Updated or Outdated?

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While I was preparing for my upcoming parenting course I started wondering why some parents don’t take advantage of such opportunities.

Busy familyThen I remembered, so well, my struggle with my inner critic before I updated from my simple cell phone to an expensive smartphone, that required a more expensive “data plan”. I didn’t even know what a “data plan” was! I questioned myself endlessly, as I tend to do over expensive purchases. “Do I really need it? Is it worth the expense? And yes, I even answered myself! “I’ve gotten along just fine without it.” “Other people seem to be doing fine without these gadgets.” “It will take too much time to learn about it.” Truthfully, I even felt shame that I knew nothing about smartphones. I felt embarrassed and stupid that I didn’t even know what questions to ask.

When I finally decided to ‘just go for it’—to find out about these smartphones—I remember so well my sense of awe when the salesperson, Stephen, wisely and patiently took his time to show me all the features of what became my first smart phone. A couple of times I even exclaimed, “Wow!” Compared to my boring cell phone this smart phone was definitely SMART—and could make me smarter! These days successful, effective business leaders know that updating is a smart move.

So what does this have to do with parents not taking advantage of parent education opportunities? Well, I wonder if some of the reasons why parents don’t attend parenting workshops are the same reasons why I was reluctant to get a smart phone. I have heard parents say, “Parents should know what to do. It’s just common sense.” “It’s only parents in trouble who need parent education” or “I don’t have time.”

Yet, many of my clients know that keeping updated on the latest information about how to help children grow up to be happy and resilient is a smart move.

For instance, our parents could only have dreamed of the tools available to parents today — tools like learning the skills to become your child’s emotional coach, tools for discipline that promote a child’s self-discipline and self-motivation, strategies for dealing with tantrums effectively. Just learning this one thing—how not to be a “helicopter parent”— whose kids grow up to feel “entitled” or feel too scared to grow up and go out into the real world of work—could prevent a lot of future suffering.

Both parents and children have less stress and enjoy their life together so much more when parents learn such skills.

Just like the smart phone helps us cope with the digital age and the fast pace of our lives,  research-based parent education can help you to prevent your child from going down the slippery slope of internet addiction, a growing, serious problem with youth today. (This is just one of the parenting problems parents, in the past, didn’t have  to worry about.)

Being updated on the latest information on helping children grow up to be happy and resilient is a smart move. For example, some styles of parenting are outdated and make parenting harder. The authoritarian style and the permissive style—or as Barb Coloroso, author of “Kids Are Worth It” called them, the Brick Wall and Jellyfish models of parenting—are outdated and costly to you and your child. You can still use them but they are ineffective and time-wasting, producing poor results. They are as outdated as the typwriter! As with a smart phone, there are more options and more applications in parenting to make your job effective, enjoyable and efficient.

To carry this analogy just a little further, there is so much to learn about raising kids. As I have often said, “Parenting is all learned, not inherited.” The bad news is that learning on the job is inefficient and outdated. The good news is that you can learn how to talk so kids will listen (Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlich), and how to be respected and connected to your children even when you set limits. And you will smile, knowing that not much else in the world really matters more than raising children who believe in themselves and have the gifts of self-respect, inner strength, and a strong moral compass that will guide them throughout their life—even through the hazards of adolescence.

Stephen Covey once commented “There is so much good we that we can do in the world and it all starts in the home.”

 


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Back to School: Anxiety — Kindergarten and Grade One

Make your child a priority today!

For many students the first day of school doesn’t only mean new teachers and new friends – it can also be a source of anxiety.

Children as young as three may show signs of stress, several months before school even begins. This fear can be pretty intense.

Your young children may fear that something bad will happen to them and there will be no one to take care of them. They may worry about getting lost, not being able to find the bathroom in time and having an accident, not knowing when they will be going home or who will be picking them up.. Make sure to use every orientation opportunity so that your child is familiar with the school, their classroom, and their teacher. Feeling connected to the teacher can help to relieve your child’s anxiety. Tell your child who will pick them up and when. Don’t be late. A child who is waiting to be picked up is anxious. Ask the teacher how she helps children who are crying.

 Take it easy and make getting ready fun!

Fifteen Tips

  1. Label all your child’s belongings, including hats.
  2. Get kids’ sleep schedule ready for school two weeks prior the first day of school. Sleep makes kids smarter and more able to cope with stress. Put your child to bed earlier and wake her up earlier. Make this change in small increments. Children under the age of 12 need 10 to 12 hours of sleep.
  3. Choose clothes that are easy for your child to put on and take off.
  4. Have your child draw a picture to give to the teacher.
  5. Practice a good-bye ritual such as rubbing noses cheerfully, then kissing, and, with a smile, saying, “I love you. Enjoy your day and I’ll see you at 3:30.” When you are leaving your childn never sneak out without saying good-bye.
  6. Do as much preparation as possible the night before. Lay out clothes, pack easy, nutritious  lunches, and have backpacks at the door.
  7. Reassure your child that you are packing an extra pair of pants and socks in a plastic bag in his backpack, in case of an accident.
  8. Get a good night’s sleep.
  9. Prepare and plan a calm morning schedule.  A predictable routine is calming for children. Rushing increases stress.
  10. In the morning of the first day, get yourself ready first.
  11. Be calm. You may add to your child’s stress if you are stressed.
  12. Give your child an appropriate comfort object. For example a picture of the family, or with bright red lipstick kiss the back of your child’s hand with an all-day kiss.
  13. Provide a nutritious breakfast. Even young children, as young as 4 or 5, can pour a bowl of cereal.
  14. Arrive early to help your child engage with other kids.
  15. Plan a fun activity, such as a bike ride with you, for the end of the school day. This can give your child something to look forward to.

What if your child cries when you about to leave?

If your child is teary-eyed it is likely that he is afraid, feels unsafe, and doesn’t know how to self-sooth.

The two extreme reactions are to “rescue” too soon or to leave the child crying.

Don’t say, “Don’t be afraid.” Young children can’t separate themselves from their feelings. Children may feel shame if they are not allowed to express their feelings.

Instead, show empathy.  Hold your child and say, “I know you feel sad. You are okay. You are safe.” Recognize your child’s effort to be brave.

A calm teacher can play an important role here, by doing something to engage your child and by having a welcoming ritual. A child who feels connected to the teacher is usually less anxious.


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Getting Kids’ Sleep Schedule Ready for School

Back to School

Back to School

Summer has its own pace, but school in September demands more routine. It will be easier for both parents and kids to ease into their new school year bedtimes and wake-up times if parents start, two weeks before school begins, to implement a plan.

  1. Start making both wake- up time and bedtimes earlier. Gradually move these times earlier, in small increments, (about 15 minutes every other day, time permitting) as the start of school approaches.
  2.  Plan to do activities earlier in the morning. I encourage outdoor activities as much as possible. It doesn’t help kids to be cooped up inside, and couch time watching screens doesn’t promote good sleep either.
  3. A parent’s mood is contagious. Be calm and cheerful. Avoid interruptions such as answering your phone. This is a valuable time to connect with your children.

Preparation for sleep:

  • The bedroom needs to be dark, quiet and comfortable.
  • Eliminate screen time before bedtime. TV and computers are too stimulating right before bed. Even light from a sleeping computer can make sleeping difficult.
  • Avoid exercising or doing anything too thought-provoking.
  • Limit any caffeine intake in the afternoons and have a healthy diet because quality meals set the stage for successful sleep.
  • Do something quiet, like reading. This sends a signal to the brain that it is time to wind down.

Be prepared to listen to your child’s concerns. When children have an opportunity to voice their concerns they are able to sleep better.

Don’t talk about going back to school too much, especially if your child tends to be anxious.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 60% of U.S children ages 5 to 17 feel tired at some point during the day and 1in 4 feel tired most of the time.
Sleep deprivation diminishes mental performance. Lack of sleep causes temporary loss of I.Q. points (National Institute of Health).

_____________________________________

The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following guidelines for children:

6- to 9-year-olds need about 10 hours of sleep a night.
10- to 12-year-olds need a little over nine hours each night.

Teenagers should aim for eight to nine hours per night.


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The Countdown Begins!

I’ve been teaching/coaching parents for more than 30 years. Yet when the countdown begins for my next workshops my heart still bubbles with joy and anticipation. I look forward to meeting everyone, new faces and old. Even more so, I look forward to sharing the research, information, and resources that have  helped so many amazing parents to be the parent they dreamed of being — calmly managing the most difficult situations.

Knowing that we all want the best for our kids, I teach skills that will help you to stop yelling and shaming. We all know the intense pain of being shamed as a small child, feeling like we are flawed and unlovable.young girl trying to block out sound of parents arguing When we shame our kids we promote behaviours like lying because many kids would rather lie than feel the pain of being shamed.

Children are people too.

The primary difference between healthier families and controlling or permissive families is that parents in healthier families allow children to grow up as persons in their own right.

“If you bungle raising your children, nothing else matters much in life.”

—Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

I enjoy giving parents up-to-date tools that work. I relish parents’ comments afterwards, like “I did that, Win, and I was amazed — it really worked.” These simple tools do work, and perhaps more importantly, they leave your child’s self-esteem intact too. I love to use the analogy that just as you would never use a typewriter again — once you’ve used a computer — you won’t want to  use outdated parenting tools again either, once you learn about these effective, time-efficient tools that truly make parenting easier and more enjoyable!

canstockphoto-2It’s just amazing how — if you make what seem to be small changes — you can change your relationship with your child forever. It will be calmer and more peaceful. And your child will want to co-operate, and listen to you because your child will trust you more. These skills and resources will hold you steady right through the adolescent years.

 


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The Key to Becoming an Effective Parent Today

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Create the home you always wanted.

I have studied, practiced, and taught parenting for more than 30 years.

When my husband and I were preparing to have our first child, I vividly recall feeling joy — and anxiety. My anxiety came from my unhappy childhood memories. Upon reflection, knowing that my parents did the best that they could, and that it wasn’t good enough, I didn’t want to repeat what I my parents did.

In the absence of reflection, history often repeats itself…Research has clearly demonstrated that our children’s attachment to us will be influenced by what happened to us when we were young if we do not come to process and understand those experiences.

– Daniel Siegel

Later, as a public health nurse, visiting 30-50 homes a month — and having started to teach parenting — I began to ask: Why is it that some parents and their children are happier and more successful than others? Why do some have better relationships than others?

Why Are So Many Parents Frustrated and Unhappy?

Why is it that so many parents, who had great dreams, and were over-joyed when their child was born, end up frustrated and mad at their kids? Why are some parents supportive, patient, respectful, effective, and optimistic —  but the majority are yelling, threatening, punishing, and finally, hitting a child because “nothing else works”?

Why is it that a few parents get enjoyable satisfaction out of parenting, and are not rushed, while — at the same time — a great majority are rushed and stressed and downright unhappy?

Why do some children grow up to be happy, competent, confident, responsible, and resilient, and others grow up to be unmotivated, unable to build healthy relationships, and stuck — blaming their parents for all their woes?

It seemed to me that so few parents were realizing their full potential to build their legacy — deep relationships with their children that endured the teen years and beyond! So few were grasping the awesome opportunity they had to truly change the world — by changing how they parented!

Learn What You Need To Learn to Be an Effective Parent

Searching for answers to my questions, I decided to do what I had done to become a successful driver, a successful, competent nurse, educator, speaker, and writer. I decided that if I were to become the parent I wanted to be — feeling happy and confident most of the time, and raising terrific kids — I had to learn what I needed to learn and then practice it until I got good at it.

Successful, effective parenting is not magic. You can learn what you need to know to be the parent you always wanted to be!

 


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Parent Alert: The Choking Game

canstockphoto10584317

Stay connected to your teenagers.

When Amanda Bryant of Alberta found her nine year-old-son, Kalib, in his bedroom with a belt around his neck eleven days before Christmas, it changed her life and the lives of her family forever. Kalib’s death was initially ruled a suicide. Amanda found it hard to believe that her outgoing, happy child would commit suicide. She began a search for answers

That search led her to another mother whose son had died in an eerily similar way. In California, Sarah Pacatte’s 13-year-old son Gabriel was found by his twin, Samuel on May 6, 2005.

“I saw Gabe with the rope around his neck and a math book on his lap. He was just sitting on the ground. And so I thought he was just joking and so I said Gabe, knock it off, or like quit messing around…I looked over at him and he hadn’t moved. I said his name a couple of times.”

Gabriel was rushed to hospital where he died 15 hours later. He had died playing “the choking game”. Sam remembers playing the game with his brother.                        www.cbc.ca/fifth/chokinggame/

The choking game is voluntary suffocation, to the point of unconsciousness, for the purpose of obtaining a ‘rush’ or light-headed sensation. Pressure is used to cut off the blood and oxygen supply to the brain. When the choking pressure is released, blood rushes back into the brain causing a euphoric rush, a momentary physical thrill.

Initially one kid will do it for another, sometimes at a party, and then the kid will seek the sensation again, alone.

Many names are used for this game such as Pass Out, Gasp, Space monkey, Hyperventilating, the Elevator Game, the Funky Chicken, and the American Dream Game.

 “At this point, there is a need for public education,” says Angela Boak, Research Coordinator and Analyst at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. After studying this phenomenon, she believes “parents, physicians and educators should be aware of this game.”

-cited byTawnya Pancharavski, AboutKidsHealth

This is an alert to all parents. Many parents don’t even know the choking game exists and many didn’t suspect their child was doing it until it was too late.

The kids think the choking game is challenging,and  thrilling — without realizing it is dangerous and can be deadly. Typically, they are 9 – 16 years old and are well behaved, good kids. It’s done at school and it’s done at home. Did you know that they can get specific directions on the internet? They do it for fun, to see if they can succeed at it, and to get a high. This behaviour can be addicting.

Every time someone plays this game, their brain cells die. Anytime the brain is deprived of blood and/or oxygen, cells begin to die. Brain cells cannot regenerate. Those brain cells are dead forever. Death of brain cells is actually the least serious effect of this “game”. Broken bones and fractured skulls from falling, blindness, and coma are a few of the consequences. Worse still, unfortunately, some kids who do the choking game have one thing in common – death.

Studies show that 45% of kids knew someone who tried it. 40% of kids perceived no risk. They think it’s just like fainting. They are wrong. It will kill as long as our kids are uneducated — and consider this a game.

Prevention:

Parents need to be alert and vigilant, to be educated about the risks of the choking game,  and to talk to their kids about it. This is an opportunity for closeness and teaching. Just as you talk to your kids about alcohol and drugs, incorporate this topic into those conversations. This is your job. Don’t leave it to anyone else. You could save a life — maybe your own child’s. Even if you didn’t know about this, kids do know. You can initiate the conversation by asking them about it.  Ask them if they tried it or know someone who has.

Warning signs:

  • blood shot eyes
  • marks on the neck
  • wearing high-necked shirts, even in warm weather
  • frequent or severe headaches
  • long periods of time spent alone in the bedroom
  • disorientation after spending time alone
  • ropes, dog leashes, scarves, or belts, tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor.
  • acute vision changes or vision loss

Even as your children get older they still need to experience connection and closeness with you. They still need your counsel and your supervision. Monitor the sites they visit on their computer.

As well, encourage your school to teach parents and students about the risks of this game and the irreversible damage this game can cause.


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How to Make Shopping With Young Children Easier

Little Girl Shopping

Children need help to get their needs met.

Remember those spur-of-the-moment, leisurely shopping trips before you had kids? That was then. Now your opportunities to shop are fewer, time allowances are shorter, and rarely is shopping  an “adult only” event.

On a recent shopping trip, I was standing in line, waiting for the next available cashier, and behind me were a mother and her daughter who looked to be about 3 years old. I had met them earlier in the store, when the little girl was trying on a new pair of shoes. Greeting the mom once again, I noticed the little girl taking a bottle of water from a nearby upright cooler. (The cooler had been so strategically placed by the merchant! It was noon. Feeling thirsty and hungry, I too considered buying a cool drink while waiting.) When she asked her mother if she could have it, her mother said, “No, your water is in the car.” When her daughter said, “I want this one,” I heard her mom tell her, “There are things in this water that are bad for you.” Then the child returned the bottle to the cooler and fetched another bottle of water with a different colored label. I thought, “How smart is she! She probably thinks that this one won’t have bad things in it.” When she asked her mother if she could have that one, her mother, sounding irritated, said “You can’t have that water either. I am not buying any water for you, so don’t think that I am! Put it back!” Her daughter looked sad and confused.

I wondered why the mother was mad. This little girl wasn’t doing anything wrong. She just wanted some water and needed her mother’s help. Small children need help from adults to get their needs met. (I wonder if the mother would have responded differently if she had been with an adult friend who was thirsty, and wanted a bottle of water.) Considering that they had been shopping for some time and it was noon, it’s possible that both the mom and her daughter were thirsty, perhaps hungry, and tired from shopping.

Of course, it was the mother’s right to set limits, but this situation was more complicated than simply setting a limit.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Reflection, preparation, and planning make shopping with children more enjoyable. As well, the practices of prioritizing and protecting your child’s schedule for meals, sleep, and playtime make parenting easier, and children happier and more cooperative. For example, this situation may have been prevented if the mother had planned to stop shopping before the child’s lunchtime. Children who are hydrated, fed and rested make happier shopping companions.

Of course, there are some circumstances when parents decide that more flexibility is needed so the child’s routine is set aside. But when parents let go of the child’s routine, the outcomes are more unpredictable. Therefore, more time is needed for preparation and planning for possible outcomes. Parents need to prepare for extending the time for shopping by packing drinks and snacks that will be available when needed. Grown ups are able to wait, children find waiting more difficult. It is age-appropriate for children to feel stressed and irritable when they are thirsty and hungry.

When this kind of preparation and planning doesn’t occur, a shopping trip can, as my girlfriend put it, “turn ugly”. But there are still things that parents can do that may help their children to cope with unmet needs like hunger, thirst, and fatigue — for a short period of time.

  1. Be self-aware. Are you hungry? Tired? Do you feel like blaming your child? Stop immediately and take a deep breath and another one, until you feel calm. The beauty of being the grown up is that you don’t have to be the victim of your feelings. Getting mad at, and blaming, your child for your upset makes everything worse.
  2. Remember that: all children have good intentions and — just because they are children — they all have difficulty waiting, and delaying gratification.
  3. Keep your options open. Reflect and decide if a limit is needed. This is an important decision, but there is no urgency. If you choose to set a limit, then, before voicing the limit, think about how you will support and help your child to cope with the limit. For example, with a positive demeanor you can recognize the child’s wish: “I know you are thirsty and you wish you had some water right now. When we get to our car you will have a refreshing drink of water. You will feel better. Right now, will you please help me and carry your shoes?”
  4. Or, you may decide — just as you already decided to make an exception regarding the child’s schedule — to make another exception and share a bottle of water, relieving stress for you both.
  5. In all situations, let the most important parenting principle be your guide: connection. Look into your child’s eyes, show empathy and stay connected to your child.


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Guest Post: “Roots of Violence Found in Culture” by Debra Harshaw

Debra initially posted her deep reflections on Facebook. I asked her to guest post here because her insights are comprehensive – and well written. She provokes us to look in our back yard, to change our values, and  to make a “paradigm shift,” —  so that all children will have a deep sense of connection, of belonging, and so that peace will reign over violence. Thank you, Debra.


canstockphoto10576990Following the shootings in Newtown CT, I’ve been reflecting on how such horrific violence can be prevented. The majority of blog posts and media reports suggest that the only solution is to implement gun control. I do not think that gun control, or ‘common sense regulation’, as some have suggested, is all that is needed. The problem for the American people goes much deeper than that.

The wise old adage that “it takes a village to raise a child” has never been more true than now. A society that places little value on the raising, nurturing and support of their beautiful children and their over-worked, over-stressed parents will unfortunately produce individuals that are dangerously disconnected from their fellow humans. A society that demands that new moms go back to work after as little as 6 weeks of maternity leave — what kind of bonding and connection occurs in such a short period of time? What kind of bond will occur afterwards —  when the parent returns home exhausted, and the newborn sees more of the care giver than of his or her parents?

I tried to get my head around what could possibly cause a young man, just 20 years old, to do this terrible deed. Perhaps intense anger drove him to kill his own parent, one who by all accounts, was doing the best job that she could.

But why the attack on the school, shooting and killing? That did not make sense — until today’s news revealed that he was a special needs child. Painfully shy, socially immature. Probably got picked on, ridiculed, bullied –ah, that brings us to another serious problem seen among our youth today — the problem of bullying. These bullied children suffer depression and anger. They become disconnected from their peers, and family. Some turn their anger inwards and choose suicide. Others turn their anger outwards and become a danger to the people around them. What programs exist out their to support these children, to support their parents? How much funding is available to bring this kind of care into our neighbourhoods? Don’t kid yourself, folks, we, in Canada, do not have nearly enough support for our children and their families either. That problem crosses borders.

I do not think that there is an easy answer to this terrible tragedy. Our American neighbours have a huge and seemingly improbable task ahead of them. It requires an important paradigm shift, away from making money at all costs, to nurturing the family, reconnecting their citizens and developing in every one of our beautiful children (and their parents) a true sense that they belong, and that they have a place in our world.

 


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The Elf on the Shelf Tradition Is No ‘Quick Fix’ for Raising Children

Elf on the Shelf logoI know discussions about the Elf on the Shelf can really trigger some parents’ intense emotions.1 Amy, of the Funny Is Family blog, reports that fans “swear by the magical properties that turn their kids into well behaved angels from Thanksgiving to Christmas.” She represents a small minority of parents who don’t understand why someone would add to the holiday stress by taking on the work involved in keeping up the holiday hoax, and also protests that this Elf on the Shelf is just one more addition to our bully culture:

We can’t say anything because you’re in Santa’s inner circle? Sounds to me like we’ve brought a bully in the house. Hey kids, it’s okay to let someone treat you badly if they are important. Or if they know someone important.2

In an article in the Atlantic, that I highly recommend for your reading, You’re a Creepy One, Elf on the Shelf, Kate Tuttle writes:

 An object that disappears and reappears is wonderfully fun—but it doesn’t have to be something from a store or someone else’s imagination, much less a committee’s. If you have an Elf, make up your own story about what he’s doing in your house—the weirder the better. Do not like him on Facebook. Do not use him to bully your child into thinking that good behavior equals gifts.3

Continue reading


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How You Can Support Your Children After the Tragedy at the Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut

All children are
our children.

School shootings can deeply affect us and our children. For children who hear about the event, reassure them that it is natural to worry and feel scared about their safety and the safety of their school.

Limit exposure to news coverage

First, please keep children away from news media, at least for a couple of days, especially news coverage on television and other screens. Children do identify with the fallen children and the children who survived the shooting. This is scary for them and they can imagine themselves in that situation.

Talk & Listen to your children

Our children are our future.

It can help children to first hear you tell them what happened. Be open. They need to know that you are open to talking about it.

Before talking with your children, make sure that you are in a good emotional space–calm, not angry or scared. Children can handle sadness, and you can tell them that this violence is scary for you too. Your children tend to model you.

Start the conversation. Don’t lie. Don’t over-share. How much you share depends on the age of the child. You know your child better than anyone so trust your own assessment of how much to share.

We used to think that there is no need to burden children under 5 years with this information, but now — if they are in school, on school buses and in school yards — even these young children may find out about the event and need support.

Although this took place in an elementary school, the shooter was a 20 year old young person. Adolescents and young adults will, also, be affected by this event. Open up the conversation with them, if they don’t: “Have you heard what happened?… What do you think?…”

Psychologists who work in the area of trauma and recovery advise parents to use the troubling news of school shootings as an opportunity to talk and listen to their children. It is important, say these psychologists, to be honest. Parents should acknowledge to children that bad things do happen, but also reassure them with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, teachers and local police.

Young children may communicate their fears through play or drawings. Elementary school children will use a combination of play and talking to express themselves. Adolescents are more likely to have the skills to communicate their feelings and fears verbally. Adults should be attentive to a child’s concerns, but also try to help the children put their fears into proportion to the real risk. Again, it is important to reassure children that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to make their environment — school, home and neighborhood — safe for them.

Parents, teachers and school administrators also need to communicate with one another not only about how to keep kids safe, but about which children might need more reassurance and the best way to give it to them.

From the American Psychological Association:

Keep it simple and age-appropriate. After giving the facts of the event, follow your child’s lead. Some children will be clingy due to the stress that they are feeling. That’s okay. For some children the facts are enough, and they want to move on. Some children will come back later to talk and ask questions. Some won’t.

Be your child’s emotional coach

When children can talk about their feelings it lowers the intensity, makes feelings more manageable, and it connects you with your children heart to heart.

  • Allow all feelings. What is your child feeling? What are you feeling?
  • Don’t try to fix or change their feelings. Just help them tell their story.
  • Help your children to label their feelings as sad, mad, glad, frustrated, scared…
  • Show empathy.

Reassure them

Tell them: “This rarely happens.” “Right now we are safe.” “Right now you are safe.” “We and your school will do everything we can to keep you safe.”

Help them to connect this tragic event to something positive

Tell them some positive things about this tragedy–how people showed support–the policemen, the firemen, and the helpers. People brought food and flowers and people all over the world sent supportive wishes.

Role-model and teach coping skills.

Your children need you. No one–neither teachers, nor friends–can take your place. This is a reminder of how important it is to spend time engaged with your children, and to connect with them heart to heart.

  • Spend time doing something that they want to do. Spending as few as 15 minutes doing this can make a difference for your child. Boys, especially, often talk more when you are doing something with them.
  • Take a walk, watch a funny movie–anything that helps you to cope.
  • Perhaps you and your children could do something to show support–send a card, a drawing…

Know the warning signs*

Most children are quite resilient and will return to their normal activities and personality relatively quickly, but parents should be alert to any signs of anxiety that might suggest that a child or teenager might need more assistance. Such indicators could be a change in the child’s school performance, changes in relationships with peers and teachers, excessive worry, school refusal, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches or stomach aches, or loss of interest in activities that the child used to enjoy. Also remember that every child will respond to trauma differently. Some will have no ill effects; others may suffer an immediate and acute effect. Still others may not show signs of stress until sometime after the event.

From the American Psychological Association:

*If you child shows any of these warning signs don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

 

From my heart to yours.


 


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