Category Archives: Children

Helicopter Parenting

How to Stop Helicopter Parenting

Learn how to raise independent kids and stop micromanaging their every move    By Deborah Skolnik

Little Child Playing Airplane Pilot Kid Traveler Flying in Aviator Helmet on Travel Suitcase Vacation Trip Concept over Blue Sky Clouds
You finish your child’s puzzles. You solve his spats. Heck, you’d cut his applesauce if he asked. It’s time to stop being a micromanaging mom. Help has arrived…It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, wait… it’s you, the Helicopter Parent. That shadow over your kid? It’s yours—as you nervously bend over him in his bed, making sure his chest is still rising and falling. That droning noise? It isn’t chopper blades, it’s you again, on the phone to his preschool teacher, complaining that he said some kid cut him in line. Before that, you were busy wiping his butt, even though he does it on his own at Grandma’s house.

Sound familiar? You’ve got tons of company. Like, for instance, Joy Schoffler of Austin, TX. “My three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Isabella, will ask to be carried down the stairs,” she admits. “She sees me holding her brother and wants to be picked up, too. Of course, Tyler is ten months and can’t walk, and Isabella can. But if I’m running out the door late, picking her up is easier than stopping and saying no.” Schoffler needs to start an online support group with Robin Parker of Atlanta, mother of 2 ½-year-old Thomas: “He’s learned to bring his dad or me any challenging task because we’ll do it for him,” she says.

Why do so many of us wait on our kids hand and foot, or micromanage their lives to jaw-dropping extremes? Are we trying to elevate troubleshooting to an Olympic sport (or land our own reality show)? There’s plenty of evidence that this coddling is as unhealthy for them as it is exhausting for us. So you’ve gotta stop. But how? Read on for some insights, plus advice that’ll help you land your crazy copter.

What the Heli Is Going on?

Think back to your own childhood: Your folks probably didn’t hover nearly as much as you do. Chances are, you got to play in the yard unattended, or even made your own snacks. Turns out some pretty powerful technological, economic, and social factors have turned us into a generation of over-zealous moms and dads, experts say.

For starters, there’s the explosion of cyberspace, and media in general: “Parenting information is available twenty-four-seven,” observes Christie Barnes, author of The Paranoid Parents Guide: Worry Less, Parent Better, and Raise a Resilient Child. “You can go online and find out every scary thing that could happen to your child. You can also investigate every illness. So there’s endless opportunity for fear.” At the same time, the rules for setting your little one on the path to lifelong success have become murkier than ever, adds Margaret Nelson, a professor of sociology at Middlebury College, in Vermont, and author of Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times. “Even if you’ve managed to be financially comfortable and happy, you’re aware your child may not be able to duplicate what you’ve accomplished, even if he does exactly what you did,” she explains. “So you ask yourself ‘What should I provide him with?’ Without an answer, you start trying to provide absolutely everything you possibly can, including too much help.”Kids with overbearing moms may have more anxiety and depression.

Time to Back Off

Once you’ve gotten used to being The Parent from Heli, it’s hard to give up your pilot’s license. There’s even a social element to it, notes Barnes: “So many times, our worries about our kids are what we talk about with other moms,” she says. “There’s almost a feeling that if you’re not worrying enough, there must be something wrong with you. Worrying feels like love.” But a growing body of evidence indicates that being a (s)mother or a super-protective dad can backfire, badly. Among the latest studies is one from North Carolina State University, in which researchers studied kids and their parents in 20 parks over a two-month period. They found that children whose folks hovered and fretted were far less apt to engage in spontaneous play and missed out on some much-needed exercise.

It’s not just kids’ little bodies that suffer when you hover; their psyches can pay the price, too. Psychologists at the University of Washington studied more than 200 kids and their moms for three years, and found that when a child already had pretty good judgment and self-control, having a heli-mom who provided too much guidance and not enough independence raised his risk of becoming anxious or depressed. The kids in the study were mostly a little older (9 on average at the study’s start), but it’s easy to see how a micromanaging mom could frustrate a child of any age.

And what’s all this doing to you? Probably nothing good either. One study showed that parents who judge their own self-worth by their children’s accomplishments report sadness and diminished contentment with life in general. They appear to have less happy marriages, too, says Nelson, who interviewed approximately 100 parents and found that as the amount of time they spend on childcare rises, “personal relationships seem to be the first thing to go.” So don’t go there! Keep reading for great ways to let go of your helicopter parenting ways.

Researchers studied kids and their parents in 20 parks over a two-month period. They found that children whose folks hovered and fretted were far less apt to engage in spontaneous play and missed out on some much-needed exercise.It’s not just kids’ little bodies that suffer when you hover; their psyches can pay the price, too. Psychologists at the University of Washington studied more than 200 kids and their moms for three years, and found that when a child already had pretty good judgment and self-control, having a heli-mom who provided too much guidance and not enough independence raised his risk of becoming anxious or depressed. The kids in the study were mostly a little older (9 on average at the study’s start), but it’s easy to see how a micromanaging mom could frustrate a child of any age. And what’s all this doing to you? Probably nothing good either. One study showed that parents who judge their own self-worth by their children’s accomplishments report sadness and diminished contentment with life in general. They appear to have less happy marriages, too, says Nelson, who interviewed approximately 100 parents and found that as the amount of time they spend on childcare rises, “personal relationships seem to be the first thing to go.” So don’t go there! Keep reading for great ways to…Get a GripOK, so now we’ve (hopefully!) convinced you that quality parenting doesn’t mean constant hovering. But how do you start to ease up? Sounds tough, but it can be done. Here, advice from the trenches—including both pros and real parents! Be a submarine mom or dad instead, says Silvana Clark, author of Fun-Filled Parenting: A Guide to Laughing More and Yelling Less. “Instead of hovering around your child, stay close by—in case of real danger—but mostly out of sight, so he gets out of the habit of running to you for every problem.”Ask your child’s other care-givers what tasks he does when you’re not around, then hold him to that standard at home, says Natalie Caine of Empty Nest Support Services, in Los Angeles, who frequently leads parenting groups that include helicopter moms. Does he put on his own rainboots at preschool but whine for you to do it on weekends? Insist you cut the crusts on his sandwiches, even though he’ll eat crusts at your sister-in-law’s house? Don’t give in.Make your kid a résumé, says Clark. “Take a piece of paper and write ‘Sally is three. Here are some cool things Sally can do by herself.’ Then list some of her abilities, like clearing her plate and putting her stuff ed animals on her bed, and put a star next to each. Every time your child masters a new task, add it to the list, with the star. She’ll be much less apt to ask you to wait on her, since she’ll be so proud.” And as you look at the growing list, you’ll have evidence that you don’t need to provide concierge service after all. “There’s almost a feeling that if you don’t worry enough, something’s wrong with you,” says Barnes. Practice some basic playground skills with your child, says Paranoid Parents author Christie Barnes. “Show him how to kick a ball, climb on the mini-monkey bars, or even just go down the slide. If you see he can do these things safely, you’ll feel more comfortable sitting back on the bench during his next park playdate,” she says. Sit down and have a cup of coffee. Make a brief time every day when your butt’s in a chair and your metaphorical copter is on the landing pad, too. “If your child calls for you and it isn’t an emergency, say ‘I am drinking coffee right now,’” advises Caine. “If he really needs you, he’ll come to you, and if you do this enough, he may stop asking for help with every little thing so often.”Help your hich researchers studied kids and their parents in 20 parks over a two-month period. They found that children whose folks hovered and fretted were far less apt to engage in spontaneous play and missed out on some much-needed exercise.It’s not just kids’ little bodies that suffer when you hover; their psyches can pay the price, too. Psychologists at the University of Washington studied more than 200 kids and their moms for three years, and found that when a child already had pretty good judgment and self-control, having a heli-mom who provided too much guidance and not enough independence raised his risk of becoming anxious or depressed. The kids in the study were mostly a little older (9 on average at the study’s start), but it’s easy to see how a micromanaging mom could frustrate a child of any age. And what’s all this doing to you? Probably nothing good either. One study showed that parents who judge their own self-worth by their children’s accomplishments report sadness and diminished contentment with life in general. They appear to have less happy marriages, too, says Nelson, who interviewed approximately 100 parents and found that as the amount of time they spend on childcare rises, “personal relationships seem to be the first thing to go.” So don’t go there! Keep reading for great ways to…
Get a Grip

OK, so now we’ve (hopefully!) convinced you that quality parenting doesn’t mean constant hovering. But how do you start to ease up? Sounds tough, but it can be done. Here, advice from the trenches—including both pros and real parents!

Be a submarine mom or dad instead, says Silvana Clark, author of Fun-Filled Parenting: A Guide to Laughing More and Yelling Less. “Instead of hovering around your child, stay close by—in case of real danger—but mostly out of sight, so he gets out of the habit of running to you for every problem.”

Ask your child’s other care-givers what tasks he does when you’re not around, then hold him to that standard at home, says Natalie Caine of Empty Nest Support Services, in Los Angeles, who frequently leads parenting groups that include helicopter moms. Does he put on his own rainboots at preschool but whine for you to do it on weekends? Insist you cut the crusts on his sandwiches, even though he’ll eat crusts at your sister-in-law’s house? Don’t give in.

Make your kid a résumé, says Clark. “Take a piece of paper and write ‘Sally is three. Here are some cool things Sally can do by herself.’ Then list some of her abilities, like clearing her plate and putting her stuffed animals on her bed, and put a star next to each. Every time your child masters a new task, add it to the list, with the star. She’ll be much less apt to ask you to wait on her, since she’ll be so proud.” And as you look at the growing list, you’ll have evidence that you don’t need to provide concierge service after all. “There’s almost a feeling that if you don’t worry enough, something’s wrong with you,” says Barnes.

Practice some basic playground skills with your child, says Paranoid Parents author Christie Barnes. “Show him how to kick a ball, climb on the mini-monkey bars, or even just go down the slide. If you see he can do these things safely, you’ll feel more comfortable sitting back on the bench during his next park playdate,” she says.

Sit down and have a cup of coffee. Make a brief time every day when your butt’s in a chair and your metaphorical copter is on the landing pad, too. “If your child calls for you and it isn’t an emergency, say ‘I am drinking coffee right now,’” advises Caine. “If he really needs you, he’ll come to you, and if you do this enough, he may stop asking for help with every little thing so often.”

Help your child get the picture. “I found myself being a helicopter mom and knew I needed to change,” says Dawn Arnold of Mazon, IL, mother of a 5-year-old. “I filled a small photo album with pictures of my daughter doing all the things she needs to do in the morning before school, after school, and before bed. Now she follows along every day. It lets her be independent, but the things that I think are important are still getting done.”

Count to ten before liftoff. “You know how people always say that you should count to ten before you lose your temper?” says Clark. “I tell parents, as long as their child’s not in danger, to count to ten before answering his cry of ‘Help me! or ‘I can’t!’ In that time, you may realize it’s not necessary to rush in after all…or your child may decide he can actually do whatever it is that needs to be done all by himself.”

The Way We Whirrr

For the helicopter parent, these things really get their choppers going…

Trifling toy traumas

Little Thomas Parker has a train set, and sometimes the tracks jiggle apart. “I’ll stand there and watch him trying to fix it for a minute, but I don’t like to see him struggle. Before he reaches the breaking point, we step in,” his mom, Robin, confesses.

School snafus

Paranoid Parents author Christie Barnes heard of one mom who called school to complain that a kid had stared at her son. It turned out he’d stared because her son had drawn a flower on his nose.

Sticky Social Situations

“We took our three-year-old son, Jackson, to our friends’ house for their kids’ Halloween party,” says Chasity O’Steen. “Jackson didn’t really know their kids, let alone their kids’ friends. I kept wanting to walk across the room and help him enter the group.”

Clothes Calls

Hair and makeup artist Candice Isaac, of Baltimore, still selects her 4-year-old daughter Sierra’s clothes. “Sierra would pick five options and stand there trying to choose, and I have to get out of the house to meet clients,” she says.

Surprise! Stuff Your Kid Can Do on His Own

So what is your kid capable of? These are all tasks he can start to learn as he moves past toddlerhood:

1. Zip his pants

2. Put on a belt

3. Make an easy sandwich, like cream cheese and jelly, using a dull knife. (Hint: Toast the bread, so it’s a little easier to handle.)

4. Sort socks

5. Fold towels

6. Help set the table

7. Put clothes in the laundry basket

Kids and Boundaries

Teaching Kids How To Set & Protect Their Boundaries (And Keep Toxic People Out)

Teaching Kids How to Set Boundaries and Keep Toxic People OutPart of helping our kids to be the best they can be sometimes means pointing out things they can do differently. They might not always be happy to receive the information – they’re no different to the rest of us like that. There’s a difference though – a big difference – between feedback that’s given with generous intent and that which fractures the child’s self-concept or self-esteem. Anything that causes shame, humiliation or the ‘shrinking’ of a child is toxic.

We’re here to grow our kids, to help them find flight, and to help them navigate around anything that might lead them to believe those wings of theirs are broken. Their wings are never broken, but the people who touch their lives sometimes are.

It’s not always easy to withdraw a child from a toxic adult, particularly if that adult is a teacher or a parent, but there are things we can do to strengthen the shield around them and teach them the skills that will protect them for life – because let’s be honest, toxic people will come and go throughout the healthiest of lives and it’s not unusual for them to latch on to people who are kind, generous or open.

Strength of character seems to be no barrier to their poison. Sometimes we won’t see them coming and the first we’ll know is that day we wake up and the world feels a little blacker.

Strength and courage come in at the point of closing down to the influence of somebody who’s toxic. It’s in all of us to do this, and it’s up to us to give our kids a lamplight to find theirs, permission to use it, and modeling to show them how.

Here’s how to protect the little humans in your life (and you) from the people who might shrink them now, and against the toxic ones who might come later.

  1. First things first – is it really toxic?

    Rule out other explanations for how your child is feeling. Is your child struggling with work and misreading the teacher’s response? Is your child sensitive to an adult’s tone or volume or abrasive manner? If the adult is like this with everyone, the behaviour is not necessarily toxic. It might not be friendly, but it’s not toxic.

    Also rule out that your child is not doing anything that keeps them under the spotlight. Is is a true case of being targeted by an adult, or is your child consistently talking or interrupting the class, the lesson, the training. How does the adult respond? The response should never be shaming or humiliating. Check this out by chatting with your child and the adult. Then keep an eye on things. Remember that one of the tools of the trade for toxic people is to blame other people for their own messed up behaviour.

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  2. Does the person involved have all the information?

    Does the adult have all the information he or she needs to best look after your child? For example, are there things happening at home that might be affecting your child’s behaviour? Is your child a little bit anxious and prone to being sensitive to behaviour which would be inoffensive to most? Give the adult the benefit of the information. Most people will be pleased to receive the information as the last thing a non-toxic person would want to do is to unknowingly cause distress.

    If you’ve established that it’s not an oversensitivity or anything the child is doing …

  3. Withdraw support for the adult.

    We’re constantly told as parents to support the teacher, the other parent, the coach, and this is true but as with everything else, there’s a limit. When supporting the adult becomes supporting his or her toxic behaviour (the contamination of the child’s self-esteem, confidence or self-concept), it’s time to withdraw support. Let your child know that you don’t agree with the adult – whether it’s a teacher, coach or whoever, and that whatever was said or done should not have happened.

  4. Now for how to set boundaries.

    We hear the word ‘boundary’ a lot but what is it actually? A boundary is the line between what is me and what is not me; between what they think and what I think. With a strong boundary, there’s an acceptance that just because they think it/ feel it/ say it/ do it/ doesn’t mean I have to as well. Here are a few ideas for the words:

    ‘We all have a thing around us called a boundary, which is a line between ourselves and other people. You can’t see it but it’s there. It’s kind of like an invisible forcefield and it’s there to protect each of us from the people who feel bad to be around – not the ones who feel good to be around most of the time but sometimes get cranky or cross, but the ones who say mean things or do mean things that you just don’t deserve.

    You are completely in charge of that forcefield around you. You can decide when it goes up and when it comes down. You can decide what’s allowed in and what has to stay out. You’re the boss and you’ll always be the boss.

    Now, it’s still important to listen and learn from people when they remind you about things you need to do differently – it’s the secret of being awesome. Sometimes though, there might be people who do or say mean things so often that you never feel good when you’re around them. That’s when it’s okay to put your forcefield up. In fact, it’s one of the bravest things you can do. It’s important to respect other people, but it’s even more important to respect yourself first – and putting up your forcefield is one of the ways you can do this.

    We can’t control other people but we can control whether we let the mean things they say or do come close enough to hurt us. Being a kid is hard work – and you’re awesome at it. Everyone is responsible for how they treat other people, including grownups and you, but the person you have to treat the very best is yourself. Sometimes that means not listening to what other people might say about you.

    Sometimes you have to be your own hero and protect yourself from being hurt by people who don’t know the rules about being kind and respectful. This is important because you’re awesome – you’re clever, kind, funny brave and strong – and the world needs every bit of you.’

  5. ‘Did you know ….?’

    Toxic behaviour is often automatic. People do it without thinking about it or considering that there’s a better way to be. That’s not an excuse – not an all – but it can be an important way for your child to further take on the truth that the way someone is treating them actually has nothing to do with them at all.

    Kids will often tend to assume that adults know what they’re doing. Let them know that nobody is perfect – and that when it comes to how to ‘be’ with people, some adults don’t know what they’re doing at all.

    Here’s how to start the chat:

    ‘Did you know that a lot of the things we do are automatic? A lot of time, people just do things because it’s what they’ve always done. They don’t even think about it.

    What this means is that when people are mean and do things that feel bad for you, they haven’t stopped to think that there might be a better way to do it. Sometimes it’s because they haven’t had any adults in their lives to teach them when they were kids, so they grow up doing things that aren’t that great. The habit part of their brain does things before the kind part of their brain can say, ‘Hang on a second. You’ll hurt someone if you do that to them.’

    Our behaviour depends on many different parts of our brain working together and sometimes, they don’t work together that well. It’s important to know that people’s brains can change. Just because someone is mean to you now, doesn’t mean that person will always be mean to you – but you don’t have to wait for that to put your forcefield up. Nope. Not at all.’

  6. ‘No!’ It’s the best word in the universe when you use it the right way.

    ‘For such a little word, saying ‘no’ can feel really hard sometimes but the thing is, it can be the bravest, most powerful word in the universe. It can take strength and courage to say but you have plenty of that. If somebody is asking you to do something that feels bad, wrong, or embarrassing, it’s always okay to say, ‘No’. It can be a hard word to say because you might worry about what people will think of you if you say it, but if they’re asking you to do something that feels bad, then what they think of you already doesn’t matter. Listen to that little voice inside you. If it’s telling you something doesn’t feel right, then listen. I’ll always back you up on that because I trust that little voice of yours, and you need to trust it too.’

  7. Don’t let them change you.

    Help your kids to see the importance of preserving their own character and the great things about them in the face of the things that might change them.

    ‘There’s a bully and a hero in all of us and it’s important not to become a bully when you’re dealing with bullies. This isn’t always easy. You might feel sad or angry or scared and want to hurt the person who has hurt you – but you’re better than that. Respecting yourself doesn’t mean disrespecting other people. Be kind. Be caring. Be strong. But that doesn’t mean you have to like them.

    It’s completely okay to forgive people who are mean. In fact, it’s a very strong thing to do, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept these people back if you don’t think they deserve you. Just understand that there are so many reasons that people do mean things, and none of them are because of the person you are. You’re awesome. We already know that. Mean people weren’t born mean. Something happened to change them that way. Probably something pretty awful. Just don’t let that happen to you.’

  8. Your happiness doesn’t depend on what someone else thinks of you.

    ‘The truth is, nobody will ever know everything about you. If it’s someone who says mean things and who feels bad to be around, that sort of person will really never know the best of you and actually, they don’t deserve to. They’ll never know how funny you are, how kind you are, the amazing way you think about things, how brave, smart and strong you are and how crazy good you are to be around when you trust the people you’re with.’

  9. Stay calm.

    Your child needs to know that you’ve got this. The worst thing you can do is anything that will cause them to regret telling you. You’ll probably feel angry and upset – that’s completely understandable! – but just don’t get angry and upset in front of them. It’s so important not to do anything that might cause them to feel as though they need to look after you.

  10. Be their voice.

    Sometimes we have to be the voice for our children, particularly in relationships where theirs is the quieter, softer and less powerful. When it’s time to talk to the adult involved, start by being curious and open: ‘Is there something my child is doing that he or she needs to improve on?’ Then, keep emotion out of it and stick to specific data, ‘I’d like to talk to you about something you might not be aware of …’

    You’ll have more chance of being effective if you can limit the likelihood of a defensive reaction. That means not going on the attack. You’ll want to, but don’t. Stick to the facts. Share the information you have about how the behaviour is effecting your child or their capacity to work, train, be: ‘When you do [ … ], [ … ] happens. I understand that you might not mean anything by it and you might not even realising it’s happening, but it’s just not getting the best result.’

    Ask how the person plans to address things for the future. If they aren’t prepared to do anything, go to someone higher up than them or, if you can, take your child out of their hands – they don’t deserve the influence. No adult has to like your child but if they don’t, they need to keep that to themselves and not let the child know. And that’s a big ‘Don’t argue’ to the adult. No child should have to manage the feelings of an adult.

  11. And When It’s Peer Friendships …

    Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us or who are ready to move in a different direction. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can have our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.

‘Sometimes people just aren’t able to be the way you would like them to be. It’s okay – really okay – to leave friendships that feel bad more than they feel good. In fact, it’s important. There are people out there who will love you so much and love being with you just the way you are, and letting go of the people who feel bad to be around will make room for the ones who feel good to be with.

Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that how awesome you are depends on the number of friends you have. It doesn’t. Not at all. Sometimes people with less friends are the most amazing people you could ever meet – it’s just that they’re waiting for the right people to find them. And that’s completely okay. Being on your own doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you – it certainly doesn’t mean that! It means that you know what’s right for you and you know you deserve someone who who has make the effort to find out the wonderful things about you – and that is totally awesome.

There are plenty of people who will love your socks off when they get to know you and who will want to be around you. They just have to find you, and you them, which you will. But the most important things is not to stay with people who are mean because you’re scared of being on your own. Being on your own can feel lonely, but being around the wrong sort of people feels even lonelier, and completely awful.

Kids are clever. They know what’s going on and they’re intuitive. When they say something is off, it usually is. Ask them for information. Ask them for their opinion. Ask them what they think you should do and let them know that you understand. Kids just want to be our heroes too.

Children and Trauma

In Defense of Children

Child abuse

by Elisabeth | Feb 13, 2014  from www.beatingtrauma.com

We underestimate children.  I have been reminded of this fact lately with so many seeking to discredit Dylan Farrow.  I am particularly bothered by the notion that at 7 years old, Dylan only said what her mother told her to say.  I find this incredibly hard to believe.  While I find it painful to watch others label Mia a liar and manipulator, I am going to focus on the child.  Even if mothers would do something this horrible to their children, parental alienation doesn’t work because children don’t work that way.

I know this for two reasons:

1)      I am the mother of two 7-year-olds.  I watch them try to figure out life every single day.

2)      I remember my own experiences of child sex abuse at 7 years old.

Here are my observations about how children actually approach life:

Children Love Unconditionally

There is no population on this planet who loves the way a child does.  When I was growing up, I loved my parents despite what they were doing to me.  I desperately wanted them to change.  I wanted them to stop abusing me.  I wanted them to be real parents.  I wanted that more than anything.  Even as an adult, it was an extremely difficult decision to speak out about my abuse.  I knew that would end any possibility of a reconciliation with my parents.  But as an adult, I was able to see them for who they really were.  I was able to see their selfishness and understand that they were not going to change.

Until I recovered my first memory of parental abuse, my parents were involved in my children’s lives.  When I made the decision to cut ties with my parents for my children’s safety, it was difficult for all of us.  My children were only three, so I could not tell them the whole story.  I spent a tremendous amount of time trying to figure out how to explain it to them.  Originally, I was going to take the fall and tell them it was my decision.  But I received some good advice.  I was told I should not tell the kids it was my fault, because that was a lie.  I wasn’t the abusive person in the relationship.  And my kids look up to me.  They need to know I am a good person – not perfect – but good.  In the end, I told them that nana and grandpa didn’t want me to tell the truth, so I can’t be their friend any more.

Did they accept that answer?  Not entirely.  They still love them.  They still ask why I can’t work it out with them.  They don’t understand how adults can decide to end a relationship.  When they have a fight with someone, they get upset in the moment.  Five minutes later, they love the same.  If I had been evil enough to use them against my parents in some way, they would not have cooperated with that.  They would have told me to work it out.  Anything else goes against their fundamental desire to love unconditionally.

Children Seek the Truth

As a child, I was dying to tell the truth … literally.  My parents didn’t just suggest that I be quiet about the abuse.  They beat me.  In some cases, I was beaten and strangled within inches of my life.  I was threatened with death every day.  And yet, there were times when I still spoke out.  Of course, nobody helped me which is another issue for another article.  I know that I am a willful person.  I agree that some children might have less of a fight in them.  But no child is without will.

My children are no exception to that rule.  They know the truth is important.  And they are willing to embarrass me in order to uphold it.  I will go out on a limb and talk about a situation when I lacked integrity, so I can make my point.  Don’t judge me.  We were in the line for the Empire State Building observation deck.  The tickets are not cheap.  My children were 6 years old, and of course, 5-year-olds were free.  My children are also short for their age.  (You know where this is going.)

I am not proud of what happened next.  I told my son to tell the ticket man that he was 5.  At the top of his lungs, he shouted, “You want me to lie?”  I will never forget the alarmed look on his face.  In that moment, I realized that I had just screwed up big time.  What kind of example was I setting?  When we reached the counter, the man asked me if they were 5, because they looked like they were 5.  With my son listening, I reluctantly told him they were 6, but they looked 5, and I prepared for the extra $50 payment.  He told me it was close enough and he let them go for free.  I was speechless.  My son had just taught me a very important lesson.

I asked him to lie, and he said no.

Children Lie (but not about the important stuff)

With that being said, children lie.  They lie because they don’t want to get in trouble.  They lie about eating a piece of candy that they weren’t supposed to eat.  They lie about who started an argument.  They lie about eating their lunch.  They lie about breaking a toy.  And they always give themselves away.  They will smile.  They will look away.  They will make that face that says, “I’m just seeing what will happen here, so give me a break, ok?”

They are experimenting with the best way to stay out of trouble.  They want to understand what happens when they lie.  They are not manipulating adults with lies.  They are experimenting with the world around them.  And our reactions to their lies (and their truths) will affect their life choices dramatically.

As a child, I lied.  I lied for the same reasons that my children lie.  I wanted to stay out of trouble.  But in my case, I wanted to stay alive.  So my lies covered up my abuse.  I was lying to keep my parents out of trouble because I knew that my punishment would be severe.  I would tell teachers that I fell.  I would tell babysitters that I was fine even when my urinary tract infections were so painful I could not use the bathroom.  I would tell friends that I had a great family.  I would say anything to make my life safer.  I never considered lying to make my life less safe.

Children Fantasize (but not about sex)

Children love to fantasize.  Their imaginations are perfectly honed to help them understand the world around them through their own symbolism and stories.  My children fantasize every day.  In the past week, the fantasies in our house have sounded like this:

“A giant’s tooth would be as big as this apple.”

“Do you think there are unicorns in those waves?”

“When I grow up, I am going to have a white dog and three horses.”

“Do you think we will see real dragons today?”

They fantasize about things they can understand to help them figure out the things they can’t understand.  They fantasize about what they know.  They know unicorns, dragons, gnomes, knights and princesses.  They know love, family, school, friends and sports.  They don’t know sex.  They don’t know rape.  They don’t know the mechanics of the adult body.  They don’t know these things because it isn’t time for them to know it yet.  We don’t read them stories or show them movies about it.  If they know about sex, if they know details about the sexual functions of the human body parts, they are in an abusive environment.

Of course, I was in an abusive environment.  And I fantasized when I was growing up.  I used to daydream about being rescued.  I fantasized about living with a real family that loved me.  I dreamed of running away to another country where the adults were nice.  As a matter of a fact, I was almost never present.  Dissociation was my defense mechanism.  I never fantasized about having sex.  I didn’t want to spend one more minute on that topic.  It was already ruling my life.

These characteristics of children make it impossible for parents to “suggest” false and complicated sexual stories for children to repeat.  Children love their parents unconditionally, even when they are separate from them, even when they may have done something wrong.  Children seek the truth relentlessly and at all costs.  Their lies and fantasies are simple and symbolic representations of what they know.  They are not about complex adult issues.

We have to gain a better understanding about how children navigate the world, so that we can give them the credit they deserve.  They are not just inexperienced adults.  They are complex individuals with their own approach to life that makes it impossible for them to commit the acts we accuse them of.  We must trust our children.  We must believe them.

Note:  To be clear, I am not discussing teenagers.  Teenagers can make up stories, however there are other reasons why they would not make up a story about sex abuse.

Attachment – the Key to an Exciting Life!

Is This the Key to an Exciting Life?

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photo by istock

Way back in 1970, when many people watched the atrocities in Vietnam and wondered if the world would ever feel safe again, psychologist Mary Ainsworth and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins University were investigating how we come to feel “safe” in the first place — by watching children play. Their findings, along with those of a new study, may provide the blueprint for a more exciting life.

The 9×9 square foot room Ainsworth’s group used was an exercise in minimalist restraint: On one side, there was a single chair for the mother, and directly opposite, near the door, another chair for a stranger. Along the third wall of the room, there was a tiny chair, suitable for a child, heaped with an assortment of brightly-colored toys. Each interaction in the room (there were eight in total) had been scripted ahead of time, with the mother slipping out quietly, or staying to watch with the stranger, or even leaving the baby in the room alone. The point of all this shuffling back and forth of adults and babies was not only to measure how securely attached the infants were (did they seek comfort and calm down easily when the mother returned, or cry and fuss, becoming inconsolable or even ignoring her, the mark of insecurity?), but how their security affected their willingness to explore the world.

What Ainsworth discovered has become required reading for psychology students everywhere. Securely attached children attacked Ainsworth’s meticulously constructed world with gusto, clambering, tasting, touching, smiling — giddily embracing the strangeness of it all with an energy the insecurely attached could scarcely match. Their mute knowledge that their mother was always there for them gave them the confidence to strike out on new adventures. The world, in effect, became their oyster.

Inspired by the results of Ainsworth’s research, subsequent researchers branched out to study adults and discovered much the same thing. People who feel more securely attached (comfortable being close to and depending on someone) aren’t just happier, but more likely to seek thrills like rock climbing and parachute jumping and throw themselves into new situations and challenges, like meeting strangers and traveling overseas. And now, new research suggests that their sense of adventure may stem from a lust for life that security, itself, imparts.

Across three studies, psychologist Michelle Luke, of the University of Southampton, recruited hundreds of participants from websites, such as psychology forums, LinkedIn, and online communities with a psychology theme. All were asked to imagine a relationship in which they felt secure, insecure or “neutral,” using as series of guiding questions, like, “Please think about a relationship you’ve had in which you found it relatively easy to get close to the other person… and didn’t worry about being abandoned…” (a secure prompt) They were then asked to picture this person and how they felt in their presence, and given separate scales to describe how secure and how “alive,” “energetic,” “vital,” etc. they felt.

The first study confirmed what Luke suspected: People who imagined a secure relationship felt more energy than those who didn’t. But the next studies were arguably even more important. They offered the first evidence that feeling secure might create a sense of vitality over and above just being in a great mood. People asked to imagine hilarious moments from their favorite movie or TV show didn’t experience the same charge that securely prompted subjects did. They were happy. But they weren’t excited. And as for people prompted with the insecure or neutral visualizations, once again, they missed out on the secure energy boost. The author’s conclusion? People who anxiously cling to, or push away, their closest connections are drained, enervated by their lack of security. They’re simply too wrapped up in bad feelings to embark on new adventures.

Couples are all too often pushed to keep things exciting for the sake of their relationship. But where does excitement come from? Is it injected into the heart and soul of a relationship, through prescribed routines, like a secret rendezvous at midnight, every Tuesday, or an evening out at the fancy new restaurant that serves everything on a bed of green foam? Or do good relationships, themselves, imbue us with a vitality and curiosity that drive the impulse to experiment and explore? Is a secure, happy relationship the key to an exciting life?

Taken as a whole, these studies suggest that we may have put the cart before the horse. Ainsworth’s infants became intrepid explorers, but their drive to explore may have found its source in an energy they felt — a charge that comes from knowing they had a secure base to return to. Perhaps the lesson is that we should spend less time trying to manufacture excitement and more time trying to nurture healthy relationships. The biggest turn on in life might just be knowing someone’s always in your corner.

Posted: Updated: 

 

 

Helping your Child Overcome Anger

 

bambino arrabbiato

Anger can be an emotion that is difficult for even some adults to manage in healthy ways. Therefore, it is reasonable that many children have a hard time knowing how to handle their anger, as well.

As children grow and mature, they learn about how to manage their feelings, how to act when they feel certain emotions, and what emotions are “acceptable” and which ones are not.

Many mental health professionals will claim that all emotions are acceptable or that all emotions are okay. This is true; However, it is no fun to live a life filled with negative emotions.

When your child’s anger seems more frequent than the average child his age, then you may want to consider being more active in trying to help him manage his anger which includes knowing how to behave when angry as well as not feeling as angry as often.

Note that if your efforts do not seem to be helping, you should consult with a professional therapist or doctor for further evaluation and treatment.

When helping your child overcome his anger, it can be helpful to understand the reasons for his anger. Kids really do have a strong need to feel understood and heard. You can find out a great deal from a child if you just let them talk without providing any of your own input. However, some kids don’t really know how to express themselves with words. Some may not even fully understand the source of their anger (sometimes adults do this, as well).

Although there are numerous reasons why a child might be angry, here is a sample of some possibilities.

  • Life changes, such as parents getting a divorce, a move, changing schools, or a new baby in the family
  • Being bullied
  • Not doing well in school
  • Low self-esteem or low self-confidence
  • Feeling like they don’t belong or don’t fit in (human beings have a need for belonging)
  • Not feeling like they get enough attention
  • Not feeling understood
  • Having too many responsibilities and not enough down time
  • Living in an environment not in line with their temperament/personality (ex: living in a loud, unstructured home -which is a totally fine way of living; everyone and every family life is different – when their true self would thrive better in a calm, quiet, predictable environment)

Even if you can’t pinpoint the exact source of your child’s anger, you can still be helpful in aiding them to overcome their anger.

Help Your Child Overcome His Anger By:

  1. helping him understand what triggers his anger
  2. teaching him about symptoms of being angry (such as feeling tense in his body, having a fast heartbeat, thinking about wanting to hit a sibling, etc.)
  3. teaching your child to make healthy and appropriate choices as soon as possible when he becomes angry (such as walking away, taking deep breathes, etc.)
  4. creating a tool box with your child of ways he can calm himself down
  5. identifying his strengths and building on them
  6. rearranging the environment and/or restructuring his daily schedule to better suit his true self (such as by placing less demands on him after school if your child would do better by having a break after school, although this does not mean to let him get out of responsibilities)
  7. modeling healthy responses to anger
  8. identifying what makes your child calm, happy, and feeling great and then put more of those things into his life (be sure to have him be involved in the process as much as possible as well as take on ownership and control of implementing these strategies)
  9. work on problem-solving skills
  10. practice stress-management skills together (such as doing exercise, getting enough sleep, learning progressive muscle relaxation, doing hobbies, etc.)

These are some of the ways you can help your child overcome anger. Anger is okay. Everyone can feel angry sometimes, but when anger is experienced excessively, it can lead to some not so good outcomes. Plus, it just doesn’t feel good to live with anger all the time for the person experiencing the anger or the people around that person.

Helping your child overcome anger can help him to have a much brighter future.

Heather

[image credit: © Giuseppe Porzani – Fotolia.com]

 

Empty Arms

7 YEARS AGO…

Posted by  on Jan 20, 2015 in Grief/Miscarriage

Genesis 5020Seven years ago my life changed when I experienced my first miscarriage. It was about this time of January that I lay in an ultrasound suite with my husband, both of us expecting to see a heartbeat and meet our new little one through the wonders of ultrasound technology. Instead, with each passing moment, the tech’s persona became more solemn. Then we were ushered to the doctor’s office — something that hadn’t happened in my earlier pregnancies.

Instead of walking out with a CD of images of our baby, I walked out knowing this was a child I would not meet this side of heaven.

I can still feel the overwhelming sense of loss and disbelief.

My life was changed. Today, I want to share with you a post I wrote two months later about a special service held in our community…maybe it will inspire you to seek something similar in yours.

* * *

(March 2007) Ever go through a season in life where you just know that God is teaching you something. And part of that is opening your eyes to the pain in other peoples’ lives.

I have been blessed beyond measure. My life has been sheltered from so much pain.

Then at the end of January I had a miscarriage.

Even typing those words hurts.

It’s not until you experience it that it really sinks in just how many baby things exists in this world. I can’t even get milk from our local Wal-Mart without passing the diapers and adorable baby outfits. Try walking through a mall without wincing when you see Motherhood Maternity or the cute clothes at Children’s Place, Old Navy, or Kohls.

I am blessed with two beautiful children. Wonderful children. But my arms still feel very empty right now.

Saturday our local hospital partnered with a parish and funeral home to hold a beautiful memorial service for families who had suffered a perinatal loss. They do this three times a year and have a permanent memorial for these little ones. What a wonderful way to acknowledge the grief and begin the process of moving on. It also provides a place for families to return to on those hard days like due dates, anniversaries, etc. And it acknowledges the real pain that people feel when they walk through this process.

As I’ve thought about it and talked to others, I’ve realized just how unique this service (and all the other support the hospital provides) is. Yet around 25% of pregnancies end prematurely from miscarriage. What an opportunity for churches and crisis pregnancy centers to step in and reach out to another subset of women who are deeply wounded by pregnancy loss.

So this isn’t my typical kind of post. But it’s where I am right now. And who knows, maybe this will help ignite a dream or ministry in your heart to reach out to women in pain.

Because as we know, Jesus provides hope and healing. But sometimes He chooses to work through us.

Copyright © 2013 Cara Putman 

http://www.caraputman.com/griefmiscarriage/7-years-ago/

 

Psychotherapy