Tracy will be speaking at this important event. Mark your calendars!

Co-Parenting in the Midst of a Pandemic

  • Understanding 3 types of relationships and how each responds to the challenges of co-parenting during the Pandemic
  • How the Pandemic affects Visitation, Parenting/Discipline, Health/Safety, Financial/Work, and Communication/Conflict
  • Strategies for co-parents to collaboratively work together to find solutions to best parent their children during a time of crisis and uncertainty

Tips & Tools to Manage Your Children’s Anxiety

  • How can anxiety manifest in children?
  • What are some common mistakes parents make when trying to help children?
  • Learn empowering principles for children with anxiety.

Taking Care of the Caretaker

Join DivorceTown USA® Experts:

  • Kathleen Shack, LMFT, Cert. Couples Therapist, Cert. Discernment Counselor, Therapist, Divorce Coach, Mediator
  • Stephanie Robins, LCSW, CDC
  • Tracy McConaghie, LCSW, RPT/S
  • Dr. Deborah Wilder, Psychologist, Divorce Mediator, Parent Coordinator

As we address these important issues and more!

Click here for more information and to register.

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I am so excited to announce that I wrote a children’s book that has been published! My Family is Changing is now available on amazon. It is a story/activity book for children ages 5-7 whose parents are getting a divorce. I hope it will help the children who read it feel less alone and more empowered with coping skills and support.
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Please click here to read the article from Andrew and Tracy McConaghie featured on datingnews.com

The Scoop: Couples often don’t realize the complexities inherent in their marriage and long-term relationships. That’s why Andrew and Tracy McConaghie recommend that people invest time in therapy before those inevitable issues appear. The couple, both licensed clinical social workers and therapists, founded McConaghie Counseling, and they work with a team of counselors who guide couples through all phases of their relationships. The practice also has specialists on staff who work on family matters, including issues with children. Whether it’s dealing with the fallout of an affair or simply a series of miscommunications, McConaghie Counseling aims to help couples move forward.


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By Tracy McConaghie, LCSW, RPT/S

Many of the adolescents in my practice are experiencing tremendous pressure to keep their grades to a near-perfect level.  The sources of this pressure are both internal (their own thoughts and fears) and external (messages they receive from teachers and parents).

It is not surprising that they feel this way. Colleges have become more competitive and, as a culture, we are focusing more on performance and less on effort, process and balance.

Parents tend to apply this kind of pressure because they are worried about whether or not their child will be successful and also if they are a good enough parent.  It is as if our children have become walking report cards – grading us as parents.  We all want to prove our children are doing well and therefore we are doing well as parents.

Parents are well intended.  They love their children and want them to do well, but this can  cause children to suffer with anxiety and fear that, if they don’t make all A’s, they won’t succeed in life.  The reality is, you can make A’s and B’s and C’s,  go to college and have a happy, successful life. Over-focusing on performance and perfection takes  away from what learning can be.

The Pitfalls of Pressure

The young people I see who are under too much pressure typically fall into two categories:

Some are trying so hard to achieve and comply that their lives are unbalanced and full of stress. They judge themselves based on performance instead of on effort and who they really are as a person. That can carry on through adulthood and that can create depression, anxiety and shame. They may also stop taking chances because they are terrified of making mistakes and being perceived as a failure.

The other possibility, depending on the temperament of the child, is that they develop a pattern of rebellion or underachieving because they feel they can not measure up.

Releasing the Pressure

It is very helpful for parents to shift their focus from performance to process.

Instead of asking a child what their grade was on a project, consider asking them what they are most proud of in their project.  In addition, focus questions on what the child is learning or enjoying the most rather than focusing only on performance.  The idea is to shift from “Are you doing well enough?’” to “What are you getting out of it?”

On report card day, it is wise to ask children to reflect on their grades rather than jumping right to the parent’s assessment.  For example, “‘How are you feeling about this report card? I’m interested to hear your thoughts on it.” When asked genuinely, children who are not doing well almost always express that they wish their grades were better.

Once you have established how your child feels and what they want, you can brainstorm with them for some solutions.  Are they having a hard time organizing? Are their priorities off track? Would they benefit from a tutor or new study routine?

Lose the Rewards

The trend of giving money or presents for grades is intended to motivate children to do better but it actually contributes to the very problem that I am writing about. Rewards prevent kids from connecting to the value of learning. It is far more more meaningful to say, “How do you feel about these grades? What are you most proud of? You are learning more and growing every day. That is a beautiful thing to watch.” That creates inspiration and an attachment to learning. Presents and money create pressure to try to get things from your parents and an attachment to material things.

Success without Pressure

Children of parents who are engaged and support without demanding high performance are more likely to be free of the shackles of perfectionism and enjoy their work. They are more self-confident and are willing to try harder because they are less fearful of making mistakes. Best of all, they develop skills for taking mistakes and mishaps in stride and learning from them instead of feeling shame.

Teaching children to work hard and try their best is important, but this should happen without undue pressure for perfection and without giving up the primary messages about learning, growing, and accepting mistakes.




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Youtube Video by Tracy McConaghie

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Tracy was interviewed by Atlanta Parent Magazine, giving you a better way to motivate your child!

Follow the link to read the article.

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By:  Andrew McConaghie, LCSW

Divorce happens. We know that around half of marriages end in divorce, which means about half of husbands and wives will personally experience the divorce process at some point in their lives. Divorce is not fun; in fact, it is somewhat like a death, filled with a lot of intense and unpleasant emotions. Divorce is almost always sad but, unfortunately, it often also becomes destructive. As mental health advocates, if people are getting a divorce, we are much more in favor of facilitating and working through a sad divorce rather than a destructive one. In the following article, we give divorce advice on what we believe to be the healthiest way to divorce.

When it comes down to it, a couple transitioning from a married relationship to a divorce relationship is a legal transaction. A plan for money and a plan for the children are two main legal changes that have to be made in this transition.

Traditionally, each person hires an attorney and those attorneys facilitate the development of a new relationship contract called the divorce decree. The problem with this way of divorcing is the inherent conflict of interest embedded in the process. In other words, the more contentious and less agreeable the couple, the more the attorneys will have to work and the more they will get paid. Even divorce mediation, which involves a mediator that attempts to facilitate the process, will include each person having their own attorney trying to get their client everything they can. It is very important to note that many divorce attorneys are incredible and ethical people. We personally know and refer to many of them who practice in a way that helps people through this difficult divorce process. In addition, attorneys are a must for the final legal steps of a divorce. However, we argue that an attorney-led divorce creates this conflict of interest and potentially will increase negative experiences between the couple.

As collaborative divorce professionals for many years, we have witnessed a wide range of divorce experiences. Some have been constructive, collaborative and caring. Others have been extremely destructive with HUGE emotional and financial costs throughout and following the divorce. We have spent our career helping people develop and live the healthiest and happiest lives possible and hope to encourage this even when they are faced with the process of divorcing their mate.

Because of this, we advocate a new and healthier way to divorce. This way involves a mental health professional who is a parenting plan expert and an independent financial professional who specializes in divorce financial agreements. A parenting plan is the part of the divorce contract that addresses everything about the children other than the finances. It will specify which parent will be with the children on any given day or holiday throughout the year. It will also address issues such as which parent will have final say in certain areas of the child’s life such as health or education. Additionally, agreements about how the parents will communicate about the children and how and when the parents will introduce any significant others to the children will be addressed in this document. The parents will work with the parenting plan expert to develop this plan together. The parenting plan expert will help facilitate communication between the parents so each parent feels that their perspectives, concerns, and wishes are addressed.
The goal is for both parents to feel satisfied with the parenting plan so that they do not start their divorced lives full of resentment and reluctance to follow the plan.

Once the parenting plan is finalized, the parents meet with the financial consultant. We recommend completing the parenting plan first in order to focus on one area at a time, to separate the time with the children and the finances, and to begin with what is more important, i.e., the health and well being of the children. The financial consultant will work with the couple to address division of marital assets, child support, and alimony. Tax and other financial considerations will be addressed through this process as well.

When the parenting plan and the financial agreement are completed, at least one attorney should look over these agreements to make sure everything is addressed in a legal way and to file the documents. Sometimes each person would like their own independent attorney to look over the documents on their behalf. However, when hiring an attorney (or attorneys) for this part of the process, we highly recommend using an attorney who has a collaborative and cooperative reputation, rather than a litigious reputation. Once a couple has come this far in the process, you don’t want a litigious attorney to look at your documents and throw fire on them by saying things like, “I can’t believe you agreed to this!” or “You should have received more time with the kids or more money and I can get you more!”

The other reasons to use this more collaborative approach are that counselors who are parenting plan experts and financial professionals who are financial divorce experts are specialists in the areas of communication, child development, and mediation, as well as the laws around divorce financial agreements and taxes. Attorneys have generally studied and learned about parenting plans and divorce finances, but their specialty is the law.

Not every couple will be able to or willing to use this more cooperative approach, but we hope and suggest most couples at least try. The traditional, litigation process is always available if this process doesn’t work but it’s difficult to become more cooperative and collaborative once the litigation process has started. The reality is that with a healthy divorce, children can continue to thrive and adults can move on to happier lives. In our experience, this respectful, solution-oriented divorce process prevents painful casualties of divorce: scarred children and years of stress and anger for the adults.

If you are facing a divorce and want to proceed in the most efficient and healthy way possible, call us at 770-645-8933. Andrew or Tracy will meet with you to consult on your specific situation and create a plan to help you and your family.

Andrew McConaghie, LCSW
Tracy McConaghie, LCSW

Andrew and Tracy McConaghie are collaboratively trained parenting plan experts and the owners of McConaghie Counseling in Alpharetta, GA since 2000. Their practice is focused on helping children, adults, couples and families grow and become as healthy as possible. Andrew specializes in couples counseling (including divorce counseling) and Tracy specializes in child and family therapy. To find out more information, please go to mcconaghiecounseling.com or call 770-645-8933.

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By: Tracy McConaghie, LCSW, RPT/S

1. Specific, sincere positive acknowledgment is far more effective than punishment strategies. Negative reinforcement or punishment works short term at best, but does not teach the child what to do or how to improve the problem. Comments should focus on what the child did right and exactly what they did. For example, rather than “you did not disrupt the class”, state exactly what desired behavior occurred.

Vary positive comments – the same thing said over and over can lose its value.
Be sincere- children know when you do not really mean or believe what you say.

2. Selectively ignore some inappropriate behavior. Every single misbehavior does not have to be addressed, and when it is it results in a great deal of discouragement in children. Remember, children do better when they feel better and worse when they feel worse.

3. Set up secret signals between you and the child. This is a way of redirecting that is supportive and does not result in the embarrassment that frequent calling out in class does. Plan with the child what the signal will be and what it means.

4. Plan seating and line arrangements carefully to reduce problems.

5. Spend time talking with the child about things other than school – one of the best predictors of how well a child does in school is if they believe their teacher likes them.

6. Provide calming manipulative such as play dough, stress balls, etc. These provide needed sensory input that can increase attention, and they keep hands busy.

7. Allow for breaks – ask the child frequently to run errands or do jobs in the classroom. This not only provides needed breaks, but also increases the sense of capability and contribution to the classroom.

8. Children can not thrive without a physical break during the day, and this is particularly true for children with ADHD or other challenges. Do not remove recess time for misbehavior or unfinished work. If your school does not provide a good dose of recess in the middle of the day, create an activity time in your classroom – sit ups, push ups against the wall, stretches and yoga poses that are strenuous yet quiet, etc. Productivity will increase even though you take time for this.

9. Use non-verbal cues. For example, a firm hand on the shoulder, pointing to what needs to be done without talking, making eye contact.

10. Plan a routine for transitions. Help the child make a cue card with the steps for packing up and lining up, for example, and point to it on his or her desk when it is time for this step. Stay near the child during these transitions when possible to give coaching and reminders.


Tracy McConaghie and her husband Andrew McConaghie own McConaghie Counseling in Alpharetta. She specializes in helping children and families with divorce, parenting, anxiety and behavior problems. Andrew specializes in couples counseling, including divorce counseling.  Both Andrew and Tracy help divorcing couples create successful parenting plans for their divorce.  They are available for therapy or consultation in their office or via phone or video conferencing. You can also visit  McConaghie Counseling online at www.mcconaghiecounseling.com.

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By: Tracy McConaghie, LCSW, RPT/S

In my parenting classes, I often use this disclaimer when sharing a new parenting tool: “this is not a magic trick.” I say this to remind parents that children are not robots; we can not follow an exact formula and get an exact result because humans and situations are unpredictable and complex. However, I sometimes feel magic is an appropriate adjective for the tool of empathy.

Empathy means feeling with. When we sympathize with someone, we feel bad for them, but from a distance. When we empathize, we are able to be truly connected with them and feel with them. Using empathy transforms relationships, reduces tension and improves behavior. It is also one of the most effective discipline tools.

Imagine coming home from a very difficult day and venting to your spouse or partner about how terrible it was. You might say something like “you can not even imagine how terrible work was today. The demands on me are so unreasonable and I am sick of it. I feel like quitting. I am so over the horrible treatment I am receiving from my boss!” What do you want from your partner? What would help you the most? How about if they said this: “You need to get a hold of yourself! I don’t want to hear you talk like that about work – we need that income! Maybe if you had a better attitude things would not be going so bad for you. Why don’t you just talk to your boss about your work load? Come on, calm down!” You can probably feel your stress rising just reading this example. You most certainly would not respond to those kind of comments by thanking them for helping you and then enjoying your renewed positive attitude about work. In fact, you would feel worse and likely get even louder and more negative about your job.

Empathy is not usually thought of as a discipline tool. To be honest, it is often the last thing we are thinking of when our children are misbehaving. When children are refusing to do their homework, having a meltdown over a minor issue, or telling us they hate us for our stupid rules, our heart is not really going out to them. We are mad, hurt, and afraid. Sometimes we even feel like getting them back. Even if we are not angry about something our children are saying or doing, we might respond to their complaints and stress by explaining to them they do not need to feel that way or telling them to stop.

Child: I hate homework I am not going to do it!
Parent: Well get used to it, you are in 3rd grade now and you are most definitely going to do it.

Child: All my friends were mean to me today.
Parent: Nonsense! I saw you talking with Sarah at carpool.

Child: I hate these stupid rules!
Parent: We do not talk like that in this house!

Child: This is so unfair! I am in the middle of my show and I want to keep watching TV!
Parent: I don’t want to hear your complaints! Just cooperate for once and go brush your teeth!

If these examples sound all too familiar, don’t worry: you are not alone. These are very common responses from parents. We are all tired and trying to do the best we can with the very intense and emotional job of parenting. Most of the responses above are well intended attempts to help children see reality or to get to them to do what they need to do. The problem is, they do neither. No child has responded to lectures or demands with : “good point mom, I think I will get started on my homework right away” or ” I see what you mean, I really do have a lot of great friends.” On the contrary, they push back, protest, or try even harder to convince you of their point of view.

Theresa Wiseman, an empathy researcher, explains that the elements of empathy are: staying out of judgment, perspective taking, and expressing understanding. Staying out of judgment means we do not consider whether or not what our child feels is “right.” We do not judge their perspective. Perspective taking means putting ourselves into our child’s shoes. The skills of getting into our child’s world opens doors to creative and loving parenting. We can practice this by remembering our own childhood experience and even by imagining what we would feel like in the same situation as an adult (as we did previously when we imagined telling our partner about a bad day at work.) Finally, expressing understanding means finding something in our child’s experience we can join with and validate. This does not mean approving of their language or choices, but it does mean looking behind their less mature attempts to express themselves to the truth in their reality.

Here are some empathy responses:

Child: I hate homework and I’m not going to do it!
Parent: I don’t blame you for not wanting to do your homework after that long day of school. In fact, I remember feeling the very same way sometimes when I was your age.

Child: All my friends were mean to me today.
Parent: You seem so sad about that.

Child: I hate these stupid rules!
Parent: I can see you are very angry about not being able to do what you want.

Child: This is so unfair! I am in the middle of my show and want to keep watching!
Parent: That is disappointing. I know it is one of your favorites.

Using empathy in this way does not mean changing the rules or keeping the TV on. Parents still need to follow through with what is best for their families. Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline and founder of the Positive Discipline Association calls this Connect Before Correct. That is a wonderful reminder to join with our children and show understanding before move to correcting our children.


Tracy McConaghie and her husband Andrew McConaghie own McConaghie Counseling in Alpharetta. She specializes in helping children and families with divorce, parenting, anxiety and behavior problems. Andrew specializes in couples counseling, including divorce counseling.  Both Andrew and Tracy help divorcing couples create successful parenting plans for their divorce.  They are available for therapy or consultation in their office or via phone or video conferencing. You can also visit  McConaghie Counseling online at www.mcconaghiecounseling.com.

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