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Life is never perfect and easy, otherwise, why would anyone call it life!
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It’s an objective fact: one of our children is always going to better than another child at any given activity. One child might be academically sharper. Or one child may exhibit greater athleticism and coordination. Perhaps it’s nothing to do with talent, but instead it’s looks. One child is simply more handsome or pretty.
Sibling rivalry can often be the outcome of one child being better than another. Competitiveness, bad sportsmanship, cheating, and other ugly spats occur when they go up against one another. In other circumstances a child might become despondent, apathetic, or even passive aggressive when they see a sibling succeed, even when it’s not at their own expense.
Sometimes the inequality in ability is simply a reality of development. Older kids will usually be better at most things than their younger siblings. Other times it might be a question of resources. Sometimes the second or third child is the one who gets better opportunities. And then there’s issues of natural strengths, motivation, peer pressure, and other environmental factors.
As parents we try to minimise these differences. We don’t want to play favourites. Yet many of us know that those differences exist. The trophy cabinet, report card, or popularity of each child are evidence.
More vexing is that our kids recognise the differences. How do we help them to navigate their discrepant capacity in any given domain?
Avoid labelling your kids as ‘the sporty one’ or the ‘academic one’. When Ben is told he’s sporty, and when Hamish is told he’s smart, all Ben will hear is that he’s dumb and all Hamish will hear is that he’s uncoordinated. Our kids almost cannot help but infer judgement and comparison from us. They’ll potentially feel like it’s a competition. Even if the comparison is favourable, labels can create a divide and bad feelings between siblings.
Furthermore, labels pigeonhole kids into believing those things about themselves and make them resistant to change.
Rather than labelling, ask your child why they think they did so well. Encourage them to keep doing what lights them up and brings them success and joy.
Be careful about praise and criticism
Psychological evidence on the helpfulness of praise is mixed. Often our praise literally undermines the very attributes we’re trying to build. And our kids may even feel a need to compete for our praise, whether helpful or not. As a result, I tend to discourage parents from praising their kids. There are better forms of feedback to offer.
Rather than praising, try using gratitude. There’s less perceived judgement, and it’s harder for kids to feel a need to compete with one another to be told, “thanks”.
I feel that the best response is to invite children to praise themselves. Ask, ‘What do you think you did well today?’ Teaching them to see themselves in a positive light is the best way to foster motivation, wellbeing and resilience in our kids. This type of conversation is easy to share around, and encourages collaboration and building, rather than unhelpful competition between siblings.
In the same vein, we do best when we avoid criticism. However well-intentioned, constructive criticism that follows a poor performance can damage a child’s self-esteem.
Criticism leads to anger and defiance or, worse, withdrawal. As anxious parents we might then criticise more. We want them to snap out of it, and do well! But more criticism just leads to more anger, and the cycle continues.
In the sibling context, one child may perceive that you have been more critical of her than her brother or sister. This judgement fosters unhealthy competition.
Instead of criticising, we should ask, ‘Did you have fun?’ And then we should say, ‘I love watching you play’. There’s no judgement. There’s no competition. There’s no rivalry. This type of statement is nothing but encouragement and love.
Find Their ‘Islands of Competence’
As parents we have to see past our own expectations and desires for our kids. It’s important that we help our kids find their own strengths. Dr Robert Brooks, faculty member of Harvard Medical School and co-author of ‘Raising Resilient Children’ calls these areas of strength ‘islands of competence’. These islands of competence are where we identify and reinforce each child’s potential for excellence.
Having a strengths focus and creating islands of competence means honouring each child’s individual abilities. Focusing on strengths shifts a child’s perspective too. It’s no longer about what they aren’t good at, but what they are. Using strengths is great for wellbeing as well. It increases resilience and lowers depression, anxiety and stress.
Islands of competence also allow for islands of incompetence. We all have them. But like Riley from Inside Out, when we’re strengths focused, disappointments give our kids a balanced outlook on life, rather than total discouragement.
We all have strengths. And we all have weaknesses. Someone will always be better than us at something, and others will always be worse at that exact same thing. Our goal is not to pit our kids in contest with one another. Rather, it’s to help our children to recognise that dropping the competitive focus, celebrating others’ success, and striving for excellence themselves is a more sure path to joy.
You can find more advice on sibling relationships in 10 Things Every Parent Needs To Know.
I feel like every year once the kids go back to school, I have to be more careful about germs. As temperatures fall, all of the indoor areas just become full of germs! We do our best to eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and, of course, keep our hands clean. With three busy kids and lots of activities, it’s not always possible to wash hands as often as I’d like. So, we use Desert Essence probiotic hand sanitizers to clean our hands and keep those germs away!
I received complimentary samples of Desert Essence from Mom’s Meet. All opinions are my own.
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I love how they don’t dry out my skin like other hand sanitizers, and are just as effective!
I like to keep the small travel sized bottles with our backpacks. The first thing I make the kids do when we get in the car after school is sanitize their hands.
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My favorite place to keep hand sanitizer is right inside the door from our garage. If we have been out running errands, we can stop those germs from coming in the house!
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Alex* was a popular kid. He seemed OK. He was good at sports, doing fine at school, and came from an affluent, strong family.
But in early September, 2019, the Year 11 boy took his life.
In the days following Alex’s suicide, several of his friends spoke to school counsellors and disclosed, “I had a feeling he wasn’t OK. But I didn’t know what to do or who to tell.”
Each September our social media feeds are flooded with people asking each other, ‘R U OK?’ These are wonderful sentiments. I’m all for it. The outpouring of concern is powerful. It’s helpful. It’s positive. And yet… there’s something missing. It’s a great start. But it’s not enough. While R U OK day has led to important breakthroughs for many people (and has likely saved lives) too many people nod and say, “yep I’m ok”, when they’re not.
And what do we do when someone responds with “Actually, no. I’m not ok at all”?
The official R U OK Day site says, ‘R U OK? Day is our national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone to ask, “Are you OK?”’ But what matters most in that sentence is not the question. It’s the word ”action”.
Having the conversation
A survey of 2000 adults showed that the average adult is fudging the truth when they tell us “I’m fine”. My own recent research with 400 Aussie teen girls affirms that they lie to us all the time about being “OK”. After all, it’s just what we say isn’t it? And we don’t really want to tell everyone our problems.
Does that mean we should stop asking R U OK? Of course not. What it does mean is that we might be able to learn to ask better. And listen better.
This is equally important for our children as it is for other adults. In 2017, 180 children and adolescents completed suicides, accounting for approximately 35% of deaths in those aged 19 and under. Through their unspeakable pain and grief, too many grieving parents will cry, “We had no idea things were that bad.”
I was invited to speak at Alex’s school about a week after his suicide. I spoke with students. I talked with staff. I spent time working with the school’s counsellors. And then I spoke to parents.
They all wanted to know: “How do I deal with a child who is depressed, anxious, self-harming, or having suicidal thoughts?”
This is what I told them:
Tip 1: Just like dollars are the currency of our economy, attention is the currency of our relationships. Spending time in the relationship is critical for our children to be willing to talk with us, trust us, and disclose their struggles to us. We must prioritise our relationships over TV, email, cleaning the house, exercise, socialising, and in serious situations, even work. To a child LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E.
Tip 2: If you sense they’re not ok, tell them that. Be up front. Here’s how:
“I’ve seen how hard things have been at school lately. You’ve come home sad. You’ve preferred to stay in your bedroom. Things seem rough.”
“You seem to be really struggling lately. I’ve been trying to reach you but you seem to really feel like you want to be alone.”
“It feels like the whole world is crashing down for you at the moment doesn’t it. Sometimes it all feels like it’s too much.”
There’s an old saying that “if you can name it, you can tame it.” What we’re trying to do with those we love is to put a name to the emotion that might be dragging them down. When we do that, they feel understood.
Tip 3: Don’t try to fix things. You usually can’t. Instead, name the emotion and then sit with them in their struggle. Let them open up. Listen. That’s it.
While writing my soon-to-be-published book about teen girls, “Miss-Connection” I was writing about compassion. I discovered that the word literally means “to suffer with”.
If someone is not ok, we can’t fix them. But we can suffer with them. We can see they’re struggling and step into that struggle with them. That’s true compassion. And that’s how we truly help.
Tip 4: Tell them you love them. No. Matter. What.
Relationships are at the heart of wellbeing. When someone doesn’t feel “ok”, they often feel unworthy.
Reassurance that they are valued – loved – is key. The added confirmation that they matter to you – no matter what – can be pricelessly affirming. It assures them of their worth. They hear you promise that they mean something to you. They make a difference.
If your child, or someone you love, is not ok:
Take it seriously.
Find out if they need urgent help.
If you are concerned, ask the question: “Have you been thinking about self-harming or suicide?”
Many of us will shy away from conversations like this. But asking those kinds of questions doesn’t increase the risk of suicide – in fact, they can actually help someone feel less distressed. It’s ok to ask.
If they say yes, drive them to your nearest Emergency Department and tell them you have a child who is talking about suicide. Don’t wait. Just go.
And don’t wait until R U OK day to ask.
Contact beyondblue at 1300 22 46 36 for information about mental health
Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 for suicide and crisis support.
Contact 000 for emergencies.
The post R U OK Day – Having the conversation and what to do if the answer is ‘no’. appeared first on Dr Justin Coulson's Happy Families.
Forget Your Past, Forgive Yourself, And Begin Again Right Now.
Whenever You Find Yourself Doubting How Far You Can Go, Just Remember How Far You Have Come. Remember Everything You Have Faced, All The Battles You Have Won, And All The Fears You Have Overcome. Continue reading Quote About Fairies Strength
If you have joint pain, this easy DIY joint pain relief roller is a great thing to keep in your purse. It is made with a blend of essential oils. You probably already have some of them at home! Make sure to check out my other essential oil recipes too!
Joint Pain Relief Roller Supplies:
• 1/2 tablespoon of witch hazel
• 1/2 tablespoon of a fractionated coconut oil as a carrier oil
• 10 drops of copaiba essential oil
• 10 drops of wintergreen essential oil
• 10 drops of myrrh essential oil
• 10 drops of lemongrass essential oil
• 10 drops of ginger essential oil
• Roller ball container (I get mine on Amazon)
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Joint Pain Relief Roller Directions:
First, in a small mixing bowl, add the witch hazel and carrier oil.
Next, add your five essential oils to the bowl.
Then, mix all of the ingredients together in the bowl.
For the last step, use the dropper to add mixture to roller bottle. Top the bottle with ball and lid. This recipe will make one roller bottle. Roll topically on joints as needed to relieve soreness or pain.
The post DIY Essential Oils Joint Pain Relief Roller Recipe appeared first on Healthy Happy Thrifty Family.
You deserve to become happy. How? Discover the details here below:
In the past week I’ve been contacted by several parents. They’ve asked a number of questions, all along the same lines*:
I discovered yesterday that my 5 year-old daughter has been sexually touched (quite horribly) by an older boy at her school. We have talked about being safe so many times. I thought we had it covered. And yet this has occurred. Turns out the older boys have been exposed to porn and said they wanted to do what they saw in the video. I’m devastated.
And this one:
I need to know how to handle this. You have visited our school and talked with students and parents about technology, sexting, and pornography. My 13 year-old daughter has had all the talks. She knows that NO MATTER WHAT, she should NOT get involved. Well guess what? It’s happened. She did it. A boy has been pressuring her for weeks, in person and on Instagram and Snapchat, and she finally succumbed. We know the boy and his family and I contacted them. My daughter is not the first girl he has done he has done this to. What do I do?
The past week is not particularly different to other weeks when these kinds of emails land on my Facebook page or in my inbox. Other emails included one from a mother whose 8 year-old son was shown pornographic content in the school playground, and another from a parent whose 9 year-old child was approached via Instagram for explicit images.
While very different, each situation contains a number of important similarities:
First, these children are young. It is common for primary school-aged children to be involved in these circumstances.
Second, in almost all cases, it is a girl who is being harassed or harmed in a sexual way by a boy.
Third, social media is implicated consistently.
Fourth, young people are being harmed by what they are seeing or what they are doing, with pornography acting as a potential influence in too many cases.
There are three things I want to highlight for every parent to teach their children about: social media, body safety, and pornography.
(It’s worth noting that the central – perhaps the only – reason that children have to be 13 is because of US laws that prohibit the collection of personal information on children under that age. It has nothing to do with the emotional and psychological readiness of the children to maturely navigate the online/social world.)
While it is true that many children use these sites every day without harm, there are significant risks associated with these platforms. Adult grooming is one, but so too is the exposure to explicit content, and the harassment from peers that occurs all-too-often.
Additionally, recent research from the UK indicates that using these platforms is associated with reduced wellbeing and increased risk of depression, stress, and anxiety. And Australian studies with adolescents show that as time on screens (gaming and social media) increase, so too does psychological ill-health.
If your children want to be on screens, ensure they are old enough for the accounts that they want – and note that being 13 doesn’t mean they’re old enough. They should be able to maturely utilise the platforms and not become a servant to them (and we all know some adults who still can’t do that). Talk with them about the risks. Invite them to share how they’ll respond to dangerous situations. Keep screens in public spaces. And know what they’re doing, who they’re “friending” and connecting with, and what they’re viewing.
Many parents tell me that they’ve installed software to keep their kids safe online and to monitor what they’re doing. This may offer some modest protection while your child is using devices protected by the software. However, this seems to be the equivalent of fencing our swimming pool. It provides a level of safety that is important.
But we can’t fence the ocean.
Once our children are out of our home or using another person’s device, our protections are unhelpful. We need more than software to protect our kids. We need to talk with them and teach them how to use social media safely, how to respond to inappropriate requests, and what to say to someone who is pressuring them to do something they know is wrong.
Our children, no matter how well protected we keep them, will come into contact with others who have not necessarily received the same level of protection we have provided. Some of those children may have been exposed to pornographic content online, or have experienced inappropriate sexual touching. It is vital that our children know how to be body safe, and know how to resist the pressure that others may place upon them.
Teach young children (from the age of 2) that no one should ever look at or touch – or ask to look at or touch – any part of their body that is covered by their swimwear or underpants. A parent might wash these private parts for a child in the bath, or a doctor might need to view these parts with permission, but that is the only time these body parts should be looked at or touched. Our children need to know the difference between “good” touching and “bad” touching. And it is up to us to have the conversations with them about it. (Some useful resources are here.)
Teach older children that it is not ok to use digital media for looking at, or showing, those private parts. And then invite them to discuss why that might be the case. Help them to understand that sharing images might lead to long-term consequences, and that others might also see what has been shared.
Body safety means we teach our children how to keep their body safe. It is up to parents to ensure these conversations happen consistently.
Liz Walker, founder of “Porn Harms Kids” explains that exposure of children to pornography has reached critical levels. A major study from Sydney Uni indicated that 45% of adult males were first exposed to pornographic content between ages 11 and 13. In a 2010 survey of English 14-16 year-olds, nearly one-third claimed that their first exposure to pornography was at 10 years or younger. A 2015 survey in the UK showed that 1 in 5 twelve to thirteen year-olds believed that watching porn is “normal behaviour”.
Unwanted exposure to pornography among minors is increasing, with the number of 10-12 year-olds accidentally seeing porn rising from 9% to 19% between 2000 and 2005, and from 28% to 35% for 13-15 year-olds. In another study of 16-17 year-olds, a large number of both males (84%) and females (60%) had experienced unwanted exposure to pornography while online.
Now… take a look at the dates. The data are old. We’re back at 2005 before iPhones and 3G wireless Internet. Or we’re back at 2010 Why? We can’t ethically ask young children about their pornography exposure. We have to wait until they’re older and ask them to retrospectively recall when they saw what they saw.
Our best guess is that kids are, on average, seeing pornography at around age 9 or 10 today because of wireless, portable tech. And there is consensus that about 99% of boys and around 70% of girls have been exposed to pornography by the age of 15. Parents are consistently describing incidents like those above where pornography has impacted their children’s lives – always with negative consequences.
Research is highlighting that children’s exposure to pornography increases the risk that they may act on what they’ve seen. Too often, this occurs with another vulnerable young person. NSW Police report that child-on-child sexual assault is at an all-time high, with the proliferation of pornography via screens being the most often-blamed reason.
What do we do?
As the first generation of parents to deal with these challenges, we are facing some tricky times. No matter how well we parent our children, they will be affected and influenced by others who may not have had the same level of parental involvement. Sometimes they will be harmed by those children.
Parents can best protect their children by:
Don’t let young children near social media. Minimise screen time. Ensure they are taught about body safety.
At some point, cocooning children will not be enough. This is when we must pre-arm them. The most effective pre-arming occurs when our children trust us and our relationships with them are close and loving.
We want to be having daily involvement and connection with them about the little things so that when the big things arise we have the relationship foundation in place to guide them.
The best pre-arming conversations are not lectures. We ask questions and listen to how our children feel about the issues we are discussing, and invite their ideas for how they would respond in tricky situations.
Our children need us to be parents. They need us to lead. This might mean things can be uncomfortable from time to time. But they need to know what our limits are and why. We should only allow social media with appropriate protections and at the right age.
Parenting may never have been more challenging. It may also never have been more important.
* Details changed to preserve anonymity
For help talking to your children about body safety, respect and consent, check out these great resources…
The post Body & Cyber Safety: How to Pre-arm and Protect Your Children appeared first on Dr Justin Coulson's Happy Families.
Dear Dr Justin,
My daughter started high school and already there are parties and outings organised where no parents are allowed. She’s only 12 and I think too young to go unsupervised. Am I being unfair?
The teen years are a glorious time for our kids. It is a time of freedom; our kids are doing things for themselves and by themselves, figuring themselves out, and experiencing life like never before. And, of course, it’s a time when parties, outings and other social events are on the rise.
For many parents, our teen’s time of excitement is our time of fear! We want to know our children are safe, and making healthy, wise decisions.
So, how much independence is the right amount?
Unfortunately, the answer is… it depends. At 12 perhaps going to the local pool in the afternoon with a group of friends might feel okay, but going to a party on a Saturday night may not. Perhaps meeting up in the city for a movie with some girlfriends might also be okay, but going with just one boy might not be something you feel so good about.
It is up to each family to find the ‘right’ amount of independence for their child. However, it’s vital that our teens participate in determining where that line is, with us.
Having control in their lives is important for our teens. Research shows that autonomy is one of the most important contributors to success and happiness. It is a predictor for almost all the positive outcomes that we want for our kids – better wellbeing, lower stress, better health, increased longevity, greater career success and even lower use of drugs and alcohol. Kids with parents who encourage autonomy do better at school, have better friends, and are generally happier.
Handing over the decision-making power (within limits!)
So, the best thing we can do for our teens is to give them some decision making power in their own lives. This doesn’t mean becoming permissive or disengaged. Instead, we should involve our teens in establishing the family rules, and negotiate individual circumstances with them as necessary.
If this seems like a lot of work, you’re right, it is! But it is also do-able by utilising the three Es of Effective Discipline – explain, explore and empower.
First, explore the issue with your child. If she feels strongly that she is ready for something, listen as she explains her reasons. Try to understand her feelings. This is the time for empathy and perspective.
Second, explain the risks and consequences of the choices, such as unsupervised parties, to your teen. Discuss some of the things you feel she is ready for, such as going alone to a café with a friend, and some of the things she is not. Let her tell you how she feels as well. The more clearly you explain, and the more input you receive, the more chance that you will get understanding and cooperation from your teen.
Third, empower her by working together to find solutions. What should the family rules be when it comes to parties? What about outings? If there is a party she can’t attend, can she organise another outing that is acceptable? Brainstorm solutions that don’t put her at risk, feel age-appropriate and work within the rules your family has set.
A note about parties
When it comes to teens’ parties, there are some very important considerations you might discuss. For example, parties where no parent is present are, in my mind, a no-go. If, during a party, there is underage drinking, or illegal drug use, or sexual activities, or if one of the kids is hurt, the parent could be at risk for legal action. And if a minor teen gives another minor alcohol, they are breaking the law. Remember, too, that sex is more likely when there’s alcohol.
These risks are serious. Various states even have laws about parties.
If there’s a law, it becomes a non-negotiable rule. Otherwise, it is up to us to use our most powerful parenting tool – communication – to navigate our teen’s growing need for social independence. But by explaining, exploring and empowering we can work together to establish appropriate guidelines for social outings and help our teens make well-informed, age-appropriate choices, to ensure they have a great future.
Check out Dr Justin Coulson’s popular webinar: What Your Teenage Daughter Wants To Tell You But Can’t. Available in the Happy Families Online Shop