Monthly Archives: October 2015

Sunday Morning Shout Out


friendshipEarly friendships are a trademark of childhood.  While they can bring great joy, they can also bring challenge and even great sorrow. In childhood we learn to negotiate this process.  The article “Helping Elementary Schoolers Deal With Social Conflict,” from the PBS Parents website, offers some great tips for children and parents alike.

The experts from this article say that parents should teach their children how to handle social conflicts, rather than solving their problems for them. Here is a brief recap

  1. Expect your child to respect everyone and treat them with non-hurtful behavior, but respect their right to not necessarily like everyone or want to be their best friend.  Respectful behavior means treated classmates civilly.  If a classmate, rather than a friend, comes to your child’s lunch table and says hello or asks a question, civil means your child is expected to say hello back and answer their question.  Civil means no meanness.
  2. Role model the behavior you want to see in your child.  If you want your child to be inclusive, you need to exemplify that by who you talk to at their school or in your life.  If you do not want them to gossip, refrain from this yourself.
  3. Don’t get over invested in their social life or as the article puts it, “dig for pain,” if something bad happens to them socially. Parents often experience two simultaneous things when their child is hurting or in trouble.  It can be very painful to see your child experience pain like this for the first time or to see them inflict pain like this for the first time.  It may also bring up their own pain or bad memories of school.  Additionally, it may put a parent into Mama and Papa Bear form.  This article encourages parents to focus on teaching their children how to handle the issue in a proactive way, to not over analyze it, and not become overly involved.
  4. What can you do then? You can teach them to learn to speak directly.  “Emma, you hurt my feelings when you would not let me sit with you.”  “ Hunter, I am sorry I hurt your feelings when I did not pick you for the game.”  Even at this early stage in the game, you can begin to realize their goals are not necessarily your goals, when it comes to friendships and so many things. Accepting this is important and helping them capitalize on making and reaching good goals on the social front and other fronts -so important. Yet with this, it is important to be open about what you see in friendship dynamics (and your rights as a parent). You can congratulate a behavior in them or a friend or criticize a behavior in them or a friend, without criticizing a friend or them.  For example, it is okay to express disappointment that Suzie did not give out invitations to everyone for her party, but only a select few.  This will help them begin to analyze dicey and good friendship dynamics, by seeing you model this for them. This is different than saying Suzie was so selfish and inconsiderate to not give everyone at school an invitation for her party.
  5. Teaching them to solve problems independently is the ultimate emphasis, and something that can be considered separately.  If your child comes home upset from school or a play date, you can ask them what happened and the following questions: “What did you try?”; “How did it work?”; and “What else could you try?” Give them time to respond to help the answer come from them.  When you do this, it helps parents get out of the routine of always telling their children what to do.

Let’s face it.  We are not always around to tell our children what to do.  We need to equip them with the skills to make good decisions on every front.  When they are equipped, a new behavior takes a hold, along with a sense of confidence and pride.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


This past month “The Atlantic” ran a great article about a disturbing trend that is occurring across America’s college and universities entitled “The Coddling of the American Mind.”  Authors Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt looked at how across the nation, college students are looking for emotional protection from words and ideas they don’t like.  In effect, this negates true debate, discussion, and educational takeaways from the classroom, and possibly even increases anxiety around sensitive topics, counter to their aims.  It helps to look at this whole phenomenon more closely , ask what is driving this trend, and why is those damaging to higher education?

Currently colleges and universities can be perceived as places where professors and students are walking around on their educational tiptoes. This is evidenced by professors being asked to not bring up certain terms or discuss certain works of literature, in the event that a student has experienced a trauma around the concept.  For example, the authors give the example of how Harvard law students asked their professors not to discuss rape law, lest a fellow student was raped.  At another university, students suggested that The Great Gatsby not be read, lest some students would be harmed by its portrayal of misogyny and physical abuse.  It is further illustrated by professors being trained to be on alert for microagressions.  These are small words or actions that seem to be innocuous, but are then later thought of as a kind of a violence nonetheless.  Lastly and perhaps so strangely to anyone who went to college and university during a previous time, professors are being told to issue trigger warning or alerts if something they teach in a course may illicit strong emotional response.  Professors are being asked to watch their words and their students words, so no one goes away feeling harmed after class.  The slightest, most accident slight can be met with punishment for them or for a student.  What happened to higher education being a place that scintillated your senses and provoked thought?

The authors state that this trend is being led by students who want protection for their emotional well-being and punishment for anyone who undermines it.  But what has driven this attitude?  The authors discuss that some see this as an outgrowth of political correctness gone too far.  They also speculate that it is a generation who is use to such protection across the board, often having helicopter parents that did the “protecting,” prior to college and university (and may still do so).  They point to the great and increasing tides of political polarization that characterize are country right now.  When people of disparate viewpoints are in the same space, there is often verbal sparring.  But there is also downright hostility.  They discuss how college students today are not just digital natives, but what they call “social media natives,” and how this sense of power and voice from online forums, Facebook and the like, have help change the power structure between professors and students, giving students the upper hand.  They suggest that some individuals’ interpretations of US Federal antidiscrimination laws may make them feel more discriminated against or harmed by words than in any other generation.  Lastly, they point to the increased rates of self-reported anxiety on college campuses and how campuses in some ways really are becoming more emotionally vulnerable places.

These events are of course damaging to higher education.  When the exchange of ideas is limited, so is the degree of learning that occurs.  When we demonize the discussion and exploration of controversial topics, we diminish what can be gained by discussion and insight.  This may also serve to increase the serving of anxiety and depression that those who do not want to discuss these issues face, by creating a large, general uneasiness about the subject in general.  It also contribute to a general overall hostility on campuses when there is anxiety and disagreement over what should be discussed –what’s appropriate, and what might “harm” students as they learn. In my estimate, we are going backwards rather than forwards here.

The authors argue that Department of Education should release colleges and universities from the fear of unreasonable investigation and sanctions by applying the Davis Standard for discrimination cases.  This basically asks colleges and universities to show a long entrenched pattern of harassment and discrimination, as opposed to one offense, that interferes with a student’s ability to access education.  They implore colleges and universities to do everything possible to balance of freedom of speech, while making every student feel welcome.  They say they must abolish the use of trigger warnings across campuses and borrow a quote from the American Association of University Professors who call this a threat to intellect challenge and both “infantilizing and anti-intellectual.”  Lastly, they state while there is great value to teaching culturally sensitivity on college campuses, there is also great need to teach students what to do when other individuals’ thoughts conflict with their own.

Lukianoff and  Haidt state that by teaching tenets of cognitive behavior therapy a student learns to look at something that angered them, how their thoughts might be distorted around the issue, and applying “evidence” to counter their distortions, they can then look at their beliefs and feelings more concretely and fully.  This would go far in reducing anxiety, intolerance, and hostility that runs high and sweeps fast on many campuses.  Difference of course is present beyond colleges and universities, and is part of work, community, and political life.  How better off we would all be if we accept these differences, allow meaningful debate, fully examine issues, even if we disagree with all their sides, and truly discuss, debate, and learn.  Fear breeds further fear, anxiety, misguided feeling…not learning…. Fear and learning such as this translates to a great damage to our higher learning, the workplace, community, and democracy at large!

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


It might be neat to see that Johnny or Susie has our blue eyes or funny sense of humor.  It is remarkable when there are two left-handed children in the family, when one parent is left-handed and the other is not.  But certainly, most parents do not cheer when their child has their anxiety issues.  A recent study cited in the article ‘Parents Can Learn How To Prevent Anxiety In Their Children‘ that was discussed at the NPR website proves there is hope in addressing anxiety disorders among children, who are more at risk of having anxiety disorders when they have anxious parents.

In this article by Lynne Shallcross the study suggests that while anxious parents are more likely to have children with anxiety issues, all hope should not be lost.  As she says, the “trajectory is not set in stone.”  According to a study that was released on Friday, in the “American Journal of Psychiatry,” therapy and a change in parenting style, might be able to prevent anxiety disorders in the next generation.

Researchers involved in the study looked at 136 families, all who had at least one parent with a diagnosed anxiety disorder.  This same sample had at least one child in the six to thirteen year old age range that had not yet been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  Approximately half the families received eight weekly sessions of family therapy, while the other half received only a long hand-out describing anxiety disorder, without any specifics on how to reduce anxiety.  Can you guess who fared better?  After one year, only five percent of children from the families who had received therapy had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, compared to 31 percent of the children from families who only received the hand out.  The study’s premise was answered that yes indeed, anxiety disorders could be prevented among children, whose parents had diagnosed anxiety disorders, with treatment-for at least a year.

What’s exciting is that this same sample will continue to be studied into adolescence and early adulthood.  The study received a stream of funding through The National Institute of Mental Health.  It will be determined if therapeutic intervention is enough to ward off future diagnoses.  Such studies will hopefully shift the paradigm in mental health from reaction to prevention.

While everyone feels anxiety, individuals with anxiety disorders feel excessive, sometimes unexplainable amounts of it. There is no single cause for it; it is a byproduct of genetic and environmental factors.  The idea is that as anxiety can run in families and that certain parenting styles can exacerbate it.  With proper intervention, it is hoped that new means of behavior can be learned and hopefully prevent future diagnoses in the same family system.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Children are all different when it comes to how they learning, studying styles, and the way they approach homework.  In our household, we have a self-starter, a child who needs a little prodding, and a non- homework “doer,” in the throes of preschool.  One of the most challenging times of the day, can be homework time.  The article “Homework Help for the Distractible Child,” at the Education.com website, briefly looks at common reasons for distractibility and offers some ways in which a parent can encourage their daydreamer with the homework process.

Children can be distracted for many reasons.  While people often think of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) a neurological disorder that impacts a child’s ability to focus and learn, children can also be distracted for other reasons. They include: stress, anxiety, depression, or a learning disability.  For purposes of this article, we will consider general ways to help any child who is distracted.

The article pulls tips from the book 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child, by Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D.  He states that parents need to firm, calm, and non-controlling.  If a child is melting down about homework and having great difficulty focusing, a parent needs to be an anchor and calmly steer the ship.  We all have probably seen it or “been there,” -where our responses escalates with our child’s, to no avail.  It is important to empathize, give space to vent, but not get involved in a power struggle.

Dr. Bernstein advises parents to help their children get past the “I can’ts.”  His first suggestion is for parents to suggest to their children to go with the thought “they can.”  He says that parents should establish this mood/mode, leave the room, and see what happens. He also suggests some helpful probes when the “I can’t’s,” start.  You can say “Can you tell me how and where you are getting stuck?  Or perhaps “What part of the instructions are unclear?”  Or even maybe “Tell me what you think the answer is.”

Some of Dr. Bernstein’s suggestions are the tried and true.  He is a big believer in a set time to do homework.  While some kids can do homework right away, he states that many distractible children need downtime to decompress and relax, before they can go back at it.  He underlines the value of knowing your child’s learning style to best help her through the homework process. For example, if they are an auditory learner, answering questions about a reading passage, may be best done by reading out loud (you or your child) and helping them process the passage and questions this way.  Visual learners might best get spatial relationships by a piece of cut fruit or a group of pasta, coins, candy, etc to process a problem. Or perhaps they can draw a diagram, a picture, a make a writing web to best sort out their ideas.

Prioritizing the homework load can go miles according to the author, as can praise, support, and guidance.  Asking questions like “Do you know what you should do?”; “Do you have everything you need to complete the task?” can do wonders to move a distracted child into action.  Encouraging them to break down projects, problems into bite size pieces, huge.  He also points out the value of obtaining extra text books for home.  A distractible child may be prone to forgetting hers.  With Common Core standards today, it might be a helpful guide to the parent who is trying to instruct, guide, and reinforce children through new math, etc. Homework may always be a struggle. But it is a necessary part of learning and reinforcing what is taught at school.  While distractible children may find homework more formidable, a calm, knowledgeable, and positive parent can help the process be more bearable, fruitful, and productive for child and parent alike.

 

 

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