The Two Faces Of Perfectionism

In this article, we’ve decided to tackle the topic of good and bad perfectionism. People tend to have very black-and-white views when it comes to this. They think perfectionism is either a great thing that helps us become better, or that it’s a horrible habit which may lead us into depression and anxiety. But as with most things in life, it’s not that simple. There’s the good kind and the bad kind, and we’ll help you learn how to tell them apart and strive for the good one.

Perfectionism As We Know It

Let’s first start with a widely accepted definition of perfectionism. Perfectionism refers to the desire to achieve the highest standards of performance while being extremely critical about one’s performance. [1] Therefore, if you’re a perfectionist, you’ll be setting unrealistically high goals for yourself. Chances are, you’ll also be judging your performance more critically than anyone else, which will lead you to become easily dissatisfied with your actions and achievements.

Man yelling into a phone.

So, in essence, you’re trying to reach something virtually impossible and getting angry at yourself when you make even the slightest mistake. What a paradox!

From this definition, it’s clear that what we usually think of as perfectionism is, in fact, bad for our health and our happiness. Not only are you dissatisfied when you make a mistake (even if you’re the only one who sees it), but even when you are performing well, you’re constantly feeling stressed out. “I can’t make a mistake!” “What if I look silly in front of my co-workers?” “What if I mess this up?”. It’s a lose-lose situation.

What Makes Perfectionism Bad?

So, the bad form of perfectionism stems from a striving that’s turned into a demand. [2] If you keep telling yourself, “I must do this perfectly!”, you’ll be causing yourself a lot of anxiety, maybe even insomnia and depression. Bad perfectionism has as a consequence low self-esteem, unhappiness, and a tendency to react more negatively to feedback. [3]

But if you are only striving for perfection and not demanding it, you’ll be able to work toward accepting yourself with all your flaws much more often. Moreover, you’ll stop seeing each mistake as a failure and accept it for what it is – a normal thing that can happen to anyone and is in no way the end of the world!

Quote that says "if you are only striving for perfection and not demanding it, you’ll be able to work toward accepting yourself with all your flaws much more often. "

The Importance of Self-Acceptance

It may be clear now that the main difference between bad and good perfectionism lies in self-acceptance. [2] You can still have perfectionistic goals, but if you also want to be happier, have better relationships, and be far less stressed out, you’ll also need to develop the ability to accept yourself and your actions non-judgmentally. You can decide to work harder and do better next time, but you won’t be putting yourself down and feeling worthless, and that’s a huge difference.

If you often find yourself feeling like this and it’s bringing you down, there are ways to change this behavior.  Reach out to one of our Coaches and schedule a free 30-minute consultation, which can help you see the possibilities of overcoming the tendency.

Self-Oriented, Other-Oriented, and Socially Prescribed Perfectionism

Another important thing to mention is that perfectionism toward oneself is not the only form of perfectionism. You can also be perfectionistic towards others, which is referred to as Other-Oriented Perfectionism. [2] This can happen to parents, romantic partners, bosses… Instead of placing huge demands on yourself, you may be putting them on others.

Girl sitting at her desk surrounded by books.

Sometimes, parents can, out of the best of intentions, place enormous pressure on their children. “You need to win this game!”, “You have to become valedictorian!”. It can even happen in everyday situations: “You must make a perfect dinner for your husband’s family this Thanksgiving!”

Other-Oriented Perfectionism can result in a child being overly concerned about making a mistake, and always be thinking they’re not good enough, no matter what they do.

Or maybe you were this child. Maybe you had parents or teachers who always expected perfect results, or maybe you have a boss who does the same! This would be the kind of perfectionism called Socially Prescribed Perfectionism. [2] You notice that others have set very high standards for you, and you’re doing your best to prove capable of reaching them, even if it is affecting your health and happiness.

Turning the Bad Into Good

The good news is, you can still strive for more, and encourage your kids to do the same. The formula remains the same: show acceptance, both for yourself and for your children. Give your children time to accept that they’re not perfect before you suggest some things they might think about changing next time. Give them the chance to accept the defeat on their own terms, and help them by hugging them and telling them you are proud of the effort they put into it. Start by letting them know that you accept them – and then maybe take them out for some ice cream. That tends to help as well!

The same thing goes for you. Set realistic goals for yourself and accept that, like every other human being on this planet, you’ll sometimes make mistakes and take more time to reach those goals than you were planning. It doesn’t make you any less good; if anything, it makes you more human.

To Conclude…

… Accepting yourself and others is an essential part of becoming (and raising) healthy, happy, and successful people. Take care of your health and happiness first – and reaching your goals will turn out to be far easier.

References:

  1. Antony, M., Purdon, C., Huta, V., & Swinson, R. (1998). Dimensions of Perfectionism Across the Anxiety Disorders. Behaviour Research and Therapy, Vol. 36, pp. 1143-1154
  2. Lundh, L. (2004). Perfectionism and Acceptance. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Vol. 22, 4, pp.255-267.
  3. Stoeber, J., & Otto, K. (2006). Positive Conceptions of Perfectionism: Approaches, Evidence, Challenges. Personality and Social Psychology Review, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 295–319

Black Friday – A Good Day for Sellers, But Is It Really Good for You?

Black Friday has finally come! Although it’s not a national holiday, many people look forward to shopping then. Special offers, deals, and sales are everywhere and you can find a ton of advice on how/where/what to shop, and tips and tricks on how to be “the winner of the day”. But do you really need to buy something just because it’s Black Friday?

Why do we call it Black Friday?

Black Friday, falling on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Originally, the term marked the day when a retailer had sold enough inventory and turned a profit for that year. So Black Friday refers to the day of the year when retailers hope to go from being in the “red” (i.e. losing money) to being in the “black” (i.e. making money).

Drawing $ in a notebook

How does Black Friday look today?

These days, since it’s one of the busiest shopping days of the year, Black Friday is known for long lines, packed stores, aggressive customers, and a limited number of products available at a reduced price.

Black Friday sellers

Retailers use discounts to draw consumers into their stores and will aggressively campaign by offering incentives like gift cards and other small enticements. Many of them will offer limited-quantity sales to bring customers through their doors [1].

Black Friday shoppers

Whether people are searching in malls, department stores, specialty stores, or online, the sales on Black Friday are very effective at encouraging them to shop. Some people spend hours and even days preparing for Black Friday, scouring newspaper, internet, and television ads for the best Black Friday deals. Then groups and families strategically plan the best routes to their favorite stores, collect stacks of Black Friday ads and coupons, and coordinate strategies for purchasing products once inside the store [1, 5].

Why do people love to shop on Black Friday?

Hundreds of consumers crowding in to grab marked-down goods create a sense of competition, which in turn creates hedonistic shopping value – enjoyment from the mere process of buying things. We love to share stories and show off our bargains at the end of the day, boasting about the great deals we found and how we managed to get hold of that last popular item. Paying a low price for something makes us feel smart and pleased with ourselves. We have a sense of accomplishment and perhaps the thrill of feeling in a small way victorious over other customers [1, 4].

Happy girl sitting in a shopping cart

Frustration and aggression

The Black Friday experience can have a bonding effect [3]. However, sometimes the limited availability of goods in stores can excite those who view this as a form of competition. If someone gets in their way when they’re trying to reach an item they want, they might feel frustrated, which can devolve into an aggressive response towards the person blocking their way [1, 2, 3]. This aggressiveness can be dangerous!

Buy Nothing Day

Now, we have frustration and safety concerns on the one hand and pleasant emotions on the other, so what are we going to do? Before you answer this question, read about Buy Nothing Day – the anti-Black Friday movement that falls on the same day as Black Friday.
The aim of this day is to inspire worldwide action against mass consumerism and rediscover how to live freely. It tries to show us that we need to take a harder look at the stuff we’re purchasing on Black Friday and decide whether we really need all of it. Also, it points out the irony of giving thanks for everything we already have one day and going out to buy more things (we don’t really need) the next one. Lots of people use social media to post about this movement, so explore a bit – you may find many enlightening facts.

Trying to buy something that’s on sale but really isn’t discounted or is in limited quantity can be disappointing, for sure. However, these holiday sales can actually have an upside. Everyone is now expected to offer discounts as a goodwill gesture and not every retailer uses tricks to attract customers. You still can find things that you need or want and pay a better price for them. Just be discerning, purchase worthwhile items, and don’t get caught up in the consumerism!

 

We know that the holidays can be tough and stressful for some people. If you are experiencing “the holiday blues”, feeling stressed out or you simply need to talk to someone, don’t hesitate to book a free consultation call with one of our Coaches. They are always there for you!

 

References:

[1] Byun, S., & Mann, M. (2011). The Influence of Others. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal,29(4), 284-297. doi:10.1177/0887302×11422820
[2] Berkowitz, L. (1989). Frustration-aggression hypothesis: Examination and reformation. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 59-73.
[3] Dill, J. C., & Anderson, C. A. (1995). Effects of frustration justification on hostile aggression. Aggressive Behavior,21(5), 359-369. doi:10.1002/1098-2337(1995)21:53.0.co;2-6
[4] Holbrook, M. B., Chestnut, R. W., Oliva, T. A., & Greenleaf, E. A. (1984). Play as a consumption experience: The roles of emotions, performance, and personality in the enjoyment of games. Journal of consumer research, 11(2), 728-739.
[5] Thomas, J. B., & Peters, C. (2011). An exploratory investigation of Black Friday consumption rituals. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management,39(7), 522-537. doi:10.1108/09590551111144905

Mindfulness practices for study-ready mind

Mindfulness, the state of active consciousness and full, open attention, can be helpful for students in its various forms, as we explained in a previous article. There, we listed some of the mindfulness techniques you can use while studying when you need an instant fix. Yet, as we noted before, the state of mindfulness is best achieved if practiced regularly and studiously, consciously rethinking and reorganizing some of your everyday activities.

So now we’re suggesting some new techniques that can help you in studying. These should be practiced every day apart from your studying rituals, and can, in time, radically change your focus, concentration, memory, and openness to details.

Don’t worry! To achieve a study-ready mind you won’t have to radically change your lifestyle. Mindfulness practices and meditation can be done in around half an hour a day. The trick is not to give up and keep repeating them, even if the results are not instantly apparent.

Switching up your routines

Much of the mindfulness program concerns habit releasers. These are everyday tasks “meant to reveal and break open some of our most unaware life patterns of thought and behavior” [1], which means changing or breaking down habits that can trap you into negative ways of thinking. These techniques snap you out of your old timeworn rut and open up exciting new avenues to explore. Two habit releasers that books about mindfulness recommend can be especially beneficial when it comes to studying

Number 1The first one is waking up earlier. It doesn’t have to be two or three hours earlier – for starters, simply set your alarm 15 minutes before you usually do. This has nothing to do with having more time to study in a day; it’s about reorganizing your mind. The point is to relax and practice focus while enjoying the peace of the day’s beginning. In the morning, things are still and quiet and you can use these 15 minutes to lie in bed, relax and put your mind in order.

Visualise things you have to do that day, put them in order and focus your mind on them. You can also use this time to practice full consciousness – lie or sit in peace, let your thoughts and sensations flow, and try to notice as many things around you as possible. This way you’re practicing your focus, which is one of the key factors that will help you study, but you’re also clearing your mind and getting ready for the work day in front of you and all the information you’ll need to embrace.

Number 2The second habit releaser is valuing entertainment time. In today’s world and life of the student, a lot of entertainment time is spent online, either on social networks or the internet. This exercise will help you map what you’re spending your time on, limit your free time and use it more purposefully. The point is to learn not to take these pleasures for granted but to use them fully and consciously so that a break really feels like a genuine release and you’re able to return to your work fully focused. When you take a break with purpose you don’t need to do it as long to obtain the relaxation benefit. Plus, you’ll certainly be giving yourself more time to study and cutting out any distraction!

First, think about what you really like to do online and limit yourself to only that. You can, for example, see what’s new on your Facebook feed and check Instagram notifications, and after you do, switch the internet off. You can set a time rule for yourself or limit yourself to one online activity. Do this consciously and, in the evening, write down how it felt, what you did, your thoughts, feelings, and impulses.  This way, while you’re online, you’ll be focused fully on that and only that, enjoying your valuable free time, and afterward, when you start studying, you’ll be able to clear your mind and fully focus on the task in front of you. [1]

Performing tasks mindfully

One of the best mindfulness practices won’t take a moment of your day because it involves performing the tasks you do every day – but mindfully. This, again, is an exercise in focus, one that will help you notice the details and information in your everyday life. You’ll find yourself noticing more while you study, finding all the details that you might otherwise miss, and really being conscious of what you’re reading.

So, take one of the routine activities we all perform daily (brushing teeth, walking from one room to another, washing dishes, showering, drinking tea or coffee…) and simply pay extra attention while doing it. Not slowly, but just while carefully observing all that you do and all that is happening. The example in the book Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World is Showering:

Showering: pay attention to the sensations of the water on your body, the temperature, and the pressure. Notice the movements of your hand as you wash and the movements of your body as you turn and bend, etc. If you decide to take some of your showering time to plan or reflect, do so intentionally, with the awareness that this is where you have decided to focus your attention.

Illustration of three people, one on a computer, one meditating and one enjoying chocolate

Practice your senses

We’ve already talked about how important it is to connect your body and brain. That is why a meditation walk is always beneficial and something you can try even if you’re not studying at the moment. The point is to practice your concentration and focus and become aware of things you have never noticed – or felt – before. These are all valuable in helping you in the study process – which is fully about focus, memory, and attention to detail.

Another exercise for this is practicing of the senses. This one is really delightful as it includes chocolate! The point is to eat the chocolate, but in a way you’ve never done before – mindfully, thinking about it, focusing on everything you can sense.

For this, follow these instructions:

  • Open the packet. Inhale the aroma. Let it sweep over you.
  • Break off a piece and look at it. Really let your eyes drink in what it looks like, examining every nook and cranny.
  • Pop it in your mouth. Try to hold it on your tongue and just let it melt, avoiding any tendency to move your mouth around it. Chocolate has over three hundred different flavors. See if you can sense some of them.
  • If you notice your mind wandering while you do this, simply notice where it went, and gently bring it back to the present moment.
  • After the chocolate has completely melted, swallow it very slowly and deliberately. Let it trickle down your throat.
  • Repeat this with the next piece.  [2]

A calm mind is a study-ready mind

Again, we ought to remind you to be easy on yourself. If you don’t see results right away, take your time. Don’t get angry, nervous or irritated –  try to accept things as they are. There’s no point in rushing anything. You’re not facing a deadline, but practicing for your future self.

Do all these exercises slowly, enjoying them, learning things, not worrying about studying. But then, when the time for studying comes, your mind will be ready, focused, and fully awake.

 

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

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING:

 

[1]   Penman, D. and Williams, M. 2011. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Pennsylvania: Rodale Books.

[2] Jon Kabat-Zinn. 2005. Wherever You Go, There You Are. New York: Hachette Book.

 

5 Ways Parent Coaching Can Help You and Your Child

We like to be prepared for anything new in life. Whether we’re moving, changing jobs, or sitting behind the wheel for the first time ever, we like to research and get to know as much as we can about the situation we’re dealing with. But a lot of people tend to neglect the one area where we should try our hardest to be as prepared as possible: Parenting.

A lot of new parents, or parents-to-be, tend to look down on any sort of parent training or coaching. “Our parents had zero preparation and training when they were raising us, and we turned out well! So why should I be wasting my time and money on this?”

Now, no one is saying that our parents did everything 100% wrong – they all did the best they could for us: they loved us, protected us, and helped us become who we are today. Consider this for a moment: people who lived prior to 1879 had no electricity. It didn’t stop them from living normal, peaceful lives – but having electricity did make those lives substantially better and easier.

We think that parenting is a lot like electricity in that way. We can be very good parents without any sort of coaching, but preparing ourselves and learning as much as we can about the psychology of parenting will definitely help us be even better.

Here are five research-driven ways that parent coaching can be beneficial for your family.

Addressing Emotional Challenges

People are complex creatures. You can watch your child grow and know them better than anyone else, but you still can’t see inside their heads. Sometimes they might feel anxious about something, but feel ashamed of their anxiety, and that will stop them from telling you that something is wrong.

There’s no shame in not being an omnipotent being and having trouble connecting with your child, especially when they’re teenagers. After all, no one ever taught us how to deal with those situations; we’re just expected to know them naturally, intuitively. But being a human parent is very different from being a parent in the animal kingdom. We have a lot fewer instincts and a lot more thoughts and feelings.

The good news is that attending training programs or coaching together with your child can give you incredible results when it comes to your child’s negative emotions. Compared to just your child receiving coaching, the benefits are much greater. [3] Here’s why: when your child is learning how to combat their feelings of anxiety, shame, or negativity, they’re fighting them on their own. But when you’re both learning how to deal with them, a) you’ll always be able to not just be there for them, but help them in a knowledgeable way, and b) you’ll model the right kind of behavior to them in situations when you yourself are feeling upset.

By watching you understand and overcome your own negative feelings, and by becoming comfortable enough to speak about their own, you’ll start working on emotional issues together and develop a much closer relationship.

Improving Your Child’s Academic Performance

Now this one probably sounds the least believable of all, right? Your child is the one who should be studying, practicing, or even attending some tutoring lessons – but what have you got to do with it?

Everything.

We often hear that someone is a certain way because of their environment.  “Oh, he got into some bad company, he changed completely!” Or we hear how somebody is so lucky for having such great role models in their life. Then why would it be hard to believe that by providing a certain type of atmosphere at home you can help your child become a better student?

This is the part where a lot of parents might get defensive. “Are you saying that my child is living in a toxic atmosphere?” Again, none of this should mean that you’re doing anything wrong! But psychology is progressing every day, and we’re learning things about ourselves and our children we didn’t know before. Thanks to all the new research and discoveries, we can help you not to become a “good parent” – if you love your child and care for them, you are one already – but to become as good a parent as you can possibly be.

Children need you to be involved in their school lives, but not too involved. [2] You should meet their teachers, be involved in school events, ask them about their grades and whether they need help with a certain subject. But smothering them will be counterproductive. Checking their grades every week without giving them a chance to tell you about that C themselves, will break down the trust between you. A general rule of thumb is: if you are open and accepting with them, they’ll tell you if they need help.

All of this sounds great on paper, but in reality, it’s hard to draw a line: how much involvement is too much? This is where coaching can help you help your child. Being a parent doesn’t come with a manual, and there’s no shame in asking a professional how you can help your child develop academically.

Less Stress

Research has shown that after receiving training, parents of children with ADHD felt less stress. They found it much easier to remain calm rather than over-reacting. [1] You have probably noticed that when you’re stressed, you tend to react more harshly to your child’s misbehavior than you normally would.

By learning how to recognize your feelings of frustration, you can learn to calm yourself and react in a more productive way. This will help decrease your child’s undesirable behavior, and you’ll feel better as well. You can learn to accept your child without judgment, to listen to them more carefully, and above all, to feel compassion not only for them, but for yourself, as well. Instead of feeling like a bad parent every time you overreact, you can start understanding that while your reactions are normal, they’re not the only thing you can do, nor the only way you can react.

Quote that says "By learning how to recognize your feelings of frustration, you can learn to calm yourself and react in a more productive way. This will help decrease your child’s undesirable behavior, and you’ll feel better as well. "

Decreasing Hyperactivity

In certain respects, parent coaching serves to break the vicious cycle of hyperactivity. If you’ve ever seen your child act that way and couldn’t stop yourself from yelling at them, punishing them, or telling them things you didn’t really mean, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It simply means you fell into this vicious cycle: a child does something they cannot control to which their parents respond with their own behavior they cannot control, which, in turn, may worsen the child’s initial behavior. [4] They may start feeling misunderstood, anxious, ashamed, and lacking self-esteem.

The good thing is, coaching can help you as a parent learn how to react to their hyperactivity in a calmer, more constructive way, which will help calm them down as well. But that’s not all! You can also learn how to practice autonomy, self-esteem, stress management, and a lot of other very important things with your child. [4] Coaching offers you a way to not only educate yourself, but also to be able to work on your own and your child’s emotions to create a more positive and accepting family dynamic.

Becoming More Mindful

Mindfulness. That word seems to be everywhere these days, doesn’t it? It’s not for nothing, though: mindfulness is a powerful tool for both individuals and their relationships.

Simply put, being mindful means being present in the moment, without judging that moment as good or bad; you’re simply accepting things as they come, without overreacting. That doesn’t mean that from now on you should be emotionless about anything that happens – not at all! But taking a moment to hear another person without judgment, to accept yourself with all your thoughts and feelings and to accept others, is a huge step toward solving a problem in a calmer, more positive way. [5] This is easier said than done, but a Coach can help you learn and practice this skill.

Mindful parenting is becoming more and more popular, and research shows that after attending mindfulness programs, mothers report feeling better about their parenting in general. This was especially true for mothers of children with ASD, and much like ADHD, it also helped decrease the child’s symptoms of aggression and self-harm. [5] Mindfulness helps parents distance themselves from the child’s negative behavior by seeing it as something that comes and goes and is in no way their fault. Parents are also taught to start noticing their own feelings from moment to moment, without judging them. They are encouraged to notice comfortable and uncomfortable feelings related to parenting and to take a moment to accept them before working on them. [5]

It all sounds nice and dandy, but learning to do this takes a lot of practice, and coaching is a great way to start yourself on that journey. A Coach will be a non-judgmental listener who will, in turn, model the non-judgmental listening to parents. We can all agree that solving a problem from a position of acceptance, rather than one of anxiety, anger, and sadness will give us much better results, right?

At Nobel Coaching & Tutoring, we encourage parents to attend individual coaching sessions while their children are attending theirs. That way, parents can work on their own feelings and behaviors in order to model the best behavior possible to their children. If your child is having issues focusing on their homework, or if they are simply stressed out about the upcoming SAT’s, the best person to help them overcome it and learn to create a positive atmosphere is you – and we are here to help you learn how.

References:

  1. Garreta, E., Jimeno, T., & Servera, M. (2018). Analysis of the effectiveness of a training program for parents of children with ADHD in a hospital environment. Actas Españolas de Psiquiatria, Vol.46, 1, pp. 21-28
  2. https://www.whitbyschool.org/passionforlearning/6-compelling-reasons-to-take-parenting-classes
  3. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/InterventionReports/wwc_incredibleyears_111511.pdf
  4. http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/adhd/parent-training-children-adhd
  5. Duncan, L., Coatsworth, J., & Greenberg, M. (2009). A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent–Child Relationships and Prevention Research. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 255-270

 

The Best Halloween Costume for Your Child

Halloween is, without doubt, a favorite holiday for children of all ages. From toddlers to teenagers, kids are always excited to dress up as their favorite characters and go trick-or-treating with their friends. There’s also the fun of joining in the many outdoor fall activities taking place at this time of year, and the great opportunity Halloween offers for parents and children to share in the fun of creating costumes together. So it’s easy to see why studies have shown that this holiday can be so beneficial for children.

Choosing and making costumes is one of the best aspects of this holiday for children and actually, costuming itself is beneficial for small children. As Dr. Ashley Gilpin has noted: “Preschoolers and early elementary-aged children are in the height of the pretending stage, where they learn to take other people’s perspectives, which is the basis for empathy. As silly as it sounds, dressing up and pretending to be someone else helps them learn to take another person’s perspective and be more empathetic [1].”

To make things as enjoyable and constructive as possible for your child, there are things you can do to help you find the best possible costume and make it as appropriate as possible.

 

Don’t worry about the scary stuff

You might be worried if the holiday that started out as the day of death and, in modern culture, revolves around the aesthetics of horror might be too scary for children. Of course, you should not let them visit some of the more elaborate and non-child-friendly houses of terror, but as far as costumes go, dressing them up as witches or mummies is perfectly fine!

Research conducted by Jacqueline Woolley and her colleagues has proven that preschoolers of the age of 3 and 4 have a very good perception of what is real and what isn’t [2]. And, as mentioned, dressing up like this can even turn out to be beneficial, since kids are exploring various identities, building upon their imagination and getting a better grasp of what’s real and what isn’t. The trick is to keep the celebration in the context of the holiday and use the ideas we’ll talk about to remind the kids of what is real. At the same time, they’ll be practicing their cognitive skills, such as storytelling and making distinctions between fantasy and reality.

 

If there is a scary element, reason it out

Sometimes, Halloween can be a bit “too much” for youngsters, and that’s okay. Rather than not letting them go out and have fun if you know they’ll be scared, you can prepare them and put costumes and horror elements in the context of fantasy.

You can show your child how some scary costume is made and include them in the making process – they can help you with your zombie makeup, or choosing elements for the witch’s gown. Take them to the store during the day and show them around, so they can see how those elements and decorations are not at all scary when not put together. All in all, show them it’s really simply a fantasy rather than a real thing, and include them in the process of creating their costume.

Finally, everything looks more terrifying in the dark, even for adults. Therefore, it’s okay to consider limiting the time for trick-or-treating to the daylight hours.

 

Let your child choose

Communication with your child is always the key to a good relationship. While you shouldn’t let your kids make all the decisions, you should hear them out and try to reason with them if something in their thinking or acting isn’t valid. The same goes for costumes.

Some of the ideas that your child has for their costume might not be the most fitting ones: it might be a costume that isn’t suitable for their age, or simply something too expensive and hard to make. In those cases, compromise. Explain the basics of why their idea isn’t possible, but still take their suggestions – show them that you listen and consider them.

If your child wishes to choose a gender-neutral costume or to “gender-bend” the costume, there are studies that say this is highly beneficial. It is not only good for girls to try out traditionally more masculine and empowering costumes (heroes, scientists, etc.) – it’s good for boys to try embracing more feminine roles and ideas, and break the mold of seeing manly costumes and professions as better than traditionally feminine ones [3].

If, when Halloween comes, a child is not at all interested in wearing the costume you both spent a long time making, don’t push it. Maybe they can go just with the cape, and not the whole Superman outfit? Making them do something against their will can be stressful for both you and the child, and the point of the holiday is to have fun. At the end of the day, it’s not that important.

 

Make sure to be respectful

Over the last few years there’s been a lot of talk about which costumes are respectful and what is absolutely not to be made into dress-up for fun. No matter on which side of the debate you are, make sure your child has the best possible time by avoiding putting them into any kind of bad situation.

Many think Halloween attire is “just a costume”. Yet if the clothing your child is wearing has a chance of offending someone, it’s not “just a costume” for the other person in question. Chances are they have a different perspective than you, so try to be as compassionate as possible. Avoid any costumes that might have a political implication or that can be read as sacred attire. As the author, Susan Scafidi said: “We can all learn to be polite and respectful without being political. And, in fact, I think most people want to be.”

The best advice is to keep children’s costumes in the realm of fantasy or dress them up in career uniforms. The beauty of this holiday is, after all, in having the freedom to be as creative as possible, so there are hundreds of possibilities and characters to explore, without stepping into politically or socially sensitive areas.

If you are ready to fight the summer slide with your child, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING:

[1] https://www.ua.edu/news/2016/10/ua-psychology-professor-children-benefit-from-halloween-activities/

[2] http://time.com/4090715/halloween-can-help-kids-learn-whats-real/

[3] https://globalnews.ca/news/2310986/gender-bias-in-kids-halloween-costumes-is-a-problem-psychologist/

4 Tips to Help Your Child Adjust to Their New School

If you have just moved to a different place and want to help your child adapt to their new school environment, well, this article is for you! Leaving a familiar environment along with their good friends, teachers, and neighbors is a stressful experience for both younger children and (especially so) teenagers. [3] Here are a few tips that might make the whole experience easier and even exciting!

Meet the New Neighborhood

As a grownup, you’ve probably already dealt with moving in one way or another – maybe you did so at college, or for work, or after you got married. But for your kids, it’s a completely new and scary experience. We all have our own favorite little places in a town. For your kids, those might be the local park, schoolground, ice cream shop… So try to find something similar in your new neighborhood that could make them feel more at home.

Go for a walk with them and ask them which of the places you’re passing by they like. You can purposely stop and spend some time getting more acquainted with these places. This will increase their comfort level and sense of familiarity with their new surroundings.

Meet the Kids

Woah, that subtitle really looks like the name of some talent show, doesn’t it? What it means, though, is that your child left some good friends in the other town, and they’ll need to start from scratch and make some new ones. And if they try doing that on the first day at their new school, they’ll be experiencing all kinds of stresses all at once: new building, new rules, and on top of that – alone amongst their peers who are already friends amongst themselves? It can be overwhelming.

That’s why it’s a good idea to try to meet some of their peers prior to their first day of school. [3] You and your child together can visit your new neighbors to introduce yourselves. You might even want to take them a treat. Try to learn something about them and the other neighbors. If they have kids the similar age as yours – bingo! And if not, ask them about the other neighbors’ kids (make sure to explain your concerns and the reasons behind your questions, though: otherwise it might come out a little strange!). You can even arrange a small gathering for all the neighbors and ask them to bring their families along. Some of those will probably end up being your child’s new classmates, and they can get to know them and become friends in a more informal way.

Get to Know the School

Even before they attend their first classes, you can contact your child’s new school and arrange a meeting with an administrator. Talk to them about how things work there, and if you can, discuss which teacher would be a good fit for your student. Ask them if it would be okay to take a walk through the halls and classrooms. That way, it will all seem much more familiar to your child on their first day; they’ll have no trouble finding their locker, classroom, bathroom, or the cafeteria. Doing these things will reduce a great deal of stress for the child on their first day at the new school. [1]

Find A New Routine

Another thing we all leave behind when we move is the routines we’ve developed. This time around, it might take longer to get to school, which means waking up earlier. Instead of walking, it could mean getting on the bus. So try to stick to the parts of your previous routine that don’t need to be changed. If you’re used to having breakfast together, do it, even if it means waking up an extra half hour earlier. Make sure that your child goes to bed relatively early and wakes up early enough as well, so they can get sufficient rest and have enough time for everything the next morning. Packing in a matter of seconds, not getting to finish breakfast, and overall rushing can just add  to the already existing stress, so try to avoid it as best as you can. [1]

Bonus Advice

If you haven’t already (and even if you have), watch the animated movie called Inside Out – together. It’s told from the point of view of a teenage girl who had to move to a new place, new school, and make new friends. It will not only give you all some adjustment tips, but it will also tell you that feeling nervous and even sad is completely normal and should be talked about. [2] Don’t be overly enthusiastic and diminish your child’s feelings, but do try to inspire them to look at the positives as well. Above all, have patience. Reassure your child that it will take some time to get used to the new places and new people and to feel at home. Finally, let them know you’ll be there for them every step of the way. That way, adapting to changes will be a much smoother process.

References:

  1. https://www.theclassroom.com/adapt-new-school-16096.html
  2. https://www.schoolchoiceintl.com/how-students-can-adjust-to-a-new-school/
  3. https://www.thespruce.com/help-your-kid-adjust-new-school-2435862

 

 

Why is Effective Communication so Important?

Being able to communicate our thoughts, opinions, and wishes has always been important for our survival. Just imagine our cave-dwelling great-grand-ancestors not being able to precisely convey that they really, really do not want to join in on that hunt because their leg is hurting. Next thing they know, they’re running away from a tiger – and not very successfully!

Although most of us don’t need to run from tigers anymore, the skill of clear communication is more important than ever. Thanks to our new technologies, we can now communicate with virtually any person from any place on Earth, and many people do just this on a regular basis, especially if they work for a large corporation [3].  Indeed,  for some people communication itself is the main goal – successful talk-show hosts and writers have mastered this skill to such a degree that simply communicating has become their primary job [3].

Knowing how to present ourselves in a good light and understand the other party well enough to persuade them to help us achieve something is an incredibly important skill to develop. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the benefits of effective communication and offer some ideas on how to hone that skill.

Professional Benefits

Since we’ve already mentioned the importance of communicating in the workplace, let’s tackle the professional aspect of this skill first. Some of the benefits of clear communication in the workplace are:

  1. Fewer mistakes.
  2. Better workplace atmosphere.
  3. Good persuasion skills.

Making Fewer Mistakes

Have you ever been in a situation where your boss or your professor is explaining to you how to do something, but you just can’t seem to understand them? So maybe after asking them to explain it one more time and still not understanding it, you tell yourself, “It’s fine, I’ll do it by myself”, and you end up making a mistake. Or maybe you were too shy to even ask them to explain it to you in the first place!

Either way, the primary cause for your mistake would be the fact that both parties failed to communicate effectively. To begin with, your boss/professor didn’t communicate their expectations in a way you could understand. They are probably speaking from the perspective of somebody who has been doing that task for quite some time, so it’s easy for them to forget the mistakes they were making in the beginning or the challenges they faced then.  Now that they’re more knowledgeable, they simply assume it must be as easy for you to do as it is for them. In other words, they are communicating from their perspective only, without taking your perspective and your context into consideration [2].

Secondly, your fear of communicating your lack of understanding is what might cause you to make a mistake. Not asking for an explanation is something that usually happens when you assume that the person you’re talking to will be annoyed and bored by your questions. But instead, you could have asked them a clarifying question. For example, saying: “Okay, so let me just see if I understood you correctly so I am 100% sure I’ll do it properly” and then repeating the task the way you understood it saves you from asking a million tiny questions. Instead, you just ask one, and if your boss sees a fault in what you said, they’ll let you know.

So in both cases, assumptions of how much someone knows and how they feel about certain things can lead to mistakes. And though it’s sometimes hard to get over that voice in your head that says, “Stop bothering them or they’ll think you’re stupid and unable to do this!”, it’s something we all must work on if we are to be effective communicators and avoid mistakes.

Better Workplace Atmosphere

Imagine your next hypothetical situation. Your colleague or classmate is celebrating their birthday this Friday and they bring muffins for everyone – but you. What’s up with that?! You might naturally think that they don’t like you and don’t want to hang out with you without really checking that hypothesis with them. So the next time they need help from you, you might turn away and ignore them, causing them to not finish their assignment and to feel really bad.

But what if the reason you didn’t get a muffin was because the muffins their mom made for them were all made with peanuts, and they only remembered about your allergies after they started sharing them around? They had been trying to protect you this entire time, and here you were thinking that they hated you!

In that scenario, both of you were lacking proper communication skills. On one hand, they should have apologized to you for forgetting all about your allergies, while you should have asked them if there was something wrong in your relationship the moment you noticed something wasn’t adding up.

If we are looking at this from their perspective, they should have said something like: “I’m very sorry that I don’t have a muffin for you, I completely forgot about your allergies. How about we go grab a coffee later so I can properly apologize?” You could also have helped solve this situation by simply asking them: “Hey, I noticed everyone got a muffin but me, and I’m feeling really left out. Could you tell me why I didn’t get one?” Any of these two explanations would have prevented a further misunderstanding.

Just imagine if a pilot and air traffic control were communicating in such an inefficient and petty way – it wouldn’t be fun, would it [2]?

Good Persuasion Skills

Now now, I’m not trying to teach you how to manipulate the people around you in order to always have things your way. By “persuasion”, I primarily mean marketing skills – and, well, if they also teach you how to convince your friend to help you with your math, that’s not so bad now, is it?

What do you think all great companies have in common? Sure, the most important thing is that they all have something that a lot of people want and can use. But that in itself isn’t enough. If they didn’t have a good, persuasive marketing team, no one would even have heard of them. In this day and age, when new apps, technologies, and inventions are being created every day, having the ability to communicate about your product in an innovative way is what will separate you and your company from the rest of the pack.

And not only that, but in order to sell yourself (not in an illegal way, more like – sell your worth to a university you want to go to or sell your abilities and character to your potential employer) you need to know how to communicate about your strengths and weaknesses in the right way.

Personal Benefits

After reading the first part of the article, you’re probably already aware of the main benefit good communication can give you in your personal life – better and more honest relationships. There are thousands of articles online about the relationships between parents and teenagers and what both sides can do to make them better. But what if I told you that just by changing the way you communicate with each other, you can fix 90% of that relationship?

Instead of snooping around their teenager’s room, parents should be more open and honest about their fears and feelings. Simply saying things like, “I feel sad that you don’t spend as much time at home” or “I’ve been noticing some changes in your behavior and I’m very worried that something may be bothering you” is a hundred times better for a relationship than looking for some sort of proof for your hypothesis. If parents raise their children this way, if they’re not ashamed to tell them they are sad or hurt by something, then they’ll be good role models for their children to do the same once they start having problems.

Tips on Being a Better Communicator

Communication is far more than just what you say, it’s also how you act. Non-verbal signals such as facial expressions or body movements can at times tell us more about what someone really feels than any words they might be saying [2]. If your parents are nagging you about that C you received and you keep saying how you feel sorry about it, all the while rolling your eyes with your arms crossed, they probably won’t be inclined to believe you.

What you communicate with your words and your body language needs to be in sync in order for your message to get through. And not only that, you need to take into consideration your previous communication with someone [1].  For example, if you’re prone to sarcasm, no matter how seriously you are now speaking to them, they might be nodding their heads suspiciously. Instead of simply saying what you want to say and getting angry when they don’t believe you, it’s a good idea to remember your previous interactions and maybe predict their reaction. This is especially important if something big is at stake – say, you want to ask your professor for extra credit, but they don’t really think much of you after you’ve been late for 70% of their classes. Taking their perspective and feelings into consideration is a great first step to start communicating better [2].

You could start by saying, “Look, I know I’m always being sarcastic, but I really need your help with this now”, or “Professor, I’m sorry for always being late. It was really irresponsible of me, but in order to get into the university I really want, I’ll  need some extra credit from your class. Is there anything I can do to make that happen?”

Communication is an amazing ability. We can communicate through words, hands, drawings, even eyes. And yet, we so often tend to repeat the same behavior. If a wife is angry with her husband, she’ll keep yelling at him and he’ll keep withdrawing. Even though they can both see it’s not getting them anywhere, it’s easier to fall into their usual pattern of communication rather than to try and change it.

But if we dare change that script, it will make our lives not only easier, but more beautiful and fulfilled as well. So start today! If you’ve had a fight with someone recently, or if you keep having fights about the same thing, think about which part of your communication is falling short. Take their point of view into consideration and try to alter your communication style. After all, there are infinite ways of doing that.

 

References:

  1. Bowdish, R. (2018). The Importance of Communication. Master of Arts in English Plan II Graduate Projects.
  2. Burgoon, J.K., Berger, C.R., & Waldron, V.R. (2000). Mindfulness and Interpersonal Communication. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 56, No.1, pp. 105-127.
  3. Morreale, S.P., & Pearson, J.C. (2008). Why Communication Education is Important: The Centrality of the Discipline in the 21st Century. Communication Education Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 224-240

6 Ways Your Child Can Benefit From Classroom Diversity

When we hear the word diversity, most of us tend to think only about race or ethnicity. But diversity comes in many shapes and forms: gender, socio-economic status, religion, even learning styles [6].  Each of those things makes us different and gives us the opportunity to teach others something new. In this article, we’ll look at the enormous benefits your child can gain as part of a diverse classroom.

School is for Learning

The main purpose of sending children to school is to allow them to learn. But we tend to think inside the box when it comes to learning. We immediately think about science, English, or psychology – that’s what my kid will be studying at school, right? Of course, but that’s not where the list ends. They’ll also gain important knowledge about the way the world works: by mingling among other children, your child can become better at communicating, understanding different people and different points of view; they can learn to be more relaxed and confident in different situations. And what better place to do that than in a diverse classroom?

How Does Diversity Make it Different?

You might be asking yourself – but wouldn’t they be learning all those things just as well in a homogenous classroom? Won’t they still get to hear a lot of different opinions and learn some important social skills?

Not quite.

While it’s true that any sort of interaction with others will aid your child in developing their social skills, the extent to which they’ll do that depends largely on their environment. Imagine this: it’s the first day of school. Your son comes back home, delighted to tell you all about his new friends. It turns out they’re all boys of the same race, same ethnicity, same religion, whose parents make roughly the same amount of money you do, living in the same neighborhood, listening to the same music, reading the same books. It’s perfect friendship!

But fast forward a couple of years.  You might start noticing that your child is having a hard time dealing with conflict, differences of opinion, and adapting to new situations. This could well be because they have never experienced anything different from what they’ve known their whole life. And as they grow up, there will be more and more of these situations, and the more your child is familiar with them, the easier it will be for them to navigate their way through this ever-changing world.

Not only that, but they’ll also be able to get a more complete perspective on any challenging situation if they are aware of all the different opinions a person can have in a given situation. This will help them when it comes to solving real-life problems by finding more (and better) solutions.

What Else Can be a Benefit?

Besides developing social skills important for the future, this is what your child can also learn in a diverse classroom:

  1. Empathy and Tolerance
  2. Feeling Safe
  3. Cultural Understanding
  4. Political Involvement
  5. Gender Equality

Empathy and Tolerance

Since the beginnings of civilization, there have been stereotypes. But the main thing that allowed those stereotypes to spread was the fact that different nations were separated by very strong borders, and there wasn’t nearly as much mingling as there is today.

In psychology, there is something called contact theory [2]. This theory has been proven time and time again, and the idea is this: (negative) stereotypes can be broken if different groups come into direct contact with one another, but only if:

  1. That contact occurs on the basis of equality
  2. in a setting that offers common experiences and objectives, and
  3. it happens frequently and intensively [2].

You may have already noticed that the classroom setting can provide all three of the necessary conditions [2]. This means that it’s a perfect place for different groups of children to come into contact and begin to understand one another. Once that happens, they’ll be able to develop tolerance for those different from them, and also empathy.

Empathy means being able to feel exactly the way someone else feels. You would probably agree that the more we understand someone, the easier it becomes for us to “walk in their shoes”. The basis of almost any large-scale conflict today is the fact that we don’t understand one another. We cannot connect to those of different origin, skin color, or religion because we don’t know what they are like outside of our TV screens and what  politicians tell us. So why not prevent all that misunderstanding simply by allowing our children to develop friendships in a context of diversity?

Feeling Safe

Did you know that students report feeling much safer in school and life in general, if they have been educated in diverse classrooms [6]?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise – we don’t fear what we’re familiar with. We would feel more scared going into anyone else’s house and finding it completely in the dark, rather than going into our own unlit house. We would have no trouble feeling for the light switch and walking in complete darkness from room to room.

It’s the same with people different from us, and I don’t just mean of different ethnicity. Up until the end of the 18th century, it was believed that atypically developing people were a danger to society and should be confined. But today, in the 21st century, we’ve adopted the principle of Integrated Classrooms, and thanks to that, many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can go to regular classes with their typically developing classmates. And it’s not only beneficial for children who deal with ADHD and ASD to interact with their typically developing peers [1], but it can also be beneficial for their peers as well.

However, that didn’t just happen overnight. It took a lot of explaining and contact with those developing atypically to understand that the more they interact with other people, the better off they will be and the more they can be helped. From fear, we went to understanding and love. We started feeling safe among those different from us, because we had the opportunity to see them and talk with them.

Cultural Understanding

The only way to truly understand a different culture is to talk with someone who comes from that culture. Just look at all the craze for Japanese anime that’s taken hold in recent years. There are some who conflate anime with traditional Japanese culture and style themselves accordingly – in dress, mannerisms, etc. But if you were to describe these people’s actions to the people of Japan, they’d very clearly assure you they are not remotely like that. Reading books and watching movies about different cultures is a great alternative, but nothing beats genuine human contact.

If your child decides at some point in their life to go overseas for studies, work, or for any other reason, they’ll fit in much more easily if they’ve been in contact with different cultures prior to their departure. But if all they have ever known is people similar to them, they are bound to experience “culture shock” – and adapting to their new apartment or workplace will be that much more difficult.

Political Involvement

Studies as well as personal experiences of teachers, show that if the teacher is willing to let the class discuss different political issues, the number of people engaged in the conversation and the variety of different opinions will be much greater if the classroom is diverse [5]. If everyone comes from the same background, there isn’t much to discuss – everyone more or less agrees on the same points and they don’t go too much further than that.. But this approach is what tends to lead to people not being interested and not understanding the current political climate, and, as a result, often not voting. It is much better for a country’s political health if everyone is involved, not just a handful of people with the same opinions. If we can discuss different issues with one another, we’ll be able to learn more, understand more, challenge ourselves and the others’ opinions, and arrive at much better ideas and conclusions.

And who knows, maybe that’s what will prompt your kid to one day run for president!

Gender Equality

Speaking of running for president, isn’t it about time more women ran? Skeptics might say, “but that’s just because women aren’t interested in politics and don’t have that much experience!” Such false assumptions clearly indicate the necessity for more discussion and encouragement about individual life choices while we’re growing up, and our schools need to support questioning of outdated gender stereotypes and challenge us to try doing things differently [8].

Attitudes can change if we talk to each other more. Research tells us that friendships tend to develop between same sexes, same socio-economic backgrounds, same ethnicity, same race [4]. How does that allow us to grow, then? If boys spend time with boys and girls with girls with no contact up until the age they’re looking for romantic relationships, how will we understand and support each other?

We could start with extracurricular activities – book clubs, political clubs, sports clubs, IT clubs. They are a great way to promote more contact between genders, ethnicities – all kinds of differences, really. It makes it easier to realize the discrepancies we’re a part of and start working on making them better [4]. How can we teach our girls to shoot for the stars and our boys to be respectful, if all they’ve ever known is the company of one gender? That’s how we separate children into groups, and that’s how they learn to identify themselves with their gender, instead of their humanity.

Final Advice

A report from 2012 noted that  “80% of Latino students and 74% of black students attend majority non-white schools” [5]. It would be a mistake to assume that everyone would feel better surrounded by like-minded people. Only if we talk with people from different backgrounds and opinions, can we learn to be more accepting, more understanding, more creative, and even create better opportunities for ourselves. And while this shouldn’t just be the case in classrooms, classrooms are an ideal place to start.

So my advice for you as a parent is: don’t shy away from diversity. Don’t force it, but inspire your child to support those different from them. Inspire them to learn from others. After all, “the friend of my friend is a friend” is especially true when it comes to schools: if one child is making friends among other ethnicities and learning styles, their friends will start doing that, too. And one by one, we may even reach the day when this article becomes completely unnecessary, because everyone is friends with everyone [4].

One child said it best: “There are a lot of ways things and people could be misunderstood. In order to eliminate them, we must be listeners and learners” [3].

 

References:

  1. Chan, J.M. & O’Reilly, M.F. (2008). A Social Stories Intervention Package for Students with Autism in Inclusive Classrooms. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Vol.41, 3, pp. 405-409.
  2. Janmaat, J.G. (2012).  The effect of classroom diversity on tolerance and participation in England, Sweden and Germany. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol.38, 1, pp. 21-39
  3. Lee, J.J. & Hoadley, C.M. (2006). Ugly in a World Where You Can Choose to be Beautiful”:Teaching and Learning About Diversity via Virtual Worlds. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Learning Sciences, pp. 383-389.
  4. Moody,  J. (2001). Race, School Integration, and Friendship Segregation in America. American Journal of Sociology, Vol.107, 3, pp. 679-716.
  5. https://blog.ed.gov/2016/04/the-value-of-classroom-diversity/
  6. https://online.queens.edu/online-programs/medl/resources/benefits-of-diversity-in-school
  7. https://www.millennialdialogue.com/blog/the-gender-gap-in-political-interest
  8. https://www.vox.com/mischiefs-of-faction/2017/4/10/15239998/womens-representation-congress-america

 

Mindfulness for Children with ADHD and ASD

Mindfulness is a concept that is becoming more and more popular by the day, and with good reason: the list of benefits from practicing mindfulness is endless!

With that being said, what we do not see as often is mindfulness in the context of helping children with ADHD (Attentional Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). This is why we decided to dedicate an entire article to it. You might find yourself amazed at the benefits of specific mindfulness practices for children with ADHD/ASD – and their parents.

ADHD and Stress

It will come as no surprise that both ADHD and ASD pose a great challenge for parents, which is why they tend to be much more stressed than parents not dealing with these [2].  ADHD means that the child will have trouble focusing their attention on a certain task. Moreover, their behavior will often be impulsive, and their daily life may be characterized by an overall hyperactivity [4].

This may lead to parents becoming less patient and more impulsive in reacting to their child’s behavior. This is often referred to as “parental overreactivity” [4]. Another troubling thing that parents of children with ADHD often fall prey to is inconsistent parenting. They might treat kids one way when they’re rested and feeling patient, but once they become tired and frustrated, the same parent will pivot 180 degrees and behave in exactly the opposite manner. And while ADHD is highly controlled by genes, certain experiences can increase a child’s susceptibility to it – inconsistent parenting being one of them [5].

What is more, parental stress often leads to the child’s externalizing behavior (showing more and more symptoms), which in turn, leads to even greater parental stress [6].  It’s a vicious cycle that, luckily, can be cut short by practicing mindfulness.

ASD and Stress

A lot of the points mentioned in relation to ADHD and parenting can also apply to ASD and parenting. The stress parents feel (especially mothers, studies show) is enormous, and it’s heightened when the child is exhibiting symptoms [2]. With ASD, behavior is also the issue.  It can be impulsive, but more often it’s repetitive and restrictive [2]. This and the fact that these kids struggle in social situations is enough to make their daily lives very difficult.

Besides stress, parents of children with ASD also tend to show signs of overreactivity, much like parents dealing with ADHD. ASD and ADHD share some similar symptoms in children, but almost the same symptoms in parents, which is why we decided to discuss both in this article.

Mindful Child = More Attention; Mindful Parent = Less Stress

So what is it in mindfulness that connects these two and can help children regardless of their specific behaviors? Well, when it comes to ADHD, the issue is that executive function and the ability to focus on something for a prolonged period of time are affected. On the other hand, a child with ASD may feel attacked by sensory input and will have trouble distracting themselves from it. As you can notice, the common trait is focus – either too little or too much of it.

What Can Mindfulness Do?

Mindfulness can help a child with ASD practice seeing negative sensory input as something neutral, and to accept thoughts, smells, or sounds as they come, without holding onto them. Specific mindfulness practices for ASD also offer an opportunity to find an anchor, and it’s best if that anchor is a neutral part of their body. It’s often the soles of their feet, which is how one of the techniques got its name.

By using this or similar techniques, the child can try to disregard the negative sensations and focus on the neutral ones (anchor themselves in the present moment) [7]. And when the distraction comes, instead of feeling guilty and holding onto it, they can accept it non-judgmentally, as something transitory. This will allow them to re-focus their attention on the anchor [1].

When it comes to practicing mindfulness, it’s highly recommended that you practice these techniques together with your children. That way, you can help your child feel less alone and you yourself can begin to understand the techniques better. Studies have shown that mindful meditation can also help parents significantly when it comes to feeling stressed, showing their own impulsive behavior (usually that of overreactivity), and even with some of their own ADHD symptoms [3].  All in all, we believe that a calm parent is better able to calm their child.

Specific Mindfulness Techniques for ADHD

For children with ADHD there are some specific exercises, such as:

  • “Noticing Walk”
  • Using a Yoga Deck
  • Mindful Eating
  • Describing Their Favorite Place

“Noticing Walk”

When doing this exercise, take a stroll around your house or around the park with your child [6]. This is more or less a “stop and smell the roses” kind of practice. You should stop often to notice different things around you. Stop next to some fallen leaves and tell your child to slowly step on them and feel and hear the crunchiness. Smell the flowers you see along the way. Start noticing the creases of your house’s outer walls and touch them slowly, or count all the apples on a tree. You can’t go wrong with this one, as long as you guide them to pay close attention to something and use their senses, such as touch or smell – the more senses, the better [6].

Using a Yoga Deck

A Yoga Deck is a deck of cards that contain different yoga poses [6]. You shuffle them, pick a card, and then try doing the poses together. Make sure to deepen and slow down your breathing [6]. Try to focus on the way your muscles feel. If you don’t want to buy a deck, you can always find some interesting (and not too difficult!) poses on the internet and practice those. Have fun!

Mindful Eating

This is an exercise that you can do daily. All these exercises work best if done daily, but we know that not everyone will have the time for that, giving our busy lives. But this one might be doable. Give your child some raisins, for example, or anything with an interesting texture. Ask them to eat the raisins one by one, slowly, and describe to you the creases, what kind of taste and feel they have. You can do this with any type of food as long as you inspire them to eat the food slowly and pay attention to each bite.

Describe Your Favorite Place

Finally, you can give them a pen and paper and tell them to describe their favorite place.  Encourage them to be as detailed as possible. Which colors can you see there? How does it smell? What kind of sounds can be heard? This will help them keep their attention on one thing and use all of their senses to focus on it.  You can also try this one out with every new place you visit together.

While they’re reading their description to you, you should close your eyes, take deep breaths, and take a tour inside your child’s favorite place. This practice is part of  the “guided meditation scripts”, so let your child’s descriptions guide you through what you’re imagining. After they read it to you, you can revise it and maybe rewrite it together, so they can add even more details. You can take turns with this exercise: describe your favorite place next! Now they can be the one breathing deeply and letting you guide them through your imagination!

You can find the description of all of these techniques in this downloadable PDF: https://www.additudemag.com/download/mindfulness-exercises-students/

Specific Mindfulness Techniques for ASD

When it comes to ASD mindfulness practices, we already mentioned one of the most popular ones – Soles of the Feet. Here are some more:

  • Bell-Listening Exercise
  • Bedtime Mindfulness
  • Snow Globe

Soles of the Feet

This is a great exercise for when your child is feeling stressed out and overwhelmed by sounds, smells, or any other sensory input [7]. When that happens, you can encourage them to pay attention and “move their energy” to a neutral part of their body – like the soles of their feet [7]. Tell them to really feel their soles, to think about how they feel in their shoes or on the carpet. They can wiggle their toes and start walking and noticing different sensations. Are they walking on grass or tiles? How does each of those feel? How are they different? You can even tell them to choose their favorite sensation and remember it specifically. That way, they can revisit it in their mind the next time they feel overwhelmed by their environment.

Bell-Listening Exercise

A listening exercise such as this one is a powerful way of connecting to the present moment. Ring a bell (if you don’t have one, you can use an app) and tell them to listen to and feel the vibrations of it. They should raise their hand once they can’t hear the ringing anymore. After that, they can start noticing other sounds for a minute and tell you what it is they can hear [7].

Bedtime Mindfulness

Much like with Mindful Eating, you can do this one regularly. Once your child is lying down in their bed, tell them to pay attention to their body, starting with their toes [7]. They should stretch them as much as they can, then ease them back (Progressive Muscle Relaxation). Alternatively, tell them to imagine that their legs are made of iron and sinking into the sheets. They start with one leg, then the other, then both, and they keep on doing that all the way up to their forehead. This is a great way to both connect to the body and relax before going to sleep.

Snow Globe

This is another exercise (next to Soles of the Feet) that can help your child calm down if they’re feeling stressed [7]. Shake the snow globe and tell them to pay attention to the snowflakes falling down and reaching the ground [7]. This will help them turn their attention to something beautiful instead of remaining stressed out. And since it takes a lot of time for the snow to drift down completely, it will give them plenty of time to calm down.

If you don’t happen to have a snow globe or if you just prefer something else, you can try using glitter wands or even try making your own glitter jar! That will give your child the additional sense of power. They will be bringing something beautiful to life, so the next time they feel stressed out they can use their very own creation to calm down.

Did you find this article helpful? If you would like to read more about similar topics, visit our Articles page!

 

References:

  1. Cassone, A.R. (2015). Mindfulness Training as an Adjunct to Evidence-Based Treatment for ADHD Within Families. Journal of Attention Disorders, Vol. 19(2) 147–157
  2. Ridderinkhof, A., Bruin, E.I., Blom, R., & Bögels, S. (2018). Mindfulness-Based Program for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Parents: Direct and Long-Term Improvements . Mindfulness, 9:773–791
  3. Conner, C., & White, S. (2014). Stress in mothers of children with autism: Trait mindfulness as a protective factor. Research in Autism Spectrum, 8, 617–624
  4. Oord, C., Bögels, S., & Peijnenburg, D. (2012). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness Training for Children with ADHD and Mindful Parenting for their Parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21:139-147
  5. Weijer-Bergsma, E., Formsma, A.R., Bruin, E.I., & Bögels, S. (2012). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness Training on Behavioral Problems and Attentional Functioning in Adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Child and Family Studies,21:775-787
  6. https://www.additudemag.com/download/mindfulness-exercises-students/
  7. http://blog.stageslearning.com/blog/six-simple-mindfulness-practices-for-kids-with-autism

 

New School Year Has Arrived

Happy New (School) Year!

The new school year is upon us. As a mom or dad with school-age kids, there are many extra “to-do’s” that appear on your list as you’re preparing for the big day; new clothes, new supplies, shoes that fit, haircuts, fall sports sign-ups or tryouts, etc. The kids need so many new items and it often feels there’s hardly time to take care of it all. I’ve been there and completely relate!

As you are well aware, being a parent is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever do! Not only do you have to think about all these tangible things, but you have to take care of your child’s emotional and academic needs as well.

As a mom, while I dreaded the “Back to School” shopping, that was really the easiest part, since the list was already made and I just needed to check it off. The other parts that didn’t come with an already-made checklist were the most overwhelming. So I created a couple of “cheat sheets” for you to refer to as you prepare to enter a new school year.

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL CHEAT SHEET

While you’re managing your own feelings as the school year approaches, remember that children are full of feelings they may not know how to manage themselves, too. For example, they may have “worries” about teachers and friends. It can be especially scary when they are attending a new school.  Of course, always listen to your child’s concerns – truly listen. Validate the reasons they feel that way. Let them know it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous, excited, eager, and a bit uneasy when going into a new situation. Then, reassure them that you have confidence in their abilities. They will cope and before long they’ll feel comfortable in their new class/school. If they still feel uneasy after several days, ask questions about what’s going on at school. There might be some bigger challenges there that you can help them resolve so they can stay focused on their learning.

And we can’t forget that we also have academic concerns and questions on our mind. Will my child do better this year? How can I help them succeed in school? If you’re thinking these things, then your kid probably is as well. Help them focus on their strengths as learners so that they can use those strengths to help them with their areas of improvement. Remind them that this is a fresh, new year and they can use their mindset to be the learner they know, and you know, they can be. Check out our article on developing a Growth Mindset for more information.


ROUTINES CHEAT SHEET

Establish routines

Before school starts, sit down for a “family meeting” with your kids and get their input about daily routines. Planning ahead can save headaches later on. When children know what to do and know their expectations, it’s easier for them to succeed. It’s not about having a strict unmalleable plan, it’s about decreasing stress through preparation. Plan out the routines that fit your household and lifestyle. This might include morning routines, afternoon routines, and bedtime routines. Talk about alarm time, breakfast, clothes, homework, backpacks, the time to leave the house, and method of transportation. Make checklists for each routine and post them where they can be seen. Instead of having to tell your child each step, every morning… all you have to say is, “Check the board.”
Include yourselves, as parents, in making your own routines. It never ceases to amaze me how helpful a checklist can be, especially on those mornings when we happen to get up late.

Implement and adjust the routines

A routine is a guideline, nothing more and nothing less. It works for you when you implement it. If you don’t implement, then it won’t work. So… follow the plan! Practice it for few days and then, if it needs to be adjusted, go ahead and adjust it because it is important to actually follow whatever plan you have set. You can always tweak it again until you arrive at the routine you can faithfully follow.

SCHOOLWORK CHEAT SHEET

Set aside a “Homework Space and Time”

With your child’s participation, set up a homework space and time. In this space, your child can complete their homework, study, or read. Having a set time daily to complete homework provides your child an easier and faster way to get this task accomplished. You might even assist your child in composing a checklist which they can review each day, so that something important is never missed. This checklist could include: 1) reviewing their learning for the day, 2) completing assignments, and/or 3) working on a long-term project. It’s a great habit to go into this space daily to review upcoming assignments and commitments, even when there is nothing due the very next day.

Let your child “struggle” (some)

Not all learning comes quickly and easily. Sometimes it takes review and work before the light bulb goes on. Too often it’s easy to give up!  Encourage your child to persist. Remind them of other things that they’ve learned, only because they kept practicing. Watching a baby learn to walk or eat with a spoon can remind them that they were exactly the same before they practiced that skill. The current challenge will become easier with practice.

Monitor your child’s progress

One of the things your child will HATE ( but you have to do anyway) is monitor their grades. There are many ways to keep track of your child’s grades on a weekly basis so there are fewer surprises at the end of the grading period. I checked my son’s grades twice a week on the school-parent gradebook site.  I could see when daily assignments were missing or if a test score was low. That provided a perfect opportunity to have a discussion. Also, it gave me a chance to recognize his hard work when I saw an excellent grade.  (He wasn’t about to tell me about this either.)

SUPPORTING YOUR STUDENT CHEAT SHEET

Don’t postpone getting help when your child really needs it

Realize that sometimes your child needs some extra assistance through no fault of their own. In our mobile society, many students change schools, school systems, or even different states and this causes them to miss content. Or maybe, your child was home sick with the flu when fractions were taught. Filling that “gap” with a tutor can do wonders to help your child get back on track.

Work together with the teacher(s) and school

When you have to make the trip up to school…

Start with finding something good to say. It can be about anything, as long as it’s genuine.

Show appreciation for the work the school does. This establishes a non-adversarial collaboration. Work with the school rather than against them.

Be as objective about your own child as you can be. Our children are so precious to us that as parents we sometimes can’t see them objectively. Every human being makes mistakes, and our children are not the exception.

Ask questions about your child’s behavior. “What does Johnny do in class?  Where does Johnny sit? Does Johnny seem distracted by his friends? Is there a time or subject where Johnny is very engaged in the learning?” The school sees your child in a different setting than you do, so you’re gathering information. Listen and realize they’re telling you what they perceive. Even when you hear something that makes you uncomfortable, remind yourself that the teacher wants the best for your kid, too.

Ask how you can help your child. Show willingness to work with the school. Ask about easy ways to communicate, so you can assist the teacher in helping your child learn. When you want a particular thing to happen… Ask if it can happen, rather than tell them to make it happen… Ask the reasons if something can’t be done.

Be patient. Remember that your child is not the only child in the class or in the school. Ask the teacher when they will be able to do something like, “When will you be able to email me about Johnny’s missing assignments?” Then, follow up to make sure the commitment is fulfilled. Similarly, be sure to uphold the commitments you make to the teacher – if you say you will check the backpack and binder daily, be sure to add that to your routine.

Thank the teacher for their time. Tell the teacher that they can call you anytime. Develop this into a win-win relationship and your child will be the beneficiary.

So, it’s time to go back to school. While life is hectic, and you seem to be always running, see which of these strategies you can implement to make your own life more sane and your child more successful. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your child.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, or you believe your child could benefit from the help of an academic coach and tutor, visit us at www.nobelcoaching.com to set that up.

 

Written by Nancy Marrufo