Archives for February 2013

Navigating Hot Topics for the Parents of Today’s Teens

While our children were young we spent time researching, discussing, reflecting, parenting and generally laying the foundation for the teen years. We often worry that we might have missed something or made a “bad choice”. But the reality is we can not predict without question the forces that will drive our children’s desires and goals as they enter adolescence.  But we can use the basic parenting skills that we have been relying on so far to help us navigate the teen years. I recently saw a segment of the Today Show that provided a good example of how having good communication plays a key role when parenting teenagers. The segment explores how we broach some of today’s current hot-button topics with our teens. College student Lucie Fink, high school student and blogger Sam Koppelman, and psychologist Jennifer Hartstein give their takes on understanding the nature of teen internet relationships, negotiating teen spring break plans, and more. To view the segment check out the link to the Parenting Today show titled: Teen Talk: what parents need to know that aired on January 24 2013.

 

Thinking About Thinking: Supporting your baby’s thinking skills

  • Children need many skills to grow up to be successful adults. Some of the most important skills that will serve all children well throughout life are thinking skills or the ability to use brain power to solve a problem in one’s environment. There are a lot of things that we can do at to encourage and develop these skills in our children, and we can start VERY early. Some ideas are offered in the Zero to Three Parenting Tips Library. The tip sheet is titled, Thinking Skills: What You Can Do to Encourage Your Baby’s Thinking Skills from 0-12 months offers ideas such as those listed below. For more detailed information about each suggestion check out the link to the full Tip Sheet brought to you by zerotothree.com.
  • Offer objects to explore.
  • Respond to her efforts to communicate. 
  • Delight in your child’s discoveries. 
  • Provide the help your child needs to solve problems
  • Play disappearing and reappearing games.
  • Encourage your child to explore objects and toys in different ways.
  • Provide support for reaching goals.
  • Model problem-solving.
  • Take “touching” walks.
  • Make the most of daily routines.
  • Give your child some everyday “toys”.

 

Driven to Distraction

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Esther Schiedel.  We hope you enjoy the post and look forward to part 2 of this post from Esther.

I was driven to distraction by my almost one-year-old grandson last year: I distracted him from the Christmas tree, the fireplace, my eyeglasses, the dog’s water dish, and so on. To distract him, I moved him to another part of the room, introduced other activities, and substituted interesting toys for the things I didn’t want him handling. My grandson and I both benefited from my use of distraction. I didn’t need to yell or say no to preserve my property (and sanity) and he was able to continue exploring and learning by focusing on objects that were safe for him.

Distraction is a valuable parenting tool—for all ages. With infants or toddlers, it is usually easy to direct their attention to something else by physically moving them to another location or substituting another object. With an older child or a teen, using distraction requires more thought and attention. This is a good sign, as it indicates the growing ability of the child to maintain focus on one thing. Distraction works best when parents involve the child in the process. By actively participating he or she will learn how to use deliberate distraction independently.

Deliberate distraction consists of helping a child to replace one behavior with another—playing with a toy instead of a dangerous object, for example. It can also help a child learn how to delay gratification by focusing on other activities while waiting for a desired activity, event, or object.

Partial distraction—having something else to focus on in addition what you are doing—is useful for:

*Making a boring or unpleasant task easier to do—setting a timer so getting dressed is a race against time;

*Staying on task to the finish —by using background music, taking frequent short breaks before returning to work;

*Getting through a difficult emotional experience—using physical activities such as going for a run and/or creative activities like drawing a picture or writing a letter.

Deliberate distraction is not about ignoring unpleasant feelings or situations. Instead, it can be a way to work through or cope with those feelings; or it can help calm emotions so that one can begin to problem-solve.

Before using distraction it’s helpful to identify and acknowledge what the child is currently focusing on and what the child may be feeling. You might describe the situation from the child’s point of view: “When Dad has to go to work you feel sad.” “You are having a lot of fun getting wet.” Ask your child what he or she is paying attention to. Or stay silent and wait beside your child for a while. Allowing time to acknowledge the situation shows respect and will help your child become aware that he or she is focusing on something—that awareness makes it easier to shift focus to something else.

Being able to redirect attention from one thing to another isn’t just a parenting tool. It is also a valuable lifelong ability. As adults we all encounter boring tasks, long waits, and challenging emotions. Deliberate, positive distraction can help us as well as our children.

Esther Schiedel is parent to three adults, grandparent to two boys, and a Certified Family Life Educator. She provides parenting education through classes and workshops through LBCC and through her business, Sharing Strengths. She became interested in parenting education when she became a parent and had a need for more information and support.

 

Preventing Senseless Tragedy

Thankfully, discussions on how to prevent tragedies such as Newtown, Conn.  are filling the media and political arena. Debates will be heated and action will be painstakingly slow. You can wait for research to be done, debates to be held and laws to be passed or you can take action now in the place it matters most… with your own family.

If every family in America embraced change within their own family the likelihood of another senseless tragedy could be reduced. We can start a grass roots movement that will be as powerful as any legislation that can be passed.

1. Securely store any guns kept in the home. The guns Adam Lanza used to kill 27 people were registered in his mother’s name. Clearly, Adam has access to those guns. If you have guns in your home they must be in a locked gun safe. Only adults should know how to unlock the safe.

2. Limit or curtail viewing of violent TV shows, movies and video games in your home. The average American child views nearly 1,000 TV murders each year. What good comes from this?  Is it necessary for your child to simulate shooting human beings in games such as “Call of Duty,” “Grand Theft Auto” and “Mortal Kombat?” Although direct correlations between shooting rampages and violent media are scant, can we agree that it perpetuates a culture of violence in America that is unparalleled in Western countries? Violence is glorified as “entertainment” and Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite for media violence. The latest “Call of Duty” earned over $1billion in sales within two weeks of its release. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.” Watching violent shows is also linked with having less empathy toward others. Clearly, the shooters in Newtown, Columbine, Aurora, and other sites did not see their victims as caring, loving human beings whose loss would devastate all who knew them. The University of Michigan Health System site has a thorough summary of media viewing and its effects on children and I highly recommend you visit this site: http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm. The children of Newtown, Conn. have signed a pledge to throw away violent video games. Shouldn’t your kids join them? Be a media-savvy parent by watching shows your children are watching and playing video games they’re playing so you can experience first-hand what your child is being exposed to.  Don’t be afraid to take a stand and limit exposure to violence.

3. Prohibit physical aggression in your family. Assailants find violence as a solution to a problem. From a young age, teach your kids that physical aggression and violence is never a solution to a problem. When children learn peaceful means of solving problems and practice using them every day they will transfer those skills to other relationships and will learn conflict resolution and negotiation skills. If every family in America steadfastly prohibited hitting, kicking, and shoving among siblings and curtailed any form of physical aggression toward their children and spouse, violence would become unthinkable.

4. Be an approachable parent. When your child feels hurt, lonely, disappointed, angry, jealous or even full of rage, you want to be a parent who listens, doesn’t judge, shows empathy, and helps your child work through strong feelings in a peaceful manner. None of these killers turned to their parents to share their rage. They turned to guns.

5. Know the warning signs of mental illness. A parent’s instincts are often right. You can sense if your child is out of synch with peers. A depressed child may socially isolate him/herself, lose interest in prior activities, have trouble sleeping, or sleep too much, exhibit hair-trigger anger responses, have shifts in eating patterns, or express thoughts of self-hatred or self-harm. A teenager with schizophrenia may temporarily lose touch with reality and have great difficulty with interpersonal relationships, general functioning and self-care. A child with anti-social behavior lacks empathy for others and consistently places their needs above all others. Cruelty to animals is a big red flag. Mental health assessments are confidential. Treatment is covered by most health insurance plans now. Seek help for your child so their quality of life can be optimal and get help before it’s too late. Adam Lanza reportedly left his home only on rare occasions for the last two years. This indicates a decline in his mental health. It does not appear that his parents sought help for Adam. Instead, one of the most horrific crimes in our history was committed.

6. Curtail bullying behaviors. You must monitor your child’s behavior toward other children in-person and on-line demanding that name calling, taunts, threats, social isolation and mean-spirited gossip be stopped. Some of the assailants of school massacres were targets of bullying who took their sense of powerlessness and transferred it to the supreme power of slaughtering innocent people in revenge. Schools, of course, must partner in the elimination of emotional and physical aggression of children at school.

7. Mentor a child. Not every child is blessed with a happy, healthy family. Positive attention from even one caring adult can make a significant difference in a young adult’s life. Consider mentoring a child so every child can feel valued and cared for. Working together at a micro-level in our own homes will make a difference. One family at a time, we can make progress in becoming a peaceful nation where children can go to school and come home safely each day.

This article was brought to you by  Families First Coaching, Copyright 2012: www.familiesfirstcoaching.com