Join me at the Verona Public Library on Thursday February 8th from 6:30-7:30pm for a presentation on how to discuss body safety and healthy boundaries with preschool and elementary school age children in a way that is empowering. I'll provide an overview on the prevalence of child sexual abuse, prevention strategies, and offer resources you can use to start this conversation at home with your children. We can't afford to not discuss this important topic! I hope to see you there.
There has been increased interest and research on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation strategies for both adults and children in recent years. Mindfulness encourages people to be intentionally present with their experiences while suspending judgment and being open and accepting to what is happening in the present moment. Achieving this state can help us calm down and allow us to experience relaxation (Kabat-Zinn, 2013, p. lx). Mindfulness based practices are now incorporated in many school environments with the goal of helping children to increase compassion, kindness, and emotional regulation. You may be wondering how you can support your children with using mindfulness at home as a strategy for relaxation and enhancing self-regulation.
Here are some ideas on how to get started. The list below includes a few of the resources that I have used in my sessions with clients. There are many additional resources available!
“Peaceful Piggy Meditation” by Kerry MacLean (picture book)
“Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)” by Snel (includes an audio CD)
"The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook for Kids" by Shapiro & Sprague (includes both stress reduction and mindfulness interventions for parents and kids to do together)
Free Child-Friendly Apps:
*Because kids are always more eager to practice a new skill when there is an app for that!
Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame: Interactive and ideal for ages 4-7.
Settle Your Glitter: Simple to use and great for practicing deep breathing!
Stop, Breathe, and Think Kids: Requires a parent email to activate. Includes guided meditations for children.
Headspace: Includes short (1-3 minute) meditations. Some of the features require a paid subscription.
Calm: Better for older children and adults. Includes several free meditations, and timed unguided meditations. Additional meditations are available for purchase.
Want to learn more about mindfulness? We are fortunate to have the Center for Healthy Minds as a resource here in Madison. Check out their research and upcoming events on their website.
It’s not uncommon for me to initially receive odd looks when I talk about using praise as a discipline strategy. After all, praise is a positive thing. Parents ask, “Why would it make sense to give my child positive attention when they aren’t doing what I need them to be doing?” Valid point. However, we know that positive reinforcement and praise are actually among the most motivating parenting techniques you can use with your child. Children want to please you and they need to be taught and reminded about the desirable behaviors you want to see. They get plenty of feedback from others about what they are doing wrong, and very little feedback when they get something right. When we look at the origins of the word “discipline,” we find that it means “to teach.” When kids are acknowledged for things they are doing well, they pretty motivated to repeat those behaviors because praise helps them feel good about themselves, what they’ve done, and connected with you. Don’t forget that you are arguably the single most important person in their lives.
So, the next time you are frustrated during a battle over homework, chore refusal, sibling arguments, brushing teeth, or fill in the blank for your child here, ask yourself, “How do I let them know when they’ve done a good job?” and “How did I let them know they did the right thing, even if it took them 45 minutes longer than it needed to.”
Here are some specific suggestions for using praise:
We are expected to have good boundaries and follow social rules when invited into another person's home. We ring the doorbell, wait to be invited in, and then sit where we are told to sit. We don’t open the cupboards or wander around, and we usually find a way to give a compliment related to the home’s décor. Yet, when children are part of this picture and an adult is left in charge in your home, boundaries can quickly become blurred if good communication and clear expectations are not in place. Many people wonder about how they can best communicate and share family values and maintain boundaries with grandparents, babysitters, other caregivers, and neighbors.
Whether you are wanting to set boundaries related to discipline approaches, expectations for your children’s diet, or areas of your home that are “off limits,” it is essential to have a plan for communicating these desires with the adult in charge. We all know it’s easy for kids to say, “It’s okay, my parents wouldn’t mind” and test the boundaries. This type of situation leaves the well-intended adult in a tricky situation, and they end up using their own values to make a decision, which may not be aligned with your hopes or expectations.
Here are some tips for setting boundaries with other caregivers in your home:
I will be offering additional parenting workshops at Huckleberry & Persimmon again in March.
Loving Discipline Strategies for Young Children. March 10th 7-8:30PM
In this workshop, participants will:
Teaching Young Children about Body Safety. March 20th 2-3:00PM
In this workshop, participants will:
Why is this important?
Statistics show numbers as high as 1:4 girls and 1:6 boys are sexually abused by age 18. Usually children’s abuser is someone that they know (www.nctsn.org). This workshop will provide information for parents about this important topic in a way that is focused on prevention and empowerment rather than fear.
Visit Huckleberry & Persimmon's website to learn more and register.
You may be wondering how to best address the recent attacks in Paris with your kids. Some parents wonder if they should say anything at all, and if they do, they are uncertain how to best explain what has happened in a way that is developmentally appropriate. Parent responses should be tailored to the child's age and stage of development. See this link for an excellent article on how to discuss the recent attacks with your children: http://time.com/4112751/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-the-attacks-in-paris/
You are in back-to-school mode, and shifting from flexible summer routines to structured school year routines are a challenge for many families. Just how much sleep should your child get each night? How can you have a peaceful bedtime routine, or what do you do if your child has bedtime worries? Keep reading for a few ideas.
Let’s start with looking at the amount of sleep your child receives each night. It is so important for your child to receive regular, sufficient sleep. You can all recognize that sleep-deprived children have a harder time concentrating at school, following rules/expectations, and regulating their emotions throughout the day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends your school-age children (ages 6-13) need 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night. Take a look at their website for more information on all age groups. So, assuming your school-age child needs 10 hours of sleep and wakes at 6:30am for school, he/she should be asleep by 8:30pm. This is a challenge for many busy households, particularly when you consider parent work schedules, after school or sports activities, and homework time. In this scenario, you would ideally plan for your child to be in bed before 8:30pm so they have time to get settled in and relaxed before falling asleep.
We know that children thrive when they have a consistent and predictable environment. One way to support your children with receiving sufficient sleep is to establish an evening routine. Not only does this make life predictable for your child and family, it can also help to teach your children time management and responsibility skills. For example, having an established routine that outlines the need for homework to be completed before TV/computer time sends the message to your child that it is important to prioritize school work before TV and gaming.
I also suggest you schedule time for your children to unwind during the hour before bed. Avoid highly stimulating activities such as video game playing in the hour before bed. Some ideas for a bedtime routine include: drink of water/herbal non caffeinated tea, bath, pajamas, picking out clothes for the next day, reading together, yoga/stretching, prayer, and snuggling. Develop a plan and stick with it so your children know what to expect. You will likely find that consistency helps to alleviate many of the bedtime challenges in your household.
How can you help your children with bedtime worries? Worries or nightmares that are intense and persist for a long period of time may be best addressed with the support of a professional such as your doctor or a therapist. However, many common bedtime worries are resolved with nurturing and reassurance by a parent. I am listing a few suggestions below:
* Practice deep breathing with your child before bed. See this previous post for ideas on how to practice deep breathing with children
* Create a “good dreams” list with your child. Develop a list of positive memories or experiences the child has had, and have the child select one of these memories each night to think about as they are falling asleep
* Other ideas: use a nightlight, keep the bedroom door open, play soothing music
While I am not one for promoting movies, I have to tell you that I watched Inside Out at the theater over the weekend and was pleased to see a movie free of violence that introduces children to the important role that emotions play in our lives. Those of you who watched understand that the movie goes beyond an introduction to primary emotions and illustrates the influence of thoughts, experiences, and emotions on behavior. Children and teens often have the belief that only positive emotions are acceptable, when all emotions play an important role in shaping experiences and getting our needs met. As with most media content, I suggest you help your children process what they are seeing. If you watched this movie with your children, I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to connect with your kids and discuss their perception.
Here a few discussion questions you could use with your children after viewing the movie:
Those of you who are parents can all think of many times your children really pushed your buttons. You set rules, you do your best to enforce them, and work hard to instill good values and morals. Yet, your kids still reliably find ways to break the rules. Why is this happening?
I believe that all behavior has a function or purpose. It can be helpful for parents to pause and reflect on why their child may be breaking the rules. There are different reasons why kids break the rules. Here are some of the reasons I see most often:
Children are still developing and often do not know what they should/shouldn’t be doing. Children’s cognitive, moral and social-emotional development occurs well into adolescence. Children need to be taught. They learn from your direct lessons and they learn from what is modeled for them. If the house rule is “No shouting” please do your best to model this. If you tell your children to “Use their words” they will need your help to describe their experiences and feelings. You can teach this by helping your child narrate their experience and giving them feeling words to help describe what they are experiencing. For example, “You’re sad because Johnny took the toy that you wanted to play with. I wonder if we can talk with Johnny about that,” instead of “Why are you crying? If you can’t play nicely then you’ll have to go to your room.” Try to catch the teachable opportunities.
Kids act out when they are feeling unsafe and when things are unpredictable.
Children thrive when they have a sense of predictability and structure. They feel safe when they know what is going to happen and what is expected of them. Consistent routines and rules/limits set by you help them know that an adult is in charge and is there to keep them safe and well. Establish a household routine, especially if you have young children. Do your best to maintain this routine and discuss changes to the routine (such as on weekends or school breaks) with your children so they know what to anticipate. Have consistent, clear rules and consequences for misbehavior. Children are figuring out what is expected of them and will naturally test limits and boundaries. They will be more likely to push your limits if your response often varies, or if you and your co-parent are not on the same page.
They want your attention.
This one is simple to understand, and yet it can be challenging to implement with all of the demands parents are trying to balance. You can all probably recall a time when your child misbehaved in an attempt to get your attention. This doesn’t make your child a “bad” kid. Your children want quality time with you. They want you to get down on the floor and play with them. When your children are feeling connected and engaged with you, they are much less likely to demonstrate behavioral problems. Challenge yourself to spend 5-10 minutes per day giving your children undivided attention. Put the cell phone down, turn the TV off, ask your partner to respond to the other children, and take a break from household chores. Focus entirely on your child for this short amount of time. Allow your child to direct your play together while you join his/her experience and follow their lead. Some great ideas for this type of play include: art work, Legos, block building, doll house play, dress up, imaginary play, and getting outside together.
Children want your positive attention. In addition to offering more quality time with your child, remember to praise their positive behaviors. Children will be more motivated to repeat behaviors that result in praise or positive reinforcement from adults.
Sara Kind-Michels, MS, LPC, LMFT
Do you have a comment or question about a blog post? If so, I would love to connect with you. Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me a call: (608) 886-9595.