The Psychological Toll of Wanting Your Kid To Be Perfect

It’s called “other-oriented perfectionism,” and it can have a negative effect on children. Here’s why it happens.

Joliene Trujillo-Fuenning, who lives in Denver, Colorado with her two kids, ages 3 and 22 months, has some pretty clear perfectionist tendencies. If she sends an email with a typo in it, she says, “It will drive me nuts for a solid week or two.” After her husband cleans the bathroom, she has to fight the urge to criticize. (Sometimes she’ll just clean it again.)

And when it comes to her 3-year-old’s education, Trujillo-Fuenning says, “I have been very much struggling with the fact that she doesn’t want to write letters,” and finds herself thinking, “You are supposed to be at this point by three and a half or four, and if you don’t do it, you’re never going to.”

What Trujillo-Fuenning struggles with is something called other-oriented perfectionism. (You may have seen a shorter piece I wrote about the phenomenon for the Atlantic back in July.) Other-oriented perfectionism bears similarity to self-oriented perfectionism, when a person puts tremendous pressure on themselves to be perfect and then self-flagellates when they can’t be.

It’s also a little bit like socially prescribed perfectionism, where one internalizes the need to be perfect thanks to perceived pressure from others. The big difference is that with other-oriented perfectionism, unrealistic expectations are directed at, well, others.

When a parent sets exacting standards for their child and assumes a critical attitude, it can change how they parent (to their child’s detriment) and leave the parent bitter, resentful, and sometimes even wishing they’d never had children. That’s particularly problematic in light of new research suggesting that both parental expectations and parental criticism have been on the rise.

The impulse behind child-oriented perfectionism comes mostly from early life experiences and societal forces outside individuals’ control, but understanding — and interventions — can help thwart it, improving the wellbeing of both parent and child.

Natalie Dattilo, Ph.D., a psychologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has a patient roster made up mostly of young doctors, some of whom are the targets of other-oriented perfectionists who are “looking around and wondering why everybody [they] work with is incompetent.” For a supervisor like that, she said, “There is going to be an over-reliance on control, especially wanting to control how people do things.”

The other-oriented perfectionist seems self-assured. They always know the best way to do things and everything would be splendid if only others weren’t so flawed.

“On the surface it looks like grandiosity,” said Thomas Curran, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at London School of Economics and Political Science, “but at root, it’s really a profound insecurity about place in the world and whether you’re worth something.” The other-oriented perfectionist’s judgment, he said, is actually just “my way of projecting the things that I dislike in myself onto other people.”

People become other-oriented perfectionists in a variety of ways discussed in the book “Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment.” Oftentimes a cocktail of other types of perfectionism is to blame. Trujillo-Fuenning worries about her daughter’s progress because she wants the best for her, but there’s something more than that.

“I had a friend who pointed out that her language, her enunciation, her knowledge is pretty advanced for her age,” she explained, “And immediately, I had this sense of like, ‘Ha!’ It had nothing to do with me! Yet you still have a part of your brain that’s like, ‘She speaks well. That means I did my job right.

If she reads early, I did my job right.'” The pressure Trujillo-Fuenning feels to be perfect requires being — and being perceived as — a perfect parent. “How you’re doing as a parent is a reflection of who you are,” she said, “There’s no separation there in my head.”

In a paper published in 2020, Konrad Piotrowski, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at SWPS University in Poland, reported that both mothers and fathers there “tend to accept to a greater extent the mistakes and ‘imperfection’ of their children than those of their partner.” But sometimes they don’t.

John Lockner’s experience supports that idea. He was a stay-at-home dad for years and told me, “I kind of still am,” since he works part-time and spends the rest of it with his two teenage sons. “It’s definitely a struggle not to be on them all the time,” he said, but he knows that’s more about him than them. “I never wanted to be a manager, because I know I would expect my employees to do their best, and it would be very hard for me when they don’t,” he told me.

As one of just a handful of dads involved at their old school, Lockner said, “I felt this pressure to be better, and because of that my kids needed to be better.” With up-to-the-minute access to their assignments and grades through an online portal, he’d issue reminders on the drive to school: “You have to be sure to check on that and make sure it was turned in” or “You’re going to ask for that extra credit, right?” And he’d grill them on test results as soon as they got into the car at pickup.

But now, he said, “I’m kind of working on myself, to let some of that go.” What seems to be the key determinant is which relationship—the romantic one or the parental one—is more strongly associated with the parent’s self-esteem. Those who hang their identity on their parental role, like Trujillo-Fuenning, are more likely to experience child-oriented perfectionism than those who do not, Piotrowski theorized.

The impact of other-oriented perfectionism on children

That’s likely a good thing for his kids. Curran, the British perfectionism researcher, looked at a questionnaire that’s been given to cohorts of young people for decades. He and his team found that current college students perceive that their parents were more expectant than past generations — which is problematic, because studies (old and new) tie a caregiver having performance-oriented goals to controlling, critical parenting.

Though the research is murky, because different forms of perfectionism both overlap and function in distinct ways, children of parents who are perfectionists likely have higher odds of developing psychological distress, including anxiety and depression. Even when the impact falls short of clinical classification, children whose parents expect them to be perfect often grow up in homes characterized by conflict and tension. “It’s going to be a pressure cooker,” Curran told me.

The end result is often another generation of perfectionists. A 2017 study of 159 father-daughter dyads found a tie between “controlling fathers who demand perfection” and perfectionist daughters. And Curran’s own research has found that as parents’ expectations and criticism have increased, so too have rates of adolescent perfectionism.

We make jokes about perfectionism. (Did you hear the one about the perfectionist who walked into a bar? Apparently, it wasn’t set high enough.) But it’s a truly stressful way to live, Dr. Dattilo said, “Always striving to prove that you are capable, to prove that you are worthy, prove that you are successful based on other people’s evaluations.”

It should come as no surprise then, that there are, in Curran’s words, “huge, uncharacteristically strong correlations” between perfectionism and psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and anorexia.

“The data’s never that clean,” he told me. Gayani DeSilva knows what it feels like to be one of those data points. “My parents really did put a lot of pressure on me as a kid to be perfect,” recalled the child and adolescent psychiatrist who practices in Southern California. “I had to have straight As, couldn’t have an A-minus.”

When she carried a D in Calculus at one point, “I was so afraid that I actually thought that my parents were going to kill me.” Now looking back with a therapist’s eye, she said, “I couldn’t imagine them actually physically harming me, I just knew that I was gonna die.”

She internalized their exacting standards, “There was just no room for anything other than what they expected.” And when she couldn’t meet them, she said, “I faced all this guilt, like, ‘Why couldn’t I do it?'”

Josh McKivigan, a behavioral health therapist based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sees an impact at both ends of the economic spectrum. For kids of highly educated, well-off parents, he said, “You’d see them well put together, amazing grades, but behind the scenes, they’re barely holding it together. The only type of school they feel is acceptable is an Ivy League. They say things like, ‘I couldn’t imagine going to UCLA.'”

McKivigan also works with a refugee population. With these kids, he sees pressure to make something of a parent’s dangerous immigration journey. They end up saying, “I gotta make this right. I can’t let them down,” McKivigan told me.

But some kids don’t develop perfectionism of their own, instead responding to a parent’s pressure by rejecting their goals. After all, if someone is impossible to please, why bother trying?Nicole Coomber, Ph.D., an assistant dean at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, said research on motivation explains why.

“Autonomy is an important piece of this where you have to actually buy into whatever the goal is,” she notes. Requiring that a child practice piano for hours each day when they’d rather be playing soccer “can really backfire,” she added. Kids can end up feeling like their parent’s project or product — and push back by quitting. No matter how much bravado accompanies that move, there’s often also a sense of having let themselves and their parents down.

DeSilva failed her first year of medical school, she said, “because I just didn’t know how to ask for help.” After a car accident, she quit residency and then spent two years in therapy: “Once I was able to admit, ‘I’m not perfect,’ I was successful at pretty much everything I wanted to do, and I didn’t have to be anxious about it. I knew I could do it, whereas before, when I had to be perfect, I was really insecure.”

After she worked through her perfectionism, she said, “I was trying for my own standard, my own goals, my own desires, instead of somebody else’s standard for me.”

Other-oriented perfectionism is bad for parents too, but they can change

Child-oriented perfectionist tendencies aren’t just bad for kids. Trujillo-Fuenning started to feel burned out by her high standards in the parenting realm. The cumulative effect of a thousand little maximizations, like “trying to make sure they were eating the right things every meal,” became overwhelming and depleting. “To be honest, that’s part of why I went back to work,” she told me.

In his 2020 study, Piotrowski found that parents who target their children with other-oriented perfectionism tend to display higher levels of stress, dissatisfaction with parenthood, and feeling so burdened by the parental role that they regret parenthood entirely. He explained, “For mothers characterized by increased other-oriented perfectionism, family life is probably associated with many frustrations and stress, hence the focus on alternative visions of themselves that seem to be better than [being] a parent.”

When she starts trying to work on literacy again, Trujillo-Fuenning said, “I have to pull back and remind myself, if she’s fighting you, just let it go.” The same thing goes for micromanaging her kids’ appearance. “I’m catching my own insecurities of like, ‘You don’t look well put together. People are going to look at you and think I’m not taking care of you.'” But to avoid acting on those impulses requires “a constant mental check,” she told me.

Every now and then Lockner’s wife would say, “You’re being too hard on them. You are expecting too much.” But that doesn’t seem to be what made him change. His sons are at an all-boys school now, and, Lockner said, “Being around other groups of dads made a difference. Listening to how they act, and how their kids are, made me think, ‘Maybe I can ease up a little. My kids really are pretty good.'”

This sort of shift is what Curran sees happening in society as a whole—only in reverse.Other-oriented perfectionist parents aren’t the only ones ratcheting up expectations and pressure. Some parents don’t want to push, Curran said, “but they feel like they have to in this world where elite college is harder to access, where you basically have an economy where the middle class is downwardly mobile with increasing costs of living and stagnated income, and you’ve got chronic and increasing inequality.”

And the pressure can be even more intense for parents like Eric L. Heard, author of “Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad.” He described feeling “the need for immediate feedback” from his son’s teachers: “I always held a fear that I would not address some problem and he would head down a well-worn road of destruction” for Black men, he wrote. “My mind was haunted by the crippling thought of how I would be judged …. I would wear a permanent brand … a large white D for being a deadbeat dad who couldn’t save his son.”

If you’re a parent ruminating on the odds stacked against your child, it is rational to drive them to work harder, achieve more, and be better. Other parents react the same way, the result of which is a frenzied, fearful “rug rat race.” Once that starts to kick in, Curran said, “it’s really hard to stop, at a societal level. It creates an echo chamber where everybody’s engaging in unhealthy behaviors and no one wins.”

He doesn’t just mean that we all lose when we succumb to perfectionism. It also just plain doesn’t work. “Everybody’s engaging in this frantic upward comparison, and no one gains an advantage,” he said. “We just move the average of what’s expected further and further. It’s looking bad.”

But individuals can push back against a trend of overwhelmed young people and parents who, like the old Lockner, feel no choice but to be “the bad guy.” Now that he’s backed off, he said, “It’s easier on me. It’s easier on them.” They do more for themselves, and “they seem more willing to do stuff if I’m not on them all the time.” Truth be told, he likes himself more now.

Therapists can help their clients get there. Dr. Dattilo would tell an other-oriented perfectionist they need to believe it when someone says, “I’m doing the best I can.” Parents can interrogate their perfectionism in psychotherapy: Why is having a perfect child so important to me? Where did this need come from? And cognitive-behavioral therapists push people to fact-check their anxiety: What level of pressure is really necessary to prepare your child to live a good life? Is parental pressure truly the most effective way to forestall your fears? What will happen if you just back off?

When it came to parenting her son, DeSilva, the perfectionist-turned-psychiatrist, said she made a conscious decision. “I was going to raise him to have his own ideas and his own set of standards and really, for me to learn about and help him develop his strengths. And also, to really be comfortable with his weaknesses and vulnerabilities.” That puts her at odds with her own parents. When it comes to her son’s homework, they think, “It’s your job.

You have to make sure his homework is done,” she said. His grandparents even tell her to fix it for him “so it’s correct.” Instead, she explained to her son the consequences of not doing homework, or not doing it well, and let him decide. “He didn’t like it that his teacher was upset with him. So the next time he did his homework, he did it as best he could.”

Tying it all together

Yet individual parents can’t reverse course alone. Putting aside economic inequality for a minute, Curran said, “I think if the pressures of things like standardized testing — for young people to perform perfectly in school at such a young age — could be recalibrated downwards” it would take pressure off parents too. He called online grade portals “even scarier.”

If kids were just allowed to learn, to be, without all the tracking, assessing, and ranking, maybe more parents would feel like they can afford to break — and encourage their kids to break — the link between one’s accomplishments and one’s worth.

As Curran talked, I realized that much of the ground we’ve covered in my Are We There Yet? column is more related than I’d thought. Pressure on parents, including around the “one right way” to parent, produces intensive parenting and lack of autonomy for kids, and it also contributes to parents’ perfectionism and even abusive behavior, all of which lead to faltering mental health in adolescents, often with their own perfectionism as the mechanism. It’s a perfect storm for stressed out, sexless parents who worry they don’t measure up raising stressed out, helpless kids who worry they don’t measure up. To borrow Curran’s words, “It’s all interconnected.”

By Gail Cornwall

Gail Cornwall works as a mother and writer in San Francisco. Connect with Gail on Twitter, or read more at gailcornwall.comMORE FROM Gail Cornwall

Source: The psychological toll of wanting your kid to be “perfect” | Salon.com

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Why Kids Don’t Want to Talk About Their Day

The ride home from school can feel like a battle of wills with my oldest son. When I start the car, he’s a bundle of ecstatic energy. But when I begin asking him about his day, his smile vanishes, and he locks his mouth up like a safe. The remainder of the trip is more nerve-wracking than an episode of Law and Order as I listen for any clue that will get him to open up to me.

My wife and I shared in our son’s excitement to start kindergarten this year. But now that he’s several weeks in, it has been difficult for us to gauge his enthusiasm. And as someone who found socializing at school challenging, I’m always concerned that other kids are bullying him or he is finding the curriculum hard to handle.

But getting kids to talk about their day has been a struggle of parents for generations. And judging from the plethora of articles that deal with this topic, the fight to find out what happens at school will continue to be waged within minivans and around dining room tables far into the future.

To aid in the struggle, we researched why children don’t talk about what happens after we drop them off—and share some strategies and questions that might encourage kids to open up.

Kids need to decompress after school

Even when adults arrive home from work, we often need (or would love to have) a few moments to decompress and allow our brains to shift from “work mode” to “caregiver mode.” And instead, when we are met with a barrage of questions and demands—What’s for dinner? Ugh, meatloaf AGAIN?—it can make us feel a tiny bit exasperated.

According to this article by the Washington Post’s Meghan Leahy, young children also need a moment to transition from school to “home.” But because they are younger, it’s harder for kids to make that shift:

[B]ecause children are young and immature, their brains are not adept at navigating the transition from “work” to home. When they are overwhelmed, their brains are fried. Children cannot hold on to their maturity when they are that tired. To add to this dynamic, children who are extra sensitive may show even more signs that they are overwhelmed.

Leahy recommends giving kids a few moments to decompress and waiting for them to open up. And when they finally do talk about their day, listen carefully to what they have to say: “See what happens when you do not allow your need to learn about [their] day to eat up the space and energy. Focus 100 percent on being a listener.”

Young kids don’t recall the day’s events the same way you do

One of the reasons why your child is stonewalling you when you ask about their day is actually more biological than psychological. The first significant stage of brain development occurs between the ages of two and seven. At this age, child neuropsychologist Alison Gopnik writes in her book, The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life, that when asked about their day in general terms, kids are unable to engage because their brains can’t recall memories in the same way adults or even older kids can.

As frustrating as it is to get a standard reply from your child, they aren’t resisting your questions. One method to get them to open up is to use the itinerary of what goes on during a typical school day that most preschools and teachers give parents at the beginning of the school year. Gopnik suggests that can guide you in asking questions that help kids recall specific memories about what happened during their day and could spark a lengthier conversation.

Tell them about your day first

Unless you’re a movie star or, I don’t know, Jeff Bezos, chances are your typical workday is dull and monotonous—and there’s a good chance your child feels the same way about their day, too. Maybe the details about learning long division or who sat by whom at lunch just feel too mundane to recap. But Sara Ackerman writes for The Washington Post that when she started sharing her day with her daughter, her daughter returned the favor:

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a software developer, a cashier, a blogger, a doctor, a bus driver, or a stay-at-home parent because it’s not about the minutiae of the work. It’s about sharing what makes us laugh and what bores us, the mistakes we make and what is hard for us, the interesting people we meet. When I model this for my daughter, she is more willing to share the same with me.

What if you think they are being bullied?

One out of five kids experiences bullying, and between 25 to 60% of those kids don’t report it to a parent or authority figure. As startling as these statistics are, parents probably won’t stop the trend by directly asking kids if they’re getting harassed in school.

If you suspect your child is the victim of bullying, there are ways to get them to open up. According to HuffPost, parents should start asking simple, pointed questions about who they’re playing with and how it’s going. For example: Who did you play with today? What was that like? What are some things you like doing with other kids? What are some things you don’t like so much?

If that doesn’t work, you can use books, movies, and television shows that address bullying as a tool to help children open up or start the conversation about how children socialize with their peers. Even if your kid isn’t experiencing bullying, initiating these conversations will show them they can talk to you about these issues.

Source: Why Kids Don’t Want to Talk About Their Day (and How to Get Them to Open Up Anyway)

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How to Deal With Your Childhood Trauma As an Adult

Recovering from trauma is hard no matter when it happens. However, if adversity happens during childhood, it can be especially hard to overcome. Unlike adults, children have very little control over their environment. If a child is living in an abusive home, their ability to remove themselves from that environment is extremely limited, whereas an adult will usually have more emotional and financial resources with which to escape.

Meanwhile, children are still learning what healthy relationships look like, as well as how to cope with difficult situations. If a child is growing up in a household where abusive behavior is the norm, this can skew their understanding of what is and is not acceptable within a relationship. Even when the trauma is unavoidable, such as a death in the family or a major illness of a family member, children are still developing their coping skills, which makes it that much harder for them to process what has happened.

So how can adults who experienced adversity in childhood process and deal with that trauma now that they’re grown?

How to measure your childhood trauma

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) quiz, is a measure of childhood trauma. The test itself is short—only ten questions—and asks about family adversity growing up, including physical or sexual abuse, neglect, and about family members with mental health struggles or substance abuse.

The higher the score, the more likely a person is to develop chronic health issues during adulthood, such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, asthma, cancer, obesity, coronary heart disease, and substance abuse. People who score a 4 or higher have a significantly higher risk than those who didn’t experience childhood adversity.

If you do have a high ACE score, knowing that these early experiences can have a negative impact on your health and well-being as an adult can be quite discouraging. However, it’s really important to remember that your ACE score is only an indicator of what you went through, not a guarantee of what your future will look like.

“Just because a person has experienced several ACEs, that doesn’t necessarily mean later problems are inevitable, that just makes them predisposed,” said Genevieve Rivera, executive director of the American SPCC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating parents and preventing child abuse. “We do have strategies, practices, tools, and routines that can help us to rewire our brains and our bodies.”

Start by seeking out professional help

“If you have a trauma history, if you have experienced childhood adversity, what you can do is get connected with support ahead of time,” said Melissa Goldberg-Mintz, a clinical psychologist and founder of Secure Base Psychology, PLLC. “That’s something you can do preventively.”

For people with high ACE scores, there is a strong probability they will develop issues such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, anger, and suicidal impulses. That is why it is essential to be proactive about seeking the mental healthcare you need. “It’s really important to have a professional in your corner to help guide you through,” Rivera said.

Seeking help is often the first, most essential step for working through the lingering effects of childhood adversity, and it can serve as a foundation for establishing a healthy, functional life.

Learn to recognize and develop healthy relationships

“Connection is the best medicine we have,” Goldberg-Mintz said. If a child going through adversity also experiences a warm, loving relationship—whether it’s a parent, grandparent, or caregiver—this will often provide a protective buffer against developing issues later in life. “The single best way we know how to deal with emotional pain is through connecting with people we feel securely attached to,” she said.

Adults who didn’t experience a loving relationship as children, however, can still work on developing healthy relationships later in life, which can help stave off some of these outcomes. Humans are social creatures. We crave connection, and if we don’t get it, our mental and physical health can suffer. Developing an understanding of what healthy relationships look like, and what the boundaries and expectations in those relationships should be, is key.

Make your physical and emotional well-being a priority

Given that childhood adversity can result in a number of chronic health issues later in life, whether physical or mental, it’s important to focus on caring for your physical and emotional well-being.

“You want to make sure your basic needs are being met,” Goldberg-Mintz said. This includes getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, and connecting with others. “If you’re not getting your basic needs met, you are going to be more vulnerable to these bad outcomes.”

This can be challenging, especially because conditions like depression and anxiety make getting enough sleep or exercise especially difficult, the more you can focus on your own physical and mental well-being, the better.

Strengthen your resiliency

Resilience is the capacity to recover from adversity quickly. Some children who experience adversity are able to develop resilience, while others have a harder time. “Research shows that even just one supportive parental figure in a child’s life goes a long way toward helping them build this resilience,” Rivera said.

However, for those who struggled to build resilience during childhood, it’s still possible to develop these skills as an adult—and that goes back to seeking professional help and focusing on building those healthy relationships. Resiliency has a way of developing naturally when we do those things.

“We all have resiliency inside us, but we have to work on building it,” Rivera said. “Research has actually shown that our bodies experience a positive biological response when we’re surrounded by healthy relationships.”

Source: How to Deal With Your Childhood Trauma As an Adult

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6 Psychologically Damaging Things Parents Say To Their Kids Without Realizing It

Parents don’t set out to say hurtful or harmful things to their children, but it happens. You’re tired, they’re pushing your buttons, and you’re frustrated after asking them for the 600th time to clear their plates or get out the door on time. You could also be inadvertently repeating things you heard in your own childhood that your parents (and maybe even you) didn’t realize took an emotional toll.

We parents are trying our best, but sometimes — a lot of times — we fall short. That’s why it can be helpful to know some of the potentially damaging phrases parents often resort to without realizing their impact. It’s not about beating ourselves up. It’s about doing better by being a bit more conscious of our language.

So HuffPost Parents spoke with several experts who shared some harmful phrases you should try to erase from your vocabulary — and what to say instead.

1. “It’s not a big deal.”

Kids often cry or melt down over stuff that seems really silly. (Recall the delightful “reasons my kid is crying” meme that had a real moment a few years back.) But while kids’ crying and whining can definitely get under their parents’ skin — particularly when it’s over something you think they should be able to cope with — it’s harmful to diminish their very real feelings by basically telling them to buck up.

“These little problems — and the emotions that come with them — are actually huge to our kids,” said Amy McCready, a parenting educator, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of “If I Have to Tell You One More Time.” “When we discount their emotional responses to very real challenges, we tell them, ‘How you feel doesn’t matter,’ or ‘It’s silly to be afraid or disappointed.’”

Instead, try this:

Take a moment and try to understand things from their perspective. McCready recommended saying something like: “You seem really scared or frustrated or disappointed right now. Should we talk about it and figure out what to do?” Ultimately, you’re helping them label their emotions (an important part of developing emotional intelligence) and making it clear that you’re there for them.

2. “You never” or “You always do XYZ.”

Children have their patterns, but saying your kid “always” or “never” does something simply isn’t true. (That’s why marriage counselors advise clients to avoid the word “never” with their partners altogether.)

Using broad statements is a red flag that you’ve stopped being curious about what’s happening in this particular moment with your child, according to Robbin McManne, founder of Parenting for Connection.

“It misses opportunity for you to teach them what they should and what they can do next time,” McManne said.

Instead, try this:

Remind yourself to be curious about why your child is engaging in a particular behavior at a particular time. It really helps to connect by getting physically close to your child in that moment, McManne said, so that you’re not shouting at them from across the house, but you’re right there with them to make sure they’re not distracted by something else.

3. “You make me sad when you do that.”

Sure, it might really bum you out when your child doesn’t listen, but it is important to set (and hold) boundaries without throwing your emotions into the mix. Those feelings are yours, not theirs. Plus, you’re setting a precedent by potentially giving them a lot of negative power.

“When kids feel like they get to decide if you’re happy, sad or enraged, they may happily take the opportunity to continue to push your buttons down the road,” McCready said. “And even when they’re out of your house, this mindset can damage future relationships and set the stage for them to manipulate others to get what they want.”

Instead, try this:

Set whatever boundary you need to set, like, “It’s not OK to jump on couches,” McCready offered by way of example. Then, give some choices such as, “Would you rather play quietly in here or go outside?”

4. “You should know better.”

When you say something like “you should know better,” what you’re ultimately trying to do is guilt or shame your child into changing. But that puts kids on the defensive, which makes them even less likely to listen, McCready said. It also undermines their confidence.

“If we tell our kids they should know better — yet clearly they didn’t — we’re sending the message, ‘You’re too dumb/immature to make a good decision.’ Not exactly what we intended,” she added.

Instead, try this:

McCready suggested saying something like “Hmm, looks like we’ve got a situation here! What can we do to fix it?” The goal is to focus on solutions — not the problem — so children practice problem-solving and fixing their own mistakes, and think about ways to make better choices in the first place.

5. “Just let me do it.”

When you’re rushing out the door or waiting for your child to complete a simple task that is seemingly taking forever, your instinct might be to just take over. But try to avoid doing that if you can.

“You’re telling your child, ‘You’re not capable of this, so I need to get involved.’ This is both discouraging and really frustrating,” McCready said. “Imagine if you were super close to being able to do your own zipper and just needed a few more tries, but then Dad swoops in and stops you in your tracks.”

Instead, try this:

Slow down and give your child the time they need to complete their task. Or at the very least, be clearer about why you have to rush. Say something like, “I’ll help you just this once since we’re running so late, but let’s work on this together later!”

6. “You’re a [insert label here].”

One of the most valuable things parents can do for their children is simply avoid labeling them, McManne said. Labels hurt the parent-child relationship because they get in the way of parents seeing their children as struggling and needing help. Parents start to link certain behaviors with whatever label they’ve given to their child, rather than digging in and really trying to understand what’s happening developmentally.

“Labels take us further out of compassion and curiosity,” McManne said.

Labels also have the potential to become self-fulfilling. If children hear from parents that they’re a certain way, they might come to accept that as true — even if it doesn’t feel true to them.

Even labels that seem positive like “You’re smart!” can actually be harmful, McCready said.

“When we say ‘you’re smart’ or ‘you’re athletic,’ we’re telling our child, ‘The only reason you did well on that test is because you were born brainy,’ or, ‘You wouldn’t have made that goal if it weren’t for your natural ability.’ What’s more, if our child bombs the test next time, they’ll be left confused and discouraged, questioning their own ability. If they’re so smart, why did they fail?”

Instead, try this:

Notice and applaud effort, not outcomes. And do whatever you can to avoid labeling your kiddo as anything, good or bad.

Catherine Pearson - HuffPost

Source: 6 Psychologically Damaging Things Parents Say To Their Kids Without Realizing It | HuffPost UK Parenting

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Critics:

A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continuously and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such a situation is normal.

Dysfunctional families are primarily a result of two adults, one typically overtly abusive and the other codependent, and may also be affected by addictions (such as substance abuse, such drugs including alcohol), or sometimes by an untreated mental illness. Dysfunctional parents may emulate or over-correct from their own dysfunctional parents. In some cases, the dominant parent will abuse or neglect their children and the other parent will not object, misleading a child to assume blame.

Some features are common to most dysfunctional families:

  • Lack of empathy, understanding, and sensitivity towards certain family members, while expressing extreme empathy or appeasement towards one or more members who have real or perceived “special needs”. In other words, one family member continuously receives far more than they deserve, while another is marginalized.
  • Denial (refusal to acknowledge abusive behavior, possibly believing that the situation is normal or even beneficial; also known as the “elephant in the room“.)
  • Inadequate or missing boundaries for self (e.g. tolerating inappropriate treatment from others, failing to express what is acceptable and unacceptable treatment, tolerance of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.)
  • Disrespect of others’ boundaries (e.g. physical contact that other person dislikes; breaking important promises without just cause; purposefully violating a boundary another person has expressed.)
  • Extremes in conflict (either too much fighting or insufficient peaceful arguing between family members.)
  • Unequal or unfair treatment of one or more family members due to their birth order, gender, age, family role (mother, etc.), abilities, race, caste, etc. (may include frequent appeasement of one member at the expense of others, or an uneven/inconsistent enforcement of rules.)

References

Teaching Your Kids How to Resolve Conflict Without Fighting

You know how we have epiphanies as we grow older? One of the most profound ones for me has been the realization that just because someone doesn’t agree with what you’re saying at the moment doesn’t mean that they don’t agree with you all the time or that they don’t like you anymore.

This simple realization has had a huge impact on my life.

Just recently, my parents and brother were in town for my daughter’s birthday. We were at dinner the night before her party, and my brother hadn’t put his phone down the entire half hour we’d been seated. I made a comment on this – that it’s not pleasant to share a meal with someone that can’t take their eyes away from their smart phones – and he stormed off, refusing to engage in any conversation.

This isn’t the first time he’s had a violent outburst of anger over a small conflict. As his family member, it upsets me that this happens so frequently.

While I tried to make amends over text message (the only way he was willing to communicate), I noticed something in what he was saying – he thought that any criticism of his actions was a criticism of him. He thought that if I respected him, then I would not say anything negative to him. And worst of all, he thought that disagreeing meant we couldn’t be friends.

I started to wonder why this might be. Did we not have good examples of conflict resolution growing up? Did we witness violent outbursts of anger? When I think back on it, I can’t remember my parents ever arguing. And while that may seem like a good thing, I think that may be where the problem lies.

In order to know how to handle conflict in a productive and healthy manner, we need models of healthy conflict resolution. While on one hand fighting and inflamed emotions only create pain, on the other, never seeing adults disagree means our children don’t know how to deal with conflicts at all.

Productive arguments and even conflict are good, and can bring us closer when handled well. Among the many things we teach our kids, how to resolve conflict without resorting to either drama or fighting, or just simply sweeping it under the rug to fester, is very important.

Here are some ways we can teach our kids to argue in a way that builds connections, instead of destroying them –

1. Teach that disagreement and conflict do not mean that the relationship is damaged or in jeopardy

Our children need to know they are loved unconditionally. This is true in our homes, in school, and on the playground. It is far too common for individuals to view a disagreement as the undoing of a relationship. It is entirely possible to have opposing views and to still get along.

When your child comes home after a disagreement with a friend, listen to the grievances, and remind your child that their relationship with their friend remains intact.

Saying “I see, you didn’t like it that Mila wouldn’t share the swing with you” places the burden on the action; saying “it sounds like Mila was being mean today” places the burden on Mila.

This important distinction does two things:

  1. it helps your child understand that it was the action, not the friend, which was truly upsetting and
  2. it promotes a growth mindset.

Your child will learn that Mila’s actions do not define her completely. If the negative feelings are linked directly to your child’s friend instead of the action, your child may incorporate that image of Mila as always being mean. By linking the feelings to the action, your child will be more likely to understand that having one disagreement does not mean that Mila will always be “mean”.

You can also teach your child this truth by affirming it whenever the two of you disagree. Be careful and intentional with the language you choose.

Instead of criticizing your child (“you’re being disruptive”), make it clear that it is the behavior that you are unapproving of (“the way you are banging your silverware on the table is disrupting our family dinner”).

This can help your child take an outside perspective of the behavior or disagreement. Instead of aligning him or herself with the behavior in opposition to you, he or she can align with you in opposition to the behavior. Which makes it easier to teach kids how to resolve conflict in a healthy manner and brings us to our next strategy…

2. Instill in your child a sense of family and friends as teammates

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re outside of a group. Being ostracized in time out or left out of a game of tag can be debilitating for a child. We want to belong. And one of the things that can make us feel like we don’t belong is having a fight.

I noticed this in my communication with my brother. He felt rejected because of our disagreement, when in reality I only meant to point out a behavior that was hindering our ability to connect. I should have been more careful to make it clear that it wasn’t him that I had a problem with, but was the behavior instead.

One way we can do this with our children and other adults is reminding ourselves and each other that we are on the same team. When your child is disrupting dinner time, saying something like “we all want to have a meal together and spend time with each other” reminds him or her that you have the same goal.

Back to our example of Mila not sharing her swing – this is a good time to explain that individuals often have different ideas of the same goal. In this example, our goal on the playground is to have fun and play together. Mila is expressing this goal by swinging. How else can we meet this goal together? How can we cooperate, rather than compete, to find different options for reaching the same goal? Can we take turns with one on the swing and the other pushing her 10 times and then switch places so both of us can have fun?

This is the sort of conversation that may be difficult to have with young children, but if we are able to open our children’s minds to seeing different ways to get the same thing accomplished, and ultimately look for a win-win solution, we have done them a great service for their lives to come.

3. Encourage your child to recognize the emotions that come to the surface during a conflict

When we don’t view each other as teammates, we may come to assume that the other person has bad intentions or is trying to hurt us. Where does this come from?

Most often, it is a defense against the pain and fear of being rejected. These emotions are quick to come to the surface in any conflict – our stomach gets tight, we sweat, our heart pounds. We are afraid of what the other person – our partner, a friend, a coworker – might say.

In order to protect ourselves against these scary feelings, we often fight back. We lash out instead of taking a moment to recognize our own vulnerability.

We can help our children recognize this cascade of thoughts and feelings by verbalizing it for them and asking them how they feel.

When you see anger rising in your child, place a hand on their shoulder and ask them what they’re feeling. The touch will help them feel safe and grounded, and the answer to your question may help them step out of their escalating anger and fear.

If they have trouble finding the words to describe their emotions, help them out. Say “it seems like you’re feeling angry/scared/frustrated”. Giving them a variety of words to express their emotions and helping them understand the more complicated ones will give them tools of emotional intelligence that they can use throughout their lives to build healthy relationships. This primer from The Natural Child Project has suggestions on how to observe and verbalize the emotions that arise from a difficult situation.

Once the emotions are identified, help them dig deeper to explore the causes of these emotions: “you felt frustrated when Mila wouldn’t share the swing with you”, or “did you feel scared that she may not be your friend if she didn’t share?”

By now, your child will probably start to be more calm and able to think through a healthy solution for how to resolve conflict. This is a good time to use our first two strategies: reminding your child that the disagreement does not mean that the friendship is over, and that there may be other ways to view the situation so that you can reach your shared goal together.

4. Model these strategies every chance you get

There is no greater teacher than the world around us, and our children are sponges, absorbing all of our actions and words as the blueprint for their lives.

A lot of pressure? Maybe.

But that’s one of the beauties of parenthood – it pushes us to be our best selves.

I mentioned above that my brother and I never saw our parents disagreeing. How were we meant to learn how to disagree if we never saw it happening? It seemed to us that disagreeing was something so bad that it had be hidden, if it happened at all. But disagreements happen, and there’s no way to avoid them. What we can avoid is an inability to deal with conflict in a healthy manner.

For example, having a disagreement with your spouse is not a time to run to another room and argue in hushed tones. Instead, use it as a teaching moment for your child and for yourself.

Saying “when you forget to go to the grocery store, I feel disrespected” gets to the heart of the issue much more than angrily shouting “you’re so forgetful!”

It also helps your spouse recognize the impact of their actions on you – it is highly unlikely that he or she neglected to go to the store out of any disrespect for you – and it helps you recognize that you may be experiencing emotions that are more about your own reaction than about the actions of your partner. According to nonviolent communication pioneer Marshall Rosenberg, “what others do may be a stimulus of our feelings, but not the cause”.

Modeling this behavior is hugely instructional for our children. They get to see us being vulnerable, and they start to see this honest discussion of emotions as a normal and healthy part of our interactions with each other.

The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents

At the heart of teaching healthy conflict-resolution skills is a deep understanding of our own reactions to conflict. Just as we discussed helping your child recognize his or her emotions, we need to practice this ourselves.

The next time you disagree with your child, your spouse, your coworker, or your friend, notice how your body feels. Our bodies can often teach us a lot about our emotions. Do you hunch over, taking a protective stance out of a feeling of fear? Do you immediately cross your arms, unwilling to move forward hand-in-hand with the other person?

Identifying the tension in your body is the first step to letting it go. See if you can relax into your own vulnerability. Remind yourself that this is not a fight-or-flight situation, but rather an opportunity to understand each other more deeply and to forge an even stronger relationship.

The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents

If you are inclined to write, you can take the 2-minute action plan a step further. Keeping a daily stream-of-consciousness journal can be a wonderful tool for unraveling our thoughts, feelings, actions, and the connections among the three.

Julia Cameron pioneered this idea in The Artist’s Way, calling the ritual “Morning Pages”. While it was originally meant to clear the mind to make room for creativity, the Morning Pages practice can also be used to clear your mind of any clutter or complicated thoughts, to make room for full, authentic engagement with the world and your family.

When it comes to conflict, a writing practice can help you understand your own reactions to difficult situations. This in turn helps us connect with and better understand our children. This high level of empathy is crucial for helping our children learn to understand their emotions related to conflict and disagreement, and one of the best ways to cultivate empathy is by being vulnerable ourselves. From that place of kindness and empathy, we can teach our children to deal with these moments in a way that fosters continued harmonious relationship at home, at school, and for the rest of their lives.

By: 

Tiffany Frye is the co-founder of nido durham (www.nidodurham.com), a coworking space with childcare in Durham, NC. She supports and mentors parents who want to craft a career that fits around their lives and honors their parent-self as well as their professional-self. You can connect with Tiffany at tiffanymfrye.com or on Twitter @nidodurham.

Source: Teaching Your Kids How to Resolve Conflict Without Fighting – A Fine Parent

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References

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  • Garrison, C. Z., Bryant, E. S., Addy, C. L., Spurrier, P. G., Freedy, J. R., and Kilpatrick, D. G. 1995. Posttraumatic stress disorder in adolescents after Hurricane Andrew. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 34, pp. 1193-1201.
  • Shannon, M. P., Lonigan, C. J., Finch, A. J. and Taylor, C. M. 1994. Children exposed to disaster: I. Epidemiology of post-traumatic symptoms and symptom profiles. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 33, pp. 80-93.
  • De Jong, J. T. V. M. 2002. Trauma, War, and Violence: Public Mental Health in Socio Cultural Context. New York, Kluwer.
  • Dyregrov, A.; Gjestad, R.; Raundalen, M. (2002). “Children exposed to warfare: a longitudinal study”. Journal of Traumatic Stress. 15 (1): 59–68. doi:10.1023/A:1014335312219. PMID 11936723.
  • Thabet, A.A.; Abed, Y.; Vostanis, P. (2002). “Emotional problems in Palestinian children living in a war zone: a cross-sectional study”. Lancet. 359 (9320): 1801–1804. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)08709-3. PMID 12044374.
  • El-Khosondar, I. 2004. The Effect of Rational Behavior Therapy in Reducing the Effect of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Palestinian Children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt.
  • Hawajri, A. 2003. Effectiveness of a Suggested Counseling Program to Alleviate Trauma among the Students of Basic Stage in Gaza Governorate. Unpublished master dissertation, Islamic University, Gaza, Palestine.
  • Mohlen, H., Parzer, P., Resch, F. and Brunner, R. 2005. Psychosocial support for war traumatized child and adolescent refugees: Evaluation of a short-term treatment program. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 39 (1-2), pp. 81-87
  • Husain, S. (2005). “The experience of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Psychosocial consequences of war atrocities on children”. In Lopez-Ibor, J.; Christodoulou, G.; et al. (eds.). Disasters and Mental Health. New York: John Wiley and Sons. pp. 239–246.
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Thabet, A. A., Vostanis, P. and Karim, K. 2005. Group crisis intervention for children during ongoing war conflict. Psychiatry, Vol.14, pp. 262-269.

Loneliness in Kids Who Learn and Think Differently

Kids who learn and think differently aren’t the only ones who can feel lonely or “apart” from other kids. Most people feel that way at some point. But research shows that kids who learn and think differently are more likely than their peers to struggle with loneliness. And they often have a harder time dealing with those feelings when they have them.

Why Kids Who Are Different Might Feel Lonely

There are lots reasons of kids who learn and think differently might feel lonely. For starters, they’re more likely to be bullied  or left out. They can have a hard time making friends or connecting with people. And struggling in school and socially can make kids feel bad about themselves.

They may feel like nobody understands them or their challenges. And they might even withdraw. Kids with certain challenges are most likely to feel left out and isolated. Things like trouble with:

The Difference Between Being Lonely and Being Alone

Some people like spending time alone. That goes for kids and adults. As long as they have the ability to make friends and connect with other people when they want to, being alone is a preference, not a problem .

Just because kids are unhappy being alone, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lonely. They may just have a hard time entertaining themselves and are bored.

Also, loneliness isn’t always about being alone. Some kids feel isolated even when they’re with others. They feel like nobody around them shares or understands their challenges.

How Loneliness Can Impact Kids

When kids go through the occasional lonely spell, it usually doesn’t have a lasting impact. Feeling lonely all the time is different, though. It can affect kids in lots of ways. And it can lead to other difficulties.

Kids who feel lonely might be:

More likely to have low self-esteem. They might feel like others are rejecting them. Kids might lose confidence in themselves and eventually believe they have nothing valuable to offer.

Less likely to take positive risks. Trying new things can build confidence and lead to new interests and skills. But kids who are already feeling rejected and vulnerable may not want to take this leap. They may be afraid to call attention to themselves and risk failing.

More likely to be sad, disconnected, and worried. Kids deal with loneliness in different ways. They may keep their sadness inside and pull away from others. Or they may become angry and act out. The combination of negative emotions and isolation can lead to depression and anxiety .

More likely to engage in risky behaviors. Teens may drink, smoke or vape, use drugs, vandalize property, or do other risky things if they think it will help them feel accepted.

There are many ways to help your child handle feelings of loneliness. First, don’t try to force your child to become more social or make lots of friends. Instead, work on building self-esteem . Help your child find interests that lead to meeting new kids who like similar things.

Keep an eye on signs of depression , too. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider if you have concerns. And if your child has ADHD, read about the connection between  ADHD and depression.

Key Takeaways

  • Some kids like spending time alone, even if they have friends.
  • Kids who are different may feel like nobody understands them.
  • Don’t try to force your child to be more social and make friends.

Kate Kelly

 

By : Kate Kelly

 

Source: Loneliness in Kids Who Learn and Think Differently | Understood – For learning and thinking differences

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Related Links:

Peer-related loneliness across early to late adolescence: Normative trends, intra-individual trajectories, and links with depressive symptoms

GW Ladd, I Ettekal – Journal of adolescence, 2013 – Elsevier
Children rated each item on a five-point scale with larger scores representing higher levels of …
staff selected a teacher who (1) professed to be knowledgeable about the child’s development,
and … created by averaging the six items that do not specifically refer to loneliness (14, 33 …

Loneliness and peer relations in adolescence

SS Woodhouse, MJ Dykas, J Cassidy – Social development, 2012 – Wiley Online Library
… Additionally, loneliness was positively correlated with victimization and inversely related to
prosocial and disruptive behavior … Although extensive and converging evidence indicates that
loneliness in children typically emerges in the context of problematic peer relations (for a …

Friendship and friendship quality in middle childhood: Links with peer group acceptance and feelings of loneliness and social dissatisfaction.

JG Parker, SR Asher – Developmental psychology, 1993 – psycnet.apa.org
… classmate, rather than be asked to rate how much they view every other child as a … low-accepted
children in terms of specific qualitative features and with respect to children’s satisfaction with …
the quality of one’s best friendship are related to the degree of loneliness and social …

Genetic and environmental contributions to loneliness in children

S McGuire, J Clifford – Psychological Science, 2000 – journals.sagepub.com
… have found links between parents’ differential treatment of siblings and children’s behavioral
and … however, that the most important contributors to individual differences in loneliness are
experiences … One child in the family may have a very supportive peer network, whereas …

College students’ use of electronic communication with parents: Links to loneliness, attachment, and relationship quality

AL Gentzler, AM Oberhauser, D Westerman… – … , Behavior, and Social …, 2011 – liebertpub.com
… The revised UCLA Loneliness Scale: Concurrent and discriminant validity evidence … Furman W,
Buhrmester D. Children’s perceptions of the personal relationships in their social … Age and sex
differences in perceptions of networks of personal relationshipsChild Development1992 …

Conceptual relations between loneliness and culture

WCW Van Staden, K Coetzee – Current opinion in psychiatry, 2010 – journals.lww.com
Purpose of review To clarify ways in which loneliness and
culture are connected conceptually. Rec.

Self-control, anxiety, and loneliness in siblings of children with cancer

R Hamama, T Ronen, R Feigin – Social work in health care, 2000 – Taylor & Francis
loneliness score was 4.27 (SD=54), indicating, on average, feeling lonely ”sometimes.” The
children’s self-control … cating that a higher sense of anxiety was related to higher feelings of
loneliness in the … The impact of the ill child’s type of cancer, type of treatment re- ceived, and …

Friendship quality and sociometric status: Between-group differences and links to loneliness in severely abused and nonabused children

TR Howe, RD Parke – Child Abuse & Neglect, 2001 – Elsevier
… the unique variance that sociometric status and friendship quality accounted for in the social
adjustment measure of loneliness … Confirmed Abused as Child, 20 … As is the case for most
research samples of abused children, the current study utilized a convenience sample of …

Dyadic attachments and community connectedness: Links with youths’ loneliness experiences

HM Chipuer – Journal of Community Psychology, 2001 – Wiley Online Library
… Each of these elements has been found to be inversely related to youths’ perceptions of loneliness
~Chipuer et … Other studies have found that children and adolescents who report higher levels
of overall sense of community in both the neighbourhood ~Chipuer et al., 1999 …

Loneliness and health: Potential mechanisms

JT Cacioppo, LC Hawkley, LE Crawford… – Psychosomatic …, 2002 – journals.lww.com
Objective Two studies using cross-sectional designs explored
four possible mechanisms by which lon.

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How To Teach Children Empathy

Does your child have empathy? Or should I ask, do you have empathy? One of the best ways to teach empathy is by modeling it for your child. If you show your child how to be empathetic with your actions, they will learn from you. But teaching empathy goes beyond being a positive role model for your child.

What is Empathy and Why It’s Important

Empathy is such an important virtue to possess in life. When you have empathy, you are able to actively value another person’s perspective and respond with care and concern. Empathy is about having compassion and having the ability to envision how someone else is feeling in a particular situation and responding with understanding. It’s something that parents can nurture in their child’s lives as they grow and mature but it’s never too early to start! Some people are born empathetic and it comes naturally for them. But not all people have empathy and it can be a complex skill that some people need to mindfully learn and practice.

Who Struggles With Empathy

The more egocentric a person is, the harder it is for them to be empathetic. That being said, toddlers and teenagers will have the hardest time having and showing empathy to others. Also, if a child doesn’t know a multitude of emotions and or isn’t able to freely express emotions in their home, they may have a more difficult time being empathetic to others. Children on the Autism Spectrum, for example, also have a challenging time showing compassion, empathy, and effectively having perspective taking with others.

How Parents Can Cultivate Empathy With Their Children

Play it Out

Children love to play and play is necessary for them to learn and make sense of their world and various skills on how to function in their world. So I suggest, getting a box of bandages and have your child nurse their doll or stuffed animal and help them “feel better” by taking care of them. This will help children notice when friends are hurt and want to help them and take care of them. 

Practice and Define Emotions

Children need to know emotions before they can express them and understand how others are feeling. So I suggest playing an emotion game where you make a face and your child has to name the emotion you are feeling. Then, your child makes the same face and describes a time when they felt that emotion.

Model Empathy

If your child gets hurt or gets a bad grade, try not to invalidate them or dismiss them by just saying “it’s ok” but instead model what it’s like to show empathy. You can say, “How does this grade make you feel?” and “What can I do to help support you?” and “What can I do to help you feel better?” If your child is willing to listen, you can name them their strengths and encourage them to keep trying to get a better grade next time. 

Take Another Perspective

Talk about how someone feels in a particular situation that you see on television or in real life and ask your child,  “How must they feel?” Once you establish how the other person feels, you can talk about what that person can do the next time to act differently with more empathy. You can also teach your child to initiate asking others “how are you feeling today” or “how are you doing today” but if they have trouble initiating it, teach them to respond this way to someone asking them first, to show them that you care about them. A conversation between a family member or a friend is about giving and receiving, listening and responding.

Prioritize Kindness and Inclusion

Kindness goes a long way. Teach your child to choose kindness and inclusion. Teach your child that if they see a child playing or eating lunch by themselves, have them initiate a conversation with that child and invite them to play or eat with them. If they see that a friend is hurt physically or emotionally, teach your child to ask them how they are feeling and how they can help.

Practice Opportunities

Practice doing something nice for a friend who is sick, hurt, or had a bad day. Your child can draw them a picture or make them a card or a craft and deliver it to their doorstep. If your child is older, they can send a text, email, or call their friend to check on them. 

Volunteer and Give

Have your child practice giving to others. Maybe they can volunteer at a local food bank or animal shelter. Maybe they can gather outgrown toys and give them to Salvation Army or Goodwill. Maybe they can save allowance money and buy some new toys to give to a local Children’s Hospital or Toys for Tots around the holidays. Or maybe they can draw pictures to give to individuals at a retirement center.

Host a Family Meeting

Schedule a family meeting in your home once a week. At the meeting, let everyone in the family have a turn speaking and sharing. This will provide your child the opportunity to practice listening to others and their feelings as well as have the opportunity to express themselves and their needs.

Reflect and Listen

It is important to teach children to listen to how others are feeling and then to reflect on how they are feeling. It is just as important to listen to how other’s are feeling, if not more, as to reflect on how they are feeling. Listening is a very important skill to learn and practice. If you don’t listen carefully to someone, you may miss understanding how they are really feeling and how to respond and reflect properly.  

Make a Repair

When a conflict arises, you can have your child practice making a repair. If they take a toy away from another child or a sibling, you can have your child reflect on how that made the other child feel and then follow up with asking your child what they can do differently next time and how they can make it better this time. This might mean a verbal apology, a written apology letter, an apology drawing, and even a hug.

 

By: Dr. Kim

 

Source: How To Teach Children Empathy

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Treating the Effects of Childhood Trauma

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Although adults often say things like, “He was so young when that happened. He won’t even remember it as an adult,” childhood trauma can have a lifelong effect. And while kids are resilient, they’re not made of stone.

That’s not to say your child will be emotionally scarred for life if he endures a horrific experience. With appropriate interventions, adults can help kids recover from traumatic experiences more effectively.1

But it’s important to recognize when your child may need professional help with dealing with a trauma. Early intervention could prevent your child from experiencing ongoing effects of the trauma as an adult.

If you or a loved one are struggling with childhood trauma, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

What It Is

There are many different experiences that can constitute trauma. Physical or sexual abuse, for example, can be clearly traumatic for children.

One-time events, like a car accident or a particularly severe natural disaster (like a hurricane, for example), can take a psychological toll on children as well.1

Ongoing stress, such as living in a dangerous neighborhood or being the victim of bullying, can be traumatic, even if it just feels like daily life to an adult.2 In fact, nearly any event can be considered traumatic to a child if:

  • It happened unexpectedly
  • It happened repeatedly
  • Someone was intentionally cruel
  • The child was unprepared for it

Childhood trauma also doesn’t have to occur directly to the child; for instance, watching a loved one suffer can be extremely traumatic as well. Exposure to violent media can also traumatize children.3

Just because an experience is upsetting, however, doesn’t make it traumatic. Parental divorce, for example, will likely affect a child but it isn’t necessarily traumatizing.

It’s also important to remember that just because a child endured a tragedy or a near-death experience, doesn’t mean he’ll automatically be traumatized. Some kids are much less affected by their circumstances than others.

 

When It Leads to PTSD

Many children are exposed to traumatic events at one point or another. While most of them experience distress following a traumatic event, the vast majority of them return to a normal state of functioning in a relatively short period of time.

Between 3 and 15 percent of girls and 1 to 6 percent of boys—develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic event. Children with PTSD may re-experience the trauma in their minds over and over again. They may also avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma or they may re-enact their trauma in their play.5

Sometimes children believe they missed warning signs predicting the traumatic event. In an effort to prevent future traumas, they become hyper-vigilant in looking for warning signs that something bad is going to happen again.

Children with PTSD may also have problems with:

  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger and aggression
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Difficulty trusting others

Even children who don’t develop PTSD may still exhibit emotional and behavioral issues following a traumatic experience.6 Here are some things to watch out for during the weeks and months after an upsetting event:

  • Increased thoughts about death or safety
  • Problems sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anger issues
  • Attention problems
  • School refusal
  • Somatic complaints like headaches and stomachaches
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Development of new fears

Effect on Long-Term Health

Traumatic events can affect how a child’s brain develops. And that can have lifelong consequences.

A study published in 2015 showed that the more adverse childhood experiences a person has, the higher their risk of health and wellness problems later in life. Childhood trauma may increase an individual’s risk of:

  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes

A study published in 2016 in Psychiatric Times noted that the prevalence of suicide attempts was significantly higher in adults who experienced trauma, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, and parental domestic violence, as a child.

Effect on Relationships

A child’s relationship with his caregiver—whether his parents, grandparents or otherwise—is vital to his emotional and physical health. This relationship and attachment helps the little one learn to trust others, manage emotions and interact with the world around them.

When a child experiences a trauma that teaches him that he cannot trust or rely on that caregiver, however, he’s likely to believe that the world around him is a scary place and all adults are dangerous—and that makes it incredibly difficult to form relationships throughout their childhood, including with peers their own age, and into the adult years.10

Children who struggle to maintain healthy attachments to caregivers are likely to struggle with romantic relationships during adulthood. A 2008 Australian study of more than 21,000 child abuse survivors age 60 and older reported a higher rate of failed marriages and relationships.

How to Help

Family support can be key to reducing the impact trauma has on a child. Here are some ways to support a child after an upsetting event:

  • Encourage your child to talk about his feelings and validate his emotions.
  • Answer questions honestly.
  • Reassure your child that you’ll do everything you can to keep him safe.
  • Stick to your daily routine as much as possible.

If your child has been exposed to traumatic circumstances and you’ve noticed changes in her mood or behavior, talk to her pediatrician. A physician can evaluate your child’s health and, if necessary, make a referral for mental health treatment.

Depending on your child’s age and needs, she may be referred for services such as cognitive behavioral therapy, play therapy, or family therapy. Medication may also be an option to treat your child’s symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

It’s never too late to get help. Whether you’ve adopted a teenager who was abused over a decade ago, or you’ve never received help for the traumatic experiences you endured 40 years ago, treatment can still be effective.

Source: https://www.verywellmind.com

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bev1

Judith Joseph, MD, MBA, child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, interviews Arthur Becker-Weidman, PhD, director of the Center for Family Development at the Attachment-Focused Treatment Institute in western New York, about his Grand Rounds lecture on Complex Trauma and its Effects on Child Development. Children who’ve experienced trauma need to form trusting, supportive relationships with caregivers and therapists as a key component of their recovery and treatment. Yet often these traumatic events damage children’s ability to do exactly that. Dr. Becker-Weidman discusses treatment strategies he’s developed to help traumatized children become open to forming these relationships that are an integral part of the healing process. Dr. Becker-Weidman presented at the Child Study Center’s Grand Round series on Nov. 9, 2012. For more about the Child Study Center and its Grand Rounds series, visit http://www.nyulangone.org/locations/c….

A Teacher’s Guide to Supporting Students with Anxiety

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As a teacher, you may have noticed your students seem increasingly anxious—and the evidence isn’t just anecdotal. According to child psychologist Golda Ginsburg, “anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses in children….[and they’re] underdiagnosed and undertreated.” In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, while about 18% of adults experience an anxiety disorder in a given year, that rate is a higher 25% for children ages 13–18.

This article will guide you through the definition of anxiety, its causes, how to recognize it, types of anxiety disorders, and, most importantly, how you can help as a teacher. You can also learn specific skills as they relate to anxiety and the COVID-19 crisis, as well as find resources to help you along your way.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion in which one feels irrationally tense, worried, or fearful, manifesting itself through physical or emotional symptoms, which will be further detailed below. While there is frequently a known stimulus, there may not be—some anxiety is purely existential. Like other emotions, anxiety usually lasts a short while. However, if the feeling lingers for far too long, this can indicate an anxiety disorder.

The term “anxiety” is often confused with—or casually used in place of—“stress”” or “nervousness”, but they aren’t the same things. Stress and nerves are usually caused by external, recognizable stimuli, and the responses are relatively rational and short-lived. These feelings can even be positive, indicating that a person cares about a situation’s outcome and pushing them to succeed. However, if a stressor continues over an extended period or there are multiple nerve-wracking situations on top of one another, anxiety frequently develops.

Anxiety is often connected to suicidal behavior. As of 2017, suicide was the second-highest cause of death in people ages 10–34. Parents, administrators, and teachers must learn to recognize and address anxiety in young people—not only to increase children’s academic and social success but also to potentially save their lives.

Causes of Anxiety Among Students

While not all anxiety symptoms are signs of disorders, there are three general causes of anxiety disorders among young people.

Causes of Anxiety

Biology

Neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and dopamine, aren’t functioning correctly in their brains. In short, these “happy hormones,” aren’t being produced or sent through the brain and body effectively, causing problems with mood and alertness, as well as more frightening issues with blood flow and body temperature regulation.

Family

This includes inheriting the disorder, as well as parents or guardians modeling anxious behaviors in front of their children. For example, they might share “grown-up problems” like money issues or exhibit perfectionism. Parents continually focusing on their child’s happiness or even giving excessive praise can also cause anxiety, as the child may feel they’re doing something wrong if they’re unhappy or not immediately successful at tasks.

Trauma

High-stress events that cause upheavals, like divorce or a death in the family, can cause trauma-related anxiety. Trauma may also include individual terrifying events like car accidents, as well as abuse.

However, evidence shows situations unrelated to these factors are also causing the rise in anxiety and anxiety disorders among children. While it’s easy to blame social media—and studies are mixed about whether it is or is not a major contributor—some school issues are considered partially responsible.

  • Bullying: Students who bully and those who are bullied are at risk for mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Less expectedly, seeing peers being bullied is also a significant cause of these challenges.
  • Overscheduling: Students today are busy, both in and out of school. Overscheduling—such as involvement in too many advanced classes and extensive after-school activities—can have physical and mental effects, including anxiety.
  • Pressure to succeed: Students often feel pressure to excel at everything. “When kids feel like each homework assignment is going to make or break their future or that each soccer game could determine if they get a college scholarship, that pressure will have negative consequences,” says Amy Morin, LCSW. These feelings can result in battles with anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.
  • Interpersonal relationships: At all ages, students worry about their interactions with those around them. If a child feels like their teacher “doesn’t like them,” they may dread attending class. Additionally, teachers are stressed—which can lead to anxiety for them as well. Even if they never lose their cool, a teacher’s general demeanor can model anxious behaviors for students. Also, kids want to fit in with their peers. While a Pew Research Center study showed grades were the primary stressor for students, the following two were the pressure to look good and be socially accepted.
  • School shootings: As of 2018, 57% of teenagers surveyed stated they were worried a shooting would happen at their school. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows that people become anxious and unable to self-actualize—that is, learn and grow—if they feel unsafe.

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Types of Anxiety Disorders in Young People

Knowing the most common disorders and their signs can help you to spot them. While you can’t—and shouldn’t attempt to—diagnose a child, if you notice behaviors relating to these, gently recommend a parent speak to their pediatrician. There are six common types of anxiety disorders among youths.

Common Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Excessive worry about many things, from grades to relationships to existential ideas

Panic Disorder: Experiencing a minimum of two panic or anxiety attacks in a month, with no apparent reason

Selective Mutism: Not speaking when social or academic norms require it, though they may be highly talkative at home

Separation Anxiety Disorder: Showing signs of anxiety, like crying, when separated from parents; it becomes something to worry about when the child can’t be distracted, won’t join in fun activities, or fears bad things will happen to their families

Social Anxiety Disorder: Fear of social situations, including being called on in class or speaking with classmates

Specific Phobias: Intense fear of a particular object or situation, such as dogs or the dark

Recognizing Anxiety in Students

The Boston Children’s Hospital says a certain amount of anxiety is normal in children, which can make it hard to determine whether the signs are part of typical development or evidence of a disorder. Young children operate on an evolutionary fight-or-flight level; however, as they age, many of these fears should lessen. For instance, if a teenager is exhibiting separation anxiety, it could be a red flag for a deeper problem.

Possible physical indicators of anxiety

Difficulty breathing
Shaking
Dizziness
Becoming fatigued quickly
Frequent stomachaches or headaches

Possible emotional indicators of anxiety

Perfectionism
Expressing constant fears
Attempting to not participate in school

It’s essential not to jump to conclusions, however. Any student can exhibit physical or emotional signs of anxiety, including the occasional panic or anxiety attack. Additionally, several disabilities and conditions, like ADHD, autism, and diabetes, can cause symptoms resembling anxiety. If signs show up frequently or impede academic or social activities, that is when you should become concerned.

How Teachers Can Help Students with Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are critically underdiagnosed and untreated, but those who have diagnoses may have their needs covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or the Section 504 civil rights law. If covered by IDEA, they will be considered special needs students and given Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Section 504 doesn’t typically require any special education services but allows them a 504 plan. Both types of plans provide specific, actionable steps to take when a student is experiencing anxiety.

However, for students exhibiting anxiety symptoms who have no specific plans in place, there are best practices you can follow.

Establish Norms

From day one, you need to communicate norms to your students. All children, but especially those with anxiety, need structure and an understanding of expectations. These should include not just student expectations, but also what to anticipate from you. Knowing what is coming up, what behaviors are expected from them, how you will communicate positive and constructive feedback, and even things as simple as where to turn in papers lowers opportunities for anxiety-inducing situations to arise. Remind students of expectations as the year goes on and re-establish them after breaks.

Put a Stop to Bullying

Bullying, being bullied, or witnessing bullying can lead to anxiety in students, so you must have a policy in place—and to stick to it. Get involved the moment you see bullying behavior, institute consequences mandated by your school, and follow up with the perpetrator, victim, and any witnesses, as well as with their families. The follow-ups should be about healing, not continued consequences. For more help with this topic, check out our bullying prevention guide.

Sarah Mattie, former middle school theater and language arts teacher, shares, “I was a bullied and anxious kid, and my anxiety increased because I never knew what happened to my bullies after the incidents. I assumed teachers were ignoring it. As a teacher, I always made a point to be transparent. I told kids and parents that for legal and privacy reasons, I couldn’t tell them what steps would be taken—but I did promise to everything in my power to help. If someone had told me that when I was a kid, maybe my anxiety would have been lessened!”

Build Relationships with Students

While it can seem impossible to build a relationship with every student, this is essential for decreasing their anxieties. “Getting to know you” activities are a great start, such as “about me” papers and name-learning games, and you should have some in your back pocket for when a student transfers into your class. Mattie recommends keeping the “about me” papers so you can refer to them later in the year. Casual conversations with no academic stakes are also helpful. Talking about your life humanizes you, as does piping up when you hear a student mention an interest you share.  When students see you person rather than merely an authority figure, they can better relate to you—and perhaps better trust you.

Additionally, showing you notice when something is “off” with a student, and offering help or a listening ear can ease anxieties. In an interview with NPR, a teenager named Katie stated, “I felt like every single day was a bad day. I felt like nobody wanted to help me,” informing the interviewer that no staff member had ever asked, “What’s wrong?” If they had inquired, she said she would have told them. Jon Harper, assistant principal at New Directions Learning Academy, concurs. “I think we start by asking the students what they need. I get it, we are the experts and we have our degrees but isn’t it possible that we don’t know?”

When talking to students, lead with empathy. Ensure they know you’re there for them and they aren’t in trouble for seeming anxious, sad, or showing any other negative feeling. Involve them in solutions—ask them what they think could help. You don’t have to come up with a fix immediately—you can ask them to think about it, say you will as well, and plan to talk again on a specific day.

“Many kids just wanted to know someone was there to listen,” Mattie stated. “Some asked if I could keep the conversation private, and I went back to my policy of transparency. I told them I was a mandated reporter, and I had to report things that made me worry about their health or safety or that of someone else—otherwise, this was a private safe space. Never make promises you know you can’t keep. I don’t think I ever had a student refuse to speak after that—in some cases, I think knowing I was legally obligated to help reassured them. But most didn’t have red flags to talk about; they simply wanted a grown-up who didn’t have to care about them to care.”

Proactively Lower Stress

Overscheduling in and out of the classroom can cause anxiety in students, so letting them take the occasional break from the grind is essential. Especially during high-stakes periods, like testing, consider having a games day, bringing them outside to run around (no matter how old they are), or using the old standby of popping in a movie. If you’re in a school that frowns on activities that aren’t directly related to your curriculum, find ways to integrate relaxing tasks into lessons.

Also, reframe how you talk to kids about grades, tests, and behaviors. Don’t make any single thing seem like it will ruin their futures—or make you “hate” them.

Create a Growth Mindset, Not a Fear of Failure

Kids are under a great deal of pressure to be perfect, and fear of failure can be paralyzing. Try to reframe perceived failures as opportunities to grow. Harper suggests, “Share your mistakes, blunders and weaknesses with your students. In doing so, others might be inspired to share as well. More importantly, your students will begin to feel safer and they will feel that they spend their days in an environment in which it’s okay to make mistakes.”

Mattie provides an example of this. “At the beginning of every school year, I told students my greatest weakness is remembering names. I told them about the three times I had forgotten my own name when introducing myself and insisted they publicly correct me if I ever got their names wrong—whether forgetting or mispronouncing them. Allowing them to correct me and reacting with good humor (and perhaps a facepalm) rather than annoyance let them know feedback or corrections weren’t things to fear in my classroom.”

As you teach, include formative assessments so students can get feedback in a low-stakes manner. These can include ungraded assignments, monitoring work, and providing specific feedback throughout to increase confidence for future higher-stakes activities. When a student completes a task, provide both positive and constructive responses. If a student “bombs,” discreetly call them over to find out what happened and work together to find a solution.

Make Students Feel Safe

Unfortunately, teachers can’t wave a magic wand and make school shootings stop; however, you can take steps to make sure students feel secure in their school environment. If your school has shooting drills, prep your students about what to expect and give them time to decompress and discuss their experiences and feelings afterward. Don’t force them to speak, but allow them to express their fears, ask questions, and become upset if they need to. Offer to talk to them privately as well. Provide the same opportunities after there are shootings on the news—student mental health matters more than the lesson plan.

Additionally, make sure they have all the facts—how rare these incidents are, why your school holds drills, and, most importantly, that the adults in the building are there to protect them.

While other emergency drills may cause anxiety for some students, especially those with relevant traumas, they tend to be less anxiety-causing in general. Still, be aware of students who react with fear and address those worries as discussed above.

Watch Out for Negative Interactions

Both peer and teacher relationships can affect students’ anxiety levels, so it’s crucial to keep an eye out for problems.

It can be hard to admit that something about your style or class could cause anxiety, but these things happen. This does not mean you’re a bad teacher! In fact, the best teachers reflect, adjust, and strive to improve. If you notice a student suddenly exhibiting signs of anxiety, consider the following:

  • Did you say something that could have caused the reaction?
  • Were you having a stressful day and inadvertently modeling anxious behaviors?
  • Could the topic have caused this response? For example, a situation in a book—even a seemingly innocuous one—could remind a student of a trauma. There is also math-specific anxiety, in which students assume they’ll fail because of previous experiences in the subject.
  • Did you unexpectedly redecorate the room or create a new seating chart? Changes like these can create a sense of instability.

When you notice a reaction, talk to the student. If you’re unsure of what went wrong, ask. If you know what caused the reaction, address it head-on—and don’t be afraid to apologize if you need to. Apologizing doesn’t disallow you from issuing consequences; it’s merely admitting you made a mistake in how you handled things in the moment. “In frustration, I used ‘teacher voice’ on occasion—and sometimes it caused anxiety. If I realized my reaction was wrong, I apologized. It’s amazing how far an ‘I’m sorry’ from an adult can go,” said Mattie.

Monitoring peer relationships can be trickier. If a student appears to have trouble with peers, partner them with a kind student for projects, and seat the two near each other—many kids go out of their way to treat others well. You can speak one-on-one with the compassionate student. You don’t need to mention the student they will be helping, but tell them you have noticed and appreciate their behavior—then email their parents to express your gratitude as well. Reinforce classroom expectations regarding the treatment of others and talk to students exhibiting negative behaviors that could increase others’ anxieties. Most kids don’t enter school thinking, “I’m going to be mean today!” Their words or actions could be the result of something going on with them, including their own anxiety.

Talk to Other Teachers

When you are worried about a student, reach out to their other teachers—including elective teachers, as students may act differently in “non-traditional” classrooms. Ask if they have observed the signs you have and work together to find solutions. Stability is key for students with anxiety, so if you can find across-the-board methods—such as a subtle signal for when a student needs to take a break—students won’t have to worry about remembering different practices for each class. If the team sees that a student is especially comfortable with a particular teacher, have them check in at the beginning and/or end of each day.

Try to alert other teachers when you notice the student is having a bad day, so they can be ready to provide support.

Even if the student isn’t in a special education program, it won’t hurt to reach out to SPED teachers as well. They may have some tips or can advise on whether an IEP or 504 may be worth exploring.

Include Administrators and the Counseling Team

Since administrators and members of the counseling team, including school counselors, psychologists, and social workers, aren’t in the trenches every day, they may not know a student is struggling until a problem becomes a crisis. Reach out before things get that far.

Administrators can provide advice and insight regarding how to communicate with parents. If you’re worried about how you might come across, ask the administrator if they could look at your email before you hit “send” or practice the conversation with you before it occurs.

The counseling team members are the real experts on this topic. They can meet with the student and talk about how the year is going and address your specific concerns—usually without mentioning your name. Follow up after the meeting to see what suggestions they have.

Both administrators and members of the counseling team may have knowledge teachers don’t, such as records from previous schools, medical information, or even if child protective services are involved with the family. They may consider this information to be on a “need-to-know basis.” If you express a need to know, you may gain more understanding of what is going on and be able to adjust your practices.

Involve Parents

Parents can be your best allies in the fight against student anxiety. Be factual in your conversation—describe behaviors, relay things the child has said, and inform them of any academic effects. Make it clear their child isn’t in trouble and that you want to work together to find solutions. Parents may not have alerted you to previous challenges, so ask them if this has happened before and if any accommodations have worked. Emphasize that you care about their child and your line of communication is always open.

Some parents may resist or become upset. Don’t let that discourage you. They might be scared there is something “wrong” with their child, or perhaps these issues have arisen before and they felt no one wanted to help or thought it was over. Make sure they know you’re on “Team Student.” Keep records of all interactions. These records could help if other teachers contact them, if counselors or administration need to get involved, and may protect you if a parent complains.

COVID-19 and Student Anxiety

As mentioned, upheavals in students’ lives can cause anxiety. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students across the nation have suddenly moved from seeing their teachers and classmates in person to learning online—a massive change for most.

There are a few things you can do to help your students stave off anxiety during this time.

  • Allow for asynchronous learning. Asynchronous learning occurs on a student’s schedule. Some may have to share a device with a working parent or school-aged sibling; others might spend their days caring for younger children while guardians work. These students can become anxious about falling behind or disappointing you, and those who already have anxiety could enter a crisis state. If your school insists on frequent synchronous learning, push back and advocate for your students.
  • Check in regularly. Whether a student has anxiety or not, they need to know you haven’t disappeared. Send out whole-class messages, respond to students as quickly as you can, and reach out individually, particularly to students with anxiety or other needs. This may mean a phone call or text. Apps like Remind let you text students and parents without revealing your phone number. For phone calls, things can be a bit trickier. You can share your number, but if you aren’t comfortable doing so, talk to your administration about alternatives. Remind has a call function for premium members, and Google Voice lets you create a phone number if you have a Google account.
  • Take care of yourself. As the cliché goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” If your emotional cup is empty, you have nothing left to give your students. Check in with yourself mentally. As previously stated, your demeanor can affect student anxiety—if you seem freaked out, they might become so. Do whatever you need to do to keep yourself calm, like participating in a favorite at-home activity outside of work hours or getting digital therapy through a resource like Talkspace.
  • Learn about online education. Knowledge is power and feeling powerful can lower anxiety. EducationDegree.com provides two articles to help educators and students feel comfortable with online learning. The first article contains tips for students learning remotely. The second is an article designed especially for teachers.

Resources for Teachers of Students with Anxiety

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America: ADAA focuses on education about, treatment of, and finding cures for anxiety, depression, and related disorders. They have a wealth of information for people with these disorders, mental health professionals, family members, and educators.
  • Education Week: This publication offers a variety of articles about student anxiety. Education Week has a limit on how many pieces you can read, so if it proves valuable to you, see if your school has an account or will pay for you to have a membership.
  • National Association of School Psychologists: NASP provides resources, professional development, and policy information for school psychologists and educators who are dealing with mental health in the classroom—including anxiety.
  • Rogers Behavioral Health: Rogers Behavioral Health has information specifically regarding students with school anxiety, including a podcast series and actionable steps teachers can take to help anxious kids.
  • Understood: This website strives to ensure people with disabilities of all sorts thrive. They provide anxiety-related resources, including information about recognizing symptoms of anxiety, how-to guides, and information about the legalities surrounding IEPs and 504s.

Source: https://www.educationdegree.com

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UCLA child psychologist John Piacentini, PhD, discusses the difference between age-appropriate and problematic anxiety in children, including how to recognize the warning signs of problematic anxiety and how it is treated. Learn more at https://uclahealth.org Learn more about Dr. John Piacentini at https://uclahealth.org/JohnPiacentini

Why COVID-19 Is Making You Act Like a Teenager Again

Since she graduated high school, Kayla Stetzel, a 26-year-old law student living in Chicago, hadn’t spent any significant time in her father’s house in Indiana. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Not wanting to spend months alone in her small city apartment, Stetzel decided to move back in with her father—and inadvertently found herself reliving her adolescence. Her electric guitar and The O.C. DVDs came out of storage. She adopted sleep and eating habits even a teenager would find indulgent. And she found herself studying for law-school exams in the exact same place she did her grade-school homework.

“I’m stressed out about school and playing very angry rock and roll music in my basement,” she says. “It’s very surreal.”

Stetzel isn’t the only person having a teenage rebirth. Waves of 20- and 30-somethings turned back the clock in the early weeks of COVID-19 social distancing by retreating to their childhood homes. And even people who have not physically returned to their old surroundings are turning to nostalgic pastimes to fill the hours. Social media is awash in stories of people rediscovering old interests, from craft projects to long-outdated music, and old-school video games like Animal Crossing and the Sims are surging in Google search trends.

“Whenever we’re in a stressful situation, we tend to regress,” says Lori Gottlieb, a California-based psychotherapist. Just think of how you act when you go home for the holidays, she points out.

But while there are potentially destructive forms of regression, like snapping at your loved ones over a Thanksgiving turkey, it can also be a subconscious form of self-soothing. “Going back to a time in our lives when we felt safe and we felt protected is a natural instinct during these times,” Gottlieb says.

FAQ: How Does COVID-19 Spread?

The prevailing means of transmission is via virus-containing microdroplets expelled when someone who is infected either sneezes or coughs.

Sarah Solomon, the 31-year-old author of Guac Is Extra But So Am I: The Reluctant Adult’s Handbook, has been turning to an unlikely source for that comfort: the heavy metal music that spoke to her as a teenager, but that she says is now “very against my personal brand” as a Brooks Brothers-wearing adult in New York City. COVID-19 has made Korn and Nine Inch Nails suddenly feel appropriate again, Solomon says.

“We couldn’t go out when we were younger, so I feel like I’m regressing to that point—just raging against being isolated and not allowed to go out,” she says.

Martin Bell, a 33-year-old living with his wife and dog in Georgia, is also turning to old music during COVID-19. He says he’s especially drawn to bands like Bloc Party and the Strokes that he had on heavy rotation in the early 2000s, when he was searching for comfort during another “crisis point,” when “the whole world was turning upside down”: the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The sound of the music can take you back to these feelings that you really didn’t even know were still there,” he says.

Many adults who can telecommute (and do not have responsibilities like child or elder care) are also turning to old pastimes to fill their unprecedented number of unstructured hours at home. That’s the case for Madeline Bilis, a 26-year-old journalist living in New York City.

On a recent weekend, Bilis decided to download the Sims, a game she hadn’t played in more than a decade. “I played for about seven hours without realizing it,” she says. “I blew through lunch somehow, absent-mindedly funneling pretzels into my mouth.” She says the game reminds her of living in her parents’ home as a kid, “the last period when I had time to waste away hours on end.”

Dr. Frances Jensen, chair of the neurology department at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and author of The Teenage Brain, says most of the behaviors we associate with teenagers—like video-game marathons and junk food feasts—relate to impulsivity and a desire for immediate gratification. Adults are displaying these same behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, but for different neurological reasons, Jensen says.

Teenagers owe their impulsive nature to their still-developing brains. The frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls executive functioning, doesn’t fully mature until the mid-20s, Jensen says, making teens more likely to give in to their whims. Adults who are mirroring these behaviors during the pandemic don’t have the same excuse, Jensen says—but stress can do funny things even to developed frontal lobes. “Stress can increase impulsivity, and people are under a lot of stress” right now, Jensen says. “It’s a balance between the executive function parts of your brain and the ‘I want it, I want it, I want it!’ parts of your brain,” which are mainly housed in the limbic system. When you’re under stress, and “your barriers are down,” the limbic system may win out more than normal, giving rise to stereotypically teenage behaviors, she says.

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The good news, Gottlieb says, is none of us have fully regressed—the functional adult inside is still there, just waiting to come back out. If you’re moving backward in unhealthy ways, whether by fighting with your family or eschewing all vegetables, Gottlieb says the first step is to notice it’s happening. Then, try to think of how you’d cope with stress under normal circumstances and adapt it to the present day, perhaps by calling a friend or going for a walk. Some newly re-discovered hobbies, like playing an instrument or drawing, are also great stress-relievers, she points out.

By Jamie Ducharme April 15, 2020

Source: Why COVID-19 Is Making You Act Like a Teenager Again

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