THE PROS AND CONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
In our 21st century, it is impossible to live without the current technology. We can limit it, but not interact without it. So, what are the effects of social media on our relationships with our children/youth and how can we use technology without abusing it?
The Pros of Social Media
1. Technology can be used to keep families connected. It can help keep track of schedules, location, and a sense of security knowing that family members can be reached quickly if needed. As a parent, you feel reassured to be able to reach your child at any time you want.
2. For divorced or separated families, technology is helpful for more immediate voice or face contact. Some new apps can make communication and accountability more accessible and can be incorporated into a custody and visitation agreement. Technology can facilitate communication between co-parents, which alleviates the potential for conflicts.
3. 24/7 availability. Since the Internet never sleeps, you can access the resources you need anytime pretty much from anywhere. The online tools offer more information to your child than a library full of encyclopedias. Studies have linked Internet/social media use with greater success in academics.
The Cons of Social Media
1. The issue of anonymity. It allows for cyberbullying. Teens are often the victims, as bullies can target and prey on vulnerable middle/high school peers without taking personal responsibility.
2. The wrong type of connection. Social media can connect dissatisfied, disgruntled, and misguided people who will fuel each other’s negative attitudes and beliefs. Young people are often impressionable and eager for acceptance, which can cloud their judgement and make them easy preys.
3. Social media invites your child to compare herself with others. If your child/teen has low self-esteem issues and insecurities, reading and hearing about other people’s successes and happiness can deepen feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.
Since it is unavoidable, it is our role as a parent to help our child/teen navigate the realm of today social media. Regular face to face conversations about it are essential to determine the limits and the benefits of its use. Being open to discussion while maintaining firm boundaries will help your child/teen develop a healthy attitude towards social media.
MOTIVATING YOUR CHILD TO CLEAN UP
Children do not clean up and put away things on their own. It is a learning process that takes time, patience, and perseverance. Yelling might work temporarily, but in the long term it is ineffective as children become resistant and build resentment toward their parents. Instead, using firm requests while encouraging your children may lead them to be more cooperative. Like adults, children appreciate being treated with respect and good manners. The more parents understand and apply these concepts, the more children will grow into more responsive and responsible adults.
Here are a few strategies to help you motivate your child to clean up:
1. Set a good example. It may seem obvious, but you need to be consistent between your expectations and your own behavior. If your house is not tidy, do not expect your child to put away her toys. By showing your child that you take care of your belongings, it will send her the right message.
2. Ask for one thing at a time. If you give your child multiple reminders at once, chances are she will forget at least half of it. Instead, focus on one aspect you want to be achieved. Once done, praise her and then ask for something else. For instance, say to your child “Please put your homework folder in your backpack” Then, when she is done, tell her “Thank you for doing this. Now, can you put your dirty clothes in the hamper?”
3. Use a positive and encouraging voice. It might be difficult to keep your frustration out of your voice, but if you do not, your child will perceive it and will probably not comply. Instead, take a few deep breaths before speaking and think about how to formulate your request. It is best to say, “Please remember to pack your lunch box.” instead of “Unlike yesterday, do not forget to pack your lunch box.”
4. Get your child’s attention. This means moving close to your child and not yell a prompt from the bathroom while your child is in her bedroom. It also means making eye contact. If you have a young child, do not hesitate to kneel to be at her level. If your child is older, they need to stop texting or playing a video game before being able to hear you.
5. Let your child choose where her toys belong. If you let your child be part of the process by giving her options, then she will more likely to want to put things away. So, let her be involved in the decision as to where put her things.
As long as you have children at home, you may need to give up having a spotless house, but tidy can be an attainable goal. With persistence, encouragement, and a few consistent rules, your child can learn how to clean up.
DEVELOPING EFFECTIVE PARENTING HABITS
As a parent we want the best for our children. We wish them to be kind, confident, cooperative, and assertive. In our daily interactions with our kids, we try to guide them the best way we can. But, sometimes, our best ways are detrimental instead of being beneficial.
Here are a few examples and strategies to guide them effectively:
1. Letting her take chances and make mistakes instead of stepping in. By always stopping your child from making a mistake, you teach her to rely on you exclusively. It prevents her from fully experiencing a situation and learning from it. If your child is never challenged on her own, she will not learn how to problem solve, and will therefore lack self confidence later on when making decisions.
2. Praising her instead of overcomplimenting her. Your child needs positive reinforcement but overdoing it can be detrimental. When you tell your child how great she does for every little thing, then your word will become something she needs. Instead, she should learn how great it feels to feel proud. So, after she overcame some challenge you can ask her how it feels inside and then you can tell her she can be proud of herself.
3. Letting her have her own way instead of expecting perfection. Requesting perfection teaches your child that what she does and eventually who she is, is never good enough. This will lead your child to develop insecurity and low self-esteem. For instance, let your child make her bed. If the she does not tuck the sheets as you would, it does not matter. What matters is she made it and she will learn eventually to make it look better over time.
4. Showing her, not telling her. The best thing you can do is lead by example. For instance, if you volunteer somewhere, there is a big chance your child will ask you to volunteer as well. When you stand up for a cause, another person, or yourself, you show her how to do it. Soon enough, she will “copy” you and start advocating.
5. Talking about uncomfortable issues instead of sweeping them under the rug. Starting a conversation about difficult topics such as bullying, cheating at school, sexual abuse, thoughts of suicide, or drugs is never easy. You can start with an inviting question such as “It looks like something is bothering you. Do you want to talk about it?” Listen carefully and refrain yourself from overreacting or judging. Instead, provide your child with love, empathy, and support. Then, while respecting her point of view, share with her your own way of thinking and viewing the situation. Try to find a solution that works for everyone and implement it.
In order to become responsible and independent adults, children need to have opportunities to practice and learn what is best for them.
HELPING YOUR TEEN COPE WITH DEPRESSION
Feeling low-spirited and down occasionally for a few days is normal for teens, but when the feelings of sadness or irritability last for a few weeks or even months, the cause might be depression. Recent surveys across the USA determined that up to 29% of high school students might be depressed. So, how do you know if your teen is depressed?
The most common signs of depression are a persistent low mood that affects feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Feelings of sadness, irritability, hopelessness and worthlessness, a lack of energy, changes in eating habits, and trouble sleeping are also frequent symptoms.
In order to distract themselves from these feelings, teens may engage in harmful behaviors such as drinking, drug use, truancy, and hurting themselves or getting into fights. As a parent, you can help your teen cope with depression.
Here are a few strategies:
1. Let your teen know you are interested in how she is feeling. Make sure she knows you are available to listen to and to talk to her. Let her choose the moment when she is ready to open up. Invite her to have a conversation, but do not force her.
2. Empathize with your teen. When your son/daughter starts to talk, do not jump into solutions for your teen. Instead, listen actively without judgement and do your best to understand emotionally what your teen goes through. Do not try to fix him/her, but simply be there for her.
3. Encourage your teen to keep up with her daily activities, even if this is for shorter time periods. Participating in activities she enjoys will distract her, help her relax, and feel connected to others.
4. Give your teen opportunities to be active without being critical. For instance, instead of saying: “You should really get up and do something.” say: “I am going to the mall for an errand. Let me know if you want to come with me.” Inviting your teen to do something with you shows that you care and respect her without forcing her.
5. Accentuate the positive. It is important to recognize the positive things your teen is doing such as going to school, holding down a part-time job, or doing the dishes. We all like to be appreciated for doing a good job, even when it is expected from us. So, let her know you are proud of what she does and that she could be proud of herself as well.
6. Suggest your teen keep a journal. Writing about feelings, drawing, coloring, or writing poetry are some ways that can help teens express themselves. Often being able to identify and express feelings will improve how your teen feels.
7. Talk to your teen about seeing a professional who should be able to provide treatment. A mental health professional, a health care provider, a school counselor, or a clergy person might be persons who can help your teen get better.
Depression is a tough time for your teen. Showing her support by building empathy and understanding will help her not feeling alone. Oftentimes, when your teen shows several signs of depression, she probably needs professional attention.
WHAT TO SAY AND NOT TO SAY TO YOUR ANXIOUS CHILD
When your child is feeling anxious, even the most well-meaning parents may unknowingly pronounce hurtful words to their child. So, instead of alleviating your child’s anxious feelings, you will dismiss them. It is essential to remain calm and positive when encountering your child’s anxiety.
Here are 7 phrases to avoid and what to say instead:
1. “Don’t worry.” Saying these words will not prevent your child from worrying as She already does. This statement implies that her worries are unreasonable or unacceptable. Instead, say to your child “Can you tell me more about your worries?”
2. “It is not big deal.” Children generally know that their worries are indeed a big deal as they can affect their school performance, their relationships with their peers or their family. So instead, try this: “I notice you are feeling very anxious about this. Let’s do deep breathing exercises together.”
3. “You will be fine.” Your child will not feel reassured by this statement, as it does not resonate with what she experiences. Instead, give her some emotional support by saying “I am here to help you.”
4. “There is nothing to be afraid of.” Children do fear a lot of things in their daily life: judgement, peer rejection, failure at school or in sport/artistic activities. To ease your child’s fear, open the conversation by saying “Let’s talk about that.”
5. “I will do it.” When a child gets stuck because she is anxious, you might be tempted to do the task yourself. However, this does not help your child build coping skills. Instead, support your child by saying “I know you feel anxious about this. I am here to support you. What do you think is the best way to do it?”
6. “Stop thinking about that.” Your child would probably love to do this but cannot. So, instead give her support by saying “Let’s talk to your worried brain by telling it positive stuff.”
7. “I don’t know what you need.” This statement will frighten your child as she relies on you to help her. If you express helplessness, your child’s anxiety will spike. Try this phrase: “Let’s find strategies to help calm your mind right now.”
Coping with anxiety is a learning process that takes time, patience, and practice. By responding with compassion and by exploring with your child different strategies, she will progressively become better at dealing with her anxiety.
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.