When you become a parent, you are expected to know all the ins and outs of raising a child. You may still be asking – ‘where’s the parenting manual?’ – especially when it comes to emotions. Since one doesn’t exist, I would like to share three tips I have learned from my parenting journey that has made a difference for me and my family.
1. Be the calm in your child’s emotional storm. Being calm can be difficult, especially when a child’s behaviour triggers your emotions. You can’t help a child regulate theirs if you are lost in your own. Training yourself to be conscious of the emotions you are experiencing so that you can manage them, is essential to being able to best help your child with what they are experiencing. When a child is reacting from emotions, stay curious – what has happened that is creating the emotion? Remember that they are not a bad kid, they are a kid experiencing a BIG feeling that they are not sure how to navigate.
2. I don’t say to my son, ‘make a good choice’ because in the heat of his emotion (like anger, frustration, sadness, jealousy), he feels he is making a good choice. It’s important to be specific: make a kind choice, make a responsible choice, a respectful choice, a brave choice – replace ‘good’ with the specific character trait you are hoping they make a choice from. Although emotions are natural and normal, they aren’t the reliable place to make all choices from.
3. A key part of being able to help strengthen your child’s well-being is being aware of the strategies that help them manage and navigate tough emotions in healthy ways. Ask your child what helps them find their calm. Create a list of their ways so you know what to suggest when emotions arise. Post the list somewhere that will serve as a reminder for both you and them. Knowing strategies in advance helps the emotionally charged child better bounce back from challenges and stressors.
This is What I Know: Parenting is both a wonderful and stressful process. It is not a sprint, it’s a marathon – exhausting and frustrating at times, but also joyous and rewarding!
Until next time…
14 Jun 2023
Parenting for the Future Child
Being a parent is a tough job! It’s also a rewarding job!
We don’t instantly see the fruits of our labour which is difficult, as we live in a world where instant and convenience is served to us constantly…Uber Eats, Curbside Pickup, Online Banking, Same Day Deliveries. We have come to expect speedy results.
Modelling and teaching our children the essential skills of confidence, emotional resilience, healthy relationships, character values and perseverance, takes lots of patience, loads of effort, consistency and time you sometimes feel you don’t have.
The time you put into your child today is not just for them now, it’s for the future them. As parents we are in the business of planting seeds and watering them, not knowing when those seeds will take root. We want our kids to grow into adults who are confident, have strong mental well-being and can navigate their emotions in healthy ways.
On the hard days, remember that with consistency, nurturing and modelling, your efforts will pay off.
Until next time,
1 Jun 2023
The Importance of Giving Kids a Voice
Kids learn confidence by having their own voice.
Here are 4 ways they can learn to speak for themselves:
1. Give them a say in decisions about their lives. This doesn’t always mean they get what they want. It means they can participate in the discussion, voice their opinions and be heard.
2. Encourage them to make eye contact and speak to adults on their own behalf. This could begin with ordering food at a restaurant or paying for an item at the store.
3. Let them face appropriate consequences at school, or during extra-curricular activities. This teaches them to be responsible for their actions and to deal with the emotions that follow.
4. Allow them to solve their own disputes with others, only stepping in when necessary.
This is What I Know: When kids have a voice, they are more likely to be resilient, motivate themselves, take on new challenges, learn from their mistakes, take responsibility for their actions, and ask for help when they need it.
Until next time…
17 May 2023
Question to Ask a Child
Kids experience the same emotions as adults – anxious, sad, disappointed, embarrassed, angry, scared—to name a few.
A key part of emotional resilience is teaching children strategies to help them manage and navigate emotions in healthy ways. This will make a difference not only throughout their childhood, but also as an adult.
Since everyone is different, what calms you and helps you move through your emotions, won’t necessarily work for a child.
During one of my presentations, a young student shared that counting helps calm him. I replied with ‘counting to ten is a great strategy.’ He said, ‘No – random numbers…10, 18, 52, 6, 103, 186…’
Imagine that he is in the throes of an emotion and someone starts counting…one, two, three, etc. Instead of calming him, his emotional state would heighten from the frustration, as he’d feel that what truly helps him isn’t being honoured – random numbers.
This is why it’s so important to know beforehand what works best for each child when they are experiencing an emotion. Ask them what they find helpful.
Then create a list of their ways so you know what to suggest when emotions arise. Post the list somewhere that will serve as a reminder for both you and them.
This is what I know: Being mindful of the ways that work best to support a child’s emotional needs, shows them that you are being empathetic and attentive. This builds connection.
Until next time…
3 May 2023
Does Your Child Compare Themselves to Others?
I recently heard this comment from a student, ‘I look around at others and they seem to have it all. Things would be easier if I could be them. I know I would be happier.’
This is what I know: It’s OK to admire others. The danger occurs when kids believe that they would be happier if they were someone else.
People’s lives often look better from the outside. They might post perfect pictures on social media or it may seem that things come easily to them or that they are happy all the time. Reminding our children that everyone has challenges and everyone experiences difficult emotions is essential to their overall well-being.
Instead of envying others, we must model and teach kids to choose to work on being the best person that they can be – to take pride in who they are and their uniqueness. Defining who they are and the character traits that are important to them helps build confidence, self-acceptance and resilience.
Here is an affirmation exercise to help your kids admire and love who they are:
Starting with ‘I am _____________and I am enough’, ask them to fill in the blank with the answer to this question: What do you want to believe about YOU? Some examples of what they could put in the blank are: confident, thoughtful, accepting, empathetic, kind.
Once completed, place it somewhere so that it is a visual reminder of what they want to believe about themselves.
Have your child repeat it daily. This will remind them that they are important, that they are somebody. It will create a feeling of happiness and pride the more they repeat and believe it.
Teaching children to celebrate and be proud of who they are compared to no one else, boosts their self-esteem, self-confidence and will ultimately make them feel capable of navigating day-to-day challenges and emotions.
Until next time…
19 Apr 2023
How does role-playing help kids deal with challenging circumstances?
Unexpected challenges will happen and it’s easy for those challenges to stop kids in their tracks. Although you can’t save children from every challenging situation, you can give a beneficial tool to help them better navigate the challenges and choices they will face.
The next time your child is struggling with how to handle a situation or not sure what choice to make, try role-playing. It gives your child’s brain a blueprint of what they can choose to do.
Role-playing also gives them:
a safe space to express themselves
a sense of control and calm as they work through their emotions
an opportunity to problem-solve as they act out the solutions to the situations.
A few days ago, my son Kai came home from school upset. There was something going on at school so he vented about the circumstance. Then, of course you know me, I asked what emotions it triggered. We talked about his emotions and then we role-played the circumstance.
I said, ‘Kai you be you & I will be the other person.’ I acted out my role in the circumstance he was facing at school and as he acted out what he was going to choose to do or say, I could see relief and less stress on his face. Then we reversed roles. We even started being silly by changing our voices. We both laughed. It was a way to add some humour to a serious situation.
The more fun you make role-playing, the more it will put your child at ease and the more they will enjoy doing it.
Until next time…
5 Apr 2023
Two Strategies to Help Kids with Their Challenging Behaviours
When kids display challenging behaviours, it’s easy to react from your emotions.
You can easily respond with frustration, irritation and anger, triggering you to yell, ‘Why would you say/do that?!’
Training yourself to be aware of the emotions you are experiencing and how to navigate them is an essential part of teaching kids to do the same.
Before you can help a child self-regulate – you must do it first.
Take a moment to pause and breathe deep. Then try asking this question, ‘What were you feeling when you said/did that?’ You are now creating an opportunity for a more meaningful and empathetic dialogue which will help you get to the root of what is really happening.
Helping children learn to be aware of their emotions and how to move with and through them in healthy ways helps to shift their behaviour.
Here are two strategies I find extremely helpful to do with my 10 year old son…
If he can’t find the words to tell me the emotion he is feeling, I bring out the ‘elephant emotions‘ poster. Approaching the situation from this angle allows him to identify the emotion that led to his behaviour. It also helps him understand that he was making his choice from that emotion. I remind him that he is a good kid that is having a hard time with his emotions.
This is what I know: When a circumstance happens, it triggers an emotion and out of the emotion you see a behaviour. These two strategies will help you discuss openly the process of recognizing, identifying and releasing emotions in healthy ways so that the next time they react from a circumstance, instead of reprimanding, you can say with compassion and patience, ‘What are you/were you feeling?’
Until next time,
22 Mar 2023
Words You Don’t Want to Hear
Have you ever heard your child say these hurtful words, “I hate you. I don’t like you. You’re the worst.”
Hearing those words can trigger emotions of sadness, anger, even confusion and embarrassment. In these emotional moments, it’s easy to become reactive.
‘You’re being rude and disrespectful’ may be your response or you may find yourself saying, ‘Don’t talk like that. You’re making me sad.’
You can easily take offense to these hurtful words, knowing how much you do for them. However, because children have strong emotions, they can explode without a moment’s notice, especially when they aren’t getting their own way.
I can remember times as a preteen and teen when I would tell my mum I didn’t like her. My mum would respond in a calm voice with a simple ‘okay’. Kids need to know that the feelings that overwhelm them do not overwhelm us.
Now, when my son says the same thing to me, I remember not to take those emotionally charged words personally. I know he is really saying, ‘I don’t like your rule, boundary, consequence or decision you made.’
TRY THIS: Respond with ‘I can tell you are upset.’ Honour the emotions they are experiencing beyond the words they are saying.
Until next time…
8 Mar 2023
Can Compliments Cultivate Kids Confidence?
We want kids to be confident enough to give a compliment and to receive one.
However, their role models (the adults in their life) may respond to a compliment with, ‘No I’m not.’ By responding this way, it models to children to deflect the compliment which doesn’t allow those kinds words to be absorbed and used to cultivate confidence.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW:
If a person gives a compliment, it means that they have taken the time to recognize you.
When you receive a compliment, model fully accepting it by choosing to smile and say thank you.
Share with your kids how those compliments made you feel and why you appreciate them.
When kids hear and see this as a way to respond to a thoughtful compliment, it teaches them to confidently do the same.
Modelling and teaching children to not only graciously receive a compliment but also to give one is an important part of their emotional and social development.
Too often we keep compliments to ourselves rather than letting others know what we are thinking or we brush off the compliment given to us rather than being grateful for the praise we have received.
When my son tells me something complimentary about someone, I let him know that saying the compliment directly to the person is a way of celebrating them. I remind him that accepting a compliment is a way others celebrate him.
Challenge yourself and your children to give and receive compliments throughout the day that not only show you appreciate others but you also appreciate yourself.
Compliments have power for both the giver and the receiver to enhance emotional and mental well-being and boost confidence.
Until next time…
15 Feb 2023
Kids: Fitting In vs Being Their True Self
I received this question from a student who wanted to take a stand but was afraid if she did, she would no longer be fitting in.
Q: On my bus I sit with my friend who is very opinionated. There’s another girl on the bus that my friend really doesn’t like and makes rude comments to her. I feel bad about how my friend treats her. I often nod my head in agreement to my friend’s comments, not because I want to hurt the other girl, but because I want my friend to like me. I find myself trying to fit in with her. What should I do?
A: It’s so easy to get caught up with disrespectful and rude behaviour, especially when you are trying to ‘fit in’ and be liked.
When I look back on times in school that I didn’t speak up against disrespect I realize that:
I worried about what my friends would think of me if I said something.
I wanted to be liked and to fit in.
It seemed easier to go along with it.
Taking an action that you think may cause you to be left out, made fun of, disliked or be embarrassed by, is something we all try to avoid.
Here’s a question you to ask yourself: ‘Am I being true to myself by choosing not to say or do anything about my friend’s behaviour?’
I can always tell when I’m not being true to myself because I’ll hear a little nagging voice inside my head saying, ‘Why did you do that? Why didn’t you say something?’ causing me to feel guilt and regret for my actions.