Parenting Articles

The Power of Kindness

Monday, March 9th, 2015

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“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. “Aesop

I was a new mom, trying to manage a crying infant and two grumpy stepsons at the library.

One of my arms held the baby; the other balanced a stack of children’s books and two DVDs. We were all tired and frustrated and ready to get out of there, and the kids were eager to watch their movies.

The librarian scanned my card, and then reminded me of the fine I have failed to pay. No surprise there. As I reached in my purse for my wallet, my heart sank. My wallet was sitting at home on the table. I had no cash, no checkbook, no way to pay the fine.

I asked the librarian to hold the books and movies for us, thinking I would run home and then come back. The baby started wailing, my stepsons began arguing with each other.

Then, the most surprising thing happened. The man next to me leaned over and handed the librarian a $20, and asked her whether it was enough to pay my fine. She looked as bewildered as I was. I didn’t know this man. Why was he paying my fine?

I told him that it’s not that I didn’t have the money; it’s just that I left my wallet at home. He simply asked that I do something kind for another person someday, and walked out.

Acts of kindness have the power to change people’s lives. Aesop wrote that “no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” It’s something we all too often forget.

We falsely believe that only the big acts of kindness count. That’s simply not true. Not everyone can hand out hundred dollar bills on the street, but everyone can say a kind word or do a simple and free kind action. 

I know how I felt after a stranger paid my library fine. I was elated that someone I did not know would do something so kind. What cost him $20 was worth far more to …


The Power of “NO”

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

 

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My mother says that my first word was no.

I’m not surprised that this was the first true word that came out of my  mouth.

Many children sing out the joys of no regularly and with enthusiasm. “Would you like more potatoes?” “NO!” “Put on your shoes please.” “NO!” “Time for a nap.” “NO!”

And why not? Children learn very early on that when they say no, something big and important happens. It could be that the food they dislike is taken away, or that they are given a different book. A tantrum of no’s extends the time before they go down for a nap.

If the no turns into a string of screaming no’s, mom or dad reacts strongly, usually with anger or frustration.

No is powerful, strong, and assertive.

It doesn’t require niceties, delicacies, or qualifiers.

What is it about the word no that makes it so hard to say? The answer could lie within yourself.

If you’re like many people, saying no is something you’re not particularly good at.

It could be that you can say no, but with qualifiers: “no, not right now, maybe another day,” when you really meant to simply say no. You do not have a desire to do it another day, but wish to make your no softer or nicer.

It might have been as you grew up, you were not taught empowerment. Maybe you were told that good girls or good children don’t say the word no.

Some kids are brought up with ideas of what no is and isn’t. And if you were a child whose mother or father taught that the word no was not to be said to adults, or whose parents required blind obedience, no isn’t a word that you uttered much. Maybe you were even afraid to say it.

There is a long list of things no isn’t:

It isn’t impolite

It isn’t rude

It isn’t mean

It isn’t bad.

No is simply one word that is a negative response. Its power lies in both its simplicity and its one meaning.

Some people feel the need to add niceties to no: “I’m so sorry, this week has been busy and my mother is coming over …


Dear Daughter: 5 Life Lessons for My Child

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

 

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As my daughter enters the middle of her eighth year, she is changing and growing rapidly.

She vacillates between the feelings and needs of a child, and the desires of independence of a young teen.

Eight years old is an age of rapid maturation for many children. She picks up on the nuances of relationships. She hears the news and is afraid sometimes. She is learning her own boundaries and setting limits, but still returning to the safety of family.

Here are 5 life lessons for my eight year old.

Dear daughter,

1. You are your own person, separate from me.

It warms my heart when you imitate me and say you want to be just like me when you grow up. But as you’re learning, I am far from perfect. Your life is your very own. I want to watch as you bloom and grow into your own being. You ask me constantly what you should do and get frustrated when I guide you back to what your thoughts and feelings are. As much as it pains me to say it, I will not always be around. You will gain independence and confidence. Have faith in yourself.

2. I will be there for you when you succeed and when you fail.

Yes, I will share in the highs of your life as you do wonderful things. I will also be there when things don’t work out, when your heart is broken, when your soul feels crushed. You can yell at me, curse me, and tell me you hate me. I will still be here for you, because you are my child. I may not like what you are doing sometimes, but I will always like (and love) you. Nothing in the universe will change this.

3. Reaching out for help, support, or love is never wrong.

I’m a therapist, so you’ve grown up seeing me helping others through rough times. I hope you’ve also noticed the times when I’ve reached out for support from friends and family.We do not live life alone.  If someone is hurting …


Should You Make Your Child Apologize? A Therapist’s View

Monday, October 13th, 2014

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Like all parents, there are a lot of things I make my child to do.

I make her brush her teeth. I make her to go to school when she doesn’t want to. She is not allowed to ride her bike without a helmet or to walk around the block after dark.

But, one thing I don’t make her do is apologize. 

I realize this is different than a lot of parents. Like many things I do as a mom, not requiring her to say she’s sorry is something that has evolved as I’ve gotten to know the little person I’m raising.

Now before I get too much farther, let me point out that my child is not a brat who goes around hitting kids or calling them names. For the most part, she’s a kind child who deeply wants to do the right thing.

The other day she told me that while she was at a friend’s house, she dropped her friend’s small toy on the carpet and lost it. She didn’t tell her friend what happened.

She felt bad about this, and after holding it in for weeks she asked for my help.

We talked about what happened. I asked her what she wanted to do to make it better, and what would make her feel better. We called and talked with her friend and her friend’s mom about what she had done.

My daughter was sorry, and she told her friend this on her own, without being promoted, requested or required to. 

She genuinely felt bad, and knew that admitting what she had done and working to make it better would make her feel better. She wouldn’t have to carry that burden of guilt around anymore. And of course she felt tons better after confessing her secret and offering to make it right.

What is the point of an apology? 

Have you ever had someone say they’re sorry when you know they’re not? As parents, we want our kids to be polite and to do the right …


Sadness or Depression? Recognizing Mental Illness in Tweens and Teens

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

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Kids carry around a ton of emotion.

As infants, they communicate with cries, screams, and eventually smiles and laughter.

Toddlers grow and begin to use spoken language in addition to laughter, hugs, biting, hitting, and crying.

The childhood years are generally calm. A second grader has not yet entered the emotional turmoil of the teen or preteen years, and has increased social skills that they didn’t have as a toddler or even as a preschool child.

Once a boy or girl hits the preteen years, the hormonal changes that will eventually take them into adulthood begin.

If you’ve ever talked with a group of parents about their own adolescent years, you’ll hear words like “chaotic” and “angry,” “depressed,” “anxious”.

Teens and tweens are full of incredibly strong and complex emotions. Their moods change and shift. They can be explosive and angry one minute, and the next minute write you a sweet note about how much they love you.

As a parent, grandparent, teacher or friend, how can you differentiate between the mood swings of an emotionally healthy adolescent and a teen who may be struggling with a more serious mental illness such as depression?

Even with adults it can be difficult to tell the difference between feeling blue and having depression. With teens it’s harder.

As a parent, you know your child best. If something feels off with your child, talk with them further or seek professional help. If you’re a caring adult in a teen’s life and notice something that is concerning, don’t hesitate to reach out to the teen or their parents.

One thing I hear time and time again from adults who were depressed as teens is that they wish their parents had understood and gotten them help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and seek help if you see some of these signs.

  • Engaging in self-injury. Any type of self-harm is cause for concern. Some teens cut or burn, others will pierce or scratch themselves. While it may or …

Do You Have a Challenging Toddler? 8 Simple, Proven Solutions

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

shutterstock_151353104Ah, toddler-hood: the years when a child’s mind is growing faster than their speech, where they have big feelings but little control. Parenting a toddler is challenging to say the least.

My daughter is seven now, but I clearly remember those days of leaving the grocery cart full and walking out of the store with a flailing, screaming 2 year old. Nearly anything can set a toddler off: a cat in her special seat, running out of Cheerios, or even the one-cent pony ride being out of service.

This is not to say that parenting a toddler is all pain and no joy. There were lots of wonderful moments as I watched my daughter learn language, when I saw the world through her new eyes and experienced her wonder.

But the crazy times? Yes. There were plenty of those.

Part of parenting is finding simple ways of making it through tantrums and screaming matches.

As a therapist, a mom, and a blogger, here are some tried and true suggestions for when your little one is out of control, and you feel like you’re going crazy.

  1. Give your kiddo a time-in, instead of a timeout. A time-in is where you invite your child to sit down next to you or near you or on your lap. You invite her to talk about her feelings and connect until the behavior storm passes. There’s a great article that explains the difference between time in and time out here. 
  2. Be silly together. Toddlers can get so into their cranky moods that they cannot pull themselves out of it. As a mom or dad, being silly or goofy can break that mood. I used to perform very poorly done magic tricks. Toddlers aren’t picky.
  3. Give yourself some space, if possible. With a toddler, it can be hard to find a moment of peace, but sometimes when you notice yourself getting angry or about to yell or hit, …

The Fat Shaming Epidemic

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

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I’ve been thinking a lot about body shaming and fat shaming.

It’s all over the media lately. And although kids being teased for their weight is nothing new, the power of the internet takes it to an entirely new level.

Carleigh O’Connell, a 14 year old girl from New Jersey, became a viral sensation and anti-fat shaming advocate when she posted a photograph of herself in a swimsuit in response to a graffiti message spray painted in her home town. Carleigh was recently a guest blogger on the site called Mighty Girl. She states:

What I now know…

I have realized that so many people, kids and adults, have faced and can relate to this type of negativity.

I have realicarleighzed that sometimes you have to stare cruelty in the face and not drop your head.

I have realized that owning who you are and how you are made is much better than feeling ashamed or bad about yourself.

I have realized that is okay to not have everyone agree with you and your actions, because sometimes negativity can bring bigger and better things.

What happened to Carleigh is awful. No one should have to feel objectified like that. But Carleigh took the bullying and turned it around. She refused to be shamed. Because of her courage she has become a role model and hero to many.

There are many websites that exist for the sole purpose of fat shaming; websites that post pictures of overweight people and make degrading and cruel remarks about them. Sadly, some bloggers and writers believe that fat shaming helps people lose weight.

Fat shaming does absolutely no good and causes significant harm. If you’re a person who has experienced fat shaming, you know that being made fun of or mocked for your weight does not help you loose any pounds.

Despite what proponents of fat shaming want to believe, when people are humiliated due to their size,  they gain even more weight.

Being overweight means that according to the medical establishment, you are carrying more weight …


8 Easy Ways to Reconnect with Your Teen

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

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The teen years are a developmental time when children begin to distance themselves from their parents and families.

This is necessary and healthy.

But sometimes the emotional distance can become too extreme and you will feel the need to reconnect.

Your job as a parent parent is not an easy one: to allow your child to grow an independent sense of self, yet remain close enough to provide support and guidance when needed.

As your teen grows in maturity and independence, keep 8 these ideas in mind to help you reconnect when the distance grows too great.

  1. Encourage appropriate independence. Teens are searching to find their own identity. This may mean making choices that you find strange or shocking, or it can mean changing rules to fit their growing autonomy. It’s importance to balance independence with behavioral expectations to keep your teen safe. A teenager’s frontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps them make decisions and allows for impulse control, is not fully formed until the age of 25, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, so try and help them when they are making dangerous choices, but allow them freedom when it’s appropriate.
  2. Recognize when your teen needs you to be closer. The teenage years can feel like an emotional roller coaster. Some days your child wants nothing to do with you, other days they talk your ear off and you feel like you can’t get a moment’s peace. When they are seeking connection, do your best to provide it, and if they withdraw again, realize that this is all part of the process of growing up.
  3. Lay off the lectures. Sometimes the fewer words that are spoken, the better. At this age, consequences speak volumes. If your teen knows she broke curfew and knows the consequences that are in place, she doesn’t need a lecture. If the problem is serious and needs to be addressed with a conversation, it helps if everyone involved is calm. Allow your teen to be part of the discussion. Even if you as the parent have the final word, teens need to feel like they are heard.
  4. Be positive,

When a Pet Dies: Helping Your Young Child Grieve

Monday, June 30th, 2014

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When your child’s pet dies, it can be a stressful and confusing time. He or she may not behave in a way that seems normal or natural, or their sadness may seem to linger for an extended period of time.

For many kids, the death of a beloved pet can bring nights of sobbing and tearful questions.

Even if the pet seems insignificant to adults, like a goldfish won at a fair, a child may feel as if their world is falling apart and mourn deeply.

On the other hand, some children appear nonchalant and unfazed about the death of a pet cat or dog. They may talk about the death in a matter of fact way and become focused on getting a new animal.

Parents may be struck by their child’s lack of intense feelings and worry that he or she isn’t crying or appearing to mourn. This can be especially true if the parents feel the animal’s loss deeply and are grieving.

Just like adults, no one child grieves in the same way as another. So whether your child reacts with nights of sobbing, pictures drawn, and an  elaborate funeral complete with a decorated box and flowers, or if he or she shows very little outward sorrow, your role as a parent is to help your child through their loss at their pace and in their unique way.

Here are some suggestions to help your child when they are grieving the loss  of a pet.


Talking With Children About Death

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

shutterstock_167842937A close friend of your child dies unexpectedly in a horrific car crash. An aunt loses her battle with cancer. The beloved cat has to be put to sleep. A parent is diagnosed with a terminal disease.

All these are examples of ways children can encounter death for the first time.

A child’s first experience of death often comes when a pet dies. For many children, losing a beloved animal can be the most intense sadness they have felt. It’s important for parents to take a child’s feelings on this seriously, and allow them to grieve how they need to.

Depending on your child’s age, experts suggest different ways of talking about death with your child.

For the very youngest of children, from infancy up to around three years old, kids cannot understand what it means to die, but they still feel the loss. For this age, focus on providing safety and comfort and love. Use simple terms to explain the death.

Preschool children may act out their emotions. Some kids become withdrawn. Others act out and become angry or destructive, or have mood swings. Children might have stomach aches or not feel good. Again, provide support and love. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings if they are able to. At this age, children may begin to draw about their emotions.

School age children have a better understanding of death. You want to be as honest as you can. If you have a belief in the afterlife, your child may find it comforting to think that their friend who died is in heaven. If the idea of life after death is not something you believe in, it’s fine to say that we just don’t know what happens after we die or that we simply don’t exist anymore. Help them find comfort in remembering their friend or loved one. Some kids find it helpful to plant a flower or tree as a reminder of the person who died.

Teenagers may react in both childish ways and adult ways. If your teen processes things verbally, he or she may need to discuss the …


 

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