?

Relationships, Social Media and the Rules of Engagement

You may not want to admit it but nowadays, social media says A LOT about who you are.  We’re obviously long from the days of Instant Messaging our pen pals, but we may have taken a sharp detour into a different place called ‘Instagram: A day in the life of [Insert your name here]’ town. Although navigating this destination can be a bit confusing and there are a multitude of ‘unspoken’ rules about what we can and cannot post, this isn’t totally a bad thing! On social, we stay updated on the people we love most— graduations, new jobs, and major money moves happening in their lives.

And, of course, we also get a chance to socialize our own milestones, some of us taking extra care to snag the flyest pictures of ourselves at [insert location], with our Black Girl Magic hashtags and no-filter flexes…it’s become a lifestyle. And, whether we choose to believe it or not, we’ve steadily welcomed more and more people into our lives with each post and with each caption. We disseminate personal information about who we are and what we’re about in the process. We do it seamlessly and with a touch of a button. So, our platforms tell folks about our values, goals and the things that matter most to us in this life.

So, what happens when someone else steps into our lives? Someone like a life-partner or significant other? Are you jumping at the earliest opportunity to post pictures of the two of you on Instagram in all your #relationshipgoals? Or, are you slower to make your online debut as a full-fledged couple? Or maybe the thought of posting someone else on your profile gives you some real anxiety—for fear that person might not be a permanent fixture in your life.

The real question here is this…
When someone else comes into your life, how are they incorporated, if at all, into your online life and what impact does this have on you?

What are the rules of engagement regarding relationships on social media? Here are some of the questions we’re wondering about. 

  • Do you have conversations with your partner or someone you’re dating about when or if you’ll be acknowledging your relationship online? If there is a difference of opinion here, how might you negotiate it?
  • Does it make you feel some kind of way if your partner would prefer not to have pictures of you or y’all as a couple on their social media?
  • What kinds of conversations, if any, do you have with your partner about their interactions with others online?
  • Do you follow/friend/like your partner across social media channels? Why or why not?
  • Has your relationship been impacted by things that have happened on social media?

We’re curious about these new rules of engagement and what they might mean for our mental health, so share your thoughts with us in the comments or sound off on our social media channels under this post. 

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

It’s time we talk about that relationship of yours. You know, the one that’s been keeping you up at night? Constantly overanalyzing. The one causing you to question your value in this life? The one that has you anxiously checking the gram or Facebook to compare your height, your weight, your job, your success to other women. The one that has you trying (and failing) to validate your worth. In this relationship, negative thoughts consume your mental space day in and day out. And I’m pretty sure you’ve had it up to here. If you’re looking for a sign, beloved, here it is.

Sis, it may be time to re-evaluate some things. That little gadget in your pocket, sending you constant notifications at every minute and every hour of the day reminding you where you fall amongst your followers. How many likes you got that day, reminding you to seek validation from all people other than yourself. That measuring stick you evaluate your life by. Your phone, to put it bluntly. The toxicity has gone on for far too long. But the good thing is, it’s not you.


According to a recent study by UK disability charity, Scope, of 1500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62 percent reported feeling inadequate and 60 percent reported feelings of jealousy from comparing themselves to other users. This means, if you have feelings of inadequacy, you’re not alone.

During Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re asking you to join us in exploring your relationship with technology. We’ll be engaging in a critical discussion about how you may be internalizing what you’re seeing on social media and in the tech space. We’re going to address how social media impacts our relationships with friends, partners, peers, and even our careers! We want you to join us during this time to be more intentional about the role technology plays in your life.

So stay tuned to the blog and our social media channels throughout this month as we’ll be asking questions and posing challenges that we hope will encourage you to think about your life beyond the character limit.

If you have any thoughts, share them with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGTalksTech.

3 Simple Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Routine

When thinking about mindfulness and meditation, people generally imagine themselves sitting cross-legged on a floor, eyes shut and “omm”ing until their thoughts come to a screeching halt. This is an extremely common misconception, but the good news is that you don’t have to hold onto it for long!  By definition, meditation is an umbrella term that encompasses ultimate concentration and consciousness by self-regulating the mind; mindfulness is a form of meditation where the act is focusing on being fully present. Meditating can even be done through everyday acts such as listening to music, doing yoga, or journaling. Keep in mind that the goal of meditation is not to “turn off” the mind; rather, the goal is to acknowledge thoughts and feelings that arise without getting stuck in them. Below are three simple ways to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your routine:

Engage in a 3-minute journal exercise.
Keeping a journal allows you to track patterns and growth over time. Set a timer and spend three full minutes free-writing and recording every thought that you’re able to catch, doing your best not to control your thoughts. Maybe you’ll notice a pattern or a specific theme that arose. Multiply the number of thoughts that you recorded by twenty –  this is about how many thoughts you have in an hour, and it shows how quickly our minds operate without us being aware. I recommend engaging in this activity almost every morning or evening before bed; it may give you insight into how you’re truly feeling and what you’re truly thinking before the day starts, or how your day impacted you when it’s finished.

Make a Sponge list.
I am subscribed to Shine, a self-care app that sends me a research-backed mindfulness tip every weekday for struggles like stress, anxiety, time management, and more. One of the tips Shine sent me this past summer was creating a Sponge list. Good vibes and energy come from two places: what we do and what we soak in. When we solely focus on what we want to “do” in a given week, we forget what we can “take” from a week too. I begin each week by either writing down these three questions or making a mental checklist: What do I want to feel? What do I want to learn? What do I want to unlearn? This helps me start my week with an intention that I aim to align myself with.

Practice mindful eating.
Eating is one of the ultimate self-care practices because it’s necessary for our survival, energy, and peak levels of functioning. Our current society leaves little room to enjoy meals and actually taste the ingredients and time that went into them, especially during the week when schedules tend to be busier. Our current society also leaves little room to notice effects that food has on our feelings, figures, and hunger triggers (it takes the brain up to 20 minutes to realize you’re full) . Engaging in mindful eating can be helpful in understanding physical cues and cravings when eating. If we all we engaged in mindful eating more regularly (cue a “slow dowwwwn” echo), our brains and bodies would most certainly thank us later.

Juliana R. Collins is a licensed social worker practicing in Philadelphia, and received her Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. Currently, Juliana works as a substance abuse therapist for an intensive outpatient program at Center City Recovery LLC. Juliana is skilled in DBT practices and sexual assault counseling. To contact Juliana, email her at

The Wounds of Sisterhood: Black Women, Grief, and the Loss of Adult Friendships


September 26, 2018 was supposed to be a standout day for my best friend Sharmara. I imagine we would’ve sung happy birthday (the Stevie Wonder version of course), enjoyed a great meal or big bash even—mainly just spent time together marveling at how old we are now from our first meeting as high school freshmen in 1993. We would have lovingly reflected on how long our friendship has endured—through all the triumphs, heartaches, and “only you would understand” moments. What a day it would have been, honoring my best friend on her milestone 40th birthday. But we didn’t celebrate the way I envisioned. Six years ago, 17 days after her 34th birthday, Sharmara surrendered to a noble, four-year battle with pulmonary hypertension.

I spent this special birthday honoring my friend in her absence, tickled by the shenanigans we devised in our 19 years of friendship. Even at this stage of development, I miss her connection. I miss her severely and yet so tenderly. She is still the most kind-spirited and gracious person I know. She was the one who knew of my deepest aspirations. She was the one who saw my flaws as is and still look beyond them to dream so big for me—grander than I believed. Such bonds are so precious and needed throughout a woman’s lifetime.


Recognizing the impact of this loss prompted me to consider the different wounds Black women sustain in sisterhood, including the demise of adult friendships. The breakdown of bonds once so fierce but ultimately divided by misunderstandings, lack of commitment, or even life transitions such as budding careers, marriage, and parenthood. As a defense, some women may offer a warning about the dangers of sisterhood: See, that’s why I have more male friends. In the face of the ironclad Black-woman-bond, why do many women relate to the aching hurt and sting of the termination of friendships, particularly those that blindside and leave you cultivating your own closure? Why do relationships conclude in this way? And when they do end, how do you heal and grow through loss? The following are gentle considerations in grieving the loss of a friend.

Mourning the Loss

Acknowledge how you feel about the loss of your friendship. Resist blocking, numbing, or diminishing your emotions. Often, the end of a relationship can be a sorrowful time and you may want to move as swiftly and far from it as possible. However, relationships take time to create and in these connections are memories that may later lend to sadness, confusion, frustration, guilt, and disappointment at the relationship’s dissolution. Know your feelings about the loss are valid and deserve to be explored. Consider a safe space to identify, vent, and process your emotions such as counseling with a professional experienced in helping individuals work through loss. You may also benefit from journaling or figuratively writing a goodbye letter to your former friend to express your emotions about the course of the relationship and its ending.

Grief and Acceptance

To accept the end of a friendship doesn’t mean that you like or prefer this outcome. Acknowledging the loss doesn’t diminish how you feel about it either. Still, accepting the relationship’s status is fundamental for healing as acceptance allows you to identify how to live with this loss now that it is a reality. As you acknowledge the end you can work to create a solution to live anew without the friendship.


Trusting to Befriend Again

Vital to cultivating new friendships is the ability to identify the lessons you learned in loss and areas for self-improvement. With a balance of being open and wise, you can work to heal and foster connections that serve you well. Moving forward, consider what you need and desire most in friendship, as well as what you’re willing to offer and accept. And do just that. Remember, all friendships, current or former, are unique and not to be compared.

I know there will never be another Sharmara. Nevertheless, she taught me the value and power of sisterhood. She was the one who woke up hours before she passed just to see me and offer her parting words, “See you later, okay.” At the time, I heard her statement as a request but now I know it was really an explanation. A prepping almost. She had the last word and she was right. Just a little later, Sharmara. I will see you again.

Author’s Biography
Keisha is a licensed professional counselor and owner of Transformation Counseling Services in Columbus, Georgia, which focuses on grief counseling and perinatal mental health services for mothers and their families impacted by pregnancy and infant loss, and postpartum anxiety and depression. Keisha is an advocate and writer, contributing to articles in Essence Magazine, The New York Times, Bustle, and Elite Daily. Connect with and follow Keisha on Facebook and Instagram.

31 Days of Affirmations

October 10 is my birthday and like all true Libras, I celebrate all month long lol! This year to celebrate, we’ve partnered with ThinkUp to bring you 31 days of affirmations. After the Mental Wellness Challenge in August, many of you shared that you wanted more opportunities to be reflective and think about the ways you can be more intentional about taking care of yourself, and I think this is a great way to do it! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Here’s how you can join the celebration:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
1. Download the ThinkUp app at It’s free!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

2. I have chosen a collection of 31 affirmations called “Living Life on Your Terms” that can be found in the ThinkUp app. Each day we’ll share one of the affirmations on social media that you can add to your ThinkUp playlist. You can record them in your own voice and even add music. Feel free to add any of the affirmations that fit for you. You can also add your own affirmations or search the app for others.
3. Journal about what comes to mind for you as you’re reflecting on the affirmations. Try to choose a time at the beginning of your day or at the end of the day for this exercise. Do some fit for you better than others? What made you choose the ones you did? There’s no right or wrong answers, more a reflection of your process. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
4. At the end of the month, if you’d like to, make a 1 minute or less video discussing what the experience has been like for you and how you plan to continue using affirmations as a part of your mental wellness plan and email it to We’ll choose one winner randomly who will win a premium version of the Thinkup app. 

Exercise: The Ultimate Form of Self Care

Regular exercise can improve our physical health, decrease our risk for serious health conditions, and help us feel better emotionally.  For many of us, our lives are so full that don’t know how to add exercise into our already packed days. Neglecting our health at the expense of our busy schedules is dangerous for many reasons, but ultimately it can stop us from being the healthiest version of ourselves, both in mind and body.  Understanding the impact that exercise has on our lives, allows us to make intentional choices to improve our health.

 Common reasons we avoid exercise

Lack of Time.  Lack of time is a major concern when starting and maintaining an exercise routine.  You take on so many responsibilities that you rarely have time for yourself.  When you have a brief moment to slow down, another critical task quickly moves to the front of the line. Even though your to-do list never ends, there is still that voice in the back of your mind – the voice of your basic needs – telling you that you need to make your health a priority.   Listen to this voice!  Find a few minutes in your day – 10 to 15 minutes – for exercise.  A quick walk in the neighborhood, a yoga tutorial online, a quick high-intensity workout – any of these are great places to start.

Guilt.   What will my children do when I’m exercising?  Am I a bad mom for going to the gym when my son is at football practice?  Guilt starts off as a subtle whisper, but left unchecked, it can grow louder.  Sometimes we think that taking care of ourselves is equivalent to selfishness.  What if I told you that exercising, and finding a consistent health care routine, is one of the most selfless acts you can give to your family?  Studies show that consistent exercise is linked to increased productivity and mental focus.  This means that exercising regularly can help you become more focused and present with your partner, children, and with yourself.  Letting go of self-inflicted guilt is an important part of building self-care through exercise.

Lack of knowledge.  Maybe you realize that exercise is key to your long-term health, both physically and mentally.  You’re ready to move!  And you know the recipe for success….diet and exercise!  Should be easy, right?  Wrong!  It is surprisingly easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of exercise material online.  Cardio or weight training?  Aerobics or water exercises?  Run or walk? Not knowing where to start or what you enjoy can easily keep us stuck.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information out there, consider finding a workout partner to start the journey with you.

What are the emotional benefits of exercise? 

Improve stress and overall mood.  Our bodies release stress hormones as our stress level increases, which may trigger our “fight or flight mode.” Stress also triggers increased heart rate, trouble breathing, and sweating.  Exercise can help decrease overall stress levels.  In fact, researchers found that exercise actually reorganizes the brain to increase resilience to stress.  Exercise also has been shown to improve mood by increasing endorphins.

Increases confidence.  Exercise can also increase confidence.  Setting, working on, and achieving a set of goals helps build a sense of personal accomplishment.  This is why many “couch to 5K” programs work, as they build slowly on small goals.  With each accomplishment, you can continue to work on building larger goals.  It feels great to accomplish something new.

Improve sleep.  Exercise also improves quality of sleep.  Sufficient sleep is connected to quality of life and overall health.  Because exercise reduces anxiety, depression, and stress, it can also lead to improved sleep quality.  Here’s a bonus – there is a bilateral connection between exercise and sleep.  This means that as you begin to exercise more, the quality of your sleep will improve, and the quality of your workouts will improve as well.

Reduces the risk of dementia.  A recent research study from the American Academy for Neurology found that women with high physical fitness levels were 90% less likely to develop dementia decades later than women who were less fit.  Although the study does not look at cause and effect of exercise and dementia, there is a chance that adding fitness could delay or prevent dementia.

Adding exercise and self-care into your day can help you live an efficient and healthy life!

Dr. Jacque Strait, Ph.D. is a licensed Counseling Psychologist and co-owner of Winding Way Therapy, and creator of Fit For a Queen Wellness Consulting.  Dr. Strait specializes in counseling for professional women suffering from life burnout.  She also provides wellness consulting to Women of Color who want to build better self-care through fitness.  To reach Dr. Strait, contact her at









5 things you didn’t know about suicide

September is National Suicide Awareness Month and the goal for this campaign is to share resources and information so that we are more aware of the signs that someone might be suicidal and how we might be able to help. I’ve found that there tends to be a lot of misinformation about suicide so wanted to take this opportunity to dispel some common myths that continue to pervade our culture.

Black people do die by suicide. Though Black people and Black women specifically have the lowest rates of dying by suicide, it is definitely on the rise and something we need to pay attention to. Suicide is now the 3rd leading cause of death for young Black people between the ages of 15-24. You may have seen recent articles discussing how suicide rates doubled between 1993-2013 for Black youth between the ages of 5-11, and how teen girls are dying by suicide at higher rates.


Suicide is not act of selfishness. Many of us have not had significant depressive symptoms or felt the incredible despair that typically accompanies the decision to end one’s life. So, it seems unfathomable that someone would want to end their life. But it’s important to remember that at the point when someone is considering suicide, they often feel like they are a burden on their loved ones and feel like everyone would be better off if they were gone. They often do not see a way through or out of the pain they are experiencing.

Asking if someone is suicidal will not make them suicidal. I can assure you that someone who has not felt suicidal in the past will not become suicidal simply because you ask. Often times, not asking indicates that you can’t handle your friend sharing that level of pain with you. It makes it secretive and like something that should not be shared, which is not what we want to happen with someone who is feeling suicidal. We want them to be open and honest so that we can help them get connected to the help they need.


People don’t attempt suicide for attention. All attempts at hurting one’s self should be taken seriously. Even if someone does not seriously intend to kill them self, an attempt is typically a signal that something larger is at play and that professional help is necessary.

People who are suicidal don’t always look depressed. Sometimes a person who has decided to end their life will actually have a bit of an improved mood in the days before their suicide because they are at peace with their decision. We saw this recently when Chester Bennington‘s widow, Talinda, released a video of him laughing and joking with his family days before he died by suicide. She wanted to help shed light on the fact that depression and suicidality don’t only look one way.

Helpful Resources

  • You can talk with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at  1-800-273-TALK
  • In the US, you can text with a crisis counselor 24/7 by texting the word TRIBE to 741-741
  • If you’re looking for a therapist in your area, make sure to check out our therapist directory at


Taking Care of Yourself As A Stepmom

A stepparent is anyone dating or married to a partner with children from a previous relationship. When most people hear the word “stepmom”; many preconceived notions come to mind.  Many people think of stepmothers through the lens of old outdated fairy tales and myths. The reality is that the average stepmother is often, isolated and very much misunderstood by society.

Research shows that stepmothers have a much more difficult experience parenting and step coupling than stepfathers. Many stepmothers are expected to be maternal and nurturing toward their stepchildren, even if their stepchildren are rejecting. Biased gender roles, gender stereotypes, and unrealistic expectations contribute to the difficulty that many stepmothers experience.


The average stepmother is expected to hold the same role that a biological mother fulfills such as working outside of the home, and performing the majority of the domestic tasks like cooking, cleaning, planning family events and schedules as well as child rearing. According to attachment theory Bonding refers to a very particular type of attachment that occurs when a child is born and developing in utero. It’s natural for a biological mother and father to see themselves reflected in their children. Biological parents can see their child through loving eyes, even in the midst of their child’s challenging behaviors and children have a natural biological bond with their parents.

Stepparents, on the other hand, are newcomers to an already established family dynamic and are outsiders from the onset. Stepfamilies are born out of the loss of a previous relationship. Stepmothers are often expected to parent and nurture children who are grieving their original family and who do not yet have a bond with their stepparent. Stepmothers come into their role, with a partner who may have unrealistic expectations of what a stepmother “should” be.


In stepfamilies with single fathers, the responsibilities of child rearing are often transferred from the biological father onto to the stepmother. During this transfer; Stepchildren can become resentful of their stepmother’s new role in the family. Stepmothers often experience the responsibilities of parenting but usually have very little authority related to their stepchildren and their behaviors. It is common after a breakup or divorce for Biological parents to elevate their children as peers and become permissive parents; which leads to more stepparent stepchild conflict and resentment.

Stepmothers can experience high levels of depression; due to the lack of support they may receive from their partners, within their household, and from their community of biological moms. Many biological mothers can vent and express feelings of frustration and overwhelm related to their children, but stepmothers often have the experience of being shamed or silenced when expressing a similar sentiment of their stepchildren.

Tips toward a healthier, realistic Stepfamily dynamic

Establish Healthy Boundaries with your partner:

If your partner is leaving you alone with their children during visitations; and you feel uncomfortable with this; it might be time for a heart to heart. At the beginning of your relationship, it’s best practice for your partner to continue parenting as they did before the two of you became a couple. It takes the average stepfamily  4 to 7 years to function as a traditional family. It’s crucial for you to define your role as a stepmother and to determine which activities you are comfortable participating in and which activities you would like to delegate to your partner. Learning to say no and delegating to your partner regarding their children can be hard because society has a particular perception of how women “should” interact with all children.  

Utilize Self-Compassion:

It’s easy to listen to that inner critic or to allow others to project their ideas onto you regarding your role as a woman and stepmother. You may worry that you are not “doing enough” as a stepmom if you set boundaries, but keep in mind your partner is ultimately responsible for their children. Try not to beat yourself up for needing a break. Try to tap into those passions you once had before this relationship. As women, we tend to put everything into our intimate relationships, but it’s essential to maintain your interests and friends outside of your stepfamily.

If you are a stepparent and are experiencing signs of depression such as sadness, guilt/shame, irritability, low energy and feelings of isolation, please seek help from a licensed professional You are not alone.


Shelly Ware is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California specializing in Stepfamily dynamics and Women’s Issues.

The Black Girl’s Guide to Self-Care

The Black Girl's Guide to Self-Care

This week, this month, this year has been a lot! I echo the feelings of many when I say I’m exhausted. The murders this week of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have added to the long and constantly growing list of Black people killed at the hands of law enforcement and has served to once again heighten the collective anxiety of the Black community. I’ve found myself glued to my Twitter timeline searching for updates and information about these cases. I’m noticing that I’m clenching my jaws and tensing my shoulders unconsciously. My patience is a little thinner and I’ve been munching on ridiculous amounts of Frosted Flakes and Oreos. All of these are signals to me that I am stressed and probably need to take a step back. I talk about self-care often, preach it to friends, family, and clients, and truly believe in it. But as with many things, fall short in following it for myself. The concept of self care can also at times feel elusive, so I wanted to compile a list of specific things you can do to allow yourself some joy! I hope this serves as a reminder to myself and a nudge for you too 🙂


Self Care in the Face of Racial Injustice

Self Care in the Face of Racial-5
Photo by Parker Williams, Akiba Photography

More than most years, it feels like Blackness has been especially under attack this year. The collective feeling of trauma feels palpable in my office, on my campus, and throughout my social networks. It feels like every time there is another major verdict to be delivered, a new viral video dropped, and with each breaking news headline, there is a collective holding of our breaths. While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is a diagnosis used to describe a collection of symptoms in an individual, it sure does feel like as a community we are suffering from this right now. A shared sense of paranoia, anxiety, angst, and hopelessness are all completely valid and understandable right now. During a time when there is so much pain and suffering in our face, and when so many of us are dedicated to fighting injustices, it is especially important to pay attention to taking care of and sharpening our tool, which is our selves. We cannot continue to shut down the highways and transit stations or march against these evils if we do not remember to engage in restorative self care. Here are some things to consider: (more…)

Celebrating My Fabulousness! It’s My Birthday!



Today I am rocking my Black Girls Are Magic tshirt (get yours here) with my favorite wide leg trousers and blasting Beyonce as loud as my speakers will allow because IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! I can honestly say that this has been a wild ride of a year. I had my first child, bought my first home with my husband, got a new job, and have started on the incredible journey of this blog so I would say a celebration is in order! That’s right, I’m throwing my own party because sometimes you just have to forget about all the stuff that’s going wrong and focus on what’s going right. Sometimes you have to ignore how the world would like to identify you and pay attention to the fabulousness that is YOU! (more…)