CREATIVE IDEAS FOR HOW TO SPEND HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR FAMILY: PART 2

by Milena Ćuk, Life Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-Training

LET’S SING AND PERFORM!

No celebration is complete without music!

When you’re together, you can sing Christmas songs – or any other songs that you like! When everyone is present, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, it’s always interesting to spot the intergenerational differences in the songs that are selected. If you’re feeling especially bold, you can also organize a karaoke party.

Don’t forget to record the moment, by making videos or taking photos. You’ll capture funny moments and laugh together for days! Teenagers will love recording video on mobile phones. However, these days, children are exposed to gadgets from such an early age that even younger children are skillful enough with cameras that they too could help with recording your event.

Another activity that you can add to singing is this: Each of you can choose a favorite song and prepare choreography. Then, you can make the decoration for the stage, adjust the lights and start your own family show! You perform one by one, cheering and laughing. This is especially good if you’re recording video of each performance.

In the end, you’ll all be dancing in your own home party! Put on your dancing shoes and turn on a disco ball, if you have one – if not, improvise!

Christmas dance

via Youtube

PICTURING YOUR FUTURE, AND YOUR PRESENT

As the last month of the year, December is an ideal time to wrap up the current year, and make some plans for the next one. Use the time around the holidays to reflect on your current situation in life, and consider your values, and desired long-term life goals.

By practicing these activities with children or showing them examples with your own behavior, we can include them in these traditions, and, at the same time, help them prepare to make plans and decisions for themselves as grown-ups.

People often make a list of New Year’s resolutions. However, here, we’ll give you some ideas of how you can present your resolutions using images. Although these suggested activities are suitable for adults and older children, you can adjust them so that they will work with younger children as well. Also, you can still do these in January, if you don’t manage to get to them in December.

  1. Holding the past and future, in your hands

Future hands

via Cynthia Emerlye

In this activity adapted from art therapy first trace the shapes of both hands on a piece of letter-sized paper. Fill the shape of your left hand with the main accomplishments, experiences or feelings that have marked this past year. It’s best to express these things in drawings and colors, but you can use words as well. When you have completed the current year, shift your focus to the shape of your right hand. Fill the empty shape with your strongest desires and goals that you will work on during the coming year.

When you are done, share your work with others. Older teenagers can be sensitive regarding their privacy issues; so, they may be reluctant to participate in this activity with you. However, you can still encourage them to do the activity alone or with their friends. Also, when it comes to sharing, everybody can choose whether and how much to share. Sometimes, we forget important and good things that we have done and this activity can show us how good it is to be reminded.

  1. Vision Board

Vision board

via Milena Ćuk

The power of the imagination has found its place in the therapeutic process as well in the strategies we employ in making our dreams come true. Instead of making a list of goals for the next year, sit for a while, relax, and get in touch with yourself.

Ask yourself what it looks like for you to feel fulfilled and happy. Imagine. Where are you? What are you doing? Who is with you? What are the most important aspects of your life you want to present through this collage – and imagine scenes as if they are already happening in the way you want. If you are making a poster for the next year, put all these scenes together with next year in mind.

A poster showing your resolutions expressed through pictures can take many forms, sizes, and shapes. Gather some magazines, brochures and other printed sources. Start looking for the pictures that represent the closest to what you have in mind. When you cut out the pictures, attach them with glue to the blank paper or poster. You can also use Pinterest or other sources on the Internet to find even more images for this activity.

Vision board

via Milena Ćuk

Sometimes, you don’t have a clear vision of what you want. If this is the case, search for the pictures that are most attractive to you. In either case, avoid ambiguous representations or negative symbols. For instance, if you want to achieve success in school, find an education-related picture that motivates you.

Make a nice, relaxing atmosphere where everybody will have the opportunity to work individually and to interact with others. After the activity is completed, you can all share and discuss what you have created. The same rule applies here – everybody can choose what and how much to share.

Did you like the ideas that we have prepared for you? Share pictures if you tried some of these! Also, inspire us with the creative activities that you enjoyed with your family! You can also check out the first part of our creative holiday ideas here!

If you need any advice on spending time with your children, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

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CREATIVE IDEAS FOR HOW TO SPEND HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR FAMILY: PART 1

by Milena Ćuk, Life Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-Training

So, once again, we’ve made it to the holiday season! Happy Holidays!

There are so many reasons to embrace and cherish the holidays, but, first and foremost, the holidays are a perfect time for families to spend quality time together. Many of you probably have your own family rituals such as decorating the Christmas tree and your home, making gifts and holiday cards together, dining together, making a snowman, creating resolutions for the new year, and maybe even starting a small snowball fight. Whatever the tradition, the holidays are a time for togetherness.

In this article, we will share some ideas related to creative joint activities that you can do at home that you can add to your family traditions. There’s no need to point out how activities performed as a family are paramount in strengthening the bonds within families and for nurturing healthy relationships.

In creating our list, we considered the spirit and meaning of Christmas and the New Year and aimed to offer something creative, to cover (and combine) different forms of expression and to find activities in which all family members can participate. And we considered fun too, of course. 🙂

Some activities that we suggest here are suitable for toddlers and younger children; others are very good for teenagers. You, as parents, can easily participate in all of them. We recommend that you and your family review the activities and select the ones most appealing to you so that nobody feels forced to participate. We created this list to inspire you. We hope that, in reviewing it, you’ll come up with even more ideas.

ACTIVITIES FOR AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE

The Christmas tree in your home is a great motivator to use when planning activities with your preschooler or toddler. Using your Christmas tree, you can employ simple techniques to develop your child’s imagination and motor skills.

  1. Christmas tree craft and matching game

For this activity, you’ll need paper (card stock or cardboard), scissors, glitter glue, and supplies for coloring and decorating: permanent markers, washi tape, watercolor paints, tempera, oil pastels, etc.

This activity is especially good for families with small children where each of you can create several trees with different designs. An added benefit, the trees you make for this matching game can also be used to decorate your home, or even to use on Christmas-themed hats! We’re sure there are more uses for these trees; let us know if you come up with some!

To make the trees, start by drawing a simple triangle on a piece of card stock or cardboard. Make sure to let your children do this – the shape doesn’t have to be perfect! Let them experiment with colors and materials you have prepared so that they create their own designs. Glitter glue, tempera, and the other materials are best applied by hand. Don’t worry about dirty hands – children love sensory activities – not to mention a little bit of mess!

easy-christmas-tree-craft-for-preschool-11

via Nurture Store

For the matching game – simply cut several trees in half and lay all the pieces out, in a jumbled arrangement. Ask a child to find each of the matching pairs. This is a good activity for toddlers to look carefully and spot similarities and differences.

christmas-tree-matching-game-1

via Nurture Store

  1. Christmas tree balancing activity

christmas-activities-balance-pin-1

via The Inspired Treehouse

This activity is good for developing balance, motor skills, coordination, and the core strength of your kids. Even more importantly, it is easy to set up!

You will need green painter’s tape, paper or yarn-wrapped ornaments (you can make them easily during preparation activities), and a paper star.

First, create a large Christmas tree on the floor in an open space, using the painter’s tape. Place the ornaments in a pile at the bottom of the tree and create the rules for the game. It’s more fun if you are part of the game and if there is more than one child participating since it is a good opportunity to practice teamwork.

It’s easiest if you have the kids take turns squatting or bending to pick up an ornament and then walking along the trunk and branches of the tree (being sure to keep their balance!) until they find the spot they want to decorate.

You can always add or change instructions depending on your kids’ ages and to keep them focused.

  1. Easy Ripped Paper Tree Craft

tree-pin-1

via TOTS Family

For this activity, you only need construction paper and glue sticks. It’s ideal for toddlers and younger kids since you don’t need scissors and they’ll love the paper tearing! And, they’ll get to practice their fine motor skills. Of course, older children and parents can have fun as well with this creative activity!

A FAMILY PICTURE, WITH SOME HUMOR

Nowadays, making family photos is easier than ever. However, you can make it even more fun by adding some acting and hand-made details to the process. Also, don’t discount the old-school value of depicting your family through drawings since this nurtures our imaginations and subjective perceptions of each other.

  1. No ordinary Christmas photo shoot!

a15b617d210bc34f809beefe6910d743

via Pinterest

Forget about posing! Why not make funny facial expressions with hand-made Christmas symbols instead?

For this very important family photo shoot, you’ll have to make some preparations. Prior to the shoot, organize a workshop to create the props that you will use. You’ll need cardboard, scissors, markers, tape or glue, glitter, and sticks. You can always add other material for even more decoration ideas – be creative!

With the children, make some Christmas symbols from the cardboard such as reindeer horns, Santa’s hat, Rudolph’s nose, Santa’s beard, a snowflake, etc. After you have created your decoration, attach a stick to each item. You can also create some colorful and shiny Christmas glasses to wear too!

christmas photo

via Pinterest

Now, you’re ready and the photo shoot can begin! During the shoot, you can change props and even change who takes the photos. Also, you can add improvisation and acting games for making even more funny poses and facial expressions such as: Santa needs to go to the bathroom! Or, happy snowflake! And, with the glasses, you can coolly pose as Johnny Depp (or any other celebrity/character everybody is familiar with).

As your imagination unfurls, so too will other ideas for even more creative photos.

Don’t forget to tell us how your photo shoot went, and send us some photos, of course!

  1. How well do we know each other?

christmas photo shoot

via Mashable

In this family workshop, you’ll need paper and pens for each member of the family. Of course, you’ll probably want to add markers and some crayons too, for added color.

First, everyone should draw the family as they see it. Make sure to leave space in the upper part of the paper so that you can draw a speech bubble above each member of your family. Once you have everyone drawn, add the words ‘I’m dreaming of…’ at the top of the paper. Then, fill the bubbles with the rest of the words – but before you do, you’ll have to put yourself in the shoes of your loved ones.

This is a good psychological exercise to be done with teenagers and even with your partner. It’ll be interesting when you compare your answers. In this fast-paced life, sometimes we lose sight of the needs of our growing children or even the changing needs of our partners, and we consequently disconnect.

For younger children who haven’t yet learned to write, you can have them draw symbols within the speech bubbles instead of words.

Or, for a new twist, consider these themes:

My biggest fear is…

My passion is…

What I need the most in this moment is…

Whatever you decide for your theme, don’t forget to share what each of you has added, and to discuss it. You might just discover important insights and share some experiences that help you understand your family even better!

Check out the second part of our holiday ideas here!

 

If you need any advice on spending time with your children, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

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10 PRINCIPLES TO HELP PARENTS DELIVER EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK

by Milena Cuk
Life and Assertiveness Coach
Integrative Art Psychotherapist-in-training

As parents, we have a duty to prepare our children to live independently in a world where they will interact with many different types of people. To prepare them for adulthood, we must recognize the importance of providing them feedback, both positive and negative (corrective). Positive feedback, such as giving compliments, expressing affection, and acknowledging your children’s efforts and successful performances, is important in building their confidence, in helping them learn new skills and in maintaining a close and open relationship with them. Giving constructive, negative feedback is important too, in learning new skills, in learning to respect boundaries and the needs of other people. Feedback is essential for self-improvement and for the personal growth of your children.

If you have a teenager at home, you may feel frustrated or worried when faced with certain changes in his/her behavior. The transition from childhood to adulthood is a sensitive and tempestuous period of life marked with questions of self-identity, first heartbreaks, a strong need for peer approval, exploring sexuality, etc. It is a period of discovering new aspects of reality. Sometimes, these aspects include alcohol, drugs, and rebellion against authority. These can all lead to a decreasing interest in education, and, in the worst-case scenario, risky behavior or trouble with authority figures. Parents fear adolescence. As parents, you are aware that your teen must go through the process of discovering the world of adults, but you do not want him to get lost. And often, you do not know what to tell him and how to approach his questions, in order to give him enough freedom, but, at the same time, to protect him from harm.

Luckily, there are guiding principles for providing feedback that motivates. In this article, we have gathered our experience from our coaching practice to explain these essential principles and to give parents some examples of how to use them. In our practice, we encounter common dilemmas that we hear from parents and stories of difficulties that many teens face. We have found that these principles are universal and can be applied regardless of the age of your children.

Principle 1
Be realistic

From the start, you should constantly consider the demands you make of your children, and make sure that they are realistic. Sometimes, even the best-intentioned parents are too demanding, asking that their children keep tidy rooms, the best test scores in their schools, the best results on their sports teams, and that they always do what their parents ask. Don’t forget that perfection is the enemy of good. Also, teenage rebellion against social norms and authority is normal, and a phase of their development. You should not ignore the boundaries they push, but HOW you react is important. On the other hand, some parents are overprotective or overindulgent, which causes their children, when they grow up, to have difficulties coping with life’s challenges.

The demands our children face are constantly changing, with their ages, their temperaments, their capacities, and with the changes society experiences as time progresses. Our children today face different challenges, with peers, social trends, in their schools and communities, more than we did. We should try our hardest to acknowledge this.

Principle 2
Show positive attention

In our coaching practice, we see so often that parents are too busy in their lives to spend enough quality time with their children. At the same time, they still demand that their child “become somebody and something one day.” In their frustration, they focus their communication with their children solely on criticizing their “bad” behavior. Sometimes, parents’ fears about their children’s bad behavior are self-fulfilling. The child, receiving ever-increasing amounts of criticism, reacts with even more “inappropriate” behavior in a quest to seek attention from the parents (“look at me!”) even if all he will get is negative attention, in the form of criticism and punishment. Sometimes, they see negative attention as better than no attention at all.

Children need to be loved and accepted by their parents. It is important to show them a “daily dose” of smiles, warm eye contact, and physical contact, such as touches and hugs. Children need their parents to listen to them and take an interest in their lives. Children need compliments and praise too. In our busy lives, feelings of love and affection between family members often go unspoken. “I love you”, “I am so happy to have you as my daughter/son”, “I like you the way you are”, “I believe in you!” – are strong messages that build the foundation of your child’s stability, self-confidence, and trust. These messages need to be heard over and over.

Principle 3
Praise honestly

When you praise your children, focus on the positive, and be honest. Remember the old saying that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” You can always find something good and beautiful in another person, whether this relates to that person’s appearance, a certain behavior they exhibit or an accomplishment they achieved.
Be specific when offering praise.

Consider these examples: “Oh, I really like the colors you picked for your outfit. They’re so creative!”; “Good job preparing a dinner without even being asked!”; “Good point” – for the opinion they’ve just expressed. “I really liked how you cleaned your room!”; “I really liked the way you helped your younger brother; I am proud of you.”
Offer praise not only for a good performance but also the effort your child has invested. Encourage the journey, not just the destination. “You worked really hard on that paper.”; “You’re doing great, just keep moving!”; “You are almost there!”; “You will make it!”

Even though it’s important to be specific when praising behavior, don’t forget to praise your child’s personality and their positive traits. This praise will strengthen your child’s self-confidence and encourage a healthy self-image. For example: “You are a wonderful person!”; “You are so smart!”; “You are beautiful!”; “You are very capable!”; “You are so kind!”

Principle 4
Offer compliments, but make sure they’re genuine and sincere

Compliments need to come from your heart. They have to be genuine and offered sincerely. If not, they lose their power.

Unrealistic compliments can harm your children. They can lead to unattainable goals and distort their self-image. It’s best to avoid messages like: “You are the smartest boy ever!”; or “You are the most beautiful girl in the world!”

Principle 5
When providing negative feedback, never criticize a child’s personality

Messages like these never help. They are always harmful: “You jerk”; “You are crazy”; “You are bad”; “You are so clumsy”; “You are a liar!”, etc. Negative feedback should be designed so that it promotes change and improvement. If you label your child as a bad person, he may begin to think that this is a permanent condition. Offering feedback like this does not help your child learn what he needs to change in order to better himself.

Principle 6
Negative feedback: Focus on the behavior

Constructive feedback should always serve as a call for changing some concrete behavior.

“It bothers me when you are late.”
“Your music is too loud. Please, turn down the volume.”
“Please, go back to the dinner table and push your chair in.”

We should point out what concrete behavior bothers us, and make it clear how it is unacceptable.
Avoid unrealistic comments like: “You are always late”; “You never do your homework on time”; “You never do what I ask of you”, etc.

Principle 7
Deliver praise publicly; deliver constructive feedback privately

When giving corrective feedback to children, regardless of age, you should catch them alone. Most people feel humiliated when they are criticized in front of others. Negative feedback should not make somebody feel guilty or ashamed. Instead, this feedback should help your child become aware of his own behavior, correct it and learn.

Principle 8
Don’t take it personally

Parents sometimes feel offended or upset, when one of their ground rules is broken, or if inappropriate behavior is repeated, or can cause harm. This happens even more frequently with teens when they exhibit their rebellious or risky behavior. Parents sometimes see teens’ behavior as reckless and disrespectful, and something that needs to be punished. And this is sometimes true. However, this behavior can occur for several reasons, such as strong inner conflicts and pain, insecurity or peer pressure.

In these cases, it is important to keep communication open in order to understand what is going on in your teen’s head and heart. Always remember to stay calm and consistent in your discussions with your child.

Principle 9
Different forms of corrective feedback

What is the best way to provide corrective feedback? This depends on many factors. Delivering corrective feedback is a skill that you can practice. The most important thing to remember is that you follow the principles stated above. Here are examples of corrective feedback offered correctly:

“We know that you don’t like bringing the garbage out and would rather do something else, but we’ve made a deal, and we need you to take it outside.”
“I feel angry and frustrated when the bathroom is not cleaned after you bathe, even after you promised to do it. We have a rule that everybody cleans up after them and I would like it to be respected. I always try to do what I promise and I would appreciate if you do the same. What do you think?”
“Gosh, you were really good during the game. You were so focused, fast, and catching the ball really well. It seemed, though, at the end that you were out of breath. Maybe you should focus more on practicing breathing and endurance? What do you think?”
“When you don’t come home when you said would and you don’t call us, I get worried that you’re in trouble. Please, don’t let it happen again, OK?”
“You know how proud daddy and I are of you. You are a smart girl who’s always done so well in school; so, we find these lower grades surprising. Is there something going on that’s bothering you, and keeping you from studying? What’s going on, honey?”
“You know that this behavior is unacceptable (for instance, your son took money from your wallet without asking). Since you were little, we’ve taught you about honesty. What happened this time?” In general, it is good to keep the conversation open to hearing your child’s side of the story and to understand why your child broke the rule. For instance: “What made you do this?”; “Do you have some thoughts to share with us?”; “Help us understand.”

As parents, it is easier to evaluate your rules or determine appropriate consequences when you understand the entire situation.

Principle 10
Balance negative feedback with positive feedback

Do you give more positive feedback or negative feedback? Delivering more positive feedback is recommended by the experts. Positive feedback is more powerful, and it helps build healthy relationships.

In the end, don’t forget to praise yourself – for everything you do for your children. You also deserve praise for your efforts in working on your parenting skills. That’s why you’re here, right?

If you have trouble communicating with your child and you don’t know what to do, don’t hesitate to call us today!

If you need any kind of advice related to parenting, you’ve come to the right place!

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HELPING KIDS SUCCEED – MINUS THE STRESS

Parents usually resort to more study time, tutoring and advanced classes when they want to help their children achieve their academic goals. This achievement-centered approach might be helpful, but studies have shown that kids with more self-control achieve more academically. Therefore, it makes sense to help kids develop and practice skills related to self-control rather than make them take that one extra class, which is often stressful. Practicing these skills is not only useful for academic success – having a higher level of self-control also means being able to better tolerate stress and control your emotions. More self-control leads to increased empathy and social competence. And, all of this results in better concentration abilities.

The Marshmallow Experiment” have shown that skills related to self-control are better predictors of academic success than IQ scores. In this experiment, children knew that a two marshmallow reward could be had if they did not eat the first marshmallow right away. It’s important to note that the children were not punished for eating the first marshmallow right away, nor were they praised for waiting. When practicing self-control, it is critical to remember this because bettering this skill is about controlling one’s impulses to achieve a goal, and not about pleasing others and avoiding punishment. It is also important to start the practice at the child’s current level and focus on his/her own progress rather than comparing their progress to others. Doing this could lead to feelings of inferiority, leaving the child hesitant to keep trying.

One of a child’s earliest experiences with self-control occurs during imaginative play, and parents should make sure that their children have enough time for it. During imaginative play, kids set their own rules and are motivated to follow them when the game is fun. For example, they have to control their behavior and inhibit their impulses when they want to achieve their goal of becoming an astronaut or a teacher. Another way of improving self-control skills would be through fun activities with parents. These activities should involve some structure, such as taking turns; so, board games could be especially useful. During the game, it is important to let the kid monitor him/herself and if that proves too hard for them, find an alternative appropriate for their current level of self-control.

Imaginative play and board games as means to improving skills related to self-control prove that achieving success doesn’t have to be stressful or boring for the child. It can be fun, and the more they do it, the more self-control they will develop. These ways to develop self-control also show that playing is not the opposite of learning; rather, playing IS learning.

– via Psychology Today

FLIPPING VHS TAPES, THE CLASSROOM & WHAT CAN WE FLIP NOW?

by Andrew Sachs

Learning, motivation and the future of education

In education today, flipping classrooms and instruction is getting a lot of attention lately. The promises include increased motivation, mastery of content and not grades, an applicability of the approach to all types of learners, and an unmatched pace of learning. In this post, our founder details his first experiences with flipped instruction 30 years ago, and his more recent experiences: his daughter’s self-study for an AP Calculus exam, as well as his wife’s challenges in flipping a public school classroom. Finally, he details a method for families with high school students to try, by implementing flipped instruction principles, using AP exams.

Learning from books while skipping class

In the late 80s, while attending college for electrical engineering, I mastered learning from a textbook, mostly as a survival technique. I attended my early college lectures, because I had to, even though my college professors would just lecture what was in the textbook. They mandated my attendance and supplied test hints and homework assignments I could not miss, during their lectures. As an undiagnosed ADD learner, I would get bored or fall asleep in the lectures, and I accidentally discovered that I learned more quickly when studying the book directly; so, I started doing just that. Thanks to my friend Jessica, who shared her outstanding notes from my few classes that didn’t mandate attendance, I learned efficiently and effectively and preserved my grades, all while skipping class.

Resorting to lures or mandating class attendance always struck me as particularly inefficient. Why not just make the classes more interesting? I realized, only later in life, how impossible it is to make classes interesting to all students at all times. I know now that my professors were really trying to help the core body of students by doing what they felt was in our best interest.

Flipping VHS tapes and Learning at Light Speed at Stevens Institute of Technology

In 1988, I had an opportunity to take a self-paced particle physics class. The class consisted of workbooks, a textbook, chapter exams, advancement after mastery, lectures on VHS tapes and a room of talented physics teaching assistants; Sal Khan would have been excited (1). This was the flipped classroom – 20 years before Sal Khan made his now-famous YouTube videos for his nieces and nephews. To electrical engineers, the class was quite interesting because it covered the actual physics occurring at the subatomic level, which dictated the behavior of semiconductors. Effectively, the class covered the Legos of the electronics world.

The flipped class structure of the particle physics course seemed particularly suited to my learning style, and it seemed efficient too. I could attend excellent lectures, consume the content from the book, practice on modules, lean on teaching assistants when I was stuck, and progress after I mastered the material, even while I was sleeping if I wanted to. Like many engineering classes, the modules built upon each other, to give the student a comprehensive understanding of a complex subject. There was an added benefit too if you could remain focused: By taking so many modules in one day, you didn’t forget content between the modules, which allowed you to make quick progress through the content. Heck, if you wanted to, you could complete the class within just three days, which is exactly what I did.

My motivation had more to do with efficiency than anything else. I wanted to learn the material as quickly as I could, take the final exam, and be done with it. I knew I was not the brightest student, not by a long shot, but after three 12-hour days, alternating my existence between the TA room, my bed and a spot in the library, I finished the course material, took the final exam and scored the highest final exam grade in my class of a few hundred students. I credit my time-crunched life, a well-structured course, and great teaching assistants for my ability to learn at light speed.

Fast forward nearly 25 years, and my daughter was working on some AP Calculus material as a high school freshman doing self-study. She had some tutoring, and mastered most of the material within 3 days, intermittently asking her online tutor and me for help. While she only scored a 3.0 GPA on the exam, she showed how much could be learned quickly in a “flipped environment” – provided the resources and motivation were present.

Trying to flip the American Classroom, lots of stakeholders

Sal Khan, the Khan Academy, and his backers deserve all the credit for bringing the notion of a “flipped classroom” into our lexicon and making it something we could strive toward. The Khan Academy model gives us a student-centered learning model where students are not pushed ahead before they master the information; they are allowed to move at their own pace. With accessible content, exercises, and assistants, students spend their time learning and closing their knowledge gaps, not waiting for others to close theirs while their thoughts drift away in boredom or confusion. In flipped instruction, each member of the class moves along at his or her own pace. It lifts the bar on the rates at which students can learn, and this results in greater mastery of content. Students can accomplish learning and not just grades. They can find and maintain their motivation (2).

While schools nationwide work to adopt flipped classroom models, the challenges are significant for the many different stakeholders. My wife is dedicated to improving education, and this has afforded me a nearly first-hand visibility into the challenges facing teachers trying to flip classrooms. The challenges come from many areas including:

  • Mandated state or district tests with particular timings – This goes against the notion of self-determined progress. Also, taking a test covering material you learned two months earlier is difficult.
  • The shift from grades to mastery – Parents, teachers, administrators and even colleges still have “grades on the brain” and will require time before they see objective proof of mastery as a substitute for grades and class ranking. If a child finished the material in 4 weeks, does that make it an “A”?
  • Non-universal access to broadband and equipment to watch content at home – Without supplying the equipment and services to those in need, the digital divide increases, and students cannot accelerate equally.
  • Change is hard – Yes, it is. Different administrations, schools, departments and teachers will make uneven progress toward what is, quite possibly, the biggest change in education since the schoolhouse.
  • Content for your curriculum – It is no small task to amass the content needed for your school’s curriculum. In a flipped classroom, it must all be available online, allowing unrestricted progress for all students.

While there are barriers and challenges, it is clear that this reinvention of the classroom holds incredible potential and will be a key part of a reinvented educational system.

How can a student or family take advantage of the technology now?

While we wait for our schools to flip, what can parents and families do now to take advantage of these resources and these new accelerated ways of learning? Clearly, leaning on these resources to augment normal instruction is great (3). However, how can a student use these resources to accomplish the whole course learning at an accelerated pace? The answer is embedded in the cost of college classes for Americans.

Almost all colleges accept Advanced Placement (AP) exams for credit from incoming freshmen. These are college-level courses, taught in high school, and credit is given based on scores earned on the final (AP) exam supplied by the College Board. Due to the unavailability of instructors in many school districts, and a push to have the exams widely available, it is not a requirement that a student takes the class in order to take the test. They can self-study, take the final and, with a four or five out of five on the exam, get credit at most colleges, thereby saving costly tuition that would have been spent if the respective class had been taken at college. AP classes, exams, and credit are great ways for families to accelerate college, make it a bit easier, and potentially save money.

So, self-studying for an AP exam is a great way to take advantage of these flipped resources. A high school student could, during a break or even during the year, self-study and take the exam for credit. Depending on the level of independence, the student might also wish to use a tutor to help with learning acceleration and a coach to help with motivation. Many students start with great intentions, but tracking progress and maintaining motivation to accomplish the goal is a critical element in actually finishing the material and earning a good score on the exam.

Conclusion

While we will certainly see flipped classrooms are most certainly where we will end up, the switching costs needed to implement this educational model are significant for many public education institutions. This progress, unlike learning, is not likely to be realized at light speed. However, either through enrichment or, as outlined above, with college credit AP exams, families can take advantage of these new learning techniques and help their students realize real progress on their learning journey.

There are many other aspects of reinventing learning that we do not touch on in this post. Self-directed learning, project-based learning, and mastering your own learning processes are just a few of the areas that promise continuing efficiencies in our learning organizations. My next post will focus on self-directed, project-based learning that helps activate, not just maintain, student motivations.

Resources

For those wishing to learn more about flipped classrooms and how to accelerate these changes, please visit these resources:

  1. www.khanacademy.org
  2. http://www.jonbergmann.com/
  3. https://www.cte.cornell.edu/teaching-ideas/designing-your-course/flipping-the-classroom.html

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ADHD AND SOCIAL DIFFICULTIES

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with functional impairments in different areas of life, and one such area is social functioning. Social difficulties present in a variety of forms and can lead to conflicts with family and peers. In order to face the common issues that occur in the social life of children and adolescents with ADHD, is important to learn more about them.

How can we explain social difficulties in children with ADHD?

The core symptoms of ADHD – inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity – by their very nature, would be expected to make effective functioning with peers difficult. Whereas problems with inattention likely limit opportunities to acquire social skills through observational learning and to attend to social cues necessary for effective social interaction, hyperactive and impulsive behaviors contribute to generally unrestrained and overbearing social behavior that makes children with ADHD aversive to peers. Inattentive behaviors in social situations might impair the children’s ability to pay attention to their friends, potentially harming the reciprocity, sensitivity, conflict resolution, and commitment necessary to establish and maintain high-quality friendships.It’s important not to confuse symptoms of ADHD with selfishness and egocentrism because researchers offer an explanation of the role that social cognition plays in the peer relationship problems:

  • Children with ADHD have trouble understanding a social situation from someone else’s perspective.
  • Children with ADHD tend to overestimate their social competence more than typical children.
  • They tend to see their peers’ ambiguous provocations as hostile and to suggest less adaptive strategies solving hypothetical social conflicts than typical children, which could have negative effects on friendship.
  • Some children with ADHD may prioritize social goals such as sensation seeking and fun over compliance with rules.

What can parents do to alleviate their children’s social difficulties?

Given the aforementioned difficulties, it is necessary to consider some practical advice for parents of children with ADHD. Family influences that contribute to children’s peer-related social competence are:

  • Parental fostering of the child’s peer social network

The frequency of play dates organized by parents for their children is associated with improved social skills. Parents can also teach their children how to behave in a way that promotes friendship during playdates. The friendship facilitating behaviors of parents during play dates are more strongly related to positive peer relationships for children with ADHD than for typical children.

  • Parental attitudes and beliefs about their child’s social competence

Parental warmth, together with reasonable levels of control, combines to produce positive child outcomes. It’s also important for parents to deal with any negative feelings they may have, since these feelings make it more difficult for them to react appropriately and effectively to the challenges of socialization.

  • Importance of peer relations and strategies to assist socialization

Parents can role-play social situations with their child and discuss some aspects of behavior and attitudes that can be modified. The child can also benefit from being a part of a sport or another group activity of interest, so they can work on team skills.

  • Modeling social behavior

The quality of parents-child interactions, positive attitudes, and effective communication are important, but so is modeling social behavior. In this case, actions speak louder than words. For example, a parent saying that it’s wrong to throw things when upset but at the same time dealing with frustration in an aggressive manner doesn’t contribute positively to the child’s social skills. Parents support the development of prosocial norms by their own positive coping with frustration and distress, usage of explanations about the impact of one’s behavior on others, and through being an active source of social support. Parents who discuss social skills with their children and model good examples of social skills in their interpersonal relationships, increase the probability of their children having positive interactions with their peers. Given the importance of parental modeling, parents should also learn some useful techniques such as problem solving and goal setting.

References:

  1. Soucisse M.M., Maisonneuve M., Normand S. Friendship Problems in Children with ADHD What Do We Know and What Can We Do? 2015. Perspectives on Language and Literacy.
  2. Classi P, Milton D, Ward S, Sarsour K, Johnston J. Social and emotional difficulties in children with ADHD and the impact on school attendance and healthcare utilization. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2012;6:33. doi: 10.1186/1753-2000-6-33.
  3. Hoza B. Peer Functioning in Children with ADHD. Ambul Pediatr. 2007 ; 7(1 Suppl): 101–106. doi:10.1016/j.ambp.2006.04.011.

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KEEPING IT POSITIVE WHILE PARENTING A CHILD WITH ADHD

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a complex syndrome involving a myriad of symptoms including hyperactivity, inattention, forgetfulness, and impulsivity that is often comorbid with a number of cognitive and behavioral disorders. As stressful as this can be for a child suffering from symptoms of ADHD, it can be just as stressful for parents and caregivers of these children. Parenting a child with ADHD can be difficult and often discouraging. This is an important point since it is commonly known that how parents react can have huge impacts on the success of their children.

Feelings of Inadequacy

Although parenting always encompasses feelings of doubt and worry, parents of children with ADHD report more frequent negative feelings such as:

  • inadequacy of their parenting
  • anger at their child
  • worry about the success and futures of their children
  • guilt of not being able to provide adequate help
  • feelings helplessness about not being able to control child behaviors
  • isolation (socially) due to fear of a public behavioral issue
  • anxiety and depression

The lack of ability of parents to be able to help their children and control the symptoms of ADHD plays a large part of the total parental stress. In a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology in 2011, researchers found that many of the feelings of depression, discouragement, and inadequacy in parenting experienced by parents resulted from their perception that their children were not responsive to behavior correction techniques that were employed. In other words, most parental stress stems from a perceived inability to control the behavioral issues of their children. A separate study by psychologists at the University of Irvine, CA, investigated the intricacies of this relationship between parental stress and ADHD behaviors. In this study, researchers had mothers of children with ADHD keep a journal and record entries as to their moods/feelings and their children’s behaviors. Separate journals were also kept by the children recording their own behaviors. The study uncovered a direct association between negative mood and stress of the mothers in the study and the presence of typical ADHD behaviors such as hyperactivity and impulsivity2. Furthermore, other research has shown links between dysfunctional parenting styles and increased ADHD symptoms reported in children3.

Given these results, one can imagine a daunting positive feedback loop where ADHD symptoms and behaviors cause heightened parental stress. Stress leads to dysfunctional and negative parenting behaviors, which in turn, exacerbates ADHD behaviors.

The Power of Positive Perception

The key to less stress and better outcomes in the child/parent relationship is to remain positive. Fortunately, not all of the research out there has a grim outlook. One study focused on parent perceptions using a group of parents who view their child’s ADHD-associated behaviors as being indicative of underlying positive traits. For instance, a parent of a child who is inattentive in class views this as a sign that the child is bored with the material due to superior intelligence. Another example of this type of parent perception would be the view that children who exhibit hyperactivity do so because they possess a heightened sensitivity to the world around them. The study, which was published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, focused on this group of parents who had children with ADHD and compared them to a control group, who did not associate their child’s ADHD symptoms with any positive traits. The researchers found that parents in the “positive perception” group reported less frequent negative interactions with their children and overall experienced less stress and negative emotions in dealings with their children. While not all parents view ADHD-associated behaviors in a positive light, it is still possible to positively influence parenting of children with ADHD. One technique that is achieving good results is parent training (PT), a complex program of family treatment which emphasizes teaching parents how to react more positively to their child’s behaviors. PT aims to change parenting behaviors for the better by replacing dysfunctional or ineffective parenting techniques with functional ones, and by focusing on the parental use of positive reinforcement. The desired result is to greatly improve parent/child interactions, thereby improving child behavioral outcomes and alleviating parental stress.

  1. Glaz, T. et. al. Parents’ reactions to youths’ hyperactivity, impulsivity, and attention problems. 2011. J. Abnorm. Child Psychol. Nov;39(8): 1125-35.
  2. Whalen, C.K., et. al. Dissecting Daily Distress in Mothers of children with ADHD: an Electronic Diary Study. 2011. J. Fam. Psychol. Jun;25(3): 402-11.
  3. Ullsperger, J.M., et.al. Does Child Temperament Play a Role in the Association Between Parenting Practices and Child Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder? 2016. J. Abnorm. child Psychol. Jan;44(1): 167-178.
  4. Lench, H.C. et. al. Exasperating or Exceptional? Parents’ interpretations of their child’s ADHD behavior. 2013. J. Atten. Disord. Feb;17(2): 141-51.

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CAN WE FEED OUR CHILDREN WITHOUT FEEDING THEIR ADHD?

What effects do lifestyle choices such as diet and nutrition habits have on ADHD? On one end of the continuum you have advocated for strict elimination diets that remove all food additives such as artificial food coloring and preservatives, while on the other side of the issue, people believe that diet and nutrition do not contribute to or change symptoms of ADHD at all. Certainly, it is clear that a healthy, nutrient-rich diet, low in saturated fats and processed sugars is overall good for your health. But does what we eat affect behaviors and learning outcomes? In other words, how to we determine the age old problem of nature vs. nurture? How much of behavior, and in this case behavior that is associated with ADHD, is inherent in our biology and how much can we alter through the manipulation of external factors such as diet and nutrition? In this article, we will examine the breadth of available research that is out there on specific dietary factors as they relate to symptoms associated with ADHD.

Overall, there has been a relative scarcity of conclusive studies examining dietary factors in children with ADHD. Further complicating the issue is that of the studies that have been done, many of them use very small sample sizes that make interpretation of the data and extrapolation of the general population difficult. Many other studies fail to fully control for other factors that may be contributing to ADHD symptoms. That is not to say that all studies fall into this category: there are a few recent studies that are now beginning to shed light on the influences of diet on behavior in both healthy (control) groups and ADHD groups.

Diet and food additives

Today, the diet of many people around the world is rich in food additives including preservatives and artificial colors and flavorings. Since the mid-1800s when the first synthetic dyes were discovered, artificial food colorings have been used and food additives and are now widely added to foods. Take most any product out of your pantry or fridge and you will likely find names like “FD&C red No. 3” or “blue 1 lake” on the list of ingredients. Also common as additives are preservatives, that is, chemicals added to keep food from spoiling for longer periods of time. Common preservatives used today are benzoates (commonly found in acidic foods like pickles and mustard), and nitrites (used to preserve meat products such as bacon and ham). Use of these and other additives is regulated with respect to which chemicals are allowed and how much can be added to foods, by agencies such as the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

So, with all of the chemicals added to foods on a regular basis, and oversight by federal regulatory agencies, why is there controversy about the safety of these chemicals and what is the implication in symptoms of ADHD? Much of the initial finger pointing at food additives came from a pediatric allergist, Dr. Benjamin Feingold, who proposed back in the early 1970s that chemical additives such as artificial food coloring and preservatives caused hyperactivity in children. In addition, there are a few studies which draw conclusions that link exacerbation of ADHD symptoms to artificial food coloring or preservatives. One study in particular1 examined a collection of research on the connection between ADHD and artificial food colors (AFCs). The existing research seemed to show a connection between AFCs and an inhibition of a particular enzyme called SULT1A. Why is this enzyme important to ADHD? Well, inhibition of SULT1A has been shown to affect neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline and dopamine, the same neurotransmitters whose activity is modulated by powerful stimulant medications like methylphenidate that have been used to treat ADHD for decades. Individual studies found that AFCs led to inhibition of SULT1A. However, after a thorough review of this study by an independent research group1, it was found that all of the diets used in the study, even the placebo diet that was free of AFCs, had other SULT1A inhibitors in it. In fact, the new study found that natural SULT1A inhibitors were found in AFCs, but also in natural substances and in many foods. Based on this data, it was not possible to discern how much of the inhibition was caused by AFCs and how much by naturally occurring substances. The conclusions of several studies linking AFCs and other additives to symptoms of ADHD seem to also be plagued by difficulties like this one1,7. Still, more studies having proper controls and experimental plans seem to show conflicting conclusions as to whether AFCs have an effect on symptoms of ADHD2,3.

However, a few comprehensive, recent studies that looked into the controls and experimental setups, seem to overwhelmingly agree with a conclusion about AFCs and preservative food additives 1,4-7. The consensus is that a very small percent of children are very sensitive to certain additives. Think about this like a food allergy, where some children react very badly to certain foods, but it does not mean that those foods in general cause immune system problems. Further conclusions were that in those sensitive children, some of which have AHDH, the particular additives may worsen symptoms. As far as research goes, that is a pretty weak link. Still, there may be benefits (for ADHD or otherwise) to eliminate certain additives from the diet, but one has to weigh these potential benefits to a very small number of children, against the difficulties in adhering to a strict elimination diet.

Sugar and Hyperactivity

Parents of children, with or without attention/hyperactivity symptoms, have long since believed that children are more active after the consumption of sugar. We have all heard the cautionary advice of well-intentioned parents and grandparents warning not to give children too much sugar or they’ll be “bouncing off the walls”. How much truth is there to this advice? There is certainly biological evidence to back the claim. After eating a meal laden with simple sugars, the body responds by releasing insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. After a surge in insulin levels, there is a period of relative hypoglycemia. This triggers the body to release a chemical called epinephrine, which is associated with a stimulant-like activity.

Several studies have been done to test the connection between consumption of sugar and increased cognitive or behavioral issues in children. While there are some conflicting results, the majority of the studies surprisingly conclude either a marginal connection or none at all. One particular study tested the hypothesis that it is the parent’s perception and not actually the child’s behavior that changes after sugar consumption8. In this study, parents were told that their children were given either a high sugar drink or a placebo. However, both groups of children were given the placebo. Parents who were told that their children drank the sugar drink reported more hyperactivity in their children. In other words, it may be that parent’s expectations about their children’s diets are negatively affecting their outlook on actual behavior.

Similar to the findings with regard to AFCs and other additives, comprehensive reviews of the literature conclude that sugar does not have a significant effect on the behavioral or cognitive function of most children, including those with ADHD9. However, there are some children who are sensitive to sugar and the significance of this sensitivity on ADHD symptoms cannot be ruled out the by research done to date. In addition, the risks associated with a diet high in simple sugars include obesity, diabetes, and increased triglycerides. For these reasons, in addition to possible individual sugar sensitivities that may predispose children to hyperactivity, consumption of simple sugars should be restricted in any healthy eating plan.  This may be especially true for children with impulsivity issues who may be at higher risk for unhealthy eating habits and obesity.

Everything in Moderation

Given the conflicting information out there, you may be confused about what to do. If your child has ADHD, should you opt for a total elimination diet, not consider dietary information at all, or somewhere in between? There is no conclusive evidence to show that dietary factors cause ADHD. However, the research does show that a subset of “sensitive” individuals can have an exacerbation of symptoms from particular food additives or refined sugars. With that in mind, you have to weigh the pros and cons of an extreme lifestyle change like a total elimination diet. Remember that ADHD is often associated with anxiety in children. An elimination diet can further bring about anxiety if a child feels that she cannot go out to eat with friends or he thinks that he is not seen as “normal” when other kids are eating in school. On the other hand, there may be some benefit to eliminating certain triggers that your child may be sensitive to. The key is to find the middle ground where your effort to control symptoms is not putting undue stress on your son or daughter, but you are still advocating for a healthy diet. So, don’t stress if your son ate a cupcake after school and now has to do some math homework, or your daughter drank juice riddled with Red No. 40.  Just make sure that processed foods and sugary snacks are the exception and not the rule, and are part of an overall healthy diet.

  1. Eagle, K. ADHD impacted by sulfotransferase (SULT1A) inhibition from artificial food colors and plant-based foods. 2014. Physiol. Behav. Aug; 135: 174-9.
  2. Lok, K.Y. et. al. Food additives and behavior in 8- to 9-year-old children in Hong Kong: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. 2013. J Dev Behav Pediatr. Nov-Dec.; 34(9): 634-50.
  3. McCann, D. et. al. Food additives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. Nov 3; 370(9598): 1560-7.
  4. Sonuga-Barke, E.J. et. al. Nonpharmacological interventions for ADHD: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials of dietary and psychological treatments. 2013. Am J Psychiatry. Mar; 170(3):275-89.
  5. Millichap, J.G. and Yee, M.M. The diet factor in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. 2012. Pediatrics. Feb; 129(2): 330-7.
  6. Nigg, J.T. et. al. Meta-analysis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, restriction diet, and synthetic food color additives. 2012. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. Jan;51(1): 86-97.
  7. Arnold, E.L. et. al. Artificial Food Colors and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Symptoms: Conclusions to Dye for. 2012. Neurotherapeutics. 9: 599-609.
  8. Hoover, D.W., and Milich, R. Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies on mother-child interactions. 1994. J Abnorm Child Psychol. Aug;22(4): 501-515.
  9. Wolraich, M.L. et. al. The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children. A meta-analysis. 1995. JAMA. Nov;274(20): 1617-21.

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