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Parenting Post #2

Parenting Post #2: Consistency and Parenting 

Consistency is the key to so many things: catching fly balls, adhering to a healthy diet, implementing coping skills. It is also a key part of parenting and, much like practicing a sports technique over and over and over, it’s not always the most pleasant practice. It applies to parenting in a variety of realms and, annoying as it may be at times, it is crucial to providing your child a sense of boundaries and safety—where your child’s world begins and ends. When you are consistent, your child will know what to expect and both your behavior and his will flow smoothly from that place.  During the “new normal” of being confined to the home and remote learning, in many cases, consistency is more important than ever; even though it may be very tempting to become lax, which may feel easier on you in the short term, this will backfire in the long-run, when normalcy finally returns. Some examples will follow below and hopefully be a guide on how to implement consistency in your parenting and reap the benefits of a calmer household and even less anxious children (or at least children who understand limits and boundaries to things you don’t want to give them—treats, TV time, video games, toys).

“No means no” is something we’ve all heard or said far too many times, but it is probably top three in Important Things You Need To Do To Be Consistent. Yes, it’s great to start off doing this when your child is very young, but even if you haven’t been doing it until right this minute, it is not too late to start! When you’re asked for treats, TV, etc, you feel worn down, like an ancient rock in a creek—the water has gone over you so many times that your once robust surfaces have been rubbed smooth and you want to give up and give in. This is not the time for that! Rally your inner troops and teach them that they can ask once for something but if you say no, that is IT. Game over, no more asking, the answer will always be no. If your child has discovered that repeatedly asking produces an irritated “fine, have it, what do I care!?” response, the child will keep asking because, even if the parent is annoyed, they will get that pack of gummy bears. Now you’re in a feedback loop of resenting your child and yourself for this doomed loop from which you cannot extricate yourself. Is it fun to start saying no? Of course not! But if you can stand your ground and do it every time, you will see changes: kids will stop asking you so frequently and even if they do ask, just to see if they might get lucky, they won’t pitch a fit (as big of a fit) when you say no. Through repetition, they will respect your “no.”

The Swift Rush to Judgment. This is what I jokingly call the implementing of consequences aka Following Through. If you are always saying something like: “If you don’t stop doing X, I’m going to give you a (insert consequence here)” or “If you keep doing X, we are going to leave this (insert friend’s house, playground…)” but then you don’t actually follow through, your child will quickly learn that you make empty threats. This is where the Swift Rush to Judgment comes into play. When the child does do X, you immediately implement the consequence. Don’t wait, don’t let them bargain you out of it, make it happen and make it be something that makes sense to the child. But choose wisely! If you have a 3 year old being difficult at a playgroup and the consequence that comes out of your mouth is “we’re leaving if you don’t stop that,” then you’re going to be leaving too…leaving your friends and the support of being with them. So, be sure that the consequence doesn’t also hurt you.  Some reasonable consequences could include, no screen time tomorrow (for school aged children who understand what tomorrow is); gently taking away the toy that the child is having an issue with; taking the child “out of the mix.” Removing a child from an experience can be the most useful consequence of all: everyone wants to stay in the mix, where there are fun and friends. This is not a time out, this is going into another room or outside for a few minutes to regroup—it’s not punitive but, rather, a way to calm down.

To conclude and as a reminder: this won’t be pretty at first. You might feel uncomfortable; your kids may give you a hard time or throw a few tantrums. But if you stick with it, you will see results! Remember that old saying about catching a thousand fly balls before you can catch almost anything? That can apply here, but it will definitely not less than a thousand times of implementing strategies to become a consistent parent—probably more like a week or two. You will likely find that your home is a calmer place and you are maybe even a calmer person!

Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW

What are the Parenting Posts?

In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills. 

Parenting Post #1

In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills. 

Parenting Post #1: An Introduction and Addressing the New Normal

Welcome to this new series on parenting! If you are reading this, you may well have children or are just reading once you’ve run out of Netflix shows to watch. For those of us with school-aged children, especially those who work, life in the time of coronavirus has extra layers of stress and anxiety. Not only are we homeschooling our children, but we are doing it while worrying that we have enough shelf stable food and antibacterial soap and also attempting to attend Zoom meetings, conference calls, and write something for our boss. Add-in the usual responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, making sure our kids stop touching their faces, and trying to forge human connections for them via FaceTime. It’s a lot and if you feel like you are working more than you did before the pandemic—and even then you felt like you were going 24/7—you are probably correct.

So, let’s be clear: this first post is more about self-care for parents than about parenting itself. We’ll get to parenting in future posts, but for right now, listen up: You must take some care of you!

If you do not practice self-care, you will not be able to support those around you. What can you do to take care of yourself now and not burn out? Take advantage of the still-open and free outdoors, take a walk or a run or bike ride. There’s no reason to feel guilty if you can have your partner watch the kids for 30-40 minutes. For single parents, free time can be harder to find. Consider the advantages of nap time, for those with younger children. Put the little one in a stroller and walk while your child naps. If your children are school-aged but not old enough to technically leave alone, you can still go outside, where they can see you from the window and do something, even just some deep breathing alone. Stuck inside? Lock yourself in the bathroom, after explaining that you need a little time out, open up the Headspace App and use their free series “Weathering the Storm” for a quick mental getaway. Take a bath or shower, FaceTime with a friend. The main thing is that you explain to children old enough to get it that you need 10-15 minutes alone. If they’re still napping, be sure to use that time for your self-care. Sure, you might think you need to clean up and probably you do, but you absolutely have some time in there just for you. Read, stretch, utilize a free app (see below), watch a little TV. Whatever it takes to restore yourself just a little.

Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW

Practicing Self Care

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Right now many of us are feeling overwhelmed, worried and concerned about the uncertainty of the global health scare, and that makes a lot of sense. Sometimes feeling as though you’re not alone in your anxiety can be helpful; it brings us closer in spirit to our communities, it motivates us to support each other in new ways and it reminds us of our humanity. However, this increased anxiety can have harmful effects as well. To help us all navigate though these confusing times, below are a few helpful hints to help manage our fears and to remember our hopes.

Social Distancing from Social Media and News

Many of us are relying on social media sites for information and to connect with friends, family and the outside world. With the outbreak of the virus, there is a constant onslaught of information that may be very overwhelming. When possible, try to take a break from monitoring these sights. It is okay to disconnect. Additionally, remember to evaluate the sources of your information. Finding reliable sources of news may help to mitigate some of the fears spread by false reports.

Things in Your Control vs.Things Out of Your Control

This idea is something that I often explore with my clients through any sort of struggle that invites anxiety. It can be helpful to determine specific things that are within your control versus the myriad of things that are out of your control. The image below has some good suggestions.


 Keep or Begin a Mindfulness Practice

If the idea of sitting cross legged in a silent room while trying to forget your thoughts sounds intimidating, you are not alone…it does for me too. Instead of trying to jump into meditation, try incorporating a grounding technique when feeling stressed. Grounding techniques encourage us to pay attention to our senses and environment rather than our ruminating thoughts and worries. One of my favorites is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique.

Take a few deep breaths 

Now notice 5 things you can see…

Followed by 4 things you can hear…

Now 3 things you can touch…

2 things you can smell…

And 1 thing you can taste.

End with a few more deep breaths.

Notice how you’re feeling and practice this technique whenever needed. Remember, this is temporary.

Julie Bond, LAMFT

What We’re Doing, What’s in the Works, and How to Help

It is impossible to look around you – even from within your own home – and not be inundated with information about the COVID-19 outbreak. These are uncharted waters for our local, national and global communities, but, there is an oddly comforting unity to know that this outbreak has an impact of everyone in our community, we are in this together.

We do not know how long our lives will be upended by restrictions and quarantines, but we do know the impact will last even longer. Right now and through the uncertain future, JFCS will be here ensuring help, hope and healing. In this phase of social distancing and disconnection, we intend to keep you, our community, well informed on JFCS actions.

What are we doing right now?

We are utilizing all available resources to ensure the most vulnerable and most in need have food:

  • We provided 50 families at Better Beginnings with packaged groceries
  • We plan to maintain our Mobile Food Pantry distribution schedule, including a stop at for 50 Redding Circle residents this week
  • April pantry hours for our on-site Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry will be kept for our scheduled clients. For the health & safety of all, clients will be provided prepacked bags of grocery items, delivered to them in their cars, limiting outside access to our site.
  • Kosher Meals on Wheels continue to be delivered to homebound seniors. Meals are delivered by staff at the door with no direct contact with the recipient.
  • We are packing to-go boxes for Kosher Café seniors and have seen an increased attendance given the limited resources available for this low-income population. Last week we also provided the Kosher Café guests with a supplemental bag of grocery items to help them during this time.
  • We have frozen prepared meals available to supplement any of our seniors existing deliveries on an as-needed basis.
  • We are exploring all possible resources for packaged, pantry items and prepared meals to keep in stock as we anticipate growing need for food among our seniors and the food-insecure.
  • We are ordering Kosher for Passover meals to be distributed to our homebound senior clients.

Counseling is being provided by phone to our existing clients. Our team of counselors is available to take new calls for anyone who needs immediate assistance to cope with the heightened stress, anxiety or fear and for those with ongoing mental health concerns.

JFCS Geriatric Care Managers are making regular check-in calls and providing support by phone to our Secure@Home members, low-income seniors, Holocaust Survivors and support group members.

Volunteers have stepped up to provide check-in calls to our Kosher Meals on Wheels clients as well as seniors who were enrolled in Cooking Companions and Friendly Visitor programs.

We have launched a comprehensive resource page on our website as a one-stop source of agency information, helpful blogs from our staff on topical issues, and links to outside resources.

What is in the works?

  • Our staff is working with all community partners to make connections and ensure any available food is reaching those who need it most.
  • We are planning to launch teen engagement programs over Zoom (video conferencing) to keep our youth connected and supported during this challenging time.
  • We are creating plans to host Community Calls with one of our counselors to provide topical information on the challenges being faced by many.
  • We are working to offer free “call-in” hours during the week where callers can be connected to one of our counselors for coping skills and support.
  • We are exploring the capabilities of Zoom and other conference-calling programs to deliver supportive workshops to our constituents.

What can you do?

  • If you know of any counseling needs in the community, recommend JFCS.
  • If you know of families or seniors in need of food, recommend JFCS.
  • If you know of resources that will help us continue to deliver our programs whether it is through food, funding, or technology, we welcome your help and support.
  • LAST BUT NOT LEAST… check in on your children, your parents, your elderly neighbors, your coworkers, your friends, and yourself.

Administrative staff will be available by phone to answer any questions Monday – Thursday 9 AM – 5 PM and Friday 9 AM – 4 PM. Please note effective March 23, the restrictions noted in our original posting remain in place indefinitely in accordance with local, state and national health and safety guidelines. 

JFCS is stretching our resources as far as possible at this time to ensure our current clients have the support they need, be it counseling, senior resources and food. We know this is just the beginning of a rise in need for our services. Help us be equipped to provide for as many as possible here in our community.

Consider a contribution today.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak and the Fear of the Unknown

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Every day we learn more about this virus and its effects and we wonder when it will end. When will life get back to normal, back to our regular routine? This is new territory for all of us to navigate. Imagine trying to drive cross-country with no GPS and no map. You’ll eventually get there – but which route do you take? How long will it take? What do you need to bring with you on this journey? This can be very anxiety provoking and it is how many of us feel as we deal with COVID-19. The uncertainty will eventually end, but until then, we must learn how to navigate this journey and the stress that it generates.

Anxiety is often defined as the fear of the unknown. This feeling of uncertainty and lack of control over our environment can put us on edge, impact our moods, affect our relationships, and cloud our thinking. The world we thought we knew has changed dramatically. Many of us are out of work, quarantined, dealing with kids who are out of school, lacking in supplies, unable to see friends and family, and more. It can be overwhelming!

How do we deal with this disruption to our lives? First and foremost, take one day at a time. Focus on your daily activities by scheduling things that you can do so that you feel productive. Do some spring cleaning, eliminate clutter, pack up items that you can donate to those less fortunate. Spend some quality time with your kids and/or other members of your household listening to music, reading together, watching a funny movie or deciding what you’ll plant in your garden come spring! There are many websites out there that you can explore with your family including Virtual School Activities where you can tour the Anne Frank House, view the giraffe cam at the San Diego Zoo or see the Great Wall of China. See our resource page for more activities to enjoy from home.

If you are alone, reach out to friends and family by phone or via Skype, Facetime or Zoom. Limit your check-ins for news updates to once a day. And everyone needs to practice good self-care, limit caffeine and sugar intake, get adequate rest and exercise. Learn some breathing exercises or yoga and practice the calming influence of meditation and mindfulness. See our recent blog post on mindfulness and meditation for tips and resources.

If you feel you are in need of one-on-one counseling, contact Jewish Family & Children’s Services to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced clinicians who can personally help you to deal with the distress caused by COVID-19. Call us at 609-987-8100 Ext 102.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

Linda Kanner, LCSW

Have you searched for mindfulness skills to manage anxiety or depression?

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Understanding what Mindfulness is all about and developing habits

Mindfulness can sound like a good idea, in theory, but without knowing a few simple tools, it can be harder to put into practice.

Mindfulness is not simply meditation, rather, it is about learning to live in the present moment. You may have come across this quote in a counselor’s office near you…

“Worrying never robs tomorrow of its sadness, it only robs today of its joy.” This is, in a quick phrase, the heart of mindfulness. When we learn to pay attention to the present moment, we focus our energies only on what is occurring at this moment in time and thus do not worry about the past or future.

For individuals with anxiety, a focus on the past and/or future can occupy a lot of time and means that they are missing out on the good things happening right now.

The global health situation has created a heightened state of fear, anxiety, and unknown. Despite this, there are pleasant things surrounding us each day. Spring has spring and while many in our region are living in levels of quarantine or sheltered-in-place, we can take time to go outside and embrace the seasonal change. We can see the trees and early flowers blooming, feel the warmth of the sun on our faces. These may seem to be small pleasures, but they are important ones. We can all remember to seek out joy rather than being weighed down by anxiety as the days and weeks go by…joy from our children (if we are parents), joy from our pets (if we have them), joy found in a friendly voice on the phone from a loved one, a neighbor, a friend, or a JFCS staff member, joy in the warmer weather and many more small pleasures.

The above may feel easier said than done, but in reality mindfulness training does not require extraordinary efforts. There are apps online such as Headspace or Calm, or guided meditations on Youtube as well as resources listed below.

The reason that meditation is so often promoted as a door to mindfulness is because it asks us to concentrate on the breath. When we do that, we are truly only concentrating on the present moment, the rise of the in-breath, the fall of the out-breath. Will distractions arise? Of course, they will! But be compassionate to yourself – another important part of mindfulness! – and return your focus to the breath. Think of this like practicing for a sport, an instrument, or anything requiring concentration and repetition over time, your focus will begin to improve and you will find that moments of stillness and peace can arrive.

Then, when you are going about your day, remind yourself now and then, gently, to return your focus to the present moment. Perhaps you will be waiting on the phone, or cooking dinner, or cleaning and find your mind wandering into anxiety. It is in those moments that you can focus on the breath or you can focus more intently on the job at hand. Cooking, for example, can be a chore or something that is more about its end than the process, but it can also be a place to find calm and to focus on the present – the way the onion falls to the cutting board as you slice it, or the aromas that waft to your nose as you stir in spices. Using the five senses can be a wonderful and more practical way to find mindfulness!

A morning run can feel like a chore; next time, as you run, note the spring buds on the trees, breathe in the fresh morning air. Use everyday activities to practice mindfulness and it will soon become habit. You will find in those moments of anxiety, you will have some tools to bring you back to the present moment

Enjoy the journey – mindfulness is a lifelong process but you can begin to see the benefits quickly!


Claire Brown LSW


What is a Social Worker? Celebrating Our Staff during Social Work Month

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), “Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve people’s lives.”

I have the joy of working with driven, compassionate social workers every day at JFCS. In our agency, the social work profession is represented in every program and service. Our counseling department is staffed with licensed social workers and licensed clinical social workers providing therapy to those battling depression, anxiety, trauma and more.

We employee social workers across our senior services to provide geriatric care management, helping older adults and their families navigate the choices to remain in their home or seek assisted living. The Holocaust Survivor program is delivered by a social worker who works one on one with survivors to ensure they are receiving the care they need as they age.

Social work interns interact with seniors at our Kosher Cafes and help clients in the Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry.

JFCS, at our core, is about empowering individuals make to care for themselves and others. For a social worker, that is just a day at the office.

We thank and appreciate all social workers for the service they provide to their communities.

Michelle Napell




JFCS is here for the health of our community. In line with directives from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as local leadership for the state of New Jersey and County of Mercer, we are moving our programs and staff to remote schedules effective March 16 – 27. We understand this situation is evolving day by day and will continue to assess our remote service delivery during these two weeks and beyond as prudent and safe for our staff, our clients, and all constituents. 

 Please note the following changes to programs & services:  

  • No clients or visitors will be allowed inside JFCS offices through March 27. 

  • Counseling services will be provided through tele-therapy. We are continuing to take new calls for clients interested in services. If interested in counseling services, call us at 609-987-8100 Ext 102.

  • Seniors enrolled in our programs will receive regular check-ins and phone support to connect them with needed resources. There will be no in-home visits and/or geriatric assessments provided by Senior Services. 

  • Food delivery programs will continue to the extent our resources are available.

  • Gesher LeKesher and Jewish Community Youth Foundation (JCYF) recruitment and programmatic gatherings are canceled through April 1.

  • J-Serve, International Day of Jewish Youth Service is canceled.
  • All community events and days of service are canceled through April 1.
  • All volunteer activities are canceled through April including Shop & Stocks, Chore Corps, Cooking Companions, Friendly Visitors and all individual and group opportunities
  • All on and off-site support and therapeutic groups are canceled through April 1 including Bereavement groups, Caregiver Support group, and Youth Mindfulness group.

Administrative staff will be available by phone to answer any questions Monday – Thursday 9 AM – 5 PM and Friday 9 AM – 4 PM.  

Loss of a Legend

Much has been said about the sudden death of basketball great, Kobe Bryant.

The words we keep hearing are heartbreak, shock, devastating, hero and legend, inspiration and grief.

Our Princeton community had our own heartbreaking loss on December 24, when our beloved Rabbi Adam Feldman passed away suddenly while on vacation with his family in Hawaii. This left many, beyond the Jewish community, shocked and devastated. He maintained very close friendships with members of the Princeton Clergy Association, provided chaplaincy to the Princeton Police Department and to patients at Penn Medicine Princeton Health hospital.

He was a hero to Princeton Chief of Police Nicholas Sutter, who saluted as the hearse left The Jewish Center for burial. He has inspired his B’nai Mitzvah students, who have now been dedicating their Torah portion to him. As rabbi of The Jewish Center, he tended to the spiritual needs of 500 families, offering comfort and support during challenging times. Members of his congregation, who already miss him so much, are grieving the loss of a dynamic, energetic, engaged and very caring rabbi.

There were 1,000 attendees at his funeral and about 2,000 more who joined by live-video stream from all parts of the world. Quite a legacy for our local rabbi.

Rabbi Feldman adored sports, so he probably wouldn’t have minded being compared to a basketball legend, although he was a 76ers fan.

How to Cope with Sudden Loss

A message echoed from our community to news stories, the passing of Rabbi Feldman and Kobe Bryant serves as a reminder that anything can happen at anytime. Grief can be a challenging time, especially when it comes unexpectedly and without notice. 

  • Find a Support Group: Do not feel you have to cope alone. Find others to connect with and share in the grief process.
  • Do what feels right to you: Everyone processes loss differently and on personal timelines, if you are not ready to talk about the loss or join a group, then do not feel obligated. Always feel empowered to tell family and friends about how you are choosing to express your grief so they can support you in an appropriate way.
  • Write: You may find it helpful to write down your emotions or even write a letter to your loved one who has passed away. Writing is a safe space to express your range of emotions that can come with grief – sadness, anger, uncertainty.
  • Ask for help: Speak up to family and friends and let them know if you are having trouble processing your emotions. Look for resources in your community including support groups or individual therapy.

The JFCS team is here to support our community through challenging times with counseling and support. If you want to talk to a member of our team, call us at 609-987-8100.

Should I Talk to a Therapist?

A healthy mindset is an essential component to overall wellness. If there are personal, interpersonal, or environmental challenges affecting your outlook and mental health, you can be held back from an overall fulfilled life. We all experience ups and downs, and engaging in therapy, whether for recurring downs or a short-term situation or crisis, can bring personal emotional growth and a more satisfying life.

If you are experiencing any of the following challenges, consider reaching out and making an appointment with a therapist:

  • Relationship & Family Challenges

Do you find yourself often annoyed or arguing with your partner? Are you having trouble communicating with your children? Do you have trouble setting boundaries with family?

  • Grieving the loss of a loved one

Have you experienced loss? Loss can be more than the passing of a loved one, it could be an estrangement or illness that has changed the lifestyle of our loved one. Loss can lead to feelings of sadness, depression, loneliness and isolation.

  • Depression

Depression can look like many things – feeling excessively tired, isolated, sad, an overall loss of interest in things you once enjoyed and difficulty concentrating. If you can identify that one or more of these symptoms is affecting your day to day life, it can be a sign of depression.

Similar to depression, chronic anxiety can show itself in many ways – worrying, constantly thinking about past situations, overthinking and catastrophizing (thinking the worst will occur in current or future situations)

  • Trauma

Trauma deeply affects individuals who experience it and can be from domestic violence, sexual abuse or assault, life threatening incidents or other negative impactful events.

  • Immigration Concerns

The fear of deportation – for an individual or for their loved one – can deeply impact day to day mental health. 

  • Medical Issues

Dealing with the diagnosis of a serious illness for yourself or a loved one or the responsibility of caring for a family member with a serious illness or chronic condition can be very draining on one’s mental wellbeing.

If you are ready to look for a therapist in your area, JFCS is here for residents of Mercer County to provide individual, compassionate care with licensed therapists. Our therapists can help you through the difficult times. Consider making that call to take a step towards a healthier lifestyle.