We are pleased to offer this opportunity for parents as we continue to look for ways to come along side each of you in your parenting journey. Mrs. Stephanie Dickinson, an RCS parent, is working with us to provide weekly tips for parents. We trust you will find these tips helpful to you and to your student(s).
December 16, 2018
USING TECHNOLOGY TO JUMPSTART GRATITUDE
By David Thomas
As much as technology feels like a beast we’re trying to tame, we’re wanting to identify ways we can make it work for us. And ways our kids can use it for good.
One of those ways can be to create a Gratitude Album. I challenge many of the adolescents I work with to create this on their phone. I encourage younger kids to build this on an ipad of their own, or with a parent, on their device. I instruct kids and teens to put 10-12 photos of the most important people in their lives (friends and family), favorite places (home or vacation spots), and pets.
We then talk about the science behind gratitude - how gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus, a key part of the brain that regulates stress. Similarly, it triggers the “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure.
When we pull out a device and spend a minute or two looking through photos of people, places and pets, it can temporarily interrupt anxiety and worry, despair and hopelessness, negative or intrusive thoughts.
I’ve know adolescents who took this challenge to the next level and created three albums - one album for people, one for places and one for pets - for the times when the brain took a deep dive into some darker places, and they needed a bit more rope to pull themselves out of mental quicksand.
I’ve encouraged multiple kids who struggle on the first day of school, to spend part of the drive with this practice. Other kids have reported swiping through the photos on an iPad was helpful to ease the worry before, or pain while getting shots or finger pricks at the doctor’s office.
I recently talked with a 12 year old boy who reported his gratitude album reached 100 photos including pictures from his first overnight camp, first concert, first service project, 5th grade graduation and many other experiences that jumpstarted gratitude and flooded his brain with great memories.
What people, places, pets and experiences could be a part of your Gratitude Album today?
December 8, 2018
Resilient Kids Come From Parents Who Do These 8 Things
Letting your kids fail and talking to them about it goes a long way.
By Lizzy Francis
Nov 26 2018, 8:36 PM
When you’re a kid, everything is a tragedy. Your grilled cheese has the crust on? The horror. Can’t assemble that Lego set? Might as well stomp up and down. You can’t change this. What you can do, however, is arm your kid with the techniques that teach them how to bounce back from their daily struggles so that, later on in life, when the stakes are higher, they know what to do. Because resilience is a behavior learned through explicit lessons and examples, one that teaches kids how to, among other things, better handle stress, understand that rejection is not a comment on their entire existence, and view setbacks as things that don’t need to sideline them for good. But how, exactly, should you teach this lesson? According to Amy Morin, LCSW, a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, here are eight common practices of parents who raise resilient kids.
They Let The Kids Struggle
“All kids have the ability to develop skills that will help them be resilient,” says Morin. “As parents, it’s up to us to give them those skills, and to serve as a guide — to help them when they’re struggling with something and give them more opportunities to practice resiliency.”
The worst thing parents can do, says Morin, is rescue their kids too much. Such actions prevent kids from learning how to act on their own. In other words, the parents who teach their kids that hard work is a necessary part of life, and sometimes that hard work is really hard are the ones who raise well-adjusted kids.
They Let Their Kids Experience Rejection
For myriad reasons, it’s essential for kids to learn how to handle being told no. “If your kid doesn’t get picked for the baseball team, it can be tempting to call the coach, call the schools, try to get your kid on the team,” says Morin. “But failure can be one of the best opportunities to teach kids a life lesson. That lesson: Failure is not the end of the road, you’re strong enough to handle failing, and that when you fail, you have choices.”
They Don’t Condone a Victim Mentality
“When kids say they are having a problem, it’s tempting for them to blame other people,” says Morin. “They fail their science test and they say that their teacher didn’t explain it well enough.” It can be tempting for parents to give into this behavior and side with their children. But even if their teacher is bad or didn’t explain something, that instinct is dangerous. “Parents need to tell their kids that life isn’t fair but that they are strong enough to handle the unfairness,” says Morin. “And I think for a lot of parents, our tendency is to make things fair: to advocate for our kids, to side with them, just reinforces to them that they’re the victim. It leads to learned helplessness.” Fight this instinct at all costs.
They Do More Than Tell Them to ‘Buck Up’ When Struggles Occur
Letting kids struggle is important, but telling them to just deal with it, or ignoring that it could be tough emotionally is not the right way to go about it. “You want to make sure that you validate their emotions and you empathize with them,” says Morin. “Parents can find that balance of knowing when to step back enough to let their child face some of their own battles, but at the same time, empathize.” Talking to your kids about their feelings as they learn by doing is incredibly important. It will give them skills to talk about their feelings later on in life, as well as help them learn how to deal with difficult times. “Parents need to ask themselves whether or not they’re giving their kids the skills and tools they need to do things on their own,” Morin adds. “If they don’t have those skills yet, then parents step in. But parents make sure that you’re teaching them those skills, too.”
They Help Their Kids Learn How to Label Their Feelings and Emotions.
“When kids can label their emotions, they are less likely to act them out,” says Morin. “If your kid can say ‘I’m mad,’ he’s less likely to kick you in the shins to show you that he’s mad.” In other words: Kids who can’t talk about their feelings tend to take those feelings out on others, which can lead to adults who don’t know how to cope with anger or sadness. By helping kids feel comfortable talking about their emotions out loud, you are also giving them the skills to think about (and cope with) what’s making them upset. It’s Resiliency 101.
They Give Their Kids The Tools to Self Soothe
“I know some parents who created a ‘calm down kit’ for their kid,” says Morin. “They have a kit with a coloring book, and some Play-Doh, and lotion that smells good and they remind their kid to go get the kit when they’re upset.” While this specific technique isn’t for everyone, the concept should be as it helps kids learn how to take responsibility for their feelings, and calm themselves down. Using such tools and routines will help them manage and continue healthy coping skills as they get older. It’s invaluable.
They Admit Their Mistakes. And Then They Fix Them
Parenting mistakes, per Morin, are opportunities for us to turn it around and show kids how to respond to errors and show that we all make them. Even the most well-adjusted parents screw up every once in a while. They get mad at the teacher or yell at their spouse or forget to do something critical. The important thing is that parents need to own up to their own mistakes in front of their kids — and then actually fix the problem. This shows kids that no matter how grave a mistake they may have made, if they are honest about it and try to fix it, things will get better.
They Always Connect Their Kid’s Self Worth to Their Level of Effort
“There is research that shows that when girls succeed, we say, ‘You did well because you studied hard.’ But when boys succeed, we’ll say something like, ‘You did well on that test because you’re smart,’” says Morin. For her, that’s a problem. Connecting a kid’s outcomes to their inherent talent can lead to long-term issues. “When we focus too much on outcome, kids will cheat in high school because they think the most important thing in the world is getting an A, and it doesn’t matter how they get there. We want to teach kids that what matters is being honest, being kind, working hard. It’s really important to focus on their effort. The kid who grows up knowing that it’s all about their effort, rather than their outcome, is going to be more resilient when they fail or when they get rejected.”
December 1, 2018
How Do I Help My Son or Daughter Find Balance?
Psychologist Leonard Sax says, “More and more boys are developing an epicurean ability to enjoy themselves—to enjoy video games, pornography, food and sleep—but they often don’t have the drive and motivation to succeed in the real world outside their bedroom. More and more of their sisters have that drive and motivation in abundance—but they don’t know how to relax, have fun and enjoy life.”1
Girls feel a tremendous amount of pressure. They feel pressure to make good grades, to make good friends, to appear kind, and fun and strong and independent and responsible and brave, and pretty…all at the same time. And, what I hear in my office on a daily basis where I counsel girls between the ages of 5 and 18 is that they’re exhausted. It’s too much. It’s part of why there’s an anxiety epidemic in American today, and part of why girls are twice as likely to struggle in this area than boys.
Psychologists Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson, in their book, The Yes Brain, advocate something called a Healthy Mind Platter. A Healthy Mind platter includes focus time, play time, connecting time, physical time, time in, down time and sleep time.2
In other words, girls need time to focus, and not to focus…to connect and to disconnect. And they need rest. Sleep is “hygiene for the brain,” as Siegel and Bryson remark. The healthy mind platter helps girls grow the connections in their brains, the connections with others, and release the stress that builds up throughout their days. Balance is good for them, and is certainly good for us, as well.
1Leonard Sax, Girls on the Edge (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 7.
2Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson, The Yes Brain (New York: Penguin Random House, 2018), 66-67.
How do I help my son find balance?
When I wrote the chapter on balance in Intentional Parenting: Auto-pilot is for Planes, I focused in on balancing time, support and emotion. I believe pressing into these areas can be an important place to land on behalf of our sons.
We want to make certain a boy’s extracurricular life includes a balance of exercise and service. Sports are an amazing outlet for boys to be active, learn sportsmanship, experience winning and losing, and practice being a teammate. For all the advantages, it can’t be the only context where he spends his time. Competition and collaboration are equally important. He needs to practice being for someone as much as competing against.
Balancing support is the tightrope of identifying then to intervene and when to step back. This path isn’t always clear. From sibling rivalry to academic struggles, we aren’t always sure when to insert ourselves. I believe in the wisdom of empathy and questions. Saying to our sons, “that math looks hard. Would it help to take a ten minute brain break then come back to the table?” This approach invites our sons into problem-solving, brainstorming and resourcefulness.
Balancing emotion is a hurdle for most boys. They struggle to identify what they feel and what to do with it. I coach boys on the magic equation of time and space. Taking ten minutes to do something active, release the physicality of the emotion and get back to their thinking brain in emotionally-charge moments can become a game-changing skill for boys. I encourage parents to practice time and space in front of their sons. Boys learn best through observation, not information.
- This article originally appeared in Parent Life and was written by Sissy Goff and David Thomas.