Helping Your Child Deal with Your New Marriage

There are many changes that occur between the time a marriage dissolves and the time a new home is established. Children go through it all, along with their parents. In some ways, the journey is even harder for the kids; they are often unwilling passengers on a train that’s going to a place they don’t want to go. This can be especially true when a parent introduces the idea of remarriage.

If you are about to let your children know about your plans to remarry, consider the following tips:

Talk Little, Listen Much
It’s not complicated: you want to get married to someone who isn’t the parent of your kids. One sentence can convey this idea. After you say that sentence, allow the kids to react. Listen to what they have to say and nod your head even before you open your mouth. Keep nodding! When you finally do say something, it should be nothing more than a summary of what your child has said – particularly if the child has expressed negative thoughts and feelings. Consider the following dialogue, for example:

Parent: I want to let you know that Dan and I want to get married in the spring.
Child: Well if you do that then I’m leaving home.
Parent: (nods)
Child: There’s no way I’m living with him in this house.
Parent: (nods)
Child: He’s such a phony. I hate him!”
Parent: (nods)
Child: So you better rethink this thing.
Parent: (nods and adds:) You don’t want Dan in this family – you don’t want to live with him, you hate him – as far as you’re concerned, he’s just a phony.
Child: Exactly.
Parent: I understand.

There is no need to go further in the conversation at this point. The child is too emotionally aroused to deal with the information or to have a reasonable conversation about it. He needs time to process what has been said so far. Enormous changes are about to occur in his life. He’s in a state of shock, denial and rage about it all. This is not the time to tell him to “get used to it because this is what’s happening!” In fact, this first conversation isn’t the time to provide any sort of education, cheerful promises, corrective messages or anything else. It is particularly NOT the time to explain your motives, justify your decision or otherwise defend your position. Keep in mind that you are the adult and you are the one who is in charge and will make all the decisions. The child is powerless and he knows it. That is part of the reason for his extremely negative reaction.

Move Forward with Your Plans
Although you are welcoming and accepting your child’s feelings, you are not changing your plans. Carry on as usual with your new partner and go ahead and make marriage arrangements in front of your child (that is, don’t sneak around, hiding evidence of this activity). When your child protests, listen without judgment. Avoid making any remarks meant to change the child’s feelings to happier ones. For instance, DO NOT SAY anything similar to the following statements:

  • don’t worry – you’ll soon love Dan as much as I do
  • you’ll see – we’re going to be so happy together
  • Dan is a great man – you just have to get to know him better
  • you’ll love his kids and we’ll all be one big happy family

There is no need to stop the child from expressing his displeasure unless he is being rude to you or disrespectful to your partner. For instance, if your youngster says things like “I hate Dan. The guy’s a jerk!” you might say something like, “I understand you don’t feel positively toward Dan and that’s fine – no one can make you like someone you don’t like. However, I do not accept disrespectful speech, name-calling or insulting language. I don’t mind if you want to tell me your feelings about Dan, but you need to do so in a respectful way. It’s totally cool to say ‘Mom, I just don’t like Dan.’ If you have to say, say it that way. Remember, in this house we don’t GIVE and we don’t ACCEPT disrespectful speech.”

Respond to Questions
If you are careful not to shut your child down with your own anger, lectures, criticisms, excess information and cheerful pep-talks, your child is more likely to continue talking to you about his feelings about your plans to remarry. This is a good thing – you want your child to get everything off his chest. Be prepared for a barrage of questions:

  • where is everyone going to sleep?
  • what will happen to the way the house looks and runs?
  • what if he tries to tell me what to do?
  • where will he put his things?
  • where will his children stay when they visit?
  • what if we don’t like the way he cooks or cleans?
  • what if we don’t want him using our stuff?

And so on and so forth. Again, don’t answer in a sing-song voice, dismissing the questions with a bright “it will all work out – you just wait and see!” Instead, say things like,

  • Good question.
  • We’ll have to experiment at first and find the best solution.
  • It will probably take some time before we develop a routine that works.
  • It may be awkward at first.
  • Sometimes there are differences that we can’t make disappear.
  • Probably it won’t be perfect.
  • It may not be easy – especially at first.

Your child may also fish for reassurance that you will still be available as a parent. Again, don’t sweep the worry away by saying, “There’s plenty of time for everyone and everything! It will all work out!” Instead, acknowledge the valid concerns. Your acknowledgment actually helps the child to trust you more and helps reduce some of the emotional distress he is feeling. Say things like,

  • You’re right – there will be a new person in the house and my attention will be divided in a way that it isn’t right now. Right now you have me all to yourself. That will definitely change. It may not be easy at first.
  • There will be an adjustment period. After some time, we’ll figure out the best way to be together and apart, to have private time, me & you time, family time and other times. We’ll work it out by experimenting and learning.

Remarriage is a serious undertaking – and a difficult one. Your child deserves serious attention to his concerns. Even if you yourself are feeling totally in love, happy and optimistic about the undertaking, your child may be in a very different space – feeling uncertain, frightened, angry, hurt, lost and confused. Acknowledging and welcoming all these feelings helps them to leave more quickly. Ignoring them or wishing them away can cause them to stay buried inside where they can eventually lead to many kinds of distressing symptoms such as behavior problems, emotional problems, addictions, mental health disorders and more.

Address Negativity toward a Stepparent
Children don’t want more parents – particularly stepparents. They normally make this clear by saying things like, “He’s not going to be the boss of me. I’m never listening to him.” Acknowledge the child’s feelings and accept them as usual: “ You’ve already got a mother and father and you don’t want any more parents!” Again, make realistic statements. Depending on the age of the child you may say things like,

  • We’ll figure out how to live together day by day. We’ll work out the problems as they arise.
  • Your feelings will always be respected and acknowledged. I’ll do my best to make sure you feel comfortable in your own home and that my new partner relates to you in a way that will be as comfortable for you as possible. We all know that he is not your father. You’ll have a different sort of relationship with him than you have with your Dad.

Patience and Time is Required
Your child is going to go through an adjustment period. You cannot rush him into a happy relationship with your new spouse. Although it may be counter-intuitive, acknowledging the difficulty and pain of the situation will speed things along, helping your child to be open to enjoying his new life with his new family much more quickly and fully. Don’t expect this to happen overnight; allow your youngster to go through whatever he has to go through in whatever time it takes. Your calm understanding, compassion and patience will help your child more than you can imagine.

Provide opportunities for interaction before re-marriage. Do not rush to marriage just yet – do allow possibilities for your new family to spend time together first. This is to make your children feel at ease, instead of them seeing the both of you planning and working on the marriage all of a sudden.

Eating to Improve Focus, Attention, and Concentration

There are lots of reasons why a child might have trouble focusing – there are so many possible internal and external challenges. Some children’s brains have a very low tolerance for boredom; for these kids focus is hard to attain unless they are engaged in an activity that holds their interest. Some kids have such active minds that everything seems to grab their attention, viagra making it hard for them to zero in one on just one thing. Teens are particularly prone to self-induced fatigue (from staying up too late) which makes focused attention hard for them. Moreover, health in today’s world of beeping, bleeping toys and tools, everyone seems to have a harder time focusing.

No matter why a child is having trouble focusing. dietary changes may help. Consider the following tips:

Certain Foods Contribute to Inattention
Many studies associate sugar consumption with symptoms of restlessness and inattention. Different children have different levels of reactivity and sensitivity to different kinds of sugar. The only way to know whether removing a particular sugar is going to help your child’s ability to focus, is to experiment. Having said this, keep in mind that most people of all ages suffer negative effects of high amounts of sugar in the diet. To do your experiment, remove, or even just significantly reduce, a source of sugar from your child’s diet and note what happens. Start with high glycemic sugars like white sugar and brown sugar. Move on to maple syrup, honey and agave. If you are using other sugars, remove them as well as part of your experiment. What is wrong with processed and refined sugar? They would immediately go to your child’s bloodstream, increasing his or her blood glucose level. High blood glucose means that your body will have difficulty metabolizing essential nutrients. The immediate impact of high blood glucose is stress inside the body, making it difficult to focus and concentrate.

Increase Protein
Centers in the brain responsible for attention and focus rely on two amino acids: tyrosine and tryptophan. Consuming a diet rich in these two amino acids can help increase focus. Protein-rich foods like meat, eggs and dairy products are high in tyrosine and tryptophan. The same goes for soy, nuts and legumes. Bananas, brown rice, tomatoes, avocado, pineapples and beets are also good vegetarian sources of tyrosine and tryptophan. In addition, there are natural tyrosine and tryptophan supplements available in health stores.

Eat Moderately
Note: the ability to focus depends not just on what you eat, but on how much you eat. If your child eats too much – even if the food is wholesome –  feelings of fatigue and lethargy may impact on the ability to concentrate. Similarly, eating too little will make a child prone to hunger pangs and stress – making it all the more difficult to concentrate. Children in the habit of skipping meals are less likely to be able to focus than children who eat on time regularly.

Consider Food Sensitivities
Sometimes food intolerances, sensitivities or allergies can agitate a child’s entire body and mind. This can cause a range of disturbances that might impact on concentration and focus such as foggy brain, hyperactivity, distractibility, anxious feelings and more. A professional naturopath, dietician, allergist, medical doctor or other health care provider may be able to help you explore this possible cause of focusing difficulties. Or, you may experiment with adding and subtracting foods from the diet in a systematic way to note whether concentration improves or worsens in relation to those changes.

Lurking Dangers in the Home

About to bring home your newborn? Make sure the air is free from excess dust and pollutants than can cause serious damage to an infant’s lungs. Your baby’s starting to walk? Make certain the stairs are safely gated, and there are no shaky pieces of furniture that might topple over. Have a curious preschooler living under your roof? You better secure all things sharp, hot and toxic.

As your children go through the various stages of their development, the risk that they might encounter a household hazard gets higher. And yet, your home should be the safest place in the world for your children. To make it so, you will need to exert some effort to make it child proof.

The following are some of the common causes of accidents in the home, and ways parents can help protect their kids from them:

Poison Risks
Children are curious by nature. They grab anything that catches their eye, opening boxes and bottles just to discover what’s inside. In addition, little ones learn by “mouthing” everything – they don’t think twice about putting whatever they touch right into their mouth. Therefore, in order to protect your children from poisonous chemicals in the house, make sure these chemicals are out of reach, preferably in locked cupboards. Although you may not think you have chemicals in your home, chances are that you have plenty – including those in your everyday cleaning supplies such as bleaches, detergents, soaps, alcohol, medicines and insecticides. Many households also have cans of paints, home-repair supplies (paints, oils, varnishes, abrasives, adhesives (glues) and other extremely toxic substances.

Electrocution Risks
When babies are already crawling and toddlers are already walking, low outlets can be a cause of an electrocution accident. If moving the outlet is inadvisable, install outlet covers and plates to prevent electrocution. Make sure too that you set your child’s play areas way away from outlets.

Outlets are not the only electrocution risk in the house. Studies show that electrical cords of appliances can be an accident risk if they are kept uncoiled and within reach of children. Many people leave cords plugged into the wall but not plugged into the appliance or electronic device they are meant to charge. Curious little hands can grab a dangling cord and stick it into the mouth “to see what happens.” Make sure your cords are neatly tied and kept safely away from kids. If you can put protective covers on electrical cords as well, better. When cords are not in use, remove them from the outlet.

Suffocation and Strangulation Risks
Many new parents don’t realize, that even simple materials can pose suffocation and/or strangulation risk for their children. Stuffed toys, beddings and blankets, for example, can suffocate a baby in a crib if they’re not set neatly and properly. Plastic bags that accidentally make their way to a baby’s mattress can also suffocate an infant. Remember, newborns are not yet capable of removing hazardous materials that come near them; it’s up to parents to make sure they’re safe.

Phone cords, strings from toys, and bed sheets are all also strangulation risks. Now is the time to invest in cordless phones! Similarly, always make sure that bed sheet fits snugly around the mattress, with no extra cloth hanging about. Once your child is mobile, keep plastic bags stored in high cupboards rather than the lower, more accessible locations of your kitchen cabinets and storage areas.

Falls and Tumbles Risks
Once your baby starts crawling or walking, he or she can go anywhere! You’ll want to make sure your home is safe for an exploring child. Put gates at the top and bottom of stairways until your child can safely negotiate stairs. If a room has fragile or dangerous items in it (i.e. a computer desk with lots of wires dangling beneath), keep that door shut (or better yet, locked). Get down on your hands and knees and look at each room from that perspective – what can get knocked over? What can the child trip on or smash his head into? You might want to store sharp-edged end tables for a year or two – bring them back when the child has better control over his or her movements.

Slipping Risks
Check your floors; are they slipping risks? Don’t use slippery wax for cleaning your floors when you know you have a child around. For places that tend to get wet, such as bath areas, or areas near the faucets, set rubber guards on the floor.

Cutting Risks
Keep sharp objects out of the reach of children. Scissors, knives and other sharp items can accidentally poke an eye or do other serious harm when in the hands of an over exuberant toddler or reckless child. Preschoolers are notorious for doing “hairdressing” experiments – cutting their own or another child’s hair when parents aren’t looking. The resultant bad hairdo is the least of the potential dangers of this activity, as the eye-hand coordination of small children often provides inadequate control over unwieldy scissors – accidents can happen. Therefore, keep scissors in locked cabinets if possible.

Err on the Side of Caution
Many parents are inclined to believe that their child is too smart to get into trouble with household items. The truth is that accidents can happen regardless of how smart someone is! Keeping safety considerations in mind can only help.

When Your Child Hates Reading

Love of reading helps a child in so many ways: it facilitates school learning, career functioning, lifelong professional and personal learning, and of course endless personal pleasure. When a child dislikes reading, on the other hand, his or her school performance and work performance can suffer. As serious as this is, parents often feel helpless to fix the situation – they don’t know how to get their youngster to enjoy reading. Fortunately, there ARE things that parents can do when they know how.

If your child hates to read, consider the following tips:

Try to Discover Why Your Child Dislikes Reading
Figuring out the reasons why your child hates reading helps point to solutions. For instance, if your child doesn’t like to read because he or she is finds it boring, it can sometimes be because the child’s poor reading skills slow down comprehension so much that the lag time between sounding out words and getting the storyline is too large – the story becomes boring. If so, you share the reading task so as to speed things up: you read a sentence and then the child reads a sentence or you read a paragraph and then the child reads a few sentences or you read a page and then the child reads a paragraph or two.  Share enough to make the story go quickly and make the child’s reading task shorter and less arduous. In this way, the child can learn that reading brings excitement and pleasure and this knowledge becomes a powerful motivator for pushing through the difficulty of acquiring the necessary skill-set.

Of course, it could be that the exercise is boring because it IS boring! Perhaps the literature that is written for the child’s reading level is simply uninteresting. This would be unfortunate because the child might get the wrong idea that books are boring. If this happens, be sure to get simple books out of the library that cover interesting topics and help your child read through these. In addition, make sure to get some really interesting books at higher reading levels and READ them to your child. This will not retard your child’s reading skill; rather, it will inspire the child to want to learn to read. It will also help the child to become a reader eventually, as the child begins to integrate the patterns of reading into his or her own mind as a result of listening to you read.

It is also possible that your child thinks of reading as “homework” rather than as something that someone freely chooses to do. Show him that reading is fun by letting him see you reading in your spare moments. Bring home interesting books and magazines for the whole family to enjoy; when a child sees that everyone in the family is reading enthusiastically, he or she will be more motivated to learn to do the same.

 Make Reading a Visual Experience
Children love looking at pictures. Pictures make the learning process more fun, interesting and comprehensible. Therefore, try to bring home well illustrated books for your kids, even if they are older (even adults enjoy books with good illustrations and photos!). A child is more likely to pour over a well-illustrated book, spending more time and effort trying to decipher it and thereby actually improving his or her reading skills. The opposite is true of books that are heavy with unillustrated text, especially if the layout is poor. Too many words cramped together on a page can discourage young readers from getting started, let alone persevering.

Take Your Child to the Library and/or Bookstore
If possible, bring your youngster to the library to select books to bring home. This allows the child to peruse the selection of topics and styles of books, coming eventually to choose those that most appeal to him or her. Some children may be drawn to “how-to” books instead of novels or stories – that’s fine. Give your child to the opportunity to discover the world of books and never discourage reading. Some kids may prefer to read online – this, too, is fine. In fact, as long as the child WANTS to read print, encourage him or her to do so. Invest in a couple of books to treasure or store in one’s data base. Help the child to bond with books, to make friends with the written word. Avoid all forms of lecturing or preaching about the importance of or necessity of reading. Instead, be a receptive listener to anything your child has to stay about a selection of text.

Create Space for Reading
Create physical and mental space for reading. Having a comfy chair or two with blankets, reading pillows and good lighting nearby can help. Making a “quiet zone” for a certain time period each day or each week is a helpful structure too. For example, you can forbid all electronic devices (games, computers, cell phones, televisions, VCR’s, tablets and so forth for a couple of hours on the weekend and/or a period of time during each day (i.e. twenty minutes before bedtime. This quiet time can be used for playing, doing puzzles or art,  or reading. If you bring home a a tempting pile of books each week from the library, your kids are more likely to use the quiet time for reading.

Using Stories to Teach Important Values

Parents want to impart important values to their kids. The trouble is, they often try to do so by “lecturing” – making long speeches to their kids about right and wrong. Kids tend to roll their eyeballs, cover their ears and otherwise try to drown out the sound of these talks, but parents often continue – sometimes louder and more forcibly – because the messages are so important to instill. However, there is a far more successful and easier way to get the point across: using story telling.

If your moral lessons seem to sometimes be falling on deaf ears, consider the following tips for teaching values the story-telling way:

Why Stories?
Most adults recall fables and stories they heard repeatedly in childhood. Sometimes they remember just a line from the tale – remember young George Washington’s “I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree”. (Apparently George Washington never said this at all, but it doesn’t matter – we all learned the lesson!) What is relevant is that children are very receptive to stories and parables, so much so that they often remember them for their entire lives.

This is why psychologists recommend reading and telling stories to children. Aside from giving parents an excellent opportunity to bond with their kids, stories appeals to children’s imagination and love of make-believe. Stories – whether pure fiction or reality-based – speak the language of children, making them the perfect vehicle for teaching lessons and values. In fact, trying to teach values head-on by simply telling kids what is good and what is bad, just DOES NOT work. Sure, it’s important to tell the truth, but saying so does not compare in the least to hearing the tale of little George Washington’s dilemma.

Use Children’s Books, News Items, Blogs and Other Sources of Information
Visit your local children’s bookstore or library and look for books “with a message” – nowadays it’s easy to find book with both covert and openly educational agendas. For instance, there are books about the importance of honesty, kindness, respect and so on. In addition, search for fictional or autobiographical stories that convey important values or have relevance to your child’s unique challenges. For example, you might find a book about an inventor who finally invented something significant after years and years of failed experiments – thereby teaching the value of perseverance. Consult your local librarian, a teacher or child psychologist for specific recommendations of value-laden stories.

Older kids and teens can easily learn moral lessons from exploring events occurring in the world around them. Read or relay items from the news and current events, opening them up for discussion.

Ask Questions
To help your child get the most out of information you are presenting, ask questions, make comments and generally help to explore the issues. Should a person risk his own life to help someone else? What should a person do with the millions of dollars they win in the lottery? How bad is it really to download products without paying for them? Don’t just read stories; start a discussion!

Tell the Same Story More Than Once
Children’s stories are so effective in influencing the way children behave, because they are stories that kids love to hear or read again and again. Repetition can work for you; it can reinforce the value that you want to teach your child. Repetition also gives you opportunities to explore aspects of a story you missed the first time. And if your kid is not yet open to the values you were teaching first time around, repetition is an opportunity to see if you both have had a change of opinion.

Make it Practical
When real-life situations arise, refer back to the stories and discussions you’ve had. “I know it’s hard to tell the truth – but remember the courage of George Washington? Can you be like him right now?” Bringing the stories into current moral challenges helps imprint them permanently in the mind; they become powerful lessons and resources that can be called upon again and again throughout life.

Why to and How to Stop Yelling

Parents love their kids. So why do they yell at them?

Here are just some of the reasons parents may yell at their children:

• Kids don’t listen when parents speak in a normal tone of voice but do listen when parents yell
• Parents were raised by  parents who yelled at them, so it just comes “naturally”
• Parents are tired & stressed
• Parents don’t realize how much damage is caused by yelling

What Damage is Caused by Yelling?
There are short-term and long-term negative consequences of frequently yelling at kids. Here are some short-term results:

• More misbehavior at home and/or at school
• More nervous habits (bedwetting, thumb-sucking, hair-pulling, etc.)
• More physical ailments (headaches, stomach aches, flu’s & colds)
• More academic problems
• More social problems

Here are some long-term results in adults who were frequently yelled at as kids:

• More mental health problems
• More marriage and parenting problems
• More physical health problems
• More difficulties at work
• Sometimes more social issues or criminal issues

Kids who are yelled at frequently by their parents may not have a close relationship with their parents during the teen and/or adult years. Some people don’t ever talk to their parents again or have minimal contact as adults, cutting their parents off from their own children (yelling parents may lose the opportunity to have a close relationship with their own grandchildren).

How Can Parents Avoid Yelling at Their Kids?
Parents who yell must interrupt the neural pathway in their brain that draws a bridge between a provocative child and the parental urge to scream. Neural pathways are physical. When a child misbehaves or doesn’t listen, a pathway is triggered (within milliseconds) and a raised voice pops out of the parent’s mouth. In order to interrupt this pathway, a parent must add a new step. Let’s say the pathway looks like this:

Child provokes — parents yells.

The parent can add a step like this:

Child’s provokes —– parent yells — parent writes out two pages of lines “I always speak softly including those times when I feel very  frustrated.”

This new step of adding an annoying writing assignment actually causes the brain to drop the original pathway. The trick is to increase the negative consequence for each episode of yelling or for each week of yelling. That is, raise the assignment to 3 pages, then 4 pages, then 5 pages and keep going as necessary until all yelling has stopped. It will stop of course, because no one has time to write so many pages after each yelling episode!

Now that the parent is not yelling, he or she must have strategies with which to guide children and gain their cooperation. Not yelling is a good beginning but it is not parenting! A parent must be able to teach a child, correct a child, instruct a child and altogether raise a child! Children can not be raised on praise alone. It is, after all, necessary to assert healthy boundaries and to model the process of boundary assertion for children. However, creating healthy, respectful boundaries and limitations requires skill. Parents can learn this skill by taking parenting courses or by reading parenting books.

Five Parenting Skills That Prevent Parental Anger
The following five parenting skills can completely remove the need to resort to anger in parenting. Parents who use this approach find that their kids behave better. In addition, the techniques facilitate the development of a strong parent-child bond, high self-esteem and increased emotional well-being. Outlined very briefly below, they are explained in detail in the book Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

1.The 80-20 Rule: 80% of parental communication feels good to the child. In this way, the child wants to please the parent. The child exhibits far fewer misbehavior.

2.Emotional Coaching: Parents consistently name a child’s feelings. This technique creates an intimate bond between parent and child, causing the child to have a better understanding of his own feelings and the feelings of others. The result is better mental health, better physical health, better academic performance and better behavior!

3.The CLeaR Method: A good-feeling form of discipline that capitalizes on a child’s positive tendencies. By shaping desirable behavior with pleasant forms of acknowledgment, the child goes from strength to strength. The child has very little need to seek negative attention or to enter power struggles with parents.

4.The 2X-Rule: a firm but respectful form of discipline in which a parent never asks a child to do anything more than two times. By refraining from repetitive requests, the parent saves him or herself from getting angry. The 2X-Rule utilizes mild negative consequences instead of parental rage in order to gain a child’s cooperation.

5.The Relationship Rule: This rule insists on consistently respectful communication in the home from both parents and children. It helps the entire family manage their angry feelings appropriately and keeps the family emotionally safe. The rule states: “I only give and accept respectful communication.”

Is it Really Possible to Raise Kids without Yelling at Them?
Absolutely! The first step is to take the idea that yelling is damaging very seriously. The more yelling occurs, the more damage occurs.

The next step is to punish oneself for yelling. This also must be taken seriously. It is not enough to remember the idea of punishment or to remind oneself that one shouldn’t yell. In order to disrupt the harmful neural pathway, it is essential that the body/brain experiences the punishment. If a parent is willing to punish him or herself, yelling WILL BE cured!

The final step is to have a new set of strategies in place. Parents must never be left helpless. Parents need skills that will create a solid bond with their children because the bond itself increases cooperation (in addition to creating a foundation for mental health and emotional well being!). Parents also need to know how to discipline effectively and respectfully.  The word “discipline” means teach. There are actually good-feeling forms of discipline as well as unpleasant feeling forms. The majority of discipline that occurs in the home should be good-feeling.

Yelling is not part of the discipline process. It is an emotional reaction on the part of a parent, indicating upset, lack of control and helpless rage. Parents are entitled to their feelings. However, feelings need attention and calming. They are not parenting tools. Parenting tools require some study and thought whereas the expression of negative emotion occurs impulsively, without thought. However, the time it takes to think and plan parenting interventions is well worth it. The positive results of this kind of thinking endure for a lifetime.

Name-Calling in the Family

When children feel upset, they may express their feelings in less than ideal ways. As adults, we can express our feelings maturely and without conflict (there are exceptions though!). However, as children are children, they can resort to insults and name-calling when they feel slighted, without any regard to the feelings of other people.

If name-calling is a problem in your family, consider the following tips:

What is Name-Calling?
Children often use words like “stupid,” “baby,” “idiot,” “moron,” and so on when addressing their siblings in anger. While parents do not generally “name-call” in the traditional way, the use of negative labels can have a similar effect. When a parent calls a child’s behavior “babyish,” “silly,” “mean,” “rude,” or “selfish,” he or she is in effect, also name-calling. Parents may not even realize that they are name-calling when they use these negative labels. They can innocently put these words into many simple, appropriate-sounding sentences – such as those below:

  • “You are being so rude.”
  • “What you are saying is rude.”
  • “Don’t be so rude.”
  • “That was so rude.”

Whatever grammatical structure is used, the negative label rude will be absorbed by the child. Parents cannot minimize the effects of a negative label by trying to hide it in various sentence structures. If the label is used anywhere in a sentence, it will be felt as an insult by the child. Of course the parent is simply trying to educate the child and not trying to insult him or her, but the child does not necessarily understand that.

Negative Effects of Name-Calling
Any negative label or insult has the potential to hurt a child’s feelings. Children who are frequently insulted by their siblings often remember the experience with pain even in adulthood. Children who have been insulted by their parents (i.e. being called “stupid,” “selfish,” “bad,” “good-for-nothing” etc.) also often retain the pain throughout adulthood.

However, remembered pain is not the worst consequence of name-calling. Far worse is the impact name-calling can have on personality development. Even fully grown adults who are subjected to regular insults (verbal abuse) are eventually affected by it: they come to feel less adequate, less competent and less lovable the more they experience being insulted. This effect is much much more powerful in childhood when a youngster’s sense of self is not yet fully formed. At this point, being called names can leave the child truly believing that he or she is damaged, worthless, useless, bad and defective, as well as unlovable. Once a child entertains such notions about him/herself, the child tends to act in ways that are consistent with that poor self-image. So a child who is regularly called a particular negative label, comes to believe that he IS that label. The label can be crippling, causing him to give up trying or project negative judgments onto others for the rest of his life (“I know no one really likes me”). Of course the negative labels used regularly by parents tend to be much more damaging than those used only by siblings, but the effects of sibling-abuse must not be underestimated.

Model Appropriate Behavior
Parents can help their kids learn to use positive words instead of negative labels. The first step is providing a model. This means that parents never call children names – they never use negative label or insulting language. Many people wonder how it is possible to correct a child without using a negative label. The secret is this: whenever you want to use a negative label to accurately describe a child’s behavior (i.e. “rude”), replace the label with the exact opposite word. For example, instead of saying to Junior, “You are being rude,” you can say, “You need to be polite when speaking to me.”  Always use the desired label instead of the offensive label. In this way, your children only hear your target words (your goals for them) throughout their 20 years growing up with you. This helps program their brains to remember your goals. Positive labels encourage positive growth whereas negative labels work the opposite way. If all your children hear is “stupid,” “lazy,” “selfish,” “wild” and so on, they will associate those words with their identity and all they are capable of being.

A few more examples of label switching are below:

  • messy becomes clean and tidy
  • disorganized becomes organized
  • selfish becomes generous
  • careless becomes careful

Your sentence then changes from, “You’re acting like a baby” to “I know that you know how to be mature. Please act that way now.”  Similarly, you can change “You’re being nasty to your brother,” to “Please be kind to your brother.”

Direct Teaching Techniques
Now that you have provided the model (and by the way, this also means that you don’t call your spouse or other people names), you are ready to teach your children. The following process can be used:

  1. Explain to your children that name-calling hurts and is harmful. Tell them that they must express their annoyance, frustration or upset simply by naming their feelings without adding insults. For example, it is fine to say to a sibling, “I disagree,” or “I don’t like what you did,” or “I don’t like your idea,” “Stop doing that” and so on.
  2. Make a clear consequence for name-calling. Whenever someone insults another person, they will have receive a previously established consequence of your choice. Tell the child what consequence he will receive for name-calling in the future and then give him that consequence after subsequent name-calling. For a complete list of appropriate negative consequences and the exact way in which they should be applied for name-calling, see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.
  3. Apply the selected consequence EVERY TIME you hear name-calling.  If improvement doesn’t happen over a few weeks, select a different consequence and try again.

Ridding your house of name-calling is a service to your family and even to your grandchildren, as the inter-generational chain of verbal abuse stops with your new programme. Good luck!

Raising an Adopted Child

Today, many families are turning to adoption to start or to expand a family. Whether due to issues with infertility or to a desire to extend love and care to a child in need, adoption is a way of enjoying the blessing of family life.

If you are thinking about adopting a child or if you have already adopted a youngster, consider the following tips:

Important Facts to Consider
When we think of having a baby in the family, we usually imagine a smiling little cherubnik cuddled in our arms. The reality of small human beings is often very different however. Children are complex, bringing a host of exhausting, painful, frightening and difficult  experiences to parents. While it is possible to find oneself raising a very easy child, it is even more likely to find oneself raising a complicated little person with a variety of issues (because that’s just how people are!). While there is no reason to expect worse case scenarios, realistic expectations of child-rearing can help adoptive parents be prepared for the journey of raising a child and be sure that this is what they want. Consider the normal and common challenges: a baby can suffer from intense colic or various health issues. Toddlers can be wild and uncontrollable. School-age children are often uncooperative or even defiant. When parents of naturally born children discover their child has developmental issues of some kind – learning disabilities, emotional problems or behavioral challenges – they handle the stress knowing that this is their child who they must raise the best they can. When their adolescent rebels, goes on drugs or gets into trouble with the law, they feel intense pain but they know that this comes with the territory of raising children. Adoptive parents can face a bit more difficulty in coming to terms with the difficulties in parenting and particularly with difficult-to-raise children. If it turns out that their adopted child has truly challenging issues, they may feel that they got a raw deal or that they could have had an easier life if only they hadn’t gone to the trouble of adopting. Just like natural parents, adoptive parents have to be psychologically prepared for everything and anything. Having or adopting a child is something like buying a piece of property “sight unseen.” As long as you are prepared for this reality, you will be able to take the challenges of child-rearing more in stride.

Biological Parents in the Picture
Whether you decide to be open about the adoption with your child, or you want to keep it a secret until the right time, your child will almost certainly want to meet his or her biological parents someday. You will eventually have to face the task of sharing what you know about them, and assisting your child in the search for them. This can sometimes be a painful process for both the child and the adoptive parents. Your child has to process issues of abandonment and feelings of not being wanted. You have to deal with the reality that being an adopted parent is a special role, one that involves forever sharing your child with the people who brought him or her to the world, whether in fact or just in your child’s mind. However, being prepared for this part of the parenting journey helps significantly. If possible, find out what this process was like for other parents – how they went about it, how it felt for them, their child and the biological parents. The internet alone is filled with group sites, blogs, and forums catering to adoptive families. Others can offer practical and emotional support to ease the way.

Family history is a critical part of a person’s identity, and your child may even struggle with the issue of why he or she is put for adoption in the first place. Your child may go through an “identity crisis” as he or she tries to work out his or her place in the world in general and in your family in particular. A child’s racial and cultural heritage will always be a significant part of his or her persona. Recognizing and honoring all parts of the child’s background helps the child to remain healthy and whole.

Relationships are Nurtured and Healed with Love
Just like their adoptive parents, adopted children have an extra set of issues to contend with in their family. They know that they come from other people and this creates a challenge for them. Children always resent their parents at some point because parents, being just regular human beings, sometimes behave poorly or make poor judgments or somehow manage to let their kids down. Naturally born children take this in stride, having the “luxury” so to speak, of resenting their folks but knowing that these are their parents. Adopted kids will also experience disappointment in or anger at their adoptive parents but they may think, “my real parents would have loved me more” or “why did I have to get adopted by these horrible people?” Expect your child to go through bad moments of feeling completely alienated. Allow for the bumpy road. But continue to do the best you can, providing consistent, unwavering love and generous doses of positive communication. In the end, this will help to ensure that your adopted child will be as close to you throughout life as any “natural born” child would be.

Your Teenager’s Friends

Friends are very influential in the teen years. It’s at this age when a child finds peers far more interesting and far more knowledgeable than family members. Unless parents get to know their teenager’s friends, they’re in the dark regarding the kind of influences their youngster is receiving. But how can a parent get to know the people in his or her teenager’s inner circle?

If you’d like to get a feel for who your child’s friends are, consider the following tips:

Invite Them to Your Home
You can get to know your child’s friends in different ways. If you pick up your teen up from school everyday, then offer to drop off friends. Be conversant; talk about current events, ask them about school stuff, or comment on the song playing on the radio. You get to know your teens’ friends a little through the talk, and you also get to know where they live.

Another important strategies is to make it easy and pleasant for your child to bring friends home. Your home will be a safe and appealing “hang out” if you create the following kind of environment:

  • it is a peaceful, conflict-free environment (no loud fights occur between family members, particularly when “company” is over!)

  • the home looks normal (not excessively messy, chaotic or run down)

  • there are lots of snacks and very few rules

  • you make yourself fairly scarce, giving the kids space to interact freely without excessive adult supervision

  • you offer goodies, make a few pleasant remarks or light jokes and you refrain from asking personal or intrusive questions

  • you say nothing about your child to his or her friends and you don’t ask the friends about your child either

  • you never correct or criticize your child in the presence of his or her friends

Allow your child to invite friends on weekends and for a sleepover, dinner, school project, or movie marathon – make everyone feel welcome.

As kids come pouring into your home, take note. Hopefully your child has made good choices in friends. However, there might be a child or two who makes you feel concerned. Use this feeling to spearhead a small investigation – you’ll want to take your time with this. Refrain from jumping to conclusions based on limited exposure and external appearances. The child’s style – even if it is the style you associate with dangerous thugs or subversive characters – may actually be just the child’s style! The teenager under the costume might be a very nice and totally respectable kid.

Do a Little Research and/or Have a Little Chat
If you are seriously concerned about one of your child’s friends, try doing a little research. You might be able to pick up some information on social networking sites like Facebook and other places. Even Google Search might yield something. If you find something that makes you feel uncomfortable, be sure to tell your child. For instance, you can say something like, “You know, your friends seem like such a nice bunch of kids but that one fellow Craig always makes me feel uncomfortable. I decided to look him up online just to check my instincts and  I found a photo of him getting arrested for running a grow house! Were you aware of that?”

You can follow up by explicitly stating your concerns and worries, but DO NOT forbid your child to associate with a particular friend. Such a maneuver is likely to backfire, causing your teen to become sneaky, devious, rebellious and otherwise unsavory in his attempts to remain a free agent. Instead, simply invite your youngster to think about whether he really wants this sort of person as a friend. For instance, one might say, “I’m sure Craig is a nice guy but I’m worried that he’s not the best influence – he’s not exactly a model citizen. You might think differently, but I think that the people we hang around with tend to rub off on us – you know, walk into a perfume shop and you come out smelling like perfume – and all that stuff. Sometimes hanging around unsavory characters automatically puts us in the same category with them. But it’s up to you to choose the kind of friends you want in your life. Everyone has to make that choice for themselves. I myself would think twice about associating with someone like Craig.”

More often, you won’t be able to find any strong “evidence” against your child’s friends. Your gut feeling and parental wisdom will more likely be at the root of your worry. In this case, explain to your child that although you have no real proof that anything is amiss, your own instincts tell you that something is not quite right with his friend. Ask him if he has ever had a similar feeling about someone. Tell him that as a parent, you feel concerned for him and that although you certainly can’t advise him to drop the friend based on “nothing,” you are hoping that he’ll use his best judgment to decide whether this is a person he should keep close to him. Honesty will be your best policy. Again, refrain from ultimatums, threats or any other kind of drama. Your loving concern will be evident and the most powerful educational tool that you have.

Study Spaces for Academic Success

Succeeding in school is good for kids – it builds competence and confidence and provides a foundation of skills, patient information and attitudes that can have lifelong positive impact. Although there are many factors that determine just how academically successful a child will be, parental support will never go to waste. Parents can encourage responsibility, good study habits and other skills and attitudes conducive to achievement. They can also provide the necessary emotional and physical space in which their child can apply him or herself to his or her studies. In other words, they can provide a quiet, undisturbed and pleasant study environment. What the child does with it, is beyond the parent’s control. But having provided the learning opportunity, they have certainly done their part to help their child succeed.

Below are the basic components of a study space conducive for learning:

1. Desk and Chair
A lot of school kids end up studying on the bed, sofa, floor, dining table and so on – places that may not be conducive at all for studying. When possible, it is preferable to provide a desk for the purpose of study and homework. The desk should be wide enough to fit three books all opened at the same time. This area would allow a child to cross check information from two sources while jotting down notes.

Of course, it will also be necessary to provide a chair for the desk. A library chair is a perfect example of a chair that is conducive for studying. No arm rests. No casters. No wheels. A cushion may be good to ease discomfort of sitting for long hours, but it should be firm rather than soft and fluffy – study time is not nap time!

2. Physical Conditions: Adequate Lighting and Sound
Adequate lighting is important as too much or too little can provoke headaches and eye strain. In addition to the bedroom light, an adjustable desk lamp so be provided so that the angle of the light can be changed as needed.

In terms of sound, it is a myth that kids study well when there is absolute silence. While it is true that disturbance from other people including television noise can make distractions, some kids need noise to study. Give your child his own music player so he/she can decide what sounds go with the studying.

3. Personal Touch
Finding a perfect place to study is a matter of personal taste. While most people think that to get the most concentration, the study environment should be space, new research suggests that individual preferences must be taken into consideration. While actual disturbance should always be absent, comfort items can sometimes help some people focus. For instance, some kids find concentration is facilitated by having a fishbowl near them. Some are relaxed by the presence of favorite photos, stuffed animals or other nicknacks.

4. Storage Area and Display Shelves
Storage shelves, drawers or cupboards near the desk help keep papers organized and functional. Items that are crucial for homework and study (i.e. textbooks, notebooks, paper, pens, staplers, paper clips, highlighters, yellow sticky pads, rulers, calculators and other supplies) should ideally be at arms reach. A cork-board, whiteboard or other bulletin board can also be useful for keeping track of to-do’s, calendars, appointments and deadlines. A separate space might be provided for displaying evidence of academic accomplishment and success – a place to pin marked papers, report cards, completed projects and certificates of accomplishment. Feedback can make continued success easier and easier.