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!

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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

Is Playing Video Games Good or Bad for Children?

“You know what’s really exciting about video games is you don’t just interact with the game physically—you’re not just moving your hand on a joystick, but you’re asked to interact with the game psychologically and emotionally as well. You’re not just watching the characters on screen; you’re becoming those characters.” – Nina Huntemann, Game Over

Video games have become an integral part of popular culture, as well as one of the largest industries in the United States. They are a topic of extensive discussion, especially in the media. For more than a decade now, a vast majority of children in the United States engage in playing video games during childhood. Results of a nationally representative study of U.S. teenagers show us that 99% of boys and 94% of girls play video games [1].

Most young kids see video games as a social activity, rather than an isolating one, and they believe video games are a great way to spend time with their peers or even make new friends. While children often don’t see anything wrong with their engagement in video games, and like them because they are fun, exciting, and challenging, parents may worry about the potential negative effects they may have. Some parents may prefer that their children invest their time in other activities out of concern that video games could encourage violence and procrastination, which in turn could lead to neglect of school commitments, and even the development of addiction. In the aftermath of a violent incident or a display of antisocial behavior, the media often links the behavior to video-game use, and paints them as the cause, sometimes regardless of any correlation, which is why parents in turn focus more attention on the potential dangers of video games rather than their benefits. In this way, media can add fuel to the fire without really tackling the issue, leading parents to forget that games are today a normal part of modern childhood and to start believing their children shouldn’t be playing games at all, which can create conflict between them.

On the flip side, some psychologists suggest that video games can actually have many benefits, especially bearing in mind that “the nature of these games has changed dramatically in the last decade, becoming increasingly complex, diverse, realistic, and social in nature” [1, 2]. So, in order to understand the impact video games have on children’s development, we need to look at both the positive and the negative effects of these games.

Benefits of Video Games

Problem solving and decision-making skills

Games usually include some puzzles or other problem situations that players need to solve in order to get to the next level. Playing a game such as The Incredible Machine, Machinarium, Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, makes for an excellent workout for children’s minds as they have to use their logic skills and creativity in order to achieve a goal; they have to search, plan, and experiment with different approaches in order to solve puzzles and deal with other problems. Some scientists believe that video games could be used as training tools to develop quicker decision-making. They showed that video-games players had heightened sensitivity towards their environment and were able to make correct decisions more quickly than people who didn’t play games [3].

Hand-eye coordination, fine motor and spatial skills

Some games require the real-world players to keep track of the position of a character, where they are heading and at what speed, at the same time as they must keep an eye on diverse stimuli. The player has to take into account all these factors and then coordinate the brain’s interpretation with the movement of his hands. In order to accomplish all of this, the player requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and the utilization of visual-spatial ability. Research suggests that people who play video games have better visual-spatial attention skills and are more successful in visual processing of images than non-gamers [5,6]. Meta-analysis studies show that, by playing video games, spatial skills can be acquired in a relatively short time, and that the results are often comparable to formal training designed to enhance the same skills [7]. This effect is well-known, as, nowadays, pilots and surgeons are being trained on video games (you can check out the game which is a validated training tool for laparoscopic motor skills, right here).

Multitasking skills

Being able to effectively and quickly switch between two or more tasks is an important skill in life. It’s been suggested that video games may enhance one’s ability to apprehend and track many shifting variables and manage multiple objectives. Some researchers report that children who played video games performed significantly better compared to other children on a version of the multiple-object tracking task [4]. This multitasking ability can especially be seen in strategy games where a player must take care of lots of different buildings and units and can encounter many unexpected surprises, which forces them to be flexible and change tactics quickly and accordingly.

Negative Effects of Video Games on Children

Aggression in Children

It’s a widespread concern that violent video games promote aggression, reduce prosocial behavior, increase impulsivity, and have a negative effect on children’s mood. Parents are afraid that this is yet another form of media, besides TV shows, movies, comics, etc., where children can encounter violence daily and become desensitized to it. By now, much research has been conducted showing that playing violent video games increases aggression in children, leading to a lack of empathy and prosocial behavior [8]. These studies are usually conducted by having children play an aggressive game (e.g. Grand Theft Auto) and assessing their aggression afterwards. On the other hand, there is also a lot of research that provided evidence of video games having only immediate and short-term effects on aggression, or even that they have the opposite effect – they make children less aggressive, and that, in the long term, video games are not promoting or causing aggression in players in their offline lives [9].

It is still unclear if playing aggressive games really does cause the player to become aggressive. Some would argue that it’s not that games that are making people aggressive, it’s just that gamers who already have aggressive tendencies are more attracted to these kinds of games. If you’re a parent and you have a concern that your child is showing aggressive behavior and is unwilling to talk to you about it, you might want to consider talking with a parent with a similar problem, or even try to find someone who has expertise in the subject.

Gaming Addiction

There is no doubt that video games can indeed be highly addictive, as they can lead to behavioral dependency characterized by an excessive or compulsive use of computer or video games, which can interfere with one’s everyday life.

While it may be controversial, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” as a disorder in June, 2018. In order for a diagnosis to be assigned, the behavioral pattern should be evident over a period of at least 12 months, and should result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other areas of functioning. Gaming Disorder is manifested by [10]:

  1. Impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context)
  2. Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities
  3. Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences

On the other hand, the American Psychological Association (APA) concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to determine whether the condition is a unique mental disorder, but they are subjecting gaming to further research (along with caffeine-use disorder and several others) [11].

We can also talk about the consequences that investing too much time in playing games can have on some of the important aspects of children’s lives.

Poor academic performance. This is one of the negative consequences of extended and reckless engagement in video games. As with any activity, if children are devoting a lot of their time to playing video games, their school performance can be affected as they’ll have less time for their school obligations. There’s an obvious correlation between these two.

Adverse effects on health. Video games also have an indirect effect on physical health, if children are choosing video games over physical activity (here you can read our take on why children should take up sports). Children who are too invested in games can easily skip meals or even sleep in order to play the games they like.

What’s the Verdict? Are Video Games Good or Bad?

Video games are neither good nor bad. Technically, video games are just games with a visual component, and can be more social and distracting due to constant availability. They can be used as powerful teaching and skill-honing tools but can also be over-used and have an overwhelming effect on a child’s life if they frequently get angry and frustrated while playing games. It all comes down to appropriate and moderate use. Video games are fun and can sometimes enrich a person’s life and create happiness, but they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for living your own life outside a video game.

Young children especially have problems with this line, so parents need to help them by providing understanding, support, and guidance while also imposing rules when necessary. We’ll now take a look at just how parents can help children maximize the benefits of video games while minimizing their potential harm.

Parents as Mediators in Children’s Gaming Life

– Take the time to get to know your children’s habits around video games, but also do the research and know about the content and rating of the video games they play. Try talking with them about their feelings and observations about the games they play in order to understand what drives them to play them.

– Set limits on how long and how often your children can play games, and make sure they do it in their spare time, after finishing their homework or chores around the house. Monitor your child’s video game consumption while also showing respect and a willingness to understand their playing time. Modern online games often don’t have a pause button, and currently many popular games are matches played with other people, in real time. So try talking with your child to set up more appropriate restrictions; for example, it might be more appropriate to make a deal and say “1 game” instead of “30 minutes”.

– Find a game you can play together, as this can be a good bonding activity for the whole family. If they know more about a particular game than you, you can act as their pupil and see how good they are in the role of teacher. Here you can find some games to play with children of different ages.

– Try to use video games to increase children’s school engagement by motivating them to learn through games. There is a large number of educational games to choose from which can help with learning, math, history, etc. Having fun while studying makes children persistent and less likely to quit, as some video games are capable of making difficult subjects fun and easy to understand. If you’re unsure about mixing technology and education, you should definitely read our article on this subject.

– If you’re afraid that your child is addicted to playing video games, try to help them recognize their compulsive behavior. Encourage them not to feel guilty or ashamed and be patient with them. If you have trouble communicating how you feel about them excessively playing games, don’t be embarrassed or scared to ask for help. Here on Nobel Coaching & Tutoring, we have amazing Coaches who can help you with this.

References:

  1. Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American Psychologist, 69(1), 66.
  2. Ferguson, C. J., & Olson, C. K. (2013). Friends, fun, frustration and fantasy: Child motivations for video game play. Motivation and Emotion, 37(1), 154-164.
  3. Green, C. S., Pouget, A., & Bavelier, D. (2010). Improved probabilistic inference as a general learning mechanism with action video games. Current Biology, 20(17), 1573-1579.
  4. Trick, L. M., Jaspers-Fayer, F., & Sethi, N. (2005). Multiple-object tracking in children: The “Catch the Spies” task. Cognitive Development, 20(3), 373-387.
  5. Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2006). Effect of action video games on the spatial distribution of visuospatial attention. Journal of experimental psychology: Human perception and performance, 32(6), 1465.
  6. Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2007). Action-video-game experience alters the spatial resolution of vision. Psychological science, 18(1), 88-94.
  7. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201402/are-there-benefits-in-playing-video-games
  8. Anderson, C. A., Shibuya, A., Ihori, N., Swing, E. L., Bushman, B. J., Sakamoto, A., … & Saleem, M. (2010). Violent video game effects on aggression, empathy, and prosocial behavior in Eastern and Western countries: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 136(2), 151.
  9. Kühn, S., Kugler, D. T., Schmalen, K., Weichenberger, M., Witt, C., & Gallinat, J. (2018). Does playing violent video games cause aggression? A longitudinal intervention study. Molecular psychiatry, 1.
  10. https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http://id.who.int/icd/entity/1448597234
  11. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/internet-gaming

5 Things Your Child Needs (Depending on Their Age)

It’s no secret that there are certain things that all children need, regardless of how old they are. These things are love, respect, support, and understanding. However, during the course of their development and growth, some needs are stronger than others and, according to a well-renowned psychologist, Erik Erikson, unless these needs are met, they’ll have trouble reaching their full potential in the next stages of their life.

These needs are, in order:

  • Trust
  • Autonomy
  • Initiative
  • Industry
  • Identity

There are three more phases for ages over 18 (Intimacy, Generativity, Integrity), but we will stick to the ones important before adulthood.

Trust

This stage lasts from birth until the child is (roughly) one and a half years old. During this time, the child is uncertain about – everything, really. Their entire world consists of an unintelligible mixture of colors, sounds, and touch. In this stage, their primary caregiver(s) are their only connection to the world they were thrown into and that’s when the feeling of trust develops. If they start noticing that their needs are consistently met (whether it be hunger or diapers), they can start trusting the world and people around them to help them when they need it. The trust they develop will also lead to hope and optimism.

Autonomy

This stage is a challenge for many parents. After the first stage and up until their third year, children will start exploring. If they’ve developed enough trust, they’ll have no problem walking away from their parents, playing alone, or asking to try new things by themselves, such as putting on their clothes or making something by themselves.

As much as parents want to be there for their child, allowing them to be autonomous in this period is very important, as it will later on lead to them developing the will to try and do something new and challenging.

Here’s a few ways you can help them along the way:

  • If your child says they want to dress themselves, don’t jump in as soon as you see them struggling. Wait until they ask for assistance. If you don’t, they might start feeling powerless rather than autonomous.
  • You may notice your child is starting to play on their own, maybe even break their toys in an attempt to create something new. This is nothing to worry about! They’re simply trying out their strength and skills and trying to see what will happen if they do this or that. By understanding their own abilities, they’ll be on their way to becoming confident and empathetic.

Initiative

Once they’re trusting and autonomous enough, children will start exploring the world of initiative. During this period, they’ll be practicing their interpersonal skills by initiating games, conversations, and different activities. You can help them fulfill this need by doing the following:

  • If you notice that your child is showing initiative which might be dangerous for them (maybe something that includes running across the street), don’t simply criticize them and tell them NO. Instead, try to help them think of something similar, yet less dangerous, like running around the swings in a park, or in their backyard. Make sure to do this in a positive way by explaining to them why you are changing their idea. For example, you can say: “The road can be dangerous, but running is a great idea! How about we do it in the backyard?”
  • Spend more time with them, even if you don’t find their games interesting (or if they don’t make sense). If they’ve initiated some made-up game and they invited you to play with them, don’t explain to them that the rules don’t make sense etc. Be proud that your child is taking initiative.
  • This is the period when they’ll be playing with other children as well. If you see them attempting to “sell” their idea and another child opposing them, don’t jump right in to defend them. They’ll struggle with initiative, but letting them do things themselves is very important during this period.

 

That being said, if things get loud and violent, it’s okay to calm the situation down by acting as a mediator – we don’t need any bruises over the choice of a game!

 

The challenge for parents during this time is trying to protect their children while, at the same time, allowing them to express themselves. If you manage to do this, your child will develop a sense of purpose.

Industry

Between the ages of 5 and 12, the child’s teachers and peer group start gaining more significance. This period will be similar to the stage of autonomy, as the child will also start exploring their skills and abilities, but this time they’ll have a clear goal: to impress others and gain confidence. You can help them with it in the following ways:

– Praise their strengths. If you notice your child is great at writing, don’t simply accept it as if it were expected. Praise their stories, their poems, their A’s. If you’re not sure where their strengths lie, talk to their teachers and ask for their opinions.

– Try to understand what things they are not particularly confident about. If they feel bad for being the smallest kid in class, don’t joke by saying something like, “Hey, then you can be the best miniature golfer in the world!” It’s okay to joke about short-term situations – them getting a C, for example – as that breaks the tension. But since this is something very important to them and they might be living through it for years, joking might make it worse.

Instead, focus on their strengths when talking about it. Tell them that it doesn’t matter how tall someone is if they are the greatest writer ever, or if they are an amazing soccer player. However, if that trait is something they can change, make a game-plan. For example, if they are not too confident about dancing, you can try watching some YouTube tutorials and practicing together.

If your child is aware of their strengths and weaknesses (and how to improve them), this period will result in competence.

Identity

Finally, during adolescence, your child will start to struggle with developing their own sense of identity. They’ll try to figure out where they fit in and what their role in society is. Furthermore, they’ll be looking for their calling and looking for people whose life philosophy matches their own.

The important things to do during this period are:

  • Trust your child and speak to them without accusations and a lack of understanding. If your child is suddenly dressing in all black and listening to some strange music, try not to attack them over it. Since they’ve already developed a sense of trust, you can sit them down and ask them what they like about that music and style of clothes. Try to phrase your questions in such a way to demonstrate that you want to understand them, not pry into their life. Ask if you can get their playlist – who knows, maybe you’ll find something you’ll enjoy!
  • If you notice they aren’t speaking to you as much as they used to, don’t take it personally – they’ll start turning to their friends much more during this period. The best thing you can do is remind them that you are always there if they need to talk to you and that you would love to be a part of their life. Don’t push or pressure them. During this period, your biggest challenge will be the virtue of patience.

Chances are, your child will go through many different changes in this period, which is perfectly normal, since everything else in their life is changing as well – their body, thoughts, expectations… For parents, this might be the most challenging period of all. But if you have patience and talk with them often, you’ll help them find themselves and develop a sense of fidelity.

Was this article helpful to you? Are there any other topics you’d like to read about in the future? Let us know!

 

Slipping Down the Summer Slide – Summer Learning Loss

For school-age children, summer has a special charm – it means a two-months-long break with no schoolwork! Of course, what children don’t realize is the negative effect a break of this length can have on them in the long run.

The phenomenon called “summer slide” is being talked about more and more now, and for good reason. What actually occurs for children during summer break is summer learning loss – they forget what they learned during the school year and lose learning habits, so once they’re back in school, it takes weeks, or even months, to get back on track.

Summer learning loss is not the same for every child or evident in every subject. It’s been shown that  the loss is greatest in mathematics and that the most affected element is computation. Spelling is also greatly impacted. Therefore, children will most likely suffer more in the areas of factual and procedural knowledge than in conceptual understanding. Also, as children get older, the effect of the summer loss is more evident [1]. We tend to think older children and teenagers can “fight” the effects of  the summer slide on their own, yet without guidance and help there is a huge loss during the summer break, especially as they begin to build up more resistance towards advice from adults.

Summer learning loss is not the same for every child or evident in every subject. It is proven the loss is greatest in mathematics and that the most affected element is computation. Spelling is also greatly impacted. Therefore, children will most likely suffer more in the areas of factual and procedural knowledge than in conceptual understanding. Also, as children get older, the effect of the summer loss is more evident [1]. We think older children and teenagers can “fight” effects of the summer slide on their own, yet without guidance and help there is a huge loss during the summer time, especially as they begin to build up more resistance towards the advice of the adults.

Learning is a continuous process and every interruption can affect it and slow it down. That is why among the solutions that scientists and educators offer is having the school year extended to be year round. The debate as to the efficacy of this idea is ongoing, but clearly the summer break does provide time for children to learn new things. Professor Peter Grey says: “So, take away summer, and we will produce lots of graduates who know how to do calculations but have no idea why anyone would do them other than to pass a test” [2].

So how can you help your child avoid summer learning loss, and maybe even establish better use for the knowledge gained at school by combining it with new things? We’re here to offer you some practical advice on how to prevent your child “sliding down” this summer.

 

How to “fight” the summer slide

One study showed that something as simple as text-messaging interventions to parents over the summer break can help with the summer slide. Parents were sent texts with signals (information about summer learning loss), and ideas and tips for working over the summer with their children. Results showed these interventions had a positive effect on third and fourth graders [3]. This suggests that with simple, low-cost effort from both school and parents, summer slide can be prevented.

Yet you don’t need the school SMS reminders and ideas to remember to help your children. If you want to help them study and not lose needed skills during the break, be there for them and come up with fun activities you can do together or separately, while also leaving time for them to have fun on their own.

Make a calendar As seen in the above study, having a reminder and set ideas is half of the work. Try to make working with your child as structured as possible – Monday can be for a new vocabulary word, Tuesday, a real-life practical math challenge, Wednesday can be for reading along, etc. This will simplify the work, save your time and make it routine.

School and community programs: School programs are usually every parent’s first idea, so spots tend to fill up really quickly. That is why we advise you to look around your community and different community centers for various fun programs your child can participate in. There is a wide spectrum of Boy and Girl Scouts activities, youth-at-risk programs, athletics, environmental projects, volunteer programs, etc [4]. While some of them have a lower “study” component than others – like volunteering – they can certainly help your child build up work habits, learn some new, fun activity and stay engaged. While scouting or volunteering, your child can use the school-free time for acquiring some valuable life knowledge that can help them a great deal in the future.

Importance of reading: The summer is a perfect time to visit your local library with your child! Together, you can make a summer reading list – the child can select books that seem interesting, and you can add in some that you find worthwhile. On top of that, encourage your children, especially younger ones, to constantly read something – even the newspaper, food recipes, and TV guides are valuable! The goal is to read often, and also to read aloud as much as possible [5].

Be there for your child: As mentioned, parent help is incredibly valuable in preventing summer slide. That’s why you should first encourage your child to make a summer journal of things they learn every day. This way you can follow their journey and see how it works, and they can track their success as well, getting even more motivated to continue. When designing a reading program, be sure to choose books to read together. Make everyday activities you do together into a learning process – while driving, you can ask them about colors and shapes and patterns [6], and if the child is older, you can practice a bit of orientation or geography along the way. The key is to follow their progress, see what they lack in their summer program and make it all as fun as possible.

Finding help in coaching: Most parents have very busy agendas and have summer schedule conflicts, so they can’t afford to spend more time during the break to study with their child. This is completely fine, since you can always find someone who can work with them. We can offer you one of our Coaches who have great experience in working with children – you can arrange sessions for your child, and they’ll work on fighting the summer-slide problem! While you should still be there for your child and help them as much as possible, coaching is a great supplement!

 

Summer camps against the slide

One of the more effective and beneficial summer-slide fighters is clearly the summer camp. Through participation in the camp, a child gains new knowledge, meets new friends, enjoys a new environment, and doesn’t suffer significant learning loss, since they’re still exercising their brain and practicing learning habits.

Among the most popular and useful camps are STEM camps, where children can combine their school learning with practical applications and master future-ready skills.

We have created the Nobel Explorers program of online STEM camps, which can be most beneficial in fighting summer slide. International groups of students work together on a variety of interesting and useful projects, combining what they’ve learned in school along with practical and fun knowledge that they won’t find at their desks. There are different types of camps for different ages, so some of the older children might enjoy a camp about start-ups, while younger ones are certainly going to take pleasure in building logic machines in Minecraft.

What is also unique is that our program puts emphasis on soft skills as well, because these are as important for the growth of your children as the STEM aspects. And as the students come from all over the world, the child will have an exceptional opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and make new friends from different cultures. Our programs are affordable for everyone and easily available online, so your child can participate even while on vacation.

With all these options, no one can convince us that the summer break is a waste of time! You have time to make the most out of August, even practice these things when the school year starts. Finally, keep it all in mind for the next summer, set a reminder for the next May, and plan your student’s summer slide prevention activities in time to make it as useful and as fun as possible.

 

[1] Kerry, T., & Davies, B. (1998). Summer learning loss: The evidence and a possible solution. Support for Learning, 13(3), 118-122.

[2]  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201707/facts-and-fiction-about-the-so-called-summer-slide

[3] Kraft MA, Monti-Nussbaum M. Can schools enable parents to prevent summer learning loss? A text messaging field experiment to promote literacy skills. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science [Internet]. 2017;674 (1) :85-112.

[4] Kerry, T., & Davies, B. (1998). Summer learning loss: The evidence and a possible solution. Support for Learning, 13(3), 118-122.

[5] https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/reading-resources/developing-reading-skills/three-ways-to-prevent-summer-slide.html

[6]  https://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/ask-dr-lynch/preventing-summer-slide.shtml

 

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

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Talking to Your Child About Tragic Events

You turn on the TV in the morning and the first thing you hear about is another shooting. Unfortunately, this isn’t such a rare occurrence lately.  If you’re a parent, the first thought that comes to mind is probably “How will I explain this to my child” and this thought is even more concerning when you realize that you have to tell them about something we as adults can’t fully grasp ourselves.

When faced with this question, many parents’ first instinct is to shield their children. Turn that TV off, hide the newspapers, even go out somewhere where the chance of hearing bad news is close to zero. This is especially true if you have a young child who still doesn’t have their own way of hearing about what’s going on in the world on a daily basis. But our first instincts are not always right and, in fact, we may be doing more harm than good by shielding our children.

The truth is, in today’s world it’s almost impossible to hide something from your child, no matter how young they are. Sooner or later, they ’ll hear about whatever tragic event you are trying to hide from them, and they won’t know how to make sense of it. Hearing about these events accidentally from strangers will most likely make them feel less safe than if you’d explained what happened and talked with them about it.

It’s also crucial to talk with children about these events because they often occur due to discrimination or hatred towards a particular group of people. In choosing not to tell our children about this, we raise them to be insensitive to many of the problems people face and they’re more likely to dismiss the complaints of minority and discriminated groups, simply because they were never exposed to these challenges themselves. We, instead,  are raising them under a generic umbrella statement parents often use “We are all equal”. Parents usually mean this and want to teach their children about the importance of equality and inclusion. But the consequences of not facing reality can mean that when your child learns about Charlottesville or events similar to this, they react with “But we are all equal” confusion. By talking about events such as Charlottesville or the more recent Florida school shooting, and the motives behind them, we’re teaching our children to be more sensitive to complicated issues, and more conscious about the world they live in. Honest and thought-out conversations are more likely to make our children able to understand morally complex issues than blanket statements that can lose all meaning as soon as something unexpected happens.

Raising more conscious children, together with making them feel as safe as possible when these events occur, is why we should try to fight the urge to turn off the TV and engage in an honest talk with our child instead. Of course, how we approach these topics depends on the children’s age, too. It’s extremely important to discuss such events in an age-appropriate way.

Talking with Younger Children

  1. NEWS OFF, TALK ON

Even though we said you should resist the urge to turn off the TV, if you’re the parent of a younger child, turning off all media outlets isn’t such a bad idea –  but this doesn’t mean you should pretend that nothing tragic ever happens. Constant exposure to news might be too much to handle for your young child and might be too confusing, especially if they hear reports from different sources or if investigations are ongoing. Instead of having the news running, sit down with your child and tell them what happened. There’s no need to be too graphic, but try not to beat around the bush when it comes to the more difficult parts of the story. There might be a need to explain the concept of death in these situations. Explain it.

  1. LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY

If you weren’t with your child when they first heard the news, ask them what they heard and what that means to them, and listen to everything they have to say without interrupting them. This will help you realize how your child is processing the event and give you guidelines on what to talk about with them. Don’t hesitate to try to explain the motives behind some of these crimes in a language they’ll understand, especially if they ask why somebody committed them. But, since these events are usually hard to grasp even for adults, don’t feel like you need to give an answer to every question. If you don’t know something, it’s okay to say that you don’t know it. Even if your child is young, they might surprise you by how much they actually understand about the world.

  1. SHARE YOUR FEELINGS

Parents usually don’t want their children to see them as vulnerable, but it’s important to show children that these events are upsetting to adults as well. By sharing our feelings, we also validate their own feelings and give them a chance to see that we can carry on even if we feel upset and these events make us worry. Talk with your child about how they feel and make sure that they know you understand and acknowledge their feelings.

  1. REASSURE

When these tragic events happen, as well as considering how to shield our children from the news, we also think about how to reassure them if they do hear about them. Reassuring is actually an important part of talking about these things. Make sure that your child knows that you will do everything in your power to keep them safe, that they know you are there for them and that they are loved. In the end, it always boils down to this.

Talking with Teens

All the tips above apply equally to talking with your teen, but there are also some specific things you can cover when talking with adolescents about tragic events, especially those involving their peers, such as the school shootings.

  1. DISCUSS THE EVENT ONLY IF THEY WANT TO

Instead of pushing your teen to talk about a certain event right then and there, give them some time to process it and let them come to you when they’re ready to talk about it. If they never want to talk about it, that’s fine, too. They might have their own ways of coping with it or the event didn’t affect them as much as you thought it did.

Make sure they know you’re available to discuss the event and all that it entails with them, and that you won’t judge them no matter how they feel or think about it. Also, don’t treat them like children. Of course, you should be mindful of their age, but don’t try to shield them from everything and don’t shy away from complicated topics. They probably already read a lot about it in the media, and it’s much better they talk it over with you than to read comments on the Internet.

If you see that they want to learn more about a certain issue or event, try to find some books they could read that cover a similar issue. You can even read them together and discuss them.

 

  1. ENCOURAGE THEM TO TAKE ACTION IF THEY WANT TO

If you notice that your teen wants to do something about what happened, be sure to let them know that there are things they can do and that they shouldn’t feel like they can’t help or that the situation is beyond help and hopeless. You can encourage them to go online and find causes they can volunteer for, or think about what they like doing and try to figure out how that can be used to help the cause. For instance, if your teen likes writing and wants to stop gun violence, you can encourage them to learn more about it and write a blog, or get their friends to work on the blog together. If they enjoy drawing and/or graphic design, they could help various organizations create slogans and leaflets. And if they’re more interested in the tech side of things, they could even work on an app that would show where organizations that help prevent gun violence are located or who to contact if you need help. The options are endless!

In March, 17 people were killed in a Florida high school and many students wanted to do something about it, so a National School Walkout was organized and students went to the streets to protest gun violence. If your child wants to participate in a peaceful protest like this one and you think they’re mature enough to do it, don’t be afraid to let them fight for their rights. They can only become responsible citizens if they are aware of the world around them and aware of the fact that they count and can help make changes.

Last but not least, and this applies to children of all ages, be sure to keep track of how they are behaving. If you see that they are more agitated than they used to be or can’t sleep well, talk to them about it. If they are quiet and withdrawn, try to find out how they feel and if there is something they’d like to share. It is normal that their behavior is unusual when something tragic happens, but it is of extreme importance to make sure that they don’t feel alone or scared and that they feel protected. And if you think your child took it pretty hard and you don’t know how to handle it, don’t hesitate to contact a professional who will know how best to guide your child to overcome their challenge.

 

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

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