Stuck in the middle with you: How parents and children can get through the 'tween' years

Stuck in the middle with you: How parents and children can get through the ‘tween’ years

Pre-teens begin to see the good and bad in people — the ones they’re friends with can be fun, but also mean and nasty. Picture: iStock Not long ago, she got invited to Paw Patrol-themed birthday parties. Now, your 11-year-old is receiving invitations to pamper parties with beauty treatments. Only a few years ago she watched Shaun the Sheep — now she’s making TikTok videos.

The tween stage can catch parents off guard. And it can be equally disorientating for children — that nine to 12-year-old cohort who are on a bridge between young childhood and the teens. It’s a steep trajectory and child psychotherapist Colman Noctor says children can be at different stages of it. “Some will enter it much quicker. They’ll be racing towards the teens, while others will cling to childhood — hold onto the Lego, the stuff they enjoy that’s no longer deemed cool by the others.”

Noctor says as children approach the teens, they can struggle to come to terms with the unpredictability of people. “In primary school, friendship is very territorial — ‘you’re my best friend, I’m yours’ — it’s very contractual. Pre-teens begin to see the good and bad in people — the ones they’re friends with can be fun, but also mean and nasty. They see another side of people and their social world becomes more complex.”

They’re also beginning to anticipate — with some anxiety — the organisational autonomy that will be expected of them. Noctor sees this starting at about age 11 or 12 when secondary schools come to pitch their schools to sixth class pupils. “The impending change plays on their mind. They’re hearing about timetables, lockers, different classrooms, and they’re thinking ‘crikey, how am I going to cope with this?’”

Brain flux

Joanna Fortune, psychotherapist and author of 15-Minute Parenting 8-12 Years, says the pre-teen stage is one of significant growth and development across cognitive, social, emotional and physical faculties. “Their brains are in a constant state of flux. This process of intense change can feel confusing for parents,” she says.

Tweens are gradually capable of greater degrees of logic, their pre-frontal cortex is still very immature, she says. “So we see evidence of emerging maturity, self-regulation and capacity for greater responsibility. But it’s mixed with flashes of temper and emotional meltdowns that seemingly come from nowhere. And it is all part of this stage of middle childhood.”

At this age, children start pulling away from parents and family as their hub of social development, and towards peers. “They become very focused on what they think their peers are thinking about them,” says Fortune.

Noctor says parents can struggle with seeing children become less communicative with them. “Tweens need to retreat. They start spending more […]

Why Do People Have Repressed Anger?

  • People’s habitual way of dealing with anger falls into one of two sets of patterns—externalising it or internalising it.
  • As people who repress anger divert their anger toward themselves, they often suffer from depression, anxiety, and somatisation.
  • When a person represses anger, they may find that many of their other desirable feelings also get numbed out.

Anger is a natural emotion and has to be processed in one way or the other. Normally, people’s habitual way of dealing with anger falls into one of two sets of patterns—externalising it or internalising it.

When these patterns are held in a rigid way or used excessively, there can be detrimental health consequences.

Internalised anger is also known as repressed anger, and it can take different forms. In this article, we will discuss what causes people to repress anger.

When people think of anger, externalised forms of anger often come to mind—someone shouting, hitting something, or acting in an aggressive way. Therefore, many people mistakenly equate anger with aggression. However, being angry does not have to mean someone lashes out.

Externalised anger is not always unhealthy. Healthy expression of anger can help us set boundaries, assert our rights and protect ourselves. People who do not internalise or repress their anger know it when they feel it. Once they have expressed their anger, either through speech or behaviours, the feeling leaves their system. It does not get stuck in the body, remain stuck, or fester. For people who repress their anger, however, the opposite happens.

Repressed Anger and Not Being Able to Get Angry

People who internalise anger hold it within their bodies and psyche. They may direct anger toward themselves and get aggressive toward themselves. They may carry all responsibilities for any conflicts in relationships, blame themselves excessively, and do not assert themselves even when they should. As they divert their anger toward themselves, they often suffer from depression, anxiety, and somatisation (emotions turning into bodily pain or physical ailments).

The problem is that, although it is unconscious, it takes a lot of energy to suppress and re-divert anger. Therefore, people with repressed anger may find that they rarely feel angry, but experience chronic tiredness.

Another problem is that on the flip side of anger are positive human feelings such as love, excitement, and passion. When a person suppresses anger, they may find many of their other desirable feelings get numbed out too. They find it difficult to get excited or passionate; they may also be disconnected from their own needs and desires.

A young person can also hold repressed anger. When they do, they may have coping mechanisms such as self-harming, selective mutism, or restrictive eating. There is no channel for them to express how they feel, and they could not afford to express anger toward their parents who can’t tolerate it. The only way to cope, therefore, is to blame themselves for feeling angry. When these children grow up, they are more prone to suffering from disorders related to internalisation, such as quiet borderline personality disorder or chronic depression.

Another well-known fact about repressed anger is that it can cause physical strain on our bodies. Holding back anger creates inner tension, which can then cause a wide range of psychosomatic ailments, such as indigestion, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, frequent migraines, and even cancer.

Reasons for Repressed Anger

People do not choose to repress their anger voluntarily. While their innate temperaments play a role (“nature” factors), it is normally the result of a person’s childhood experiences (“nurture” factors) and social/cultural conditioning. One may have learned to repress their anger because, as a child, they were discouraged, punished, shamed, silenced, or ignored when they tried to express themselves.

6 Examples of Verbal Abuse

6 Examples of Verbal Abuse

Many people experience verbal abuse in their lifetimes. Most often, abuse occurs in romantic relationships, between a parent and a child, or at work. One study has shown that in romantic relationships, 12.1% of women and 17.3% of men experience verbal abuse.1

Verbal abuse against children is highly understudied and underreported, so the prevalence rates of this type of abuse aren’t well known.2 The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1 billion children between the ages of 2 and 17 experienced some type of abuse, verbal included.3

A report by the RAND Corporation, an American research organization, found that as many as 13.1% of men and 12.4% of women experienced verbal abuse regularly at work.4 Read on to find out more about verbal abuse, its effects, and how to spot the signs.

What Is Abuse?

“Abuse” is the term used to describe acts or behaviors that are damaging in nature. They are done to purposely cause physical or emotional harm to a person. When a person suffers from abuse, they are mistreated by someone who is looking to benefit in some way from the abusive behavior. There are many forms of abuse, including physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional.

Are All Forms of Abuse Equal?

While many people who have suffered abuse may believe that one form is less damaging than the other, all forms of abuse are wrong and can lead to detrimental consequences for the person being abused.

Verbal Abuse vs. Emotional Abuse

The terms “verbal abuse” and “emotional abuse” are often used interchangeably to describe the same type of abuse. However, even if the two are similar, there are distinct characteristics of each one.

Verbal Abuse

Speaking aggressively or violently

Emotional Abuse

Using mind games to control a victim’s behaviors, thoughts, or feelings

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is a form of mental abuse that is designed to undermine a person and how they feel about themselves. Abusers also use this type of abuse to help maintain a level of control or power over the person being abused.

Verbal abuse occurs in many relationships, both personal and professional.

Does Social-Emotional Learning Help Students Who Could Benefit the Most? We Don’t Know

Does Social-Emotional Learning Help Students Who Could Benefit the Most?

Let’s talk about what we know about social and emotional learning from the research.

SEL is understood as an interrelated set of cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills and strategies that underscore how we learn, form, and maintain supportive relationships; make empathetic and equitable decisions; and thrive both physically and psychologically.

Students today are more anxious, less connected, and more likely to have experienced trauma—a threat to their safety, agency, dignity, and belonging—than they were two years ago. And these experiences have been most profound for students marginalized by race, ethnicity, and ability. These students are more likely than their peers to have had their learning interrupted, be underserved, experience the loss of loved ones, and have their household income negatively impacted during the pandemic.

Fortunately, a significant portion of the $190 billion allocated by Congress to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund must be specifically used to “respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups.” Accordingly, three-quarters of states list SEL or mental health as a top priority in their plans for ESSER funding, according to a recent review from our colleagues at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

We know that high-quality, systemic SEL can help students identify emotions from social cues, set goals, consider multiple perspectives, and problem solve. We also know that SEL can reduce bullying and school suspensions and improve academic performance and school climate.

But what research hasn’t yet established is how—or even whether—universal school-based SEL programs serve students with disabilities and students of color, who are among the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the evidence for SEL’s impact on racially- and ability-marginalized youth is murky at best and nonexistent at worst because we haven’t looked deeply enough. And that’s a big problem.

To be honest, education research is riddled with descriptions of school-based interventions that, once studied, are revealed to inequitably serve students with disabilities and/or those of color. To quantify the extent of this problem, teams at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the education nonprofit EdTogether reviewed the current evidence describing whether SEL interventions are inclusive and representative. Our recent findings were nothing short of devastating.

Study examines bonds between babies, parents

Study examines bonds between babies, parents

It may seem obvious, but the emotional bond babies develop with their parents is crucial — not only for their survival, but also to ensure positive outcomes throughout life.

Less-obvious, however, is how this bond — known as attachment — develops.

Secure attachment during infancy predicts healthy social-emotional outcomes across the lifespan. Insecure attachment foretells less-positive developmental outcomes for children, such as behavioral and academic problems.

Patty Kuo, assistant professor of child, youth and family studies, is leading a pilot project to explore how attachment security to mothers and fathers develops in a baby’s first 18 months — and how those attachment configurations predict outcomes in the child’s first three years.

She aims to identify key factors that influence how attachments are formed based on variations in parental sensitivity and availability, such as accessibility to the infant.

“While we know a lot about attachment security to moms, we don’t know much about attachment security to other caregivers, especially in family contexts,” said Kuo, a Child, Youth and Family Studies research affiliate. “But we do know the whole family unit matters to those relationships.”

Funded by an Office of Research and Economic Development Layman Award, Kuo worked to better understand what was happening at home with children and their parents. She recruited 50 parents — 25 couples — with infants in the Lincoln, Nebraska, area.

For three hours a week in one-hour segments, parents wore GoPro cameras to document their interactions with their children and each other in their home.

At first, researchers were concerned people would alter their behavior or interactions, knowing they were recording. But as Kuo and her team began to analyze the footage, they quickly discovered that was not the case.

“People got used to the camera and just went on with their daily lives,” Kuo said. “We got candid footage of people folding their laundry or doing other household chores, playing on their phones and otherwise not changing their routines — which is what we wanted for a nuanced view of what caregiving looks like in 2021.”

When the infants are about one year old, each parent will visit Kuo’s lab individually with their child to complete a Strange Situation test — a semi-structured procedure that enables researchers to observe and measure attachment security in young children within the context of caregiver relationships.

Kuo’s motivation for the project stemmed from “pure curiosity” about findings from her previous research that examined various infant attachment configurations to either or both parents.

“In those projects, we found that infants with a secure attachment to dad, but not mom, resulted in more negative outcomes — abnormal stress response, defiance toward parents, less ability to pay attention and focus,” she said. “One would think having any secure attachment to either parent would be good, but that wasn’t what we found. I continue to be puzzled by that and want to understand that phenomenon.”

To supplement her Layman funding, Kuo also has been awarded an Office of Research and Economic Development Biomedical Research Seed Grant for a related project to explore children’s stress and health biomarkers. Her team will collect saliva samples for cortisol, and stool samples to study the gut-brain axis, which consists of communication between the central and enteric nervous systems, and links the brain’s emotional and cognitive centers with peripheral intestinal functions.

For the new project, Kuo will work with Nebraska researchers Lorey Wheeler, CYFS research associate professor; Jessica Calvi, research assistant professor at the university’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior; and Jacques Izard, associate professor, Department of Food Science and Technology.

Why is gamified learning through creative learning activities important for early childhood education

Why is gamified learning through creative learning activities important for early childhood education

The pandemic has been especially disruptive for early childhood learners. Bright vibrant classrooms, games and activities with peers were replaced with computer screens as a mode of learning. These challenges necessitated the need to leverage technology and make learning engaging, meaningful and personalized. Many Ed-Tech companies operating in the PreK-12 segment took up the challenge, innovated and offered exciting options for learning which included simulations, animations, video-based learning and gamification of content.

Gamified learning is one of the most prominent trends which has been successfully implemented in early childhood learning. While it was being used even before the pandemic, this approach gained particular prominence during the lockdown. How is early childhood learning impacted by gamification you might ask.

Why is Early Childhood Important for a Child’s Overall Development?

The term Early Childhood encompasses the age group of children from birth to 8 years. This is a wondrous time of development and change. These years are marked by simultaneous and integrated growth in the physical, cognitive, linguistic, sensory and socio-emotional domains of a child. All these domains are equally important as they interrelate and overlap throughout a child’s development and their journey of exploring the world.

Here’s an interesting fact; did you know that the brain of a child under three years of age is super active? It makes almost 700 to 1,000 neural connections every second! These neural circuits support and build a child’s sensory, motor, and cognitive skills and control all their responses. During this time span, brain development is at its peak and grows to 90 percent of its adult size by between the ages of 3-5 years! Up till the age of 8 these capacities are rapidly strengthened.

Therefore, this period is critical for laying the foundations for logical and creative thinking, problem-solving, learning multiple languages, forming behavioral patterns, building motor skills, and securing emotional well-being. The skills and abilities developed during these years often predict a child’s future functioning and achievements.

Let’s explore the concept of gamified learning.

Early childhood research proves that children learn best through active, sensorial exploration and engagement. Game or play-based learning nurtures the physical, social, intellectual, emotional and creative abilities of a child. Therefore, gamification of learning and engaging young learners in creative learning activities is a powerful method of optimizing a child’s overall development.

Think about a game of Ludo, Snakes & Ladders or any other game or sport that young children play. The common factors in all of them are engagement, fun, a goal and the motivation to win.

When these factors are applied to learning, the result is ‘gamification’.

Gamification helps build the learner’s engagement, clarifies or strengthens concepts and skills through an activity-based, hands-on approach to learning.
Gamification of learning has also proven to […]