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Showing posts tagged with: talking with children

March For Our Lives

This past Saturday, I joined over 1.5 million fellow Americans in the "March For Our Lives" protests organized mainly by teens around the country. These teens were asking for common sense gun control laws including stricter background checks, an age limit of 21 to purchase a gun, and a ban on bump stocks and semi-automatic weapons. And we were there to support them. The tens of thousands of people marching with me in San Jose were of every color, every age, every nationality, every gender, and included both gun owners and those who would never consider owning a gun. (I think you know which one I am.) As we marched in a light but steady rain, we discussed politics, every aspect of gun control, and what can be done to keep our kids safe. We chatted with each other and with strangers. Everyone was polite, friendly, and motivated to help bring about change. And while I felt determined and proud to be marching, I also felt so sad. My children now aged 33 and 29, did not have active shooter drills in their classrooms. They were not taught how to barricade their classroom doors. They were not scared to go to school in the morning. And while I taught my children about stranger danger, to lock the front door, and to be aware while walking alone, I did not have to discuss mass shootings with them. And I'm sad that so many young parents and young children are now having these conversations. So how do we talk about this with our children? Pre-schoolers don't need to be told about these adult issues. Make sure you are not discussing them or listening to the news with your children present. And go to all the marches you want. They will love being in a parade. Younger elementary school kids are being taught in school to hide under their desk and to be quiet during a drill, but they don't need to totally understand why. Just call it a Safety Drill, just like a Fire Drill. Older elementary kids can be told that there was a shooting in a school, but we don't have to share every detail. Explain that now all students, in every school, are practicing what to do if something like that happened in their school. (But we don't think it will.) And our middle and high school kids already know the news and the details, so use this as a teachable moment in time to discuss it with them. Ask what they think. Ask their opinions. Ask about how it feels at school or if kids are talking about it. And encourage them to look for their voice to be heard. What do you think? How do you feel? And what are you saying to your children? Please share your thoughts and ideas, so we can all learn from each other. This is tough.

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The True Goal of Parenting

Life of a Child I write this week with such a heavy heart. I am very saddened by the latest mass shooting in Florida. (The lastest? How terrible that I have to say that.) Seventeen more people have been killed at a school, including 14 children. A school - where moms and dads send their children every day, counting on the adults there to teach them, to care for them, and to keep them safe. School shootings just feel especially wrong, and especially scary. During these tough times, as we struggle with our own emotions, and with how to answer our children's questions, it is especially important to remember the true goal of parenting: To raise a successful adult. To raise an adult who is kind and considerate and honest and giving and thoughtful and who looks out for their fellow citizens. And the time to start these lessons is today. Now. No matter your child's age. Let's all agree today to teach our children to be kind, to be an upstander, to sit next to the friend-less child at lunch, to invite the lonely child for a play date, to think of other's feelings. Let's role model being polite to the homeless person we pass on the street, to take cookies to meet the new neighbor, to offer a hand when a friend needs help. There is a lot of work to be done in this country to protect our kids and ourselves. I feel a little helpless to bring about change. But there is one thing I can do: I can teach my kids to be successful adults. I can connect with every child I come in contact with so no child feels alone. I can look out for kids who might need my help. I can be a person of love and calm and acceptance. And I can ask you to please do the same.

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What Is Anxiety? And How Can I Help?

anxious girl An increasing number of phone calls and emails I receive are from parents expressing concern that their child is exhibiting anxiety. They are questioning if their child is okay, and if more professional help is needed. To help answer some of your questions, here are notes from a talk I recently gave a local elementary school on the topic of anxiety: Most peo,ple, of all ages occasionally have feelings of anxiety, or stress. A small amount of anxiety is normal and can even motivate us to stay alert, to be focused, and to be aware. Most anxious kids (and adults) are worried about what MIGHT happen — that something will go wrong, or feeling like danger is just around the corner. Anxiety is felt physically, emotionally, and in the way people view the world around them. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions. And the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Children with GAD might worry excessively, be very hard on themselves, strive for perfection, seek constant approval or reassurance, have trouble concentrating, experience sleeping problems, and be irritable. Children and teens may also have physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension. It might cause them to miss school, be late to school, or to avoid social activities. It is common for children and teens to avoid talking about how they feel, because they're worried that others (especially their parents) might not understand. They may fear being judged or being considered weak. And the less they talk with someone who can help, the worse they feel. It is very difficult to know when our children are dealing with typical, normal stress, or when perhaps our child is dealing with an Anxiety Disorder. If you feel that your child’s level of anxiety is lasting a long time, is out of proportion to their real situation, and is affecting your child and family on a daily basis, then I would recommend consulting with your pediatrician. The goal is to manage anxiety, not to eliminate it. Don’t avoid situations just because they make your child anxious. We can’t remove what makes our child feel anxious, but we can teach them what to do when they feel anxious. Respect but don’t enforce, your child’s anxiety. “I understand that you are nervous about the doctor’s visit. But I will be with you and we will do this together.” Learn and teach deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Massage, sound machines, and counting to 10 can help in stressful moments, and when your child feels their anxiety building. Pay attention to how you respond to and handle your own stress. It’s not fair to put your personal adult stress on your children. Share your own stories of how you overcame your own anxieties. Be aware of what stress we are putting on our kids. Have reasonable expectations for your children, and remember what it’s like to be a kid. They can’t be perfect – because there’s no such thing as perfection. Respond with empathy – consider their view. They need to feel heard and understood before they can be ready to listen themselves. “It is hard to speak in front of your class; that can be scary. So let’s practice together so you can feel more confident tomorrow.” Ask open ended questions. “What do you think your test will be like?” is a more supportive question than “Are you worried about your test?”. And finally, be calm, be loving, be patient, and be a good listener. Your kids aren’t misbehaving when they are feeling very anxious; they are simply still learning to navigate their lives. And some kids need a little more help, or a little more time. Have any questions? Please feel free to email or call me.

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The Value of Chores: What, When, and Why?

What? Here are some suggestions, though you know your child best. Remember sometimes kids are more capable than we give them credit for, so ask them which chores they think they can do. They just might surprise you. Ages 2-3: Hang wet towel on hook, put toys in bins, put trash in the garbage can, throw dirty clothes in hamper, wipe up spills, help put away groceries, dust the coffee table Ages 4-6: Help fold towels and socks, sort dark and light laundry, assist in meal planning, wash vegetables, help to empty dishwasher, feed the pets, clean room, use whisk broom and pan Ages 7-10: Use an alarm clock, prepare own snack, load and empty dishwasher, put away clean laundry, complete homework, read to younger siblings, cook simple foods, water plants Ages 10+: Manage an allowance, make bed, operate washer and dryer, mow the lawn, cook a meal, wash the car, babysit younger sibling, haul garbage and recycling cans to curb Teenagers: Every single thing you can do. (Legally.) When? Today. Now. Not many parents of grown kids tell me “I wish I had given my kids fewer chores when they were young”. Most wish they had given their children more chores and more responsibilities. So start today, no matter your child’s age. It’s never too late.Siblings Doing Dishes Why? Because a family is a team, and the team works better when everyone pitches in. Because assigning chores says that you believe in your children, you have confidence in them, and their help is needed and appreciated. Because completion of chores makes children feel capable, valued, and helpful. Because chores helps children learn time management, the value of hard work, and how to work as a team. Because successful adults know how to do laundry, make beds, empty dishwashers, mow lawns, care for pets and plants, work with others, and clean up their own mess. And it is our job to teach them how to do these things, and more, one small step at a time.

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When Sad and Scary Things Happen

Unfortunately, we are dealing with another tragic terrorist attack in our world, this time in Paris. It is on the news, on-line, and being spoken about in public. Our children ARE hearing about this, and they do have questions. Here are some tips to help our kids: 1) Limit access to TV and news on-line. Remember that many restaurants have TV's. 2) Pay attention to how you are acting, and to what you are saying. Your kids are always watching you - so please show your strength and calm. 3) Be willing to talk with your kids, and answer all their questions. 4) Watch the language you use. Avoid big words (death, always, never). Use small words (hurt, sometimes, a few). 4) Share what Mr. Rogers advised: "In a scary time, look for the helpers. Because there are always helpers". Please let me know if you have any questions, or if you just want to talk. If you are having a tough time with this, it is difficult to take care of our children. So please be sure to take care of yourself. When we fly, we are told to put our own gas mask on first, and then help our children. And please share your coping ideas here - let's all work together to get through another tough time.

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