A person in need

A few months ago, I was consoling a friend who had recently lost all her companions, been shunned out of school, and had rumors spread about them for just being themselves. Since COVID-19 quarantine was still going on, we could only communicate through text. She was thinking of suicide and I was just there, peppering her with reasons why she shouldn’t go, constantly spamming her phone until she would text back to reassure me this was okay. I felt her pain through the blue screen, though I couldn’t hear her sobs. After an hour, she gradually calmed down. After my mother had brought up her website’s new contest, Shining Moments, I decided to enter this story in with her permission.

Who doesn’t procrastinate?

  • I am too busy.
  • I am too tired.
  • I don’t have the energy.
  • I am too scared.
  • I don’t know where to start.

These are the most common excuses people use when they procrastinate—delay doing what they need to do. How many of these have you personally used?

According to the American Psychological Association, almost 80% of the people surveyed admit to lying to themselves about the reasons they put off doing things.

So, who doesn’t procrastinate?    The short answer is–nobody.  You’re human, and nobody is productive 100% of the time. But some people have allowed procrastination to thoroughly pervade their lives so much that they don’t realize how much of this non-renewable resource they’re losing.  Whatever kind of future, lifestyle, quest you seek, you need time to achieve mastery and time to make it stick.   

Procrastination is often confused with laziness or plain lack of self-discipline. The truth is that people who procrastinate frequently do so because they are perfectionists who fear making mistakes.  When we face difficult or unpleasant tasks, our brains may choose to ignore our long term interests and goal for immediate pleasure. This can lead to a vicious cycle of poor performance and low self-esteem.

So, what are you to do? Procrastinate effectively! But if we make small changes in our environment, this can help us overcome our negative feelings and increase productivity.

Simplify Your House, Simplify Your Life

Organize your house! Sometimes it’s hard for us to focus on important tasks because we have too many other little stressors creep up on us and accumulate. Physical clutter is a form of sensory overload–a stressor, can lead to mental chaos.  So use your procrastinated time to organize around your house. Take out the trash, wash the dishes, vacuum the floor, get rid of things you haven’t seen or touched for the last 24 months and probably won’t ever again 😉

The key to staying organized is focusing on one shelf or drawer at a time, tackling each one as efficiently as possible so that every part of your home stays tidy.

This “mental” state of clutter has been associated with depression and anxiety, among other conditions. Once you have removed your physical clutter, you’ll gain mental clarity and will have some space in your head to tackle the real work.

p.s. Once you’re done with the physical clutter, you might want to do a digital decluttering of your devices.

Offload Your Mental Tabs

No wonder you can’t concentrate on work!  Your mind is constantly going through all the calls you need to make, keeping track of to do list, and basically trying to make sure you survive well. Help yourself right now by making those important calls and writing down all your to do’s.  You’ve got a lot going on inside the brain, and when you can write down your appointments and to do’s, why stress your brain out by keeping them only in your mind?  If your brain were a browser, you don’t want to open up 100 different tabs at the same time.  Even Einstein’s brain would start to process slower with the strain!

Real Connections

You feel guilty–you’ve been meaning to check in on some very important people in your life and return those calls and emails, but your schedule has been hectic. Well, what are you doing now, procrastinating? No time is better than now. There are people who are important to you, right? So, use that non-working time on them.

Humans are social creatures, we need human connections in order to be emotionally and mentally healthy.  Meaningful relationships where you’ll get these real connections can only be sustained if they are bilateral.  We can’t have strong relationship if we’re not there for the people who matter.

Discover Yourself

Take the time to unlock what’s truly within you through curaJOY’s guided journals and fun quizzes that help build emotional wellness, confidence, resilience and discipline. Download the Quest Depot app now to learn more! Spend your procrastination time in a more meaningful way to appreciate who you are as a person, learn and grow, and develop within. You’ll come out of this ready to take on any work project put in front of you.

Circulate

We all have those days where we just sit at our desk and nothing comes out of our brains.  If so, why not move around a bit to get your circulation going.  Countless research tells us that exercise not only help reduce stress levels and provide energy, but it also improves moods and can improve cognitive performance.

So go outside and take a walk around the block or a local park. Even 6 minutes of exercise can make a big difference. 

Some physical activity may be just what you need to get back to your focused, productive self. You’ll become better able to handle that project, and your body will thank you too.

.True Rest

This is probably what you’ve been needing all along. Modern life drags us in a zillion different directions—work, family, social media, fitness, finances, school, friends….and the list goes on.  If you find yourself more distracted and procrastinating more, your body may begging you for some true rest.

Rest

noun
the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep:a good night’s rest.
refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor:to allow an hour for rest.
relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs.
a period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquillity:to go away for a rest.
mental or spiritual calm; tranquillity.

I’ve included the dictionary definition of rest here because so many of us stay on our devices to take a break when we’ve been working online all day long.  True rest means giving yourself a break from what you’ve been doing–some elements of inactivity is necessary to achieve this. 

Without proper rest, it’s hard to show up and shine, especially when you face challenges. Clear your mind and incorporate meditation in that rest period, do some breathing exercises. Sometimes just closing your eyes and listening to some good music puts us right where we need to be.  

The next time you find yourself endlessly “looking for inspirations” on Instagram, Pinterest, Deviantart, TikTok…., try one of the tips in this article, you may find the genius is within yourself.

When we procrastinate, we almost always doom our futures and create more stress. Time is not a commodity. We can never get it back and we should always be aware of that. When we waste time, we are wasting our most valuable resource. The key to beating procrastination is finding the right balance between short-term mood repairs and longer-term goals.

This is why Quest Depot is invaluable to people who procrastinate.  Quest Depot is an unconventional personal growth system that replaces goal setting guides, progress trackers, guided journals, reward charts, and automatically applies the right motivation methods for you and proven productivity proven tools and techniques, so you achieve and live life to the fullest!

It’s time to get things done. If you’re going to procrastinate, do it effectively and still achieve all of your goals every time. Give yourself a chance. There’s nothing to lose. Take your power back at Quest Depot today!

Write The Soundtrack of Your Life

When you’re sad, mad, frustrated…, it can be hard to tell what will make you feel better. Maybe you want someone who will just listen without being too nosy, or you might tell yourself distractions like ice cream or TV will soothe, but sometimes, what we really need is time alone to write. This article gives you some tips on how to use writing as a self-care tool.

Throughout my life, I have often used writing as a tool to work through difficulties, make better decisions, and express myself more fully and honestly than I could talking in person.

Shrek was right! People are like onions, covered under layers of expectations, fears, past traumas, pretenses… The act of writing thoughts down is beneficial for a few reasons beyond just getting our thoughts out. When we write our thoughts and feelings down on paper, it gives us a chance to pause and creates the necessary distance to uncover what we are actually feeling, making it easier to identify the root of issues. Logical fallacies and hurried conclusions reveal themselves as we put ink to them.

Many think of writing as a chore—something they struggle to do for school/work—but when you journal-write for yourself, it’s therapeutic, rewarding and insightful. Journaling is a way to get in touch with your thoughts, feelings, and struggles without the fear of judgement.

There is an old saying that says, “you cannot see the world for what it is, only for what you are.” It means that our actions are responses to how we perceive the world. The stories we tell ourselves every day have a huge impact on our lives. These internal dialogues are like what soundtracks are for movies. You might just overlook the soundtracks as unimportant background noises until you find that It’s hard to laugh in even the best comedies when you pair them with suspenseful horror movie soundtracks. When we write, we explore these stories, discover blindspots, and are given the opportunity to start re-writing past wrongs and planning for a different life outcome. What soundtrack does the movie of your life play?

It’s important to pay attention to what is happening in your life and not just keep it all in. Writing about what happened can help you process it better, which is why many psychologists have started recommending journaling as an effective stress relief technique for patients who don’t want to take medication or participate in talk therapy. Journaling demands that you think deeply about your life and experiences. For some, journaling is a way to talk about their anxiety or depression, while for others it is a way to process trauma or abuse they have had in their past. 

The psychological benefits of writing include self-exploration, emotional release, stress reduction, pain distraction, physical healing and much more.  A study was done at Stanford University on patients who were admitted into the hospital for cancer treatments. The studies found that those who wrote every day for two or more hours had better outcomes than those who did not write anything at all. Other research found that writing about traumatic events can lessen the intensity of negative thoughts and feelings about the event in the long term. 

Writing therapy is not only a great way to express your thoughts and feelings, it can also help pinpoint things that you need to work on. Sometimes it can be used as an emotional outlet for memories or feelings too difficult to talk about. People often feel safer when they write about their thoughts and feelings in private, which can make it easier for them to explore their deepest emotions without fear that someone will reject them or judge them negatively.

Journaling is a way to shape your life the way you want it. It gives you a chance to rewrite your life’s story and make it better.  It can help us express ourselves better, process what has happened in our lives more clearly, find inspiration for the future, or unburden ourselves from the things that weigh us down.Journaling is also an opportunity to shift perspective by stepping outside of ourselves. The guided journal prompts from curaJOY help you gain a broader perspective on things you have experienced and open up new ways of thinking about them. It can also help you identify patterns in your life which might not be readily apparent otherwise.

Writing therapy has been clinically proven to improve one’s mental wellbeing. curaJOY’s Quest Depot integrates guided journal, emotional awareness, goal setting, progress tracking and reward/motivation system all in one visual interface that leverages positive social influence, gamification and psychology.  In place of the daunting blank journal page, users selects their current mood emoji and then write or speak (speech to text) their responses to journal prompts.

If you want to start journaling on your own, below are some ideas to get you started.

 The WDEP model

A four-step process that can help you think about what you want to achieve, and how to go about it.

●  Wants. What do you want?

This might be something like “I’d like to start my own business” or “I need more time for myself”.

●  Doing. What are you doing to get what you want?

You can also make a list of things that might help you get closer to your goal. For example, these might include taking on extra work, finding a new job, or hiring an assistant.

●  Evaluate. Is what you are doing helping you get to what you want?

●  Plan. Can you make a more effective plan to get what you want?

Evaluate how successful you are after trying this method and plan accordingly for future obstacles.

ABC model

This is the basis of behavior therapy. It replicates the natural process of learning and understanding of human behavior, which starts with an event or antecedent that leads to a behavior or belief, which in turn leads to a consequence.A: Activating event or antecedent

B: Beliefs and thoughts about this event; what we tell ourselves about it

C: Emotions and subsequent actions that result from this belief system

Though the therapeutic benefits of writing are undeniable, it is important to note that it is not always a replacement for therapy. Journaling can, however, help us become more emotionally aware and process negative events which have happened in our lives. For many, it is a way to help them feel safe in this scary world. 

Writing is always free, private and available.  So start journaling to take care of yourself!

Shining Moments Writing Contest Winner Announced

Congratulations to Colin Witkowskic, who is the winner of our Spring Shining Moments Writing Contest. We’ve been trying to reach you to regarding your winner’s prize, but your schools email account has been rejecting external emails. Please get in touch with us or ask a parent to email us at info@curaJOY.com so we can deliver your $100! 

Bullies at school and camp can't get a pass because 'they're just kids.' Parents need to act.

Bullies at school and camp can’t get a pass because ‘they’re just kids.’ Parents need to act.

Looking for guidance in how to protect my daughter, I turned to the book “Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear,” by Carrie Goldman. It’s one of the few books that addresses bullying in younger kids offline rather than the very common and popular topic of cyberbullying of teens online.

Goldman validated my reaction in writing that “To dismiss the taunting as ‘boys being boys’ or as ‘a schoolyard rite of passage’ would send the message that the behavior was normal and acceptable.” Yet historically, an attitude of “kids will be kids” has been common, which is perhaps why so few books address the issue.

That partly may be because it can look harmless in the playground in the younger years. One has to know the difference between “normal social conflict” and bullying. If your child and his best friend fight in the playground over a toy or a swing but the next day ask for a playdate, that’s normal social conflict. It has no power imbalance, unlike someone who goes around telling everyone else to be mean to your kid.

But there’s a difference between overly excited child behaviors and bullying, which often takes the form of “taunting.” This, too, can be written off, dismissed merely as “teasing.” Barbara Coloroso, author of “The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander,” helps distinguish between the two. “Teasing is done without intent to harm, between friends of family members,” according to Coloroso.

Failing to identify truly bad physical and verbal behavior by offering a blanket “he’s just a kid” dismissal does real damage to the children subject to it. “We now know from research that people just don’t ‘move on’ from bullying,” Goldman told me when I later interviewed her for this article. “They have long-term effects from trauma.” And, according to her research, “The younger you are when exposed to bullying and trauma, the more profound and lasting the effects are.”

Bullying tends to escalate in middle school, she says, and educators and parents focus on that — but increasingly it’s trickling down to much younger children. Goldman told me that as kids have more exposure to the media, bad behavior starts much younger. “They absorb ideas of gender norms, they absorb ideas of sexualization, of toxic masculinity — starting in preschool or elementary school,” she said.

Appropriately, one of the first chapters of her book is called “Anti-Bullying Starts in the First Grade.” Goldman defines the “anti-bullying” concept as “actively working to dismantle systems that victim-blame” as well “the status quo that keeps the victims quiet and keeps the bullies protected.” Crucially, she said, it’s pushing back when schools ask what kids did to bring on the bullying or tell them to try to “fit in.”

If the school isn’t interested in addressing the bullying, she advises taking it up a level. Otherwise, remove your kid from the school.

So I approached the head counselor at the second camp to tell her about my daughter’s experience.

“Is it M—-?” the head counselor responded. The counselors always know. “It starts so young,” she reflected. “I will talk to the administration.”

But the taunting continued, so I asked my daughter about it after camp each day. Unfortunately, I read the relevant chapter of Goldman’s book later on and learned that was something not to do.

“With normal social pain, parents should not ask about it every day, because then you are doing what I call interviewing for pain. You think you are being caring and helpful, but it makes the child feel like more of a victim” Goldman writes. “You want the child not to hear a story of victimhood coming out of her own mouth but a strategy of resilience.”

How to react when your kid’s having a tantrum & the one thing you can do to stop it

How to react when your kid’s having a tantrum & the one thing you can do to stop it

FROM the terrible twos to the troublesome threes and ferocious fours, tantrums evolve over time but they’re all equally unpleasant.

Whether you’re dealing with a child who screams and cries, lashes out physically or gets nasty with words, there are foolproof strategies to put tantrums to bed.  Parenting expert Sophie Giles shares the best way to deal with inevitable tantrums as your child grows up. Fabulous spoke to Sophie Giles, parenting and behavioural consultant and founder of the Gentle Start Family Consultancy, who says the worst thing you can do is fear them.

She says: “Children have tantrums, it’s a natural part of child development.

“They don’t have a way to express everything and they’re trying to work out how to manipulate the world and get what they want.

“So you have to help them to see that having a meltdown isn’t the way to do that.”

To know how best to react, it can be helpful to identify the type of tantrum your child is having.

There are three basic types:

Emotional outburst

Sophie says: “This is when a child has no other way of dealing with their emotions, it all gets a bit too intense and they just have a meltdown.”

Behavioural tantrum

“This is a manipulative kind of tantrum,” explains Sophie.

“The kind of tantrum where they’re threatening, ‘I will scream and yell until you give me what I want’.” Sensory overload Similar in cause to an emotional outburst, but with a slightly different solution, is the sensory overload.Sophie says: “This is when things are too loud, or too bright or there are too many people.”  So what should you do next? With a sensory overload, Sophie says the child may need attention and calming and for you to give them a deep pressure hug (provided they’re not flailing around and trying to hurt you). With an emotional outburst, it’s important to give them space to work through it.“ They need to get it out of their system,” says Sophie.   “If there’s a really shrill screaming going on, that’s telling you, ‘Get out of my face now, I’ve had enough of you’, in which case leave them to it – but you have to make sure they’re safe, obviously.

She also advises limiting your words as much as possible.  “A child under the age of five can’t really process language and heightened emotion at the same time,” Sophie explains.  “Try to use five words or less – that’s pretty much all they can compute.  ”The language you use is also very important with behavioural tantrums and you should think hard about what you’re going to say before you speak.  Sophie says: “The more words you use, the more angry they may get, or […]

Addressing the mental health of today’s teens

Addressing the mental health of today’s teens

The pandemic has left the world’s teenagers more stressed and anxious than ever, challenging both their mental health and well-being. For help navigating these mental and emotional waters, we turned to Courtney L. Washington, PsyD, CSYAC, HSPP, clinical training director, Park Center, Parkview Behavioral Health Institute, for some much-needed advice and guidance for parents wanting to help.

What effect has the pandemic had on teens’ mental health?

The pandemic significantly impacted everyone’s mental health, causing increased levels of anxiety and nervousness. We all saw and/or experienced a lot of social isolation during this past year when stuck in our homes, unable to connect with each other, beyond a screen, on a basic human level. This separation can and did lead to higher levels of depression. Individuals could also experience the effects of trauma, which involves an increased hyper-vigilance and concern for people’s safety, simply because of how unsafe everyone has felt over the last 18 months.

What are some signs a teenager may be suffering from a mental disorder?

First, it’s important to keep in mind that psychiatric disorders look a bit different in children and teens than in adults. With that said, anytime you notice a general change in your child’s demeanor or functioning, outside of what’s typical for them, it’s critical that you pay attention to it.

For example, we often think of someone with depression as isolated, sad, withdrawn, tearful or crying. However, with teenagers, depression looks a bit different. Many adolescents’ depressive expressions can include aggression, acting out, talking back and defiance. You may even notice some children getting fixated or preoccupied with certain things like talking about the same thing over and over or worrying about germs and washing their hands. These could all be signs of anxiety disorders in teens and young adults.

It’s no secret that teenagers love to sleep, but when is it an indication of something more?

We sometimes see teenagers as defiant, lazy, or attribute their behaviors to their development, but that’s often not the case. Remember, any significant behavior change is usually an indication that something’s happening. Moreover, any shifts in their regulatory system like their sleep-wake cycles (oversleeping/unable to sleep) or changes in their food intake (overeating/under eating) is usually a symptom of something more. If parents or caregivers notice any of these, it’s vital that they check in with their teen and possibly follow up with a doctor or a mental health practitioner.

How can parents and caregivers go about addressing their concerns with their teen?

There are several different things parents and caregivers can do. Ideally, the first step they should take is to simply talk to their children – ask them questions and be sure to provide them with a safe space to share. In most cases, adolescents want to open up but often don’t feel heard in these situations. Usually, as adults, we think we have a plethora of worldly advice to offer, and sometimes we do, but that often overshadows what many teenagers might want or need to share.

I also think it’s developmentally crucial for children and teenagers to see their parents or caregivers struggle sometimes and be genuine about difficult things. Now, this doesn’t mean that parents and caregivers should rely on their children for emotional support because that’s not an appropriate boundary. However, it is acceptable for them to see you feeling sad or struggling while openly letting them know you are having a hard time. This helps illustrate how you deal and cope with challenging situations and that they are a natural part of life.

What other measures can parents take to help their teen navigate mental health challenges?

As previously mentioned, opening the lines of communication and having frequent conversations or check-ins about what’s happening in their life is the biggest step. It’s also important to be as honest and transparent as possible with them. If they’re not ready or willing to talk to you, try seeking additional professional assistance, or looping in another meaningful adult like a favorite grandparent, aunt or uncle. As long as they’re talking to someone, that’s what matters. Research shows that kids should have at least one meaningful adult relationship in their life to help keep them on a positive path.

Suicide attempts by children have spiked during the pandemic, especially among girls

Suicide attempts by children have spiked during the pandemic, especially among girls

Five years ago, if a child younger than 13 arrived at Maine Medical Center for treatment following a suicide attempt, it was rare and notable.

It’s no longer rare.

If your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger, dial 911.

For immediate assistance during a mental health crisis, call or text the Maine 24-Hour Crisis Hotline at 888-568-1112.

For any other support or referrals, call the NAMI Maine Help Line at 800-464-5767 or email helpline@namimaine.org.

National resources are also available. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also contact the National Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Warning signs of teen suicide might include:

  • Talking about suicide, including making statements like “I’m going to kill myself” or “I won’t be a problem for you much longer”
  • Withdrawing from social contact
  • Having mood swings
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Feeling trapped, hopeless or helpless about a situation
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things
  • Giving away belongings when there is no other logical explanation for why this is being done
  • Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated when experiencing some warning signs listed above

What to do if you suspect your teen is suicidal:

If you suspect your teen might be thinking about suicide, talk to them immediately. Don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide.” Talking about suicide won’t plant ideas in their head.

Ask your teen about their feelings and listen. Don’t dismiss their problems.

Seek medical help for your teen and follow through with the treatment plan.

“We’re seeing more of them and they’re younger. We have seen as young as 7 to 9 years old, which we never saw,” said Dr. Robyn Ostrander, division director of child and adolescent psychiatry. “It’s hard to wrap your head around that a child of that age would even conceive of suicide or know what it is, but it happens.”

In Maine and across the country, the number of adolescents who attempt suicide has risen dramatically, setting off alarm bells for mental health and suicide prevention experts who say more focus needs to be placed on talking about it and providing access to mental health services.

The increase is being driven largely by girls, who experts say experience depression at higher rates than boys and may be more likely to seek help for self-inflicted injuries.

Nationwide, emergency room visits following suicide attempts by girls age 12 to 17 spiked in 2020 and the first months of 2021. The number of girls who went to the hospital after a suspected suicide attempt rose 51 percent from March 2019 to March 2021, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase among boys was 3.7 percent.

Talking to children about death and grief

Talking to children about death and grief

Grief is often described as an emotional response to loss; but grief is not a simple response. It can evoke a complex amalgam of powerful emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, or regret. These emotions can be so overwhelming that they often translate into a physiological response, such as headaches, stomach aches, changes in sleep and/or eating patterns, among others.

Starting to talk about death and grief

This situation brings to the forefront two important factors that need to be considered going forward:

Understanding how children process grief and death

Developmentally, children process death and grief differently at different ages. A five-year-old cannot comprehend concepts of a soul or afterlife and believes the dead person will come back. A seven-year-old might begin to understand that death is permanent and can develop an extreme fear of death and of other adults dying. By the time a child is nine years old, they understand the permanence of death more clearly and are very curious about death and the body, and may ask questions if given a chance.

With varying levels of understanding of death among children comes different behavioural reactions. A five-year-old may display regressive behaviours such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking. On the other hand, a nine-year-old may be riddled with guilt and blame themselves for the death, which manifests in exaggerated fears or clinging to adults in their lives. Very few adults are aware of these manifestations of distress that children exhibit. Often adults may react to aggressive behaviours displayed by the child by punishing them—not understanding that the child is simply trying to make sense of their disrupted life and the absence of a loved one. Most adults are fearful of death, and they assume that exposing children to death or having honest conversations will traumatise them.

For children, the experience of death and grief has many dimensions. It is an emotional, intellectual, as well as a spiritual experience. Emotionally they struggle with overwhelming emotions such as fear and guilt, but at the same time, they try to make sense of death. Intellectually, they try to understand the fact that their loved one is not coming back and what that means—they try to figure out where the person has gone. Since religion plays such a large role in death, the rituals and the process of laying the dead to rest makes death a spiritual experience for children. They try to find their own spiritual meaning.

It is important for adults to understand children’s responses and provide them with the space to ask questions, express their feelings, and talk about their fears. Families, teachers, and health professionals could play a crucial role if they understood how to talk to children about their experiences. Programmes in schools that equip children with social-emotional learning skills or emotional resilience skills should incorporate conversations around death and grief. Children do know more about death than we think. They see it on TV or experience it when pets die. We can talk to them about death by referring to the phenomenon as seen in nature or on TV, taking their developmental age into consideration.

Creating awareness among adults
Alongside understanding how children process grief and bereavement, it is crucial that adults—including medical professionals and mental health service providers—are equipped to have these conversations. In many high-income countries, grief and bereavement counselling are part of regular counselling training; it is not uncommon to have bereavement support services that people reach out to when they find it difficult to deal with loss.

What to Do When Your Kid Thinks You're Playing Favorites

What to Do When Your Kid Thinks You’re Playing Favorites

I wasn’t exactly surprised when, in the midst of a recent disagreement, my 11-year-old son expressed how upset he was by telling me that he believed I love his younger sister more than him. That’s a pretty common go-to move that most parents hear at some point, and I certainly remember breaking it out on at least a couple of occasions when I wasn’t getting the attention I wanted from my mom.

But after the obligatory, “Oh, that’s ridiculous!” that most parents probably reflexively reply with when faced with that familiar scenario, I thought about it again later. Is he right? Do I play favorites?

I obviously don’t love one of my children more than the other. But his sister and I do have more similar temperaments and senses of humor. Is it possible that I unknowingly send a message to him that I have a favorite child? And, if so, what can I do to fix it?

“Most of the time, when children say those things, almost always it is about attention, whether it’s emotional attention or physical attention,” says Loretta Rudd, project director, clinical associate professor, and program coordinator for child development and family studies at the University of Memphis.

The ramifications for not taking claims of favoritism seriously can cause a negative impact for kids later in life. Psychology Today points out that “disfavored children” can be at greater risk for depression, substance abuse, greater aggressiveness, or poor academic performance, among other things. Healthline also notes that the favoritism doesn’t necessarily even have to be real—simply perceiving that they are the least-favored child can lead to similar negative consequences later in life.

The good news is that, most of the time, parents can simply use healthy communication habits to help make favoritism accusations into teachable moments.

Explain how difference in age mean differences in responsibilities

One easy way differences in rules for siblings can start to manifest in accusations of favoritism is when an older child starts to get more privileges. Older kids may stay up later, have more freedom to talk with or see friends, get to watch shows or games with more mature themes, or get to do other activities with less stringent parental oversight.

When younger siblings take notice and believe parental bias or favoritism is the cause, it is important to explain the added responsibilities that typically go with those privileges.

“There are social norms, maybe, that the older child gets to first,” Rudd says. “So, they’re getting something the younger child isn’t. But if you can explain to them that, as they get there [developmentally], they’ll have the opportunity. You can’t promise them they’re going to get it, but just explaining that with privileges comes responsibility, and being really clear and up front [is best].”

Since younger kids are attention-driven, lessons about responsibility can be reinforced with them when they ask to do things. For example, saying that we can play a game or go for a bike ride after the kitchen is clean is a way to subtly teach them that sometimes fun or privileges require less fun tasks being handled first.

PARENTS WHO WANT TO RAISE EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT KIDS NEED TO TEACH THIS ONE SKILL

Parents who want to raise emotionally intelligent kids need to teach this one skill

Parenting is hard to say the least. Unfortunately there is no how-to-manual to help and one size definitely does not fit all. All parents want to raise their children to be amazing adults. One thing on the experts’ radar is to give parents the secret to raising emotionally intelligent kids. Want to know how? Well, parents who want to raise emotionally intelligent kids need to teach this one skill-empathy.

According to the experts, here are five ways to teach children empathy and help them become emotionally intelligent.

1. Model emotional intelligence grounded in empathy

We all know that children mimic the adults in their lives. Whatever the behavior, remember, little eyes are watching. If you demonstrate empathy, compassion, and self-awareness, they will model your behavior. There is no better teacher than someone model emotional intelligence first-hand.

2. Be okay with your own feelings

If you are modeling emotional behavior for your children, then you definitely need to commit 100% and be okay with how you feel. If you are sad, show it. If you are happy, celebrate it. If you are angry, deal with it in a healthy way. By being okay with your own feelings teaches your children to be okay with their own.

3. Validate their feelings

Many experts have pointed out that kids, “listen better after they are heard.” When children have strong emotions or feelings, validate them and let them know that they are being heard. Psychologist and communication expert, Eran Magen has a helpful acronym for parents to remember to do this. It is, WIG or What I Got? Some examples of what parents should say to let their children know that they’ve got their emotional back include the following:

  • “What I got from what you said is that you feel like your friend betrayed you.”
  • “Am I getting this right — that the way she said it made you feel like she was trying to embarrass you?”
  • “It sounds like you’re pretty disappointed about your performance.”
  • “I think you’re saying that your emotions were so strong in the moment that you freaked out.”
  • “Let me see if I’m understanding. Other kids were doing it, too, and you feel like your teacher singled you out, and that’s not fair.”

4. Let children ask questions

Once children feel comfortable with their own emotional intelligence growth, sit down with them and ask questions. Delve deeper into how they are feeling, why, and more. This will not only help them think more about their feelings and emotions and question “why am I feeling this way?” It will also allow some quality time together that you all will cherish.

5. Celebrate your child’s emotional intelligence and empathetic growth

When your child begins to demonstrate emotional intelligence and empathetic growth, it is time to celebrate! Order pizza, allow them to have their special desert, add an extra hour of screen time. Positive reinforcement goes a long way with cultivating behaviors for children that are for the long haul.

Why Ignoring A Tantrum Might Not Always Work (& What To Do Instead)

Why Ignoring A Tantrum Might Not Always Work (& What To Do Instead)

Children experience emotions just like adults do. Unfortunately, most kids lack the emotional intelligence to effectively communicate what they’re feeling in any given moment during the early stages of child development. Sometimes this leads kids to throw temper tantrums in hopes of getting what they want or expressing the big feelings that are happening inside.

When our kids throw these tantrums, we sometimes feel compelled to ignore them. However, ignoring tantrums doesn’t always work — and you should try a different approach.

Why Ignoring A Tantrum Doesn’t Always Work

Most mothers have heard the advice to ignore their preschooler’s tantrums time and time again. However, there are lots of cases where ignoring a tantrum doesn’t always work (and sometimes even makes the situation worse). In fact, positive parenting expert Sarah Moore of Motherly says there are three reasons why ignoring a tantrum doesn’t always work well.

For starters, ignoring a tantrum doesn’t help you learn what the underlying issue is, which means the issue doesn’t get resolved. While you may not like the fact that your child is screaming to tell you that they’re hungry, ignoring the tantrum won’t help you or your child fix the issue itself — it will just make the situation escalate further. This may push your child to use extreme measures each time they encounter this same problem, which won’t help the tantrums stop.

Furthermore, ignoring emotional dysregulation in young children doesn’t help them learn healthier ways to express their feelings and get their needs met. Kids need parents to model proper communication and emotional self-control, which means they need us to step in and teach them ways to cope with negative emotions and problems as they come up. When we ignore tantrums, we miss an opportunity to teach them how to better handle their big feelings in the future.

Finally, ignoring our child’s tantrums shows them that our love is conditional, which isn’t what we want at all. In fact, the experts at Parenting For Social Change say that conditional love like this can quickly tear down a child’s self-worth and make them believe that their entire worth is solely reliant on the approval of others. This can lead to a whole list of mental health complications down the line and can set a child up for an exceptionally rough adult life.

What To Do Instead Of Ignoring A Tantrum

When parents hear advice to not ignore their child’s tantrums, they often assume that people are suggesting to instead give in to their child’s demands entirely, regardless of the way they’re handling the situation. However, Tracy Cassels, Ph.D. of Evolutionary Parenting actually suggests a middle ground between ignoring the tantrum entirely and giving into the child’s demands.

According to an article by Cassels, you can actually provide your child with the emotional support they need to work through the tantrum without actually removing any rules or boundaries you’ve put into place. Cassels says that children do understand the difference between emotional support and “giving in,” and they will actually appreciate your offers to comfort them and discuss the situation — even if you maintain a firm “no” when they ask again.

Not in the same boat

Not in the same boat

It has become almost trite to say that although we are all in the same storm, we are not in the same boat. Nonetheless, the papers in this special issue attest to the truth of this statement. Each paper provides a snapshot of how the parents and children on our planet are weathering this storm. When the pandemic struck, most research groups examining the emotional and cognitive well-being of children in face-to-face studies had to suspend their research. In every country, child developmental researchers pivoted to bring the science of child development to bear on how children and families were adjusting to the life-threatening nature of the virus and the economic and emotional threats posed by public health measures to contain and control it. The virus moved swiftly across the globe and so did the changes to children’s lives. No week was like the next as events rapidly changed. There was little time to spend carefully planning excellent studies. If as a field we were to capture the impact of this constantly changing beast, we needed to be in the field, yesterday. Consequently, like the first sentences of A Tale of Two Cities, it was the best of research, it was the worst of research. Child Development is far from the only journal pulling together research done on COVID-19 and its effects. Journal editors are culling through the reams of manuscripts on the pandemic generated in 2020 to identify those whose methods, results and conclusion deserve being in the archival literature.

MATERNAL DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS AND NEGATIVE MOOD

While the pandemic has been hard on children, it has really been hard on their mothers and/or caregivers. Three of the papers in this special issue compared maternal depressive symptoms pre-pandemic to during the pandemic. The three samples were very different. One group was not only pregnant but were well-resourced, highly educated, and living in the United States (Gustafsson et al., 2021). One was of low to moderate income who were part of a food insecurity longitudinal study. These were also living in the United States (Steimle, Gassman-Pines, Johnson, Hines & Ryan, 2021). Finally, the third group was living in rural Bangladesh, some families had no income after the pandemic struck (Pitchik et al., 2021). Interestingly, while the first two groups showed an increase in depressive symptoms on average, the third group did not. While the first two groups showed not only a marked increase in depressive symptoms relative to pre-pandemic, they also showed a decline in these symptoms as the pandemic progressed, perhaps partly reflecting a reduction in uncertainty. For the first group of more highly resourced women, school closures demarcated the marked change in worry and depressive symptoms, while for the other two groups, increased symptoms were related to food insecurity combined with other material hardships. This is not surprising as poverty and maternal depression have long been observed to co-occur (Smith & Mazure, 2021). Another perhaps an unsurprising finding is that social support buffered the effects of the pandemic on maternal depression (Gustafsson et al., 2021). Indeed, social support is well known to reduce depressive symptoms among those experiencing significant hardship (Taylor, 2011).

THE CHAIN REACTION OF HARDSHIP

One reason for concern about maternal mental health during the pandemic is that when the mental health of the mother or caregiver is impaired it often affects her children’s well-being. Studying the impact of material hardship, maternal depression and anxiety, and child functioning over the weeks and months of the pandemic, one group has written about the chain reaction of hardship (https://medium.com/rapid-ec-project/a-hardship-chain-reaction-3c3f3577b30). Several of the papers in this special issue also provide evidence that material hardship and lack of social support for mothers or caregivers is associated with a reduction in child well-being.

SELF REGULATION AND PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR

However, children are not passive entities on whom experience exerts its effects. It is common in research on negative life events to parse the events into those independent of the participant’s behavior and those to which the participant contributed. Certainly, a pandemic would be independent of the person’s behavior. However, in a number of the papers we see evidence that individual differences in self-regulation and prosocial orientation were important to both behavior and consequences during the pandemic.

Children with poorer self-regulatory skills and more behavior problems were found to experience more negative influences during the pandemic. In Eales et al. (2021), children with behavior problems engaged in more problematic media use during the pandemic. Hastings et al. (2021) found that among low-income families in Jordan, children who pre-pandemic scored more poorly on an executive function task, had families who were described as experiencing more negative changes in response to the pandemic.

5 tips on parenting your kids without emotional baggage

5 tips on parenting your kids without emotional baggage

There’s no manual when it comes to parenting and sometimes, the road can be rocky – in particular if you have unresolved issues with your own parents or come from a home that was less than stable. Even without realising it, these experiences can cause trauma and will affect how you react to your own children.

Rany Moran, the owner of children’s indoor playground Amazonia, understands these things. Now a trained counsellor, life coach and parenting expert, she has begun a new business doing one-on-one and group life coaching and family counselling sessions.

Read the condensed version of this story, and other top stories with NewsLite.

“I want to build a safe, judgement-free space for personal and professional growth,” she says of her goal.

“Inheriting trauma can mean the cycles of trauma, where a victim of abuse of any form (physical, emotional, psychological) then reenacts and inflicts a similar concept of “pain” onto another person. This can be passed down and inherited from anyone—parents, grandparents, siblings, regardless of gender,” she explains.

“Children’s response to trauma largely mimics that of the parent, the more disorganised the parent, the more disorganised the child,” she continues.

“Children who have experienced violence have problems managing in social settings and tend to be withdrawn or bully other children. During adolescence, they tend to engage in destructive acting out against themselves and others without early intervention the children cannot outgrow these problems.”

As a parent, it can be difficult and even surprising to find yourself navigating your own trauma and how that can affect your children. Without realising it, this can manifest in things like favouritism, or comparing siblings to each other, or constantly fighting with your spouse. “Such toxic emotional stressors can disrupt brain architecture and other organs systems, increasing risk of stress-related disease and cognitive impairment,” says Moran.

And beyond that, there’s also traumatic content (the Covid pandemic, news of violent events) that can affect our children.

Says Moran, “It is our role as parents to explain what’s going on in the world to our children – don’t be afraid to discuss the news and current affairs with them, let them know your point of views on correcting discrimination and how violence, racism or corruption shouldn’t be tolerated.

Discuss instead of shelter them from the realities of life, so that they approach any potential traumatic experiences in the future with educated opinions of their own.”

Here Moran shares her five main tips for how to parent children without trauma.

Empathise with your child’s distress instead of dismissing it as a weakness

When working on a difficult subject, recognise signs of distress and allow your child to stop and take a break. A good parent is a good listener.

Listen to your child’s challenges and validate his or her issues-then explore the root of their problem and what led to it, rather than zooming on the inability of overcoming an obstacle, mistake or wrongdoing.

Recognise teachable moments in daily challenges

This will help young learners be open to lessons of character. Turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones by taking personal responsibility to clear up mistakes by being open to learning from challenges and by replacing shaming with naming values.

Brainstorm ideas to solve problems together. Always remember that humility is the goal not humiliation. When considering teachable moments there needs to be the opportunity for reflection.

Speak to them about trauma at a level they can understand

Early Childhood Education and the Four Key Benefits on Child Development

Early Childhood Education and the Four Key Benefits on Child Development

ECE or Early Child Education is considered to be a crucial period in child development. Although not mandatory by the Unites States Department of Education, the early childhood education is a fundamental stage in the learning.

The National Association for Early Childhood Education for Young Children (NAEYC) defines early childhood as occurring before the age of 8. It is during this period that a child experiences the fastest stage of growth and development, be it mental or physical. Their brains develop faster than at any time in their lives, so these years are crucial. In these years, they have established the foundations of social skills, self-esteem, worldview and moral vision, as well as the development of cognitive abilities; on all these important foundations, encouraging early childhood education that promotes healthy development and nurturing, trends show that parents I have come to realize this more and more. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the past 30 years, enrollment in pre-school education has increased from 96,000 to more than 1 million.

It’s a common misperception that early childhood education is only about learning basic skills. “It’s so much more than that, Says Dr. Jessica Alvarado, academic program director for the BA in Early Childhood Development at National University. Dr. Alvarado further explains it as: “It’s a time when children learn critical social and emotional skills and a partnership is formed between the child, their parents and the teacher. When this is done successfully, it lays the groundwork for it to continue throughout the child’s education.”

Here is what UNESCO has to say about it:

“Early childhood care and education (ECCE) is more than preparation for primary school. It aims at the holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing. ECCE has the possibility to nurture caring, capable and responsible future citizens.”

Simply put, early childhood education (ECE) helps children gain the necessary academic, emotional, and social skills to prosper in school and beyond. Benefits of Early Childhood Education

Socialization:

Interacting with people outside of the children’s family in a safe environment is an important part of the personality development of the child. As parents, we intuitively understand that it is important to introduce our children to other children and support them in transitioning to their own friendship group. We do our best because it can help children overcome shyness and gain confidence. If we leave this for too long, we will actually hinder their social development. Sharing & Cooperation:

Under the guidance of professionals who care about the best interests of children, learn to share, cooperate, take turns and persist in a safe […]

Forget Tiger Moms. Now China's 'Chicken Blood' Parents Are Pushing Kids To Succeed

Forget Tiger Moms. Now China’s ‘Chicken Blood’ Parents Are Pushing Kids To Succeed

BEIJING — They schedule their children’s days in 15-minute increments. They scour online forums and swap tips on the most exclusive tutors and best sports coaches. Some even buy second homes next to the best public schools.

Forget Tiger moms. These are China’s jiwa or “chicken” parents, who are known for their attentive — some say obsessive — parenting style. The term is used to describe aggressive helicopter parenting, and comes from an unproven Chinese medicine treatment dating back to the 1950s, in which someone is injected with fresh chicken blood to stimulate energy.

Jiwa parenting culture, a relatively new phenomenon, is now in the crosshairs of Chinese authorities. At a time when the government wants to see families having more children and raising more future workers, it fears that hyper-competitive parenting pressures — combined with the meteoric growth of China’s private education sector, now worth billions — are deepening inequality and discouraging couples from having larger families, a priority of the country’s new three-child policy.

As more parents complain about the burnout brought on by jiwa culture, there’s concern that the financial and emotional toll is making many reluctant to have a second, much less a third, child.

The government is limiting private after-school classes

A desire to stay ahead and the belief in the power of education mean many Chinese families spend, on average, between one fourth and nearly half of their incomes on supplemental education activities, helping fuel the success of private education companies worth billions, such as New York Stock Exchange-listed TALand language tutoring startup VIPKid.

In July, the Communist Party and the State Council implemented sweeping rules to curtail the number of private after-school classes in which parents can enroll their kids. All education companies must register as nonprofits, and no new licenses will be issued to tutoring agencies catering to elementary and middle school students.

But the new rules have only made some jiwa parents more determined to maximize their kids’ chances of success.

“Because of these policies, parents are even more convinced of the potential [risk] for social immobility,” says Rainy Li, a Beijing jiwa parent of two daughters, one 11 years old and the other a toddler. “They are more eager than ever to propel their kids into elite circles, and more willing than ever to cut back on their own spendings in order to invest in their children.”

Some jiwa parents are more laid-back than others

Li’s days begin at 6 a.m., when she prepares to send her older daughter to school. At 3 p.m., she picks her up. Then there’s dance practice, an online math class and a swim session. They sometimes eat in the car in between activities. At 11 p.m., Li can relax and see her husband.

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