FOSTERING YOUR CHILD'S EMOTIONAL SELF-REGULATION
Emotional regulation is the ability to effectively monitor and modulate one’s emotional experience. Good emotional regulation in children impacts positively their peer relationships. It is also a strong predictor of academic success and performance. In addition, children who know how to regulate their emotions can also better handle and bounce back from trauma or adversity.
As parents, our role is essential to help our children acquire emotion regulation skills. Here are a few strategies to help them:
1. Modeling healthy emotion regulating skills. Children who observe their parents constantly internalize and then mimic their behaviors. If parents are able to effectively manage intense feelings and impulses then children learn the “correct” reaction in different situations. However, if children watch a parent who screams or yells whenever something goes wrong, children learn to be reactive and misbehaves when things do not go their way.
2. Adopting a responsive, warm, and accepting parenting style. When parents respond positively to their children’ emotional distress, then children associate them with comfort and relief from stress. Parents who notice, accept, and empathize with and validate their children’ negative feelings teach their children how to self-regulate adequately. Ignoring, dismissing, discouraging, or punishing negative emotions is counterproductive and leads to children unable to manage their own emotions appropriately.
3. Teaching self-regulating techniques. Parents can teach their children a few strategies to help regulate one’s own emotions.
4. Encouraging self-care. For older children, self-care daily is important in strengthening their internal resources to regulate emotions. Activities that enhance self-care include:
Creating a supportive environment and modeling strong emotion self-regulation skills are two approaches that help children regulate their own emotions.
HOW TO BE HAPPY IN HARD TIMES
Cultivating happiness in our days may seem an impossible task. The simple things that brought us joy so easily before such as traveling, hugging our loved ones, or grabbing lunch with friends are suddenly out of reach. However, we can find new creative ways to cultivate happiness. It does not mean pretending everything is fine or denying our feelings. It means seeking out momentary, fleeting sparks of joy wherever they can be found.
Here are a few strategies to develop happiness:
1.Train your brain to be positive. As human beings, our brain is wired to notice what things are wrong. It is a survival mechanism that helped us stay safe in prehistoric times. In our modern safer world, we still use this predisposition to focus on negativity that contributes to stress and unhappiness.
Instead, let us try to express gratitude. A few examples include giving sincere thanks to others, keeping a gratitude journal, counting your blessings, writing a letter to gratitude to someone who had an essential impact in your life.
Gratitude helps us experience more positive emotions, decrease depression, and our relationships.
2. Nurture and enjoy your relationships. Human beings are social creatures. As such, we do need strong connections with others. You can nurture strong relationships by making a conscious effort to stay connected, investing in quality time with the people you care about, seeking out happy people, and taking delight in the good fortune of others.
3. Notice and savor small pleasures. When you focus on the present moment, you are much more likely to feel centered and grounded noticing the good things happening around you. To increase your enjoyment, adopt enjoyable daily rituals such as lingering over a cup of coffee or taking a short stroll in the sunshine, minimize multi-tasking as focusing on one thing at a time will increase your pleasure, and remember happy memories from your past as it leads to more positive emotions in the present.
4. Focus on helping others. When helping others and feeling like our actions make a difference in the world, then we develop a fulfilling feeling of satisfaction that boosts our self-esteem and general well-being. Living a more altruistic and meaning life may include volunteering, practicing kindness, and playing out to your strengths such as curiosity, creativity, honesty, perseverance, and loyalty.
In those difficult times, we have no power over the environmental stressors. However, we do have power over an inner change of perspective and attitude. Implementing these few tips should help us make a difference.
BUILDING RESILIENCE IN YOUR CHILD
In times of difficulty and uncertainty, it is more than ever necessary to build resilience so that your child can face obstacles that will help her work through challenges and cope with stress. None of us is born resilient, it a skill that we can develop as we grow. Resilience helps children navigate stressful situations such as losing friends, coping with grief, dealing with divorce, taking tests, handling bullies and cyberbullies. The more they bounce back the more they internalize they are strong and capable.
Here are a few strategies to build resilience:
1. Build a strong emotional connection with your child. Since children develop coping skills when interacting with caring caregivers, spend quality one-on-one time with your child. If your child feels the unconditional love and support from her parent, she will seek guidance and attempt to work through difficult situations.
2. Encourage healthy risk-taking. Taking healthy risks push your child out of his zone of comfort and may result in little harm if they are unsuccessful. Examples include trying a new sport, participating in the school play, or striking up a conversation with a shy peer. If your child avoids risks, he internalizes the message he is not strong enough to handle the challenge. When he embraces the risk, he learns to push himself.
3. Resist the urge to be a helicopter parent. The most common response from parents when her child comes to them with a problem is either to find a solution or to lecture her. However, these approaches do not promote self-reliance. Instead, ask questions to your child, brainstorm potential solutions, encourage her to come up with a list of ideas, and weigh the pros and cons.
4. Embrace mistakes. Avoiding failures shows a lack of resilience while embracing mistakes helps promote a growth mindset and teach your child that mistakes can help her learn. Focusing on the result instead of the process of getting to the end leads your child in the pass/fail cycle that induces high anxiety.
5. Model resiliency. The best way to teach resilience is to model it. If, as a parent, you use coping and calming strategies when encountering stressful situations then your child will witness a positive response. This will incite her to replicate your way of being and acting.
Resilience teaches your child to navigate the obstacles they encounter when growing up. Avoiding stress is not possible. However, resilience is one of the best tools to cope with it.
HANDLING BACK-TO-SCHOOL ANXIETY
Each and every year, anxiety for parents and children spikes around back-to-school time. This year, with the pandemic still going on, school stress is even higher than usual. Two main points are at stake: deciding what to do and dealing with uncomfortable feelings that could arise after that making decision. While almost no parent is feeling particularly confident about the school options available to them, it is possible to feel good about the process used to make those decisions.
Here are a few strategies that can help you feel more confident about the process:
1. Learn to accept the uncertainty. While it is evidently difficult to accept the unknown, it is also a healthy emotional coping skill to develop. Being conflicted is normal when facing confusion and perplexity. The goal is to make a realistic plan that will make students, teachers, and families as safe as possible.
2. Accept your feelings. To be a parent in the pandemic is to be worried and uncomfortable. Those feelings are unavoidable and, indeed, healthy psychologically speaking. So, the issue is not to have these feelings, but how you manage them. To avoid being hooked by one thought or feeling, instead try to view yourself as an observer of your mind. You can imagine these overwhelming thoughts or feelings as leaves floating down the stream that are detached from yourself and that go away from you.
3. Pay attention to grief. Sometimes, grief can be hidden below anger and rage over the prospect of more homeschooling. Instead, let yourself feel the sadness of your child not having a full experience of her new school year. You will then probably experience a relief.
4. Cultivate compassion. Instead of spending time chasing certainty and second-guessing your decisions, work on being self-compassionate; nurture a sense of good will toward yourself for facing this hard decision. Monitoring your self-talk is a key component of self-compassion. Are you holding yourself to an impossible standard by trying to predict the future? Are you blaming yourself for a situation that is completely out of your control? Let go of self-judgment and try developing some positive self-talk, such as: “I’m making the best choice for my family with the information I have” or “this decision works for us and our level of risk tolerance.”
Parenting is one of the most difficult tasks to handle. The pandemic has only intensified this role as uncertainty and confusion loom large. More than ever, parenting is an exercise of making the best decisions based on our current knowledge and then surrender.
HOW TO ENTERTAIN YOUR KIDS OVER THE SUMMER
Kids usually long for a long, hot, and worry free summer. However, this year is different as we are in the middle of a pandemic. So, as parents, you may wonder how to entertain your kids through the whole summer. Working from home with (small) children may seem overwhelming. Yet, it is feasible.
Here are a few strategies to help you and your children to have a fun and relaxing summer:
1. Go old school. A lot of play is social by nature. While it is a difficulty in the pandemic, the desire for innate play remains intact and can be fed if we can supply our children with basic toys such as kites, cards, blocks, dolls, balls, paper boats, paper airplanes, a garden hose, sticks, rocks, and dirt. If children can play in a safe place, they will find a way to have fun with this rudimentary material.
2. Embrace boredom. Of course, there will be times when your child will come to you saying she is bored and whine about it. What should you do about it? Answer is simple: nothing. As parents, we believe that our children need to be busy and entertained all the time. However, this idea is relatively modern, and parents managed their children for thousand of years without daycare, schooling, or camps. So, instead of fighting boredom, welcome it and see what your children will do. Boredom will necessarily lead to creativity. So, spending one hour or so every day being idle is a good way to encourage your children to be inventive.
3. Change up your approach. When summer is ahead, most parents have a list of activities to do: outdoor theaters, museums to visit, concerts in the park, … This year, since we cannot bring our children to cultural events, then bring culture to them. Children can make up fantasy plays, write newspapers, craft costumes, stage their own circus, or act out stories. It does take effort, time, and energy, but the result is worth the preparation.
4. Organize housework. Summer can be the opportunity to either do regular house chores such as separating laundry or making breakfast or start more ambitious projects such as cleaning the attic, planting new flowers, or painting a bedroom. Remember that most young children like to help, so try to get them into the habit of doing some household chores. Discuss with them what they would like to do.
This summer is special because of the pandemic. However, it can be a memorable one if you are open to let your children explore new ways of having fun and entertaining themselves.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.