Empowering Youth in the Digital Age: Important Insights
Since technology is a dominant force in most young people’s lives, it’s important to make sure they learn to navigate this digital environment responsibly because they don’t yet see the impact technology has on their life.
Here’s 4 tips to support your efforts to help kids navigate technology responsibly:
1. Enhanced Emotional Well-being
Reducing exposure to online content, particularly social media, can lessen the negative impact on self-esteem, body image and anxiety. Spending more time interacting face-to-face with peers and adults can foster stronger relationships and help develop essential social skills, such as communication and empathy. Your child will most likely push back and not agree and that’s OK. You can still create and hold your boundary even if they don’t agree. Remember …’their disappointment is not your guilt.’
2. Revealing the Reality
They need to know that what people post online isn’t the whole picture. People often embellish their lives, making their life seem more magnificent than it truly is. It’s crucial to remind kids that nobody’s life is perfect, that everyone experiences challenging circumstances and tough emotions. They also need to understand that their online footprint is permanent, that even deleted content can have lasting consequences. What is cool or funny now, may have negative implications in their future.
3.Keep technology out of the bedroom.
Removing electronic devices from bedrooms, ensures that everyone sleeps better, waking up well rested and ready to focus on the day ahead. Having them in the bedroom, especially phones, is too tempting to check one last message. By ensuring phones are not within reach in the morning, children have the chance to engage with their own thoughts about the day ahead.
4. Set rules for the whole family
Part of good boundary setting is leading by example and being consistent with your own use of technology. Everyone should follow the same rules which include:
Amount of use that is acceptable.
Times when electronics can and can’t be used.
Which programs and apps can be accessed or installed on computers and devices.
Safety and security guidelines.
Behaviours that are and are not appropriate when interacting with others online.
After a recent presentation a grade 11 student shared that she decided to delete her social media accounts because she realized she was basing her self-worth on the number of likes and comments she received on her posts. After only one week of being offline she said she noticed a major increase in her confidence because she was no longer basing her worth on social media and the opinions of others.
Without rules and regulations for digital and online use it’s too easy for kids to get sucked into the online world. Moderation and boundaries are key! In the end it will help safeguard their self-worth and confidence.
Until next time…
25 Oct 2023
Tired Child: Building a Bridge of Understanding
The other evening, my son was really having a hard time listening. I don’t know about you, but when my child isn’t listening, it can trigger lots of different emotions, such as frustration, annoyance and even anger. In these moments, since it’s easy to interpret his lack of listening as a form of disrespect, I consciously work on being mindful of how I am perceiving his behaviour.
If I view it from the perspective of him being intentionally disrespectful and choosing not to listen to me, it’s very easy to react from my anger. However, if I step back and become an observer, I notice something completely different – I notice that he’s tired.
When kids have a tired brain their ability to listen and respond is significantly diminished. They don’t have the capacity to engage with us the way they would when they’re well-rested.
It’s important to recognize this because children, mine included, won’t say, “I’m really tired, and I can’t listen properly because my brain is exhausted.” If I even suggest he might be tired, he will vehemently deny that his words and actions have anything to do with being exhausted.
Instead of interpreting his lack of listening as disrespect, which would cause me to react, I choose to view it as exhaustion. I know that his tired brain is hindering any possibility of a rational discussion. My focus becomes staying calm and avoid taking his words personally, so I can help him achieve a relaxed state.
If there are issues that need addressing, I save those conversations for the morning. After a good night’s sleep, he wakes up transformed, like a totally different person!
This is what I know: Tired brains can’t rationalize. They are reactive, lack emotional regulation and aren’t open to listening and learning. Remembering this will help you approach their behaviour with empathy and patience, allowing you to support them in the best way possible.
Until next time…
12 Oct 2023
How to Handle Kids’ Disappointments and Strengthen Bonds
Life is a series of ups and downs and it’s natural for children to face disappointment along the way.
When my son confides in me about a disappointment, my natural instinct is to think of solutions and ways to fix it, especially if he is feeling sad and dejected.
Disappointments are valuable life lessons that help develop skills like perseverance, empathy, resilience and problem-solving. If you try to protect them from disappointment, it will stop them from developing these essential skills. Without a healthy approach to disappointments, a young person can feel like a failure, causing them to give up or quit.
Below are four strategies to help you and the child in your life effectively deal with disappointment:
1. Acknowledge Emotions
Let them know that it’s okay to feel disappointed and that it’s an emotion that everyone encounters at various times in their life. Remember to acknowledge your own emotions when you see a child experiencing disappointment. Being able to feel your own discomfort is an important part of teaching them to lean into uncomfortable emotions.
2. Validate Emotions
Refrain from dismissing their emotions. Avoid phrases like “It’s not a big deal” or “You’re overreacting.” Such statements invalidate their emotions and can make them feel unheard or misunderstood. Instead, validate their emotions by saying, ‘I understand you’re feeling really disappointed right now’ or ‘That must have been really tough for you.’
3. Teach Emotional Management Strategies
Help them identify healthy ways to release their emotions that bring them comfort and calmness when they are upset, such as deep breathing, counting to ten, or finding an activity that relaxes them.
4. Encourage a Problem-Solving Mindset
Together brainstorm potential solutions or strategies to improve the situation. This approach gives them a plan to better prepare them for handling future disappointments.
Providing a supportive and understanding environment goes a long way to helping a child not only navigate disappointment, but also develop resilience.
Until next time…
28 Sep 2023
Building Emotional Connection, One ‘Refresh’ at a Time
Emotions run high. Meltdowns occur. Tantrums happen.
You can’t have conflict resolution without first facing conflict.
You can’t have redirection without first creating connection.
When you have moments of despair, they need repair.
One effective strategy for enhancing conflict resolution, fostering connection, and facilitating repair is to incorporate ‘refresh’ into your resource toolbox, much like refreshing a computer when it’s bogged down and not functioning properly.
To illustrate the effectiveness of using ‘refresh’, let me share a recent circumstance involving my 11-year-old son.
The other day he experienced a really tough moment as we were about to leave the house. He wasn’t getting something he wanted within the timeframe he was hoping for. While this wouldn’t typically bother him, on that particular day it triggered an emotional storm! I should also add that he had some late nights that had obviously caught up to him, although suggesting that to him wasn’t an option.
I needed to remain calm and steady in his emotional storm – not an easy task, especially when I was frustrated, realizing we needed to leave and I wasn’t even ready! Nothing I said was helpful or comforting. I took a deep breath and stepped away, giving him the space to feel what he was feeling.
After a few minutes, I bent down to his level, knowing this wasn’t the time to question his behaviour or engage in a conversation about it. Instead, I recognized that he needed to hit the ‘refresh button’.
I looked at him and said, “I understand you’re upset that things aren’t going the way you wanted them to. I’m feeling the same way.” (this validates the emotions felt and adds connection)
I presented two options:
1. Continue with our back-and-forth.
2. Take a deep breath and ‘refresh, starting over.
He chose to ‘refresh’, and we did just that without the need to have a further conversation. We hugged and both felt a weight lifted. (this is our way of creating repair)
Despite a bumpy start, we had a wonderful day.
13 Sep 2023
How to Stay Consistent When Kids Push Your Limits
During a discussion with a parent, she shared that she frequently found herself giving in to her daughter after initially saying no. (I can certainly relate, having faced similar situations with my son.) It was clear that her daughter had learned a powerful lesson about testing boundaries. She learned that her tenacity and unwavering determination often led to successfully getting her own way, often leaving her parent feeling disrespected and even resentful. Giving in had created a pattern that her parent wanted to break.
Kids can experience intense emotions, especially when they don’t get their way, which can easily lead to tantrums, arguments, and power struggles. When this happens, it can be easy for us not to follow through with consistency, especially if we are feeling emotionally drained and want to avoid conflict.
It’s important to establish clear and consistent boundaries. Holding a boundary for your child can be incredibly challenging when you know they are going to be disappointed and push back. Trust me, I’m not always perfect at it myself.
Something that continues to help me is reminding myself that my son can feel upset and angry and that I can still hold my boundary. I repeat in my head, ‘His disappointment is not my guilt.’
Setting reasonable boundaries and maintaining them isn’t about suppressing a child’s desires; it’s about teaching them valuable life skills. It’s about helping them understand limits and that choices have consequences. It allows them to learn how to navigate disappointment and frustration. It’s a crucial part of their emotional growth and development.
This what I know: Staying consistent and helping a child understand the value of boundaries will have everlasting benefits in their relationships, careers, and overall well-being throughout their life.
Until next time…
28 Jun 2023
Where’s the Parenting Manual?
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.