Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Empathic Parenting

Have you ever seriously asked yourself how exactly do you communicate with your kids? Are you worrier and therefore a “helicopter” parent? Are you authoritative? Are you aggressive? Are you empathic? 

What kind of parent you are directly impacts the character of your child; it defines his personality for life. We all want to be good parents, but often we get lost in our daily routines and underestimate certain aspects of parenting. 

Lately the number of studies are emphasizing the positive effects empathic parenting has on children. There are articles, books, websites all advising how to apply the methods of empathic parenting. However, knowing what to do is not exactly the same as actually doing it. It is so easy to get caught in your own emotions and instead of being reasonable to raise your voice, threaten, punish. Phrases like “Stop this right now or I won't buy you anything” or “Do you want to get punished?” are not unfamiliar to most of us.

To be empathic parent is a bit challenging, but not that difficult, if you put your mind to it. Simply don't be an aggressive parent. Maybe you don't see yourself as an aggressive person, so therefore you are not aggressive when you communicate with others, including your children. Well, think twice! You may be quite wrong, because aggression has many faces. If we use language which is judgmental, offending threatening, mocking, sarcastic or demanding you make people, and especially kids who are more vulnerable, feel scared, guilty, helpless, depressed . This is aggressive, violent communication. If, on the other hand, you put emotions first - understand and acknowledge the emotions and feelings of others, you will easily create a solid, trustful bond, which is most important in parenting. Your kids will feel understood, needed, respected, and they will respond in the same way. In empathic communication it is also very important to learn how to recognize someone's emotions and feelings without judging, to learn to accept No as an answer.

Parenting is life-long hard work and empathic parenting certainly presents a number of challenges and hardships, some lying with us. But if you want to be better parent and to raise happy children it's absolutely worth trying. 

  • Try to understand the emotions and feelings behind your kids' actions.
  • Show them that you are working as hard as they are to find the best solution to a difficult situation; work at it as a team.
  • Share you own emotions and feelings - if you are scared or confused don't be scared to admit it. We are all humans and no one is perfect. Your kids won't think less of you if you show them the real you. You may even get a valuable piece of advice.
  • Learn as you go - learn with your kids, for your kids, because of your kids.

Eventually your kids will start using the same empathic language as you do. Empathic communication may be harder, but is certainly the better choice and more rewarding in the long term for both parents and children.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Do Not Ignore These Areas

Nowadays children are exposed to dangers that did not exist when we were young. At the same time today's youngsters are a lot more independent and want their privacy to be respected. Is this a “Catch 22” for parents? Should we allow complete privacy and independence and hope our kids are smart enough to always do the right thing or should we constantly monitor them in an attempt to protect them from the dangers of our fast-paced world?  The truth lies somewhere in between - we should keep a healthy balance: be lenient to a point and allow some privacy and independence while being fully aware what our kids are up to and ready to interfere, if need be. But how do we determine what and when to do?

A good starting point is your kids' behaviour - if they take care of their responsibilities at school and at home, talk to you about their friends and their issues apparently you have no reason to worry and should keep an eye in case things change. By the same token, if you notice anything unusual or disturbing you should carefully investigate and act before the problem escalates or is too late to deal with.

As much as all parents want to, we can’t protect our children from everything - at the end they have to make their own mistakes and learn from them. As parents we have to guide, teach and support them on the way of learning and be there for them when they need us.
Monitoring and controlling every move your kid makes can be quite dangerous. You will know what your kid is doing at all times, but you will not only raise a person who is independent and unfit to meet life's challenges, you will also lose your kids' trust.

The solution?  Be involved!

Talk to your children about dangers; establish expectations and limits, clearly explain possible consequences of bad choices. And never underestimate the following areas:

The Internet. If you know or feel your kid is behaving appropriately, just talking about potential dangers from time to time is enough, although some random checks on browsing history won't harm. You may also want to favourite your kids on Facebook, it’s a good way of keeping up-to-date on their activities.

Cell Phone.  This is an area that was considered very tough to monitor just about a year or so ago. Today there are solutions - an excellent one right here. You don't even have to be IT savvy, you only have to be smart and make the right choice.

Drug and/or Alcohol Use. You probably know your kids' characters - are they leaders or followers; are they introverts or extroverts. So the key is to know your kids' friends and understand the dynamics of their relationship.

Social Media. You can’t control what others post on your kids’ Facebook pages, or who approaches them. What you can do is be as close as possible to your children and openly and honesty discuss issues and dangers with them.

Always being transparent about your actions is extremely important. Talk to your children, inform them about your concerns and how do you intend to address them, tell them that you will be monitoring and checking their activities. Treat them the way you want to be treated - with understanding, trust and respect. This will not only protect your children, it will help you build a good relationship that will last for life.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Child Protest - What To Do About It?

Our children are growing fast right in front of our eyes and yet not always do we notice the changes in them. The wake-up call -  a strong objection to our decision or suggestion often comes as a surprise for which not all of us are ready. Sometimes we don't even realize that it is our own stronger and authoritative reaction that provokes the child's protest in the first place. There are no rules how to handle these situations, because each situation is unique and even under similar circumstances people react differently depending on their personality, upbringing, etc. There are, however, some common situations and knowing a bit more about them can help us handle best our own cases.

Case 1: This Is Mine!

Holding to a toy or an object as if holding to dear life is a typical reaction for younger kids. It clearly shows that the kid starts to develop strong sense of ownership, but still cannot comprehend the principle of sharing. Showing your anger and forcing the kid to let go of his own thing can only worsen the situation. At this moment there is no point of explaining to him he has to share because obviously he is too young and too upset to understand. Best is to try and distract the kid and then calmly show him you will not give in to his wishes. You must however,  slowly and patiently, one step at a time start teaching him about ownership and sharing.

 Case 2: This Is Not Fair!

You've probably  heard this countless times. Being angry and forceful won't help at all. Try to talk to your kid and explain that sometimes even parents have to do things they don't feel like doing. This will make the kid feel understood and trusted and it will be much easier for him to accept your argument.

Case 3: I Want This!

This is another popular form of protest, which typically starts with choosing clothing. No need to get angry or upset with your kid over this. First of all, it shows your kid feels grown up enough to want to be independent and make their own choice. You will have to teach them about independence and making choices in life anyway, so why not use this first opportunity to start doing exactly this? Make a point though that one's opinion and wishes have to be expressed politely.

Case 4: I Hate You!

Yes, many of us have heard this statement and it can bring some to tears. But that is really a childish and immature reaction. When one is very angry or upset they can blurt out things they don't really mean, especially young kids. And that's exactly the case. Don't take it personally and don't get upset. Apparently your kid strongly disagrees with your decision and they don't know a better way to express their protest. Keep calm and wait until the kid calms down too. Then explain your argument and point out you don't appreciate such attitude. The kid will not only understand you, he will feel your caring and love and next time he disagrees with you he will know how to state his arguments better. Until then - and hopefully for all the time to come - you will most sincerely be proclaimed the coolest parent ever.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Is Cyber Addiction a Disease?

Nowadays a lot of people use heavily the Internet. For some it offers unlimited opportunities for access to information and is a place to excel professionally and build a solid career. For another big category of people however, the Net has become basically a replacement of human interactions and has turned into a dangerous and potentially harmful habit. 

A recent statistical study from Germany discloses that almost 2 million Germans are a
cyber addicted - they interact, shop, entertain, and work online and for these people their virtual life is more important that their real life. A study from Stanford University points out that although cyber addicted individuals are typically healthy, the number of people from all age groups who admit to being addicted to the virtual world and experience certain symptoms of addiction constantly increases.

Unfortunately, about  43% of teenagers are heavy Internet users and therefore seriously endangered. Alarming news from China acknowledge over 10 million minors are already seriously troubled by their addiction to the Net. It is no secret that children and teenagers are a lot more susceptible  to all these negative influences as their bodies are still growing and forming and the consequences are a lot more serious.

Although cyber addiction is not yet officially recognized as a disease, medical professionals have to deal with the odd behaviour of the victims of virtual reality, as they are commonly known. The symptoms can hardly be mistaken - negligence towards one's own health and looks; lack of sleep; low physical activity; much less interactions with people; fatique and eye dryness - some of those closely resembling the symptoms of Tourette's Syndrome. Many experience strong irritability and anxiety when away from an Internet-connected device and those can elevate into sense of loneliness, depression. The function of the hands, neck and shoulders can be strongly damaged. To make things worse this type of addiction applies not only to computers, but to cell phones as well.


 “Just one more minute” is a popular response of cyber addicts, strongly resembling other “lasts" - last smoke, last drink, last shot...

As with any medical or psychological condition prevention is as important as healing,  even more so with children. A few simple steps can help:

  • Acknowledge that you or your children spend unreasonably long hours in cyber space.
  • Use technology to exercise control over your children's computer and cell phone use.
  • No matter how much work has to be done or how interesting a game or conversation is, try to take or impose to your kids a 10-minute “break time” away from the screen.
  • Try to restrict the use of computers and cell phones to a reasonable minimum. Be a role model and apply the same rule to yourself.
  • Engage in a hobby which does not require the use of computer  and involve your children in it.
  • Create a daily routine with chores and activities away from a computer.
  • Do not allow eating in front of the monitor.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Get Your Kids Organized

Being well organized is very important in today's fast-paced life. When you look in your kid's room which usually looks as if just a few minutes ago there was a big explosion and not a single thing seems to be in its place, you probably think you will never be able to raise organized children. Most of us get frustrated and this simply doesn't help, it can even further complicate things. Actually teaching your kids to be organized is not as complicated as many of us would think. You just need to follow a few simple steps.

  • Be a role model. Children follow behaviours they see, so if you are organized and show them plain and clear this is a simple and easy way to deal with daily tasks, they will start by imitating you and very soon the behaviour will become a habit and you will never have to worry again. However, keep in mind that giving a good example doesn't just apply to house chores. It is important to show your kids that you are organized in all aspects of your life. Start with things they can understand - like shopping, having a routine to check email. A step at a time, as they grow up, you can include more and more aspects of life.

  • Organize your kid's life. Make a list of things they have to do - from simple house chores, to doing their homework, to getting ready for their scheduled activities. A note of caution: don't be to strict, introduce things slowly, make them fun. If you come too strong, your kids may see you as too authoritative and this can have a negative as oppose to positive effect.
  • Get ready for the next day the evening before. Don't leave everything for the morning. Getting ready, preparing breakfast, checking the backpacks for school - all this can become too stressful, especially if you get up even five minutes after the alarm clock goes on. You can easily avoid the morning stress if you prepare a number of things before you go to bed. Check the backpacks, line up the lunch boxes, knowing what are you going to put in them in the morning; prepare all clothes. If you do some of those together with your children - for instance together check if their backpacks are ready for the next day and you only need to put in the lunch; or select and prepare the clothes for the next day, very soon this will become a most useful habit.

Never forget to say a good word and reward in a small way the efforts your kid makes. And remember - the earlier you start, the easier it is.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sweet Drinks in Kid's Diet

It is no secret that kids are born with a sweet tooth. They like to eat all kinds of sweets and they love sweet drinks - juices, hot chocolate, pop and the likes. Sugar quickly provides much needed energy, but more and more often scientists and nutritionists warn about the dangers of including too much sugar in kids' diets.

All sweet drinks contain big doses of  sugar or fructose. These substances very quickly increase the levels of blood sugar, which stimulates the production of insulin , which in turn creates cravings for more sweets and food. Therefore, such drinks not only cause obesity, but can lead to early development of diabetes as well.

Natural juices, especially the ones made without preservatives, are far much better. In fact, it has been proven that kids between the ages of 2 and 11 years who regularly drink natural juices adhere to a more healthy eating, but part of this is attributed to the healthy lifestyle of the family.

What can parents do to limit the dangers of the sweet drinks?

  • Eliminate the worst culprits. Pop, sports drinks, fruit juices, iced tea - most of those are nothing more than water, sugar, artificial colours and flavourings. 
  • Be role models. As parents one of our main goals is to raise self-conscious and responsible people.  At the  same time it is imperative to raise health conscious people with strong eating healthy habits.
  • Control, do not deprive. If you simply forbid your kid to drink the fruit juice he craves, you will not only traumatize him, but you will also make him crave it even more and go a great length to get it. Instead stock in on healthier natural juices and always offer choices.

Did you know that:

When a label says that a single serving of a drink contains 4 g of sugar, this equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. Most sweet drinks have well over 20 g of sugar per serving, which equals whooping 5 teaspoons of sugar. Multiply this by 3 servings, which is about average per day and you get the picture. If your kid really loves his sweet drink it is always a good idea to dilute the juice with water.

Did you know that:

Sweet drinks improve memory and the ability to memorize by more than 20%. This has been proven by a recent British study. According to the same study people with poorer memory have been found to have low levels of blood sugar.

So, beware of the dangers and remember  that everything is good in moderation.

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