Loosing Our Kids to Technology

When I was growing up, 16 families including mine shared the same phone line. It was rare when I could talk to a friend.   When could, I couldn’t go to my room to talk in private because the phone was connected by a cord to the outlet.  It is much different today.  Teens have phones in their pockets and can have private conversations anytime and anywhere. Teens Prefer to Be Alone than with Friends The Atlantic published an article about the isolating effects of technology.  Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen, interviewed a 13-year-old girl about her cell phone usage. She reported that instead of being with friends, they preferred being alone in their rooms using Snapchat and other apps to communicate with and in some cases blackmail each other.  The teen stated: “ I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.” She added, “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,” Excessive Cell Phone Usage Leads to Unhappiness & Depression Studies overwhelmingly reveal the more time teens spend on cell phones, Instagraming, Snapchatting and Facebooking the more unhappy they are, and the less time they spend in these activities, the happier they are. This depression increased dramatically when more than 50% of America owned cell phones. Since then the amount of “boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent . . . while girls’ increased by 50 percent—more than twice as much.” One distressing warning is “Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.”  Increase Fear & Anxiety Social media has other disturbing side effects. When not connected, some teens experience more fear as well as judgment worrying if their…

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Fall in Love with the Process of Attachment

James Clear in Atomic Habits writes about falling in love with the process of achieving your goal instead of the goal itself.  If you are always waiting to achieve the goal to be happy, that may never happen, but if you enjoy the journey along the way, the process becomes the focus.  It is in the process you succeed or fail.   For example you can have the goal of being a musician.  The goal doesn’t make it happen.  It is the daily practice, the process, that makes it happen. Don’t’ get me wrong.  Goals are important.  They tell you which way to go.  Otherwise you would be like Alice in “Alice in Wonderland,” taking to the Cheshire cat:“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to. Alice: I don't much care where. The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go. Alice: ...So long as I get somewhere. The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.” Changing the process is answer to correcting the problem permanently.  For example, you want a clean car, so you wash it everyday.  But everyday you drive through a mud puddle on your way to work.  Washing your car daily achieves your goal temporarily, but if you always want a clean car you need to steer around the mud instead of through it.  Clear explains, “When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily.  In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level.  Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.” Great advice, but what does it have to do with parents, children and attachment.   Parents want children to become happy, confident, self-reliant, successful…

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Eight Ways We Can Education Our Children About Emotions

More and more schools are teaching SEL, social emotional learning, which is great.  Home is still the best place for this education to begin.  Children don’t start school until they are four or five.  In those first years, we can teach them to recognize what they feel and how to manage it. Ways we can help our children learn emotional skills: 1 Talk about feelings. Help them identify their feelings. When they are babies we can say,  “You look sad."  Tell them how they look, "You stopped playing, are looking down, and frowning. "Continue this practice until they are able to name their feelings.  Discuss how they feel when they are upset, angry, happy, scared. Eventually they may even point out our own feelings to us, which bring us to the next point. 2. One of the best ways to teach kids about feelings is to recognize our own. Whether we like it or not we are always on stage and our children are always watching and learning.  When they see us managing our emotions, frustration, anger, disappointment, even happiness, it gives them a model to know how to manage theirs. 3. Equally important is not to deny our feelings.  It can confuse children when we say we are fine when our body language and vocabulary shouts we are not. This may teach children not to be honest about how they feel, or they may assume the only emotions they are allowed to feel are positive ones. 3. This brings up the next point. Don’t confuse children by telling them they aren't feeling what they are feeling. For example telling them they aren’t sad when they are.  This may bewilder them and cause them to doubt their own judgement or to assume they can only have positive feelings.  Everyone has a right to what they feel.  4. Teach them…

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What Is SEL and Why Is It Important?

SEL, social emotional learning, ”is how children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Besides the obvious benefits in a world where parents throw punches on the soccer field and employees and students solve their problems with guns, SEL has some other very important outcomes: Students participating in SEL programs experience less depression, anxiety, stress and aggressive behavior.  They better understand their emotions and others’.  They increase their abilities to solve problems and  get along with people.   Their attitudes towards school improves as does the overall school environment.  For long term outcomes,  fewer students are likely to drop out of school, commit crimes, live below he poverty line, and more likely to attend college, find jobs and contribute to society. What are the benefits for teachers, they spend less time dealing with behavioral problems and more time helping students learn. Wouldn’t it be great if more schools had SEL programs?    Does your child's school?

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Sharing the Load: A Little Connection Goes a Long Way

1 + 1 > 2 Have you ever noticed how two people working together can accomplish more than the same two people working independently? This is synergy: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Recently I repainted several rooms in my house.  It seemed like it took me forever to paint the kitchen and family room.  I bribed myself with Bob James CDs and Hank Smith podcasts.  They helped, but not as much as when my son joined me.  The laundry room seemed to paint itself as well as the bathrooms. The same is true with sharing emotions.  When something good happens, I naturally want to share the joy with someone. When something devastating happens, I want someone to help me make sense of it and how I feel. Babies learn this as we sooth--connect--with them them when they are upset.  As we rock them, speak and sing softly to them, gently smile at them, they realize that we "can help make difficult feelings acceptable and manageable." Over time they associate these activities and us with being comforted, and will turned to us when they are distressed. Eventually they will learn how to self-sooth.

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Identifying Codependency: What Is It and Am I playing a part?

It has taken me a long time to understand codependency.  For years I thought it only referred to additions, like alcohol or drugs.  Since no one close to me suffered from these, I never thought of my self as being codependent.  As I examined some of the relationships in my life, I realized that I was enabling certain debilitating behaviors.  If someone repeatedly made bad decisions, I rescued, so they never had to face the consequences.  I rationalized my actions, but when I dug deeper within myself, I found that it made me feel needed and significant, especially if I felt insignificant in the relationship.  I also did it to cover up the other person’s irresponsible behavior so no one would know. When I looked at it as enabling debilitating behaviors and not just addictions, I painfully realized that I have been in one or more codependent relationships all my life.  I was accustomed to that role. Codependency can begin in childhood, when a mother or father checks out and a children are forced to parent a parent, putting a parent's needs before their own.  When they grow up, they continues this harmful behavior. Unfortunately I am not the only enabler.  Lately, I’ve bumped into several people who are caught up in this destructive dance. It’s hard not to bail out our family members and friends who have come to depend upon us, to watch them experience the consequences of their decisions.   But if we don’t let them, we will be aiding them in repeating the same mistakes and their expecting us to fix them. If we do this for our children, eventually they will expect us to be responsible for them even after they have left home if they do. They are accustomed their role, too. Neal A. Maxwell said, “Those who do too much for their children will soon…

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Whose Grade Is It, My Child’s or My Ego’s?

Making our children responsible for our self-esteem When my younger son was in second grade, he scored a 92% on a test.  But what I saw was the eight percent that he missed, “How could you miss 4 questions?”  He was hurt and asked me why I didn’t see the 92% that he got right.  I defended my answer, “You should have gotten them all right.”  My low self-esteem over shadowed his pain. Instead of supporting him, I expected him to support me.  Somewhere buried within me was the hope that if my children did well in school, music, sports, etc. that would make me feel better.  I thought, “If my children are well behaved and successful, I must be worth more than I feel I am.”  But their success only relieved my painful feelings temporarily.   The next less than perfect test score, missed note or goal dropped me back into my own reality.  Now I wish I had focused on understanding how they felt and either celebrated their accomplishments with them or helped them understand that failure is a learning opportunity. I have learned that my self-esteem is my responsibility and is not dependent upon how my children preform or behave. That has lifted a unfair burden off them and improved our relationship. Also it has freed me because I no longer second guest their decisions nor feel deflated by their mistakes.  I’ve come to respect that they know their situation far better than I do.  We may have made our children responsible for our self-worth because that is what we learned growing up--our parents made us responsible for theirs.  But it is never too late to change and start supporting our children be they toddlers or adults.

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Hearing But Not Listening

Have you ever heard what you wanted to hear, but not what was said? Last week my daughter, grandchildren and I were told about a family friendly restaurant near Washington D.C. with an outdoor eating area.  We immediately thought of our favorite restaurant in San Antonio, El Chaparral, which has great food and a large playground next to many shaded tables. After a 30-minute drive with five children each boasting she or he would be the first one up the rock wall and down the slide, we arrived. We followed the host through the restaurant to the outdoor area.  Instead of it being as big as half a football field it was smaller than half a basketball court.  As promised a medium size tree shaded one of the tables few tables.    Needless to say this was not what we were expecting.  Later we reviewed what happened and realized that there was no reason to have expected a large playground.  When we heard there was an outdoor eating area we automatically thought of El Chaparral and stopped listening.   This was a rather amusing example of predicting what the speaker meant, but not every time is humorous and harmless. Sometimes in our hurry to get to the point and move on, we anticipate what we think the other person is thinking or feeling based on our frame of mind, stop listening and act upon our assumption causing frustration and misunderstandings.  Have you ever had a conversation end:  “Never mind. It wasn’t important.”  It was important, but because the listener didn’t listen and didn’t empathize with the speaker, she gave up and the opportunity to deepen that relationship was lost. 

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What is the Circle in the Circle of Security Parenting?

Imagine that your children are always on a circle. When they are at the top of the circle they are going out to explore the world.  When they are at the bottom, they are returning to you for connection to have their emotional cup refilled. All children have the desire to explore: to find out what happens when--   To see what is beyond the next hill or around the next corned.  Children who have a secure relationship with their parents have the confidence to explore.  They have a secure base to launch their next adventure from whether it is walking for the first time or going away to college. They also need a safe haven to return to when they feel overwhelmed, scared, tired, hurt or want to share their joy.  Now imagine holding the side of the circle for them.  Your children move away from you to explore and return to you for connection.  If we are secure when our children leave to chase butterflies or play with friends, this helps them feel secure and confident. However, if we feel abandoned when they ventures out on their own, then our body language and conversation will reveal our insecurity, so they may hesitate and eventually stop exploring to keep us in our comfort zone.  If we can welcome them back on the bottom of the circle and replenish their emotional cup when they are sad, hurt, frightened or overwhelmed then they can go back out again.  In contrast, if we are uncomfortable comforting them then they will hesitate to return to us and intrude into our emotional space. Sometimes we drop the circled. We become triggered or overwhelmed by our needs or theirs and walk or run away.  Then they are left alone to take care of themselves.  No child or even teenager is ready for that responsibility.  Kids…

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Parents & Grandparents Strengths & Struggles

I recently learned the story behind the story of Helen Keller.  Have you every heard of Anne Sullivan?  She was Helen’s teacher and the story behind her story. At age five Anne contracted trachoma, an eye disease that scars the cornea.  At age eight her mother died and shortly afterwards her father abandoned her and her three-year-old brother.  They were sent to a poor house where her brother died three months later because of the retched living conditions. She learned how to survive and six years later was admitted to the Perkins school for the blind. Although living conditions improved, life was still difficult for her.  Most of the students at the school were from wealthy families and ridiculed her for uncivilized behavior.  Some of the teachers were no better not taking into consideration that she had never attend school before. Instead of giving up, Anne transformed her humiliation and frustration into determination and excelled, graduating as valedictorian. From these experiences Anne developed the resilience and skills she would need to accept her next challenge as Helen Keller’s mentor.  At first life with Helen was trying.  Once in a fit of exasperation, Helen knocked out Anne’s tooth.  Able to empathize with Helen’s frustration, Anne saw in her student the potential that she had felt at Perkins and adapted her teaching style to Helen’s keen intellect and free spirit.   Understanding and joy entered Helen’s dark, silent life when she connected the feeling of cool water pouring over her hand while Anne simultaneously finger spelled water on her palm.  From then on Helen couldn't learn fast enough.  When her parents were content that their unruly daughter now behaved courteously, they were ready to stop the lessons, but Anne knew that Helen was capable of much more. Very few teachers could have taught Helen, but because of the trials and disability…

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