Is your child younger than two years old? Has your child ever caught a glimpse of your household television set in the “on” mode? Congratulations: you’re raising a loser.
THAT is a highly sensationalized version of what the American Academy of Pediatrics now says, which is that kids under two should not be watching TV, period. What part of “period” do you not understand, Al Bundy? It’s right here on the internet’s leading parenting advice site, Gawker.com: no TV for your babies.
However, the recommendations run counter to what most parents actually do. About 90 percent of parents say their kids younger than 2 watch some type of media, according to a 2007 study. By the age of 3, nearly one-third of kids have a TV in their bedrooms.
Let’s see, all American parents are awful failures wiling to sacrifice their children’s well being at the altar of “shut up so I can relax for five damn minutes.” Got it. Fortunately, you’re all so ambitious for your children that you’ll ruin them in a totally different way by the time they reach high school. Ah, well. They couldn’t have afforded college anyhow.
Recently, I was doing some research on the latest trends in neuroscience in preparation for a training for social workers and mental health professionals on how to work with children that have been traumatized. A particular area of interest for me is the teenage brain. It is one of the most rapidy changing period of brain development. This is no surprise to parents who are trying to understand the rapidly changing personality of the teenager.
Perhaps the most dramatic area of development is the area called the prefrontal orbital brain. It is called this because it sits directly behind our eyeballs and it is responsible for abstract thought, moral reasoning, self-control, planning, judgement and so many other areas commonly associated with adults. This area is in constant flux, causing radical shifts in mood and attitude. This formation and reformation of the brain continues into young adulthood (mid 20’s). I often joke with parents that while their child has the hardware upgrade, the software has not yet been installed. This is why the teen is capable of getting pregnant, driving a car or doing alegebra but they doesn’t mean that they are completely ready for the adult world of intense responsibilty or raising a family.
This poses significant challenges to parents who want to navigate the raging waters of adolescence, therefore, I am going to list four basic reminders to help parents stay sane when their child actions appear insane. I am using the acronym WORK to guide parents:
W = Remember that your child is still “wondering” about how the world works. He or she might try to convince you that they already know how it does but they don’t. They haven’t had enough experience yet for this to be possible. They need you to help them by asking “what if” questions that will explain some cause and effect relationship and assist them in planning out their day and making better judgements. Because their brain is still developing they use their “will” to fight you and cover up their inexperience. Don’t shame them. Train the “will” to find positive rewards in daily interactions. “Wait” for them to get it. It will take them longer than you as they haven’t traveled some of this morally sticky situations in life yet. Allow them a little more time to “wake” up to a new world of responsibilities and schedules.
O = Be “open” to “opportunities” with your teenage child to share some wisdom about the world and how to survive in it. Don’t preach at them as this will shut them down completely. “Occupy” the same space and look for openings when you are both in a good mood. The relational approach will be more effective and allow more “objective” conversation between you. Remember that “obedieance” at this age is really about natural consequences or trial and error for the teenager. The will learn more about doing then lecturing. Being a good role model will help them understand how to use the “operators” manual called their brain more than lots of words at this time of life.
R = “Relationship” is one of the toughest things to have with the teen but one of the most important tasks a parent can do for their child. You may only have a split-second when the door is open wide enough to have that former intimacy but use it when you can. It will pay huge ‘rewards” for both of you later in life. “Recognize” that the teen is in process. They are still not fully cooked and need more time in the oven of life before they can be expected to make better decisions. They will “reflect” their peers and “respond” more from other unexperienced teenagers over their own, more experience parents. This is not a true sign of dis”respect” or “rejection.” The teen is just trying to find their own way. Don’t take this personal. “Rebelliousness” is the other side of the “readiness” coin of maturity.
K = Be “kind” to your teen as they develop mentally, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Turn the proverbial other cheek and smile when they growl. Reach out again when they slap away your hand. The “key” to relating to the teenager is long term vision. This isn’t just about today. It is about the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years of your life together. The cold response you get from the teen child today will “kindle” into a stronger fire of connection later in life. Work with that end in mind. Keep in mind this is your “kin.” They may be more like you than you care to admit. They share your nature and your nurture and need your “kudo’s” for every positive effort and end result you can give.
Ron Huxley’s Remarks: Ever wonder why your child behaves at school but not at home? In this very informative article, parents.com lists 13 ways your child’s teacher uses to gain control:
1. Give them a “do-over.”
2. Set up a take-a-break space.
3. Get on your knees.
4. Channel their superpower.
5. Change “go” to “come.”
6. Say their name first.
7. Let them swap chores.
8. Let them make the rules.
9. Give them a piece of the rock.
10. Do a countdown to liftoff.
How Parents and Adult Children Can Rebuild Relationshipsby Lindsey Rich
As an empty nester, your relationship with your grown children may be filled with joy or disappointment. Do you act like best friends and weekly phone conversations, go on weekly shopping trips or seek one another’s advice? Or is their life like adolescence all over again?
Frustration ferments with questionable choices in dating lifestyles, drug and alcohol consumption and spending habits.
Sure, your kids may need to grow up.
But consider this: Maybe you are the impetus of the conflict. The fights increase because you have saddled unrealistic expectations on them; maybe they don’t follow the career path you have set for them; maybe they make choices you wouldn’t make.
If any of these ring to a familiar tone, it is time to examine the source of your conflict.
Causes of Conflict
Researchers at California State University have found that, while some children may have “grown up,” adulthood is fraught with problems, stemming from:
- Communication style
- Lifestyle choices
- The way grandchildren are raised
- Politics and religion
- Employment status
- Household conduct1
Psychiatrist Harry Bloomfield agrees with these findings, adding that almost 90 percent of children in adulthood do not get along with their parents.2
Advice for Repairing the Relationship
If you are a parent whose relationship is strained, Dr. Kathryn Bechkam Mims of Albany State University makes these recommendations:
- Always tell the truth to one another.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
- Be sensitive to each other’s feelings.
- Respect one another, despite differences in opinions.
- Do not hold on to the past or judge their decisions. We all make mistakes, and each slip-up provides an opportunity for a life lesson.
- Don’t blame one another. Blame is not always necessary and it’s often unhelpful.
- Decide that your relationship with your child or parent is more important than most disagreements.3
Love and respect are the most important parts in any relationship. With a healthy dose of each, parents can move past their role as disciplinarian and into their new role as friend and confidant. “Reaching a comfortable adult-to-adult friendship is a growing, changing process, and it’s never too late to make new progress.”41 Clarke, Preston, Raksin, and Bengston, “Types of conflicts and tensions between older parents and adult children,” The Gerontologist, 39(3) (1999), 261-270.2 Carol Kuykendall, Give Them Wings (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994).3 K.B. Mims, “They’re all grown up but I’m still a parent!,” Family Information Services, Minneapolis, MN (1998).4 Chuck Colson, “The Return of Peter Pan,” Breakpoint (July 23, 1992), 5.Copyright © 2006 Lindsey Rich. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Ron Huxley’s Reflections: As an empty nester myself, I found this a simple, but helpful article on how to maintain a relationship with your adult child. I find that the toughest thing to do is allow them to make their own decisions and know when to keep you mouth shut or when to speak out. I admit, I haven’t always managed this balance.
Ron Huxley’s Comments: In this video, actress Goldie Hawn talks about the importance of teaching children mindfulness. Her program is called MindUp and takes only a few minutes a day. Mindfulness research is promising huge improvements in mental health. Some of it gets, well, a bit out there! For the most part, however, it holds great benefits in improving mood, increases focus, and promote self-control. What child doesn’t need that? What parent doesn’t need that?
Did you know that children’s mental health statistics suggest as many as 1 in 10 young people may have an anxiety disorder?
Did you know that 8 percent of children between the ages of 13-18 have an anxiety disorder? The National Institute of Mental Health notes that symptoms commonly emerge around age 6. However, of the children who experience symptoms of anxiety, only 18 percent received mental health care. And if you are a parent who is anxious, studies suggest that children or adolescents are more likely to have an anxiety disorder if their parents have anxiety disorders (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services).
Stress, worries, anxiety, fear- it’s all part of life. Yet, if we are not given the opportunity to express our fears and realize that it’s okay to feel scared (worried, etc) and learn tools to manage these feelings we may develop an anxious disposition. Part of it may be biological, just the way we are hardwired. However, it is believed that genetics only shapes us by 50%, the remaining 50% is environment, situations, people, and perceptions. So we have control over half of our worries and can learn the tools to manage these feelings. The interesting thing about anxiety is that it is often overlooked, yet it has lasting impacts. If a child is anxious they often internalize their feelings and they do not get the attention that a child who is acting out gets. However, this internalization may lead to feeling of inadequacy, self-criticism, and may trigger addictive and self-harming behavior.
The National Institute of Mental Health noted that, “studies on treating childhood anxiety disorders found that high-quality cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), given with or without medication, can effectively treat anxiety disorders in children. One small study even found that a behavioral therapy designed to treat social phobia in children was more effective than an antidepressant medication.” Essentially, if your child suffers from anxiety, they can be helped in therapy, and they can learn strategies to reduce their anxiety.
Okay- so what’s a parent to do? Here’s a creative solution. Ask your child to create an image of what is bothering them. So if there is a certain situation (like homework or going back to school) or person (like a classmate) that triggers their anxiety and worries ask them to make a picture of it. Allow them to create without censorship or judgment. Ask them if they would like share what they created (“no” is an acceptable answer). Here’s the important part, listen to what they say without offering your perspective. Instead be empathetic and validate their feelings. After listening without offering advice ask your child questions about what the person in the drawing could do or think differently so they feel more in control and less worried. Allow your child to be creative in their responses.
Allowing flexible creative divergent thinking helpings your child re-pattern their brain neural pathways helping your child think in terms of what’s possible. There are other specific cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies we will be teaching in our art therapy group to help your child reduce the physiological impacts of anxiety and stress. Even if your child has normal worries about homework and friends this fun and creative group will give your child some cognitive and behavioral tools to tackle worries when they arise!
Ron Huxley’s Review: The author of this article does a nice job of explaining the scope of anxiety disorders in children and some practical ideas for parents to help their child cope. I like practical tools!
One additional strategy I would like to add is the area of sensory diet experiences. Many children with classic diagnoses have sensory issues that manifest as “defensiveness” or “seeking” behaviors. In the case of the former, children react negatively to sights, sounds, textures, etc. that feel overwhelming. In the case of the latter, children have a graving for sensations. Both types cause disruptions at schools and home and are often misunderstood. Consequently, inappropriate interventions are used to manage the behaviors.