Turning School Failure Around

Kids don’t enjoy receiving failing grades. It leaves them feeling inadequate and incompetent, frustrated, disappointed and disheartened. It is so much more satisfying to succeed! Fortunately, there are ways that parents can help their kids turn school failure around.

If your child is struggling in school, consider the following tips:

Working Hard/ Working Smart vs. Being Smart
It’s important to help kids understand that failure is the result of many factors, inborn intelligence being only one, often relatively insignificant one! Assuming that a child is placed in an appropriate academic setting (whether that is a special school, a special class, a regular class or a gifted class), he or she ought to be able to achieve a passing grade and possibly even an excellent grade. Children should not be sitting in classrooms that are way beyond their intellectual or academic level. For instance, we don’t put a 6 yr old child into a university level physics class! If your child is in the wrong academic setting, take care of that first. However, let’s assume for now that the child is where he or she belongs. Academic failure under such circumstances is a result of insufficient effort. That insufficient effort might occur because of stressful circumstances such as divorce or death in the family, or poor attitude such wanting to party and socialize instead of studying. Regular study with proper concentration usually leads to passing grades and even good grades.

It’s important that you help keep your child from attributing failure to himself or herself. When kids internalize failure, chances are, they will not try again. On the other hand, attributing failure to a cause that’s external makes the problem workable. After all, someone can fix a bad study habit, but it’s virtually impossible to fix a defunct brain.

Bite Your Tongue
No matter how much your child protests that he or she doesn’t care about the failure, deep inside he or she probably does. The casual attitude is most likely just a front to protect his or her self-esteem. Since a failing child already feels bad; there is no need to make him or her feel worse. There certainly is no need to create punishments – failure is punishment enough. Refrain from saying things like “I work hard to send you to a good school and this is what you give me?” Instead, share what you feel. “I feel disappointed that this is your grade.” It’s okay for parents to feel sad, disappointed, frustrated and upset about the situation; it is NOT O.K. to make hurtful or abusive remarks.

Reiterate Your Support
It’s a difficult time for your child, so offer your support. Ask your child if he or she would like help of some kind – homework tips, study partner, tutor, extra help from the teacher or something else. Do whatever makes sense with the resources of time and money that are available. Your child will see that you consider school success to be a valuable asset. However, apart from offering help (or insisting on it, for younger children), do not emphasize the importance of schoolwork to the point where your child feels annoyed or nauseated! Refrain from lectures and simply offer help.

Figure Out How to Get Better Grades Next Time
Be future-oriented. While it’s alright to ask: “what do you think went wrong?”, you must also ask “how can you change for next time?” Explore possible contributing factors such as low motivation, poor time management skills, mental blocks, emotional stress, fear, overwhelm and other issues. See what adjustments can be made. If possible, provide support in the form of l tutors, educators, therapists or other people. Sometimes a helping hand makes a huge difference in the child’s ability to persevere and succeed.

Find Your Child’s Strengths
Your child may be an underachiever in one area, but he or she may have plenty of strengths in another. Discover what your child is good at. A special interest, aptitude or hidden talent may be what you need to help your more generally motivated. Success in one area often spills over into success in other areas as well. Even if it doesn’t it certainly helps balance the child’s self-esteem as he or she discovers competencies and abilities that spell “success.”

Reinforce Positive Changes
There’s no better way to turn a school failure around than to turn it into a school success, and when that happens, make sure to give positive feedback. Kids, like adults, go from strength to strength. Focusing on small successes along the way helps to ensure big successes further down the line. Reward improvement with praise, treats and privileges (“Wow, all that studying really paid of on your math test. Why don’t we go celebrate with an ice cream cone?”). Similar to a “bonus” for hard work at the office, concrete forms of acknowledgement are powerful motivators for more effort in the future.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is the most common complaint presented to mental health practitioners. This is not surprising; almost all of us have experienced sadness at some point in our lives, with some episodes being quite intense. However, clinical depression is not just sadness. It is a multifaceted illness that affects every aspect of a person’s functioning. It causes major distress and disrupts the sufferer’s ability to carry on with work, school, or other responsibilities. The illness can occur among the young and old, the rich and poor, the educated and the uneducated, and it can come at any point in a person’s lifetime. The good news is: depression is treatable. When sufferers are trained to spot the early symptoms, the onset of depression can be managed and relapses can be avoided.

What are the Symptoms of Depression?
Symptoms of depression can be classified into four categories: emotional, mental, behavioral and physiological symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at each one:

Emotional Symptoms of Depression
Mood disturbance is the most significant among the symptoms of depression. An individual with depression may be prone to feelings of sadness, emptiness, dejection, helplessness, hopelessness and lack of self-worth. Episodes of crying, irritability and/or of anger are also common. A marked loss of interest in work, relationships and self-care may also be seen.

Mental Symptoms of Depression
There are also cognitive symptoms associated with depression. Psychologist Beck believes that people with depression are tortured by what he calls the cognitive triad: a negative view of one’s self, a negative view of the world and a pessimistic view of the future.

Self-accusation and mental anguish are typical, especially when the obsessions start to come. For instance, a depressed individual may constantly tell himself that he is ugly, incompetent or unwanted; that others do not care about his welfare; and that tomorrow will offer no relief. It is this cognitive triad that keeps a depressed person stuck in the rut, unless some form of therapy is conducted to correct and heal the debilitating thoughts.

Depression can also cause a person to have difficulty making decisions or concentrating on tasks.

Behavioral Symptoms of Depression
Depression may be about an internal state, but symptoms of depression can be objective and observable. In many cases, physical appearance already provides a clue regarding the depressed person’s mental health. People with severe depression may not care much about their appearance or even their hygiene. They may gain or lose significant amounts of weight. Their movements may be slower or faster than those of the average person, and there may be a delay in their communication. They may have difficulty in accomplishing their job or otherwise carrying on their normal tasks. They may withdraw from others.

Physiological Symptoms of Depression 
Depression is an illness that affects the entire person — his or her physicality and biological processes included. People with depression suffer from disturbed patterns of eating and sleeping. They can have loss of appetite or an increase in appetite (what is called emotional eating). They can suffer with various forms of insomnia (trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up in the wee hours, etc. Or, they can end up sleeping much longer than the average person. They may be more prone to ailments such as heart conditions, stomach disturbances, infections, unexplained pain and vague disorders.

If you or loved one has symptoms like those above, consult a doctor or mental health practitioner. Treatment not only provides more rapid relief than “waiting it out,” but also helps prevent recurrences of the disorder.

How to Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) refers to “people smarts.” A person with high emotional intelligence understands both himself and others. Not only does the person understand people, but he also knows how to make them feel comfortable – he knows how to bring out the best in others. As a result, the person with high E.Q. experiences more success in relationships and at work. Kids with high E.Q. have better relationships at home and at school, with kids and with adults. Moreover, high E.Q.in children and teens is associated with better academic performance, better physical health, better emotional health and better behavior. In adults, high E.Q. is associated with better performance in every area of life.

What can you do to help foster your child’s emotional intelligence? In this article we will discuss ways one can boost their child’s emotional intelligence.

Adapt an Authoritative, Not an Autocratic Parenting Style
Parenting style has a huge influence on children’s emotional intelligence. When parents can guide their children while still being sensitive to their feelings, children have higher E.Q. Authorative parents are warm, but consistent in setting appropriate limits and boundaries. They will use discipline, but not at the expense of respectful communication and care. Their children will learn how to be sensitive to others and they will also learn how to “talk to themselves” compassionately, modelling after their parents. This gentle self-talk becomes a major aspect of their emotional intelligence, a tool they can use to reduce their stress in a healthy way.

Autocratic parents, on the other hand, don’t care that much about the child’s feelings. Instead, they focus on the rules of the household, what is allowed and what is prohibited, what the child may and may not do. Sensitivity to the child’s inner world is missing. In this case, children fail to experience parental empathy and as a result, fail to learn how to soothe their own upset emotions. They may attempt to relieve their discomfort by becoming aggressive, acting out their feelings. Eventually they may turn to comforts outside of themselves such as addictions (to food, alcohol, drugs, etc.). Acting out and addictive behavior reflects lower E.Q.

The more feeling words used by parents and educators, the more sensitive a child becomes to his inner reality. Most of us tend to use few emotion words in our dealings with children, and when we do, we often use the same few tired ones over and over.  It is important that we move beyond “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” and “scared.”  Shades of feeling are most helpful and can be used when describing our own feelings or the child’s feelings. Words like irritated, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, worried, terrified, alarmed, disappointed, hurt, insulted, embarrassed, uncomfortable, unsure, curious, interested, hopeful, concerned, shocked, elated, excited, enthusiastic, let down, abandoned, deserted, mellow, calm, peaceful, relaxed, bored, withdrawn, furious, enraged, frightened, panicked, and proud can be used DAILY to help provide an emotional education in the home or classroom. These are the regular feelings that children have in facing life, stimulated by everyday experiences, dreams, movies and even novels. Identifying a youngster’s emotional reaction and feeding it back to him, helps him to become aware of his inner processing. This information then forms the core of his emotional intelligence, providing an accurate barometer of his response to his world. From this place of inner certainty, a child is well-equipped to navigate life, knowing what he feels, what he is searching for and when he has attained it. His familiarity with the world of feelings allows him to connect accurately and sensitively with others. This prevents him from hurting other people’s feelings with words and further, permits him to achieve great kindness and sensitivity in his interpersonal transactions.

Here are some practical steps you can take to bring feelings into focus:

  1. Respond to your child. From the time your child is a crying infant to the time she is a young adult, be sure to be responsive. This means that you take her communications seriously. If she cries, try to come (instead of making her cry it out.). If she asks for something, try to answer her promptly. If she talks, you listen and respond appropriately. All of this responsiveness builds emotional intelligence because you are giving your youngster valuable relationship feedback. In the opposite scenario, in which a parent either fails to respond or responds only after a long waiting period, the child learns that people tune each other out. This causes the child to shut down. She assumes that her feelings aren’t that important based on lack of parental responsiveness and from this concludes that people’s feelings aren’t that important – the very OPPOSITE of the conclusions made by emotionally intelligent people. Quick responsiveness gives the message that people’s feelings matter. This is a prerequisite concept for emotional intelligence.
  2. Use a FEELING vocabulary. Pepper your daily conversation with “feeling” words. You can name your own feelings. Let your child know that you feel excited or dismayed or discouraged or resentful or whatever. This gives your child the vital information that everyone – including parents – has feelings and an inner life. Some people do this naturally, of course, but many do not. For instance, when a child is making too much noise, a parent may just say something like, “Can you please quiet down?” However, the Emotional Coach would say something like, “I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with all this noise going on. Can you please quiet down?” Similarly, a regular parent might give positive feedback to a child in this way, “I like the way you waited patiently in line with me at the bank today.” An Emotional Coach, on the other hand, might say something like, “I felt very relaxed with you in the bank today because you were waiting so patiently.” In other words, the Emotional Coach looks for opportunities to describe his or her inner experience. It is this description that helps the child begin to build an emotional vocabularly that will open the doors to Emotional Intelligence.
  3. Name your child’s feelings. Children feel feelings all day long but not all parents comment on them. In fact, many parents are more practical, focusing on solutions to problems. For instance, if a child is upset because there are no more of his favorite cookies left in the jar, the typical parent might say, “I’ll pick up some more for you when I go shopping this week.” While that solves the problem, it doesn’t build emotional intelligence. An Emotional Coach might say, “Oh, that’s so disappointing! You really love those cookies! I’ll pick some up for you when I go shopping this week.” The extra few words acknowledging the child’s inner world (“Oh that’s so disappointing”) make all the difference when it comes to building Emotional Intelligence. Similarly, parents often try to get kids to STOP their feelings or at least SHRINK their feelings by saying things like, “Just calm down – it’s not such a big deal” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” of “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” The Emotional Coach, on the other hand, accepts all the child’s feelings, giving the child the name for what is going on inside. “I can see how upset you are,” or “You’re really scared about this,” or “It so important to you,” and so on. By accepting all feelings as they are, the Emotional Coach teaches kids not to be afraid of or overwhelmed by feelings. This is a very important part of becoming emotionally intelligent.
  4. Teach your child how to express emotions appropriately. While all feelings are acceptable, all BEHAVIORS are not. It is not O.K. to hit and scream just because you feel angry. It is not O.K. to cry for an hour at the top of your lungs just because you are disappointed. Parents must teach children – by their example and by their interventions – the appropriate behavioral expression of emotions. For instance, parents can teach children to express their anger in a respectful way by saying things like, “When you are mad at your brother for touching your puzzle, just tell him ‘I don’t want you to touch my puzzle. I’m working hard on it and it bothers me when you move the piece around.’ Don’t slap his hand!” Parents will have to use the normal techniques of positive attention, encouragement and discipline to get the lessons across. It is, of course, essential, that parents are respectful themselves in the way they express their upset, fear and disappointment. See “The Relationship Rule” in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on how to teach the proper way to express negative emotions.
  5. Let them experience failure and disappointment. It’s understandable that parents want to protect their children from disappointment. But know that rescuing children from pain, to the point that they never get to experience life, will backfire in the long run. Children need to know how to bounce back from adversity — resilience muscles need training too! And children won’t know how it is to rebound from disappointment if they aren’t allowed to experience it to begin with. When your child gets a poor mark on a project, don’t rush to the teacher to get the mark raised; instead, use emotional coaching with your child (that is, NAME her feelings). “This mark is so disappointing! You tried really hard and the teacher didn’t appreciate it. That is frustrating!” By naming feelings, you actually help shrink them down to size. Feeling words act as “containers” for feelings. It’s O.K. for the child to be upset, or even to cry. After awhile, she’ll calm down. And this is the important part – learning that calm follows a storm. Everything in life doesn’t need to be perfect. There is such a thing as recovery. “There will be more projects, more chances to get a good grade.” You want to show the child that you yourself aren’t afraid of negative experiences or emotions. This model that life is “survivable” can really help a child cope when the going gets rough.
  6. Expand their social network. Few parents think of other people as possible teaching instruments in promoting emotional intelligence. But kids can learn more from interesting personalities and other people’s life experiences than they can from a classroom lecture. Having to adapt well to different types of people — quiet, assertive, annoying, fun-loving — can teach a child how to regulate their behavior based on the demands of an interaction. The challenges other people go through can also provide insight on how to manage one’s own trials in life. Learning vicariously through the success and failure of other people is a good way to raise a child’s E.Q. So if you can, go ahead and enroll your child in various clubs or organizations. When they’re a bit older, encourage them to volunteer in community service. Send them on mission trips. Let them talk with grandpa or grandma. Every person has a lesson to impart to a child.

Boosting Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Parents know that high self-esteem is a good thing, but they may not know exactly what this trait is or how to help their kids acquire it.

What is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem refers to a person’s assessment of him or herself. High self-esteem indicates that a person has made an overall positive assessment of him or herself, whereas low self-esteem means that the person has an overall low opinion of him or herself. Unlike “confidence,” self-esteem is a global measurement – an assessment that sums the person up. It is the conclusion a person makes after examining all of his or her positive and negative traits and skills. “Confidence” on the other hand, varies according to the specific trait or skill being measured. For instance, a person may be a confident driver but an insecure public speaker. However, if public speaking is very important to that person, then doing poorly in this area may lower that person’s overall assessment of him or herself, resulting in low self-esteem.

Why is High Positive Self-Esteem Important?
Positive self-esteem correlates highly with happiness and life satisfaction. It enables people to bounce back more quickly after rejection, failure and other challenging experiences. It reduces their overall stress level by helping them to feel whole and good under a wide range of circumstances. High self-esteem makes people feel stronger, more confident and more optimistic, allowing them to take more risks and thereby achieve greater levels of success. Those with high self-esteem are less dependent on outside approval; they are able to live their lives with less fear and more freedom.

Low self-esteem is linked with many mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. People with low self-esteem are also more likely to be victimized than those with a healthy self-esteem. This is because those with negative self-esteem are prone to both accepting abuse as their due, and believing that they are helpless in fighting bullies and victimizers.

How Does a Child Acquire High Self-Esteem?
A person’s self-esteem is a product of many things. Just as low self-esteem is linked to disorders of mood and anxiety, disorders of mood and anxiety are linked to low self-esteem. This means that the biology underlying certain mental health disorders also generates feelings and attitudes about the self. For instance, depressed people tend to view life negatively and they also tend to view themselves negatively. This has nothing to do with their life experience. It is caused by the chemistry of depression itself. The negative view on life and on oneself is, in this case, inherited genetically.

However, self-esteem is not only a product of biology. Life experiences can also lower or raise self-esteem.

For instance, parenting style influences self-esteem because young kids look up to their parents for clues regarding their worth and value. Positive feedback helps build positive self-assessments. Kids who feel loved by their parents tend to develop more positive self-esteem because they internalize the message that they are worthy of love, and therefore must be inherently good. Kids who experience neglect or abuse tend to develop low self-esteem since their parents’ behavior reflects back to them the message that they are flawed or inherently bad. Calling children names (like “bad,” “stupid,” “lazy,” etc.) lowers their self-esteem since children tend to believe the parent’s judgment and internalize it as their own. Not only parents, but all other people, have the ability to impact on one’s self-esteem. Peers, for example, also affect self-esteem. Being rejected or bullied for a significant period of time can leave a child very down on himself (as well as traumatized). Teachers are also in a position to positively or negatively influence a child’s self-esteem. Other life experiences like academic performance, experiences on sports teams or in extra-curricular activities and experiences with first jobs, all impact on self-esteem. Children who do poorly in school, for instance, often suffer low self-esteem since twenty years of academic mediocrity or worse gives them a low opinion of their capabilities.

Because personal performance strongly affects self-esteem, it is most helpful if parents can provide opportunities for their children to experience success. Exposing them to a wide range of activities (like lessons or practice in sports, dance, art, cooking, crafts, hobbies, paid employment, household responsibilities and so on) gives them the chance to explore their talents and aptitudes. The less a child does, the less he or she can succeed. This inhibits the growth of self-esteem. Thus “over-protection” and excessive “helping” can actually interfere with the growth of a child’s self-esteem. On the other hand, offering the child many opportunities to overcome challenges, learn new skills, engage in independent functioning and express personal talents helps the child develop high self-esteem. A child who can do many things in many different areas of life acquires the kind of positive self-image and confidence that contributes to high self-esteem. Remember, you can’t build a child’s self-esteem by telling him or her that he or she is just “great” or smart, or beautiful. Rather, you can help the child discover his or her own strengths by providing opportunities for the child to EXPERIENCE those strengths through personal accomplishment.

How to Help Your Child Acquire High Self-Esteem
From the above, we can see that parents can do many things to help their child acquire high self-esteem. For instance, parents can:

  • Be generous with positive feedback and praise
  • Show acceptance, understanding, warmth and affection
  • Avoid anger, criticism, insult and abuse
  • Give the child the oppurtunity to learn skills in as many areas as possible, such as; self-care, money management, cooking, independent travel, sports, crafts, music/dance/other creative and/or performing arts, martial arts/gymnastics/yoga, sewing, computer literacy and more
  • Help your child develop social skills, fashion know-how, leadership skills, assertiveness skills and other skills that will help him or her to maintain positive social relationships and reduce the chances of being bullied, victimized, marginalized or ostracized – all of which can lower self-esteem

Build Security Through Acceptance of Inner Feelings
Another way to increase security and self-esteem is to help the child make friends with himself. Using Emotional Coaching (the naming of the child’s feelings) shows acceptance of the child’s inner world. This helps the child become more accepting of himself (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for further information about Emotional Coaching). When a parent calmly names a child’s feelings (i.e. “You don’t like the way you look? That must make you feel sad.” as opposed to “What do you mean you don’t like the way you look? You look beautiful!”), the child actually learns to be more accepting of all of his own emotions. Extensive research has shown that accepting even our most negative feelings has the result of building our confidence and inner security! It’s as if the parent is saying to the child: “I can handle whatever emotions you have without becoming overwhelmed or frightened.” This unspoken message gives the child the confidence to be fully himself.

The opposite approach – making a child feel that he’s got the wrong emotions – has the effect of of making him feel more secure. It’s as if the parents are saying (and some parents actually say this) “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Of course, parents say it in more subtle ways like, “You needn’t be afraid; there’s nothing to be afraid of; there’s no need to be upset; you shouldn’t be mad; there’s no cause for sadness; it’s not true that kids don’t like you; it’s not true that you’re fat,” and so on and so forth. All of these well-intentioned statements are actually DISCOUNTS of the child’s own experience. The child IS afraid or upset or mad or sad or he DOES feel that no one likes him or he’s fat and so forth. When a parent effectively tells a child that he’s feeling the wrong way, the child loses touch with his inner experience, his own truth. This makes him more insecure and less self-confident.

Address Biological Factors
When low self-esteem is caused by biological factors, parents can consider helping their child with Bach Flower Therapy (see articles on this site for detailed explanations of Bach Flower Therapy). You can meet with a Bach Flower Practitioner for an individualized assessment and treatment bottle, or consider the following remedies:

  • Cerato – for the child who doesn’t trust his/her own judgment
  • Larch – for the child who feels inadequate compared to others
  • Pine – for the child who is hard on him/herself, feels guilty or worthless
  • Centaury – for the child who has trouble standing up for him/herself
  • Holly – for the child who is insecure and easily insulted

Bach Remedies are available at health food stores and on-line. Put two drops of the remedy in any hot or cold liquid, four times a day until there is so much improvement in the child’s self-esteem that you forget to give the remedy! Remedies can also be mixed together in a Bach Mixing Bottle filled with water. In this case, give four drops in liquid, four times a day. Ideally, the child takes his drops in the morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

If a child’s self-esteem is negatively affecting his or her functioning at home, with friends or at school, or it is causing the child real distress, the child may benefit from medical assessment and treatment. Medical intervention can increase self-esteem when self-esteem is lowered by chemical factors.

Seek Professional Help
Suffering from insecurity and low self-esteem is painful. If, despite your parenting efforts, your child is burdened with these kinds of feelings, consider accessing professional help. A good child psychologist can use specialized strategies to help a child move into greater self-acceptance and confidence. The positive effects can last a lifetime.

Natural Treatment for Stress Relief

Bach Flower Remedies are one-ounce bottles of specially prepared water (see below for details). Although they are only water, they can affect the way people feel emotionally. In fact, they can help balance emotions so that a person can release stress, upset, hurt, anger, fear, sadness, irritation, jealousy, impatience  and any other distressed emotion. Indeed,  many people report that they have successfully used Bach Flower Remedies to feel calmer, sleep better, worry less, recover faster from upset and heartache, handle parenting stress and work stress better and so on. Many have also reported that they were able to see a reduction in their child’s tantrums, aggressive behaviors, moodiness  or fears because of the use of the remedies.

But the remedies can do even more than help a transitory bad feeling : they can also help correct the tendency to fall into those feelings in the first place. When the remedies are used to treat a chronic emotional issue (like a tendency to be stubborn or a tendency to be explosive), they might actually be assisting in a processes now referred to as  “epigentic healing” – the healing of the gene that leads one to experience chronically negative emotional states. We now know that genes can be turned on and off and this is what appears to be happening when someone takes a long course of Bach Flower Therapy. This means that a child who tends to be very shy can take the remedies over time to reduce the shy tendency altogether. The Bach Flowers do not change personality, however. What they do is enable a person to be their own best self. A very strong-willed, obstinate child will retain his strength of character but instead of just being difficult to live with he will be his best self: a born leader, a confident person, one who can take appropriate action. When the Flower Remedies help a childhood overcome chronic separation anxiety, they leave the child’s personality intact: it is the same youngster without debilitating fear blocking the expression of his true self.

It’s hard to believe that these little remedies can work and it’s best not to even TRY to believe that they will; rather, just try the remedies yourself and observe how you feel while taking them. Or, offer a remedy to your child and observe the child’s behavior over the next days and weeks to see if there is any difference. Bach Flowers sometimes seem to have a dramatically positive effect on both behavior and mood and other times seem to make little difference. (Of course, there is no medical or psychological treatment either that works equally well for every single person who employs it.) In the latter case, it might be that the wrong mix of remedies is being used, but it can also be that a longer period is necessary before change will occur or even that a particular person is not responsive to the remedies at the particular time that they are being offered (i.e. this could change in the future). It can also be that while the Bach Flowers are having some positive effect, a complete treatment  requires other interventions as well including strategies like nutritional support, exercise, psychotherapy and/or medicine.

How are Bach Flowers Prepared and Used?
Dr. Edward Bach, a prominent physician in Britain who died in 1935, was interested in preventative medicine. In his search for something that could boost the immune system to ward off disease or to help the body recover more quickly and thoroughly from illness, he discovered a water-based method of healing that became known as “Bach Flower Therapy.” Modern physicists use principles of quantum physics to explain how water remedies can affect human emotions. Dr. Bach, however, understood the remedies on a purely intuitive level. He felt their effects and he could see what they were able to do to effectively relieve stress and emotional distress.

Bach Flower Remedies are prepared by taking the head of a certain flowering plant and placing it in a clear bowl of pure water. The water is heated in sunlight or on a stove for several hours (depending on which flower is being used) and then the flower is removed. The water is the remedy. It is bottled (and preserved with a bit of grape alcholol) and – in our times – sold in health food stores throughout the world as well as on-line.

Bach Fower Remedies are a form of vibrational medicine, not herbal medicine. They are NOT medicinal. They do not act on the body at all. They don’t interact with other medicines or foods or health conditions or anything. They are the same as water is to the system. However, if someone cannot have even a minute amount of alcohol in their system, they should look for the newer remedies that are made using glycerin instead. In general, however, anyone can safely use Bach Flower Remedies – babies, children, teens and adults, pregnant women and elderly people. Even plants and animals respond well to the Bach Flowers!

How Does One Take Bach Flowers?
If a person is using only one of the 38 remedies, they can take 2 drops from the remedy bottle in a small amount of liquid. They should do so 4 times a day – morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

However, most people take anywhere from 2 to 7 remedies that have been mixed together in a “mixing bottle.” To prepare a mixing bottle, one places water in a glass bottle with a glass dropper – generally a  30 ml  (1oz.) amber bottle. (These bottles are sold wherever Bach Flower Remedies are sold and they are called Bach Mixing Bottles.) Then one adds 2 drops from each desired remedy bottle. If a person was using 7 remedies, they would be adding 14 Bach Remedy drops to their mixing bottle. To ensure that bacteria does not grow inside of the mixing bottle, a teaspoon of brandy or apple cider vinegar should be added to the bottle.

This Bach Flower Remedy Mixture is then taken, 4 drops at a time, in hot or cold liquid, with or without food. Ideally, these 4 drops are taken 4 times a day, for a total of 16 drops daily. A person takes them in the morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

Adults can put 4 drops of their Bach Flower mixture into coffee, tea, water, juice, soup or any other liquid. Children can take their drops in water, chocolate milk, juice, cereal or any other beverage.

A person takes their mixture until they start forgetting to take it and they no longer need it. (Or, parents give a mixture to a child until the child’s behavior or mood issues have resolved to the point where the parent is now forgetting to give it to the child)  If symptoms return (and they most likely will), the person starts taking the remedy again. In fact a person may end up using the remedy off and on for a year or two (less time in children) before the problematic tendency  disappears completely.

How Does One Know Which Remedies to Use?
Dr. Bach wanted to keep his healing method very simply. A person should be able to read the description of the 38 remedies and decide which ones he needs. Of course, some people feel that they need all 38! However, no more than 7 should be used at a time.

A person could pick up a book on Bach Flower Remedies and decide which flowers they need based on the description of who the remedy is for and what it can do. Also, most health food stores have a pamphlet that explain what the remedies can too. Alternatively, a person can make an appointment with a Bach Flower Practitioner who will be pleased to help them design a remedy for themselves or their child.

Help Your Child Deal with Rejection

Louise worked so hard on her speech; she wanted to be the school’s representative in the annual public speaking contest. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass the auditions. She was so disappointed.

It took awhile for Tommy to ask Jerry and his friends if he could join them in their game of softball.  After one week of mustering the courage to ask, Tommy had to deal with Jerry’s hurtful answer: a “no.” 

Nobody wants to be rejected. It’s painful and humiliating and at times extremely frustrating. It can also make a person question his or her self-worth. If you’re always rejected, it’s not unusual to ask: “Can something be wrong with me?”

To avoid feeling defeated by rejection, it’s important to develop one’s coping muscles. It’s unreasonable to expect that we will be accepted all time; in life, there will always be moments of rejection. What’s important is that we gain control of the setback, so that it doesn’t debilitate us.

The following are some of the ways parents can help their child deal with rejection:

Raise Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Parents can help bolster their’ child’s self-esteem in three important ways:

  1. By giving generous positive feedback
  2. By limiting and softening necessary criticism
  3. By giving children ample opportunity  to experience success through their own activities

When a child has a positive view of self, he or she has a strong shield against the sting of rejection. Rejection becomes situational instead of personal, with the pain temporary instead of permanent. When you know deep down that you’re a person of worth, you’re willing to risk trying again, because you know the problem is not inherent in you.

Allow Your Child to Feel Disappointment
Welcome, name and accept all of your child’s feelings, including the sad ones. Avoid the rule: “You must always feel happy!” This rule stunts children’s emotional growth and makes it very difficult for them to ride through inevitable negative feelings and life experiences. Disappointment is just part of life. When you use “emotional coaching” (the calm naming of a child’s feelings) you demonstrate that YOU aren’t frightened by the child’s temporary distress. YOU can handle it! This gives the child courage to handle it too. Remember, you don’t have to force your child to cheer up every time he or she gets rejected. In fact, the best thing you can do is to give them time to feel sad about their situation! You can say something like, “Gosh, I guess that’s pretty disappointing.” Don’t look like you’re going to cry! Have confidence in your child’s ability to face life. In fact, the more you are able to comfortably name the child’s feelings, the more the child will be able to manage moments of distress. Remember that no matter what has happened, the sadness will pass and the child will be able to get on with life.

Help Your Child Figure Out How to Do Better
Rejection is an excellent motivator, and parents can take the opportunity to teach their child how to channel their disappointment into inspiration. Help your child figure out the reason why they got rejected. Perhaps they didn’t try hard enough; perhaps they were the wrong fit with the crowd. Whatever the reason is, there are always ways to do better the next time around. Effective problem-solving can lead to greater success.

Identify to Your Child the Areas Outside of His or Her Control
Sometimes the rejection is unfair and arbitrary. Sometimes rejection is the result of large numbers and insufficient placements. There may be a time when your child is subject to some form of bullying that leads to exclusion. Or your child could lose out on a great opportunity because someone forgot to file his or her application form. When these situations happen, it’s important to teach kids that sometimes it’s just unfortunate circumstances, or “not meant to be.” Not everything is within our control, and when we face something we can’t influence, the best approach is to simply let go. Those with a strong religious faith can draw on their belief that the rejection is not an accident and it is meant for one’s best development.

Tells Tall Tales

“Last week we went on this huge trip to Africa. It was great. I got to see a real live elephant. Oh, and I shook hands with a tribal leader!”

Children have amazing imaginations. They can come up with the most fantastic stories, with attention to even the smallest of details. But while storytelling is a skill to be admired, lying and spinning tales is not. Lying to friends can become so addictive an activity, that by the time children experience the negative consequences of their behavior, they might already have developed a strong bad habit.

It’s important for parents to try to understand their child’s  motivation for lying. Knowing the reasons behind the behavior can help parents find alternative, healthier ways for their child to get his or her needs met.

What are the reasons that children lie to their friends and what can parents do about it? Consider the following tips:

They Want to Make Themselves Appear More Interesting
Sometimes kids lie because it gives them attention that they enjoy from peers. An otherwise shy and boring lad can become an instant celebrity with a few embellishments to his tale. And the more lies “work,” the more tempting it is tell another make-believe story.

What can parents do? It’s important to communicate to a child that lying to get friends is actually counter-productive. At some point, other kids are going to discover that the stories are not true, and this could result in your child getting abandoned or socially ostracized. There are healthier ways of getting attention, such as starting a stimulating conversation about books read, movies seen, computer clips viewed, games played, etc. If a child’s social skills can be developed, there’ll be no need to lie to make and maintain friends. For instance, a child can be taught to share true stories or learn to respond with enthusiasm and interest to other people’s stories. A child can learn to tell the occasional joke (help your child to realize that this skill has to be limited to appropriate times and places and used only in moderation). Parents can find children’s social skills books in the library (or ask the children’s librarian for assistance). The books can be used to educate and stimulate both discussion and role-playing. In addition, there are special social skills groups for children and teens and there are also teachers and therapists who specialize in helping children develop better social skills.

They Want to Get Sympathy
Kids may also lie to friends in order to gain pity or assistance. For example, they may say that their experiencing a serious illness, or they are having difficulty in a particular task or subject. Sympathy is also a form of attention, and being able to get attention through lying makes spinning these kinds of tales very addictive.

What can parents do? Lying to get sympathy can be a sign of insecurity in a child. The sense of inferiority and helplessness may be real, requiring professional attention. A consultation with a mental health professional may be appropriate.

They Feel Ashamed
There are occasions when kids lie because they feel ashamed or embarrassed about an aspect of themselves or their family. For instance, a child who attends a school largely populated by affluent kids may feel compelled to lie about a parent’s blue collar job, the house he lives in, the car the parents drive or the so-called vacations his family takes.

What can parents do? Sometimes parents can work on building family pride in non-material ways. For instance, fostering a strong religious faith has given many families a strong identity, community membership and sense of confidence. Also, taking steps to help children feel self-confident in general will help combat feelings of inadequacy or shame. Follow the 80-20 Rule, giving your child 80% good-feeling communications like praise, affection, humor and empathy –  and strongly limiting criticism and anger. A home filled with laughter and love can certainly contribute to a child’s sense of wholeness and inner stability. Of course, some children are simply insecure by nature even though their parents are generous with positive feedback and affection. If children are suffering from intense feelings of inadequacy for any reason, professional treatment can help foster greater self-acceptance and personal confidence.

Learning Disabilities and Self-Esteem

Because they have more difficulty in school compared to other kids, children with learning disabilities (LDs) sometimes start to question their own intelligence and competence. Their self-esteem can suffer, despite the fact that they usually have normal or even very high intelligence as measured on standard instruments.  In fact, a learning disability is defined as a SPECIFIC deficit in one or two areas of functioning (i.e. math and reading) despite overall normal (or even higher)  intelligence. However, children typically experience a great deal of failure and frustration before they end up being officially diagnosed with a learning disability. It is often during this period of not knowing what the problem is that kids are particularly vulnerable to developing low self-esteem.

However, even after diagnosis there are many threats to the child’s self-concept: there’s the anger, self-pity and a sense of helplessness that comes from having to work harder than peers, or from needing to be isolated in special learning situations (remedial teachers, classrooms or schools), or having to endure after-school tutors and lessons. Despite all the interventions and efforts, many children with learning disabilities will never do as well as their peers in their weak areas. Moreover, some kids with severe learning disabilities will not be able to keep up with or join in certain activities because of their deficits and this exclusion, too, can contribute to low self-esteem.

In addition, not all people are sensitive or affirming when they relate to children with disabilities. Some kids can be downright cruel, teasing children with special needs or even bullying them. Parents and teachers may also unconsciously communicate low expectations, and may unintentionally send the message that they don’t see the child as capable.

A Predictor of Success
However, since healthy self-esteem is a key ingredient for attaining  success in life, it is important that parents do what they can to help their learning disabled child acquire a positive self-concept.

Studies have consistently shown that if kids with LDs consider themselves as capable and confident, they do better in all areas of life. Moreover, they are less likely to fall into mental health issues associated with LDs, such as depression or anxiety.

Define the Term “Learning Disability”
A learning disability is a condition, not a trait. In this way, it is similar to diabetes or asthma. Helping your child know that he or she is normal but has a condition, can go a long way to keeping that youngster’s self-esteem intact. There are books for children that explain learning disabilities; seeing the condition described in a book can also help kids realize that this is something outside of themselves that they must deal with, but it does not define all of who they are. Children often misunderstand the term “learning disabilities,” thinking that it means that they can’t learn! This erroneous idea can affect their performance across the board. Instead of just having difficulty in one or two areas, a child with this misconception can do poorly in every area simply because he believes he is intellectually handicapped. It is very important for parents to spell out the specific disability and to highlight the child’s learning strengths. For instance, a parent might say, “your brain has trouble recognizing and remembering letters (this is called ‘dyslexia’)and so you have to work harder to be a fast reader. But in every other way, your brain works perfectly and you are actually very smart. So this means that you should find it easy to do your arithmetic, art, gym, music, science and most of your other subjects. You can can also be awesome on the computer and in sports. And because you’re so smart, you will be able to figure out how to help your brain remember the letters and you will become a good reader – it will just take a bit of work. But we’re going to provide you with extra help so it will be even easier.”

In addition, parents should focus on their child’s areas of natural strength and competency. If the child is a talented musician, artist, cook, computer whiz or whatever, parents can highlight the child’s gift and smarts in these areas. Parents can try to expose their child to as many different activities as possible in order to help the child find areas of competency. For instance, if you don’t invite the child into the kitchen to prepare dessert for the family, neither you nor the child will ever know that cooking is his natural talent! In addition to skills, LD kids also have commendable traits such as determination, compassion or courtesy. Giving positive feedback to character and behavior is another way to boost the child’s self-esteem.

Let Them Contribute
Assume that the child is competent unless the child proves otherwise. Therefore, treat your learning disabled child as a full fledged member of the family with all “voting” privileges and responsibilities. Parents can help their child feel normal by holding them to normal expectations and standards. Offer compensation only when the child’s LD is actually affecting task performance. For instance, kids with learning disabilities can fold laundry as well as anyone else, so don’t let them off the task. However, a particular child with LD may have more trouble running errands due to the difficulty of handling money. This doesn’t mean that the child shouldn’t be allowed to go to the corner store. It might mean, however, that you help him with this task by explaining what to expect in the way of change, showing him what the financial transaction is going to look like or otherwise “tutoring” him through the task.

Use Emotional Coaching
By naming a child’s feelings, parents can help boost the child’s self-esteem and overall emotional intelligence. Naming a feeling lets the child know that he is O.K., his feelings are normal and acceptable and he has emotional support. Thus, when the child is struggling with a difficult task, a parent can acknowledge “It’s hard! It’s frustrating to try that again and again and still not get the answer!” It is hard to believe how powerful a simple acknowledgment of the child’s feelings can be. Moreover, a large body of research shows that just naming feelings helps the child do better academically, behaviorally, socially and emotionally.

Understanding Self-Harm

Hurting oneself on purpose seems to be an odd thing to do, yet the practice is growing in popularity among today’s teens. There is a reason for this: self-harm is a “harmless” way to reduce feelings of anxiety and angst. Due to the ease of modern communication among teenagers, word has caught on that this strategy works. It is cheap, easy and always available – unlike other methods of stress relief like drinking alcohol, taking drugs or even accessing counseling services! As a result, this disorder is highly influenced by peer behavior; when children learn that others they know are hurting themselves, they often experiment with this stress relief strategy themselves. Unfortunately, self-harm is a very dysfunctional behavior that often causes feelings of deep shame, helplessness and inadequacy in much the same way as other addictive behaviors do. For instance, bingeing and purging (overeating large amounts of food and then vomitting or using laxatives) also temporarily dispels anxiety but then causes those same painful emotions of shame, helplessness and inadequacy. Some people feel that self-harm is a cry for attention or help. Parents are naturally distressed to learn that their child has been hurting him or herself. Nonetheless, there is some comfort in knowing that self-harming actions are not necessarily related to suicidality. The goal of sufferers is to inflict minor pain, release endorphins and communicate to family members. Suicidal teenagers don’t practice self-harm; they practice killing themselves and sometimes succeed.

What is Self-Harm?
Self-harm is any action taken to cause oneself pain. Some people hit themselves – slapping their head, their face, their limbs or their body. Some people burn themselves. Some bite their skin or pick at it till it bleeds. Some use a sharp object to make small cuts on themselves – most commonly on their arms but also on other parts of the body.

Understanding the Paradox: Why Do People Do It?
When we are pain, such as when we experience a cut or burn, our brain releases natural pain relievers – endorphins – into the body. The chemicals associated with pain relief are also managers of mood. Hence, cutting and other methods of self-harm does bring some form of temporary relief to a person in distress. This temporary relief can get so addictive, that self-harm becomes a person’s first line of defense against emotions he or she can’t handle.

Experts also believe that there are psychological reasons why self-harm makes sense to the people who do it. Many times, cutting becomes some form of displacement. When emotional pain is too much to bear, “transforming” the emotional pain to physical pain makes it more manageable. Engaging in self-harm is also a way of validating that the pain one feels is real. There’s no evidence of inner distress, but seeing scars and burns are an acknowledgment that one is suffering.

In some cases, people engage in self-harm as an unconscious way of punishing themselves or a cry for attention. There are also situations when self-harm is an attempt to “feel something”; too much pain or trauma can numb one’s self. For people who engage in self-injury, self harm is better than feeling nothing.

Is Self-Harm a Suicide Attempt?
Not usually. However, people who self-harm are at additional risk for becoming suicidal. Therefore, parents need to take self-harming behaviors seriously.

While many who engage in self-harm report that they have no plans to kill themselves (they just want the temporary relief self-harm brings), they are always mentally unhealthy. Healthy people don’t hurt themselves. The mental health conditions typically associated with suicide attempts (e.g. clinical depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, severe anxiety) are often the same conditions that trigger self-harm. It is possible that self-harm activities are not suicidal in and of themselves, but if people are left alone to wallow in progressive mental illness, self-harming tendencies can progress to actual suicidality. Parents and mental health professionals are therefore recommended to take the cautious view and always treat the underlying emotions and mental health conditions of those who engage in self-harm.

What can Parents Do to Help a Child Who Engages in Self-Harm?
First off, be alert. Children and teens who self-harms take extra pains to hide what they are doing; you need to be a conscious and attentive parent to spot what’s going on. Symptoms of self-harm includes persistent wearing of clothing that hide common targets of self-harm such as the wrist, the upper arms and the chest; frequent “accidents” that explains injuries, a high need for privacy, implements like cutters, ropes or lighters in the bedroom, and symptoms of depression.

When you’ve confirmed that your child does engage in self-harm, it’s important that you raise the issue with him or her instead of hoping the behavior will go away on its own. Provide unconditional acceptance and a listening ear. And most importantly, arrange an appointment with a licensed mental health professional.

Bad Self-Image

Have you ever visited the “mirror room” in a circus? You know, the one where there are many different kinds of mirrors, each one reflecting an unreal and exaggerated version of the viewer, making the person look so much taller, smaller, fatter or skinnier than he or she really is?

For people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD, every day is like staring into a circus mirror. Except, people with the condition don’t realize that what they are seeing is a distortion – they believe their distorted reflection is real. They consider themselves physically flawed, although no one else would agree with this assessment. They preoccupy themselves about a perceived flaw in one or more of their features or body parts — their nose is too big, their eyes too small, their skin too light or too dark. They feel ugly — both from the inside and out.

While most people have some issues with their appearance — indeed, the beauty and fashion industry preys on our insecurities — the obsession about perceived physical flaws among those with BDD is excessive. In fact, most of their perceived flaws simply don’t exist, or if they do, they are barely noticeable. However, sufferers are absolutely convinced that they are deformed or ugly and feel shamed just by being in the presence of other people; they are often so anxious that they can’t work or enjoy life. Some are so intent on fixing their imperfections that they risk multiple surgeries and unproven treatments.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder often comes with other mental health conditions like clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, impulse control disorders like trichotillomania, anxiety disorders and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

What causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
BDD is more common than most people realize; it is believed to affect 2 in every 100 members of the population. It is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults, mainly because it is during these times that the pressure to present a “beautiful” front is most intense.

A family history of BDD or obsessive-compulsive disorders increases the likelihood of the condition developing in a person. This implies that BDD has an organic origin, such as chemical imbalance in the part of the brain that controls emotions and habits. Traumatic experiences, like physical and sexual abuse, can also trigger Body Dysmorphic Disorder in those who have the genetic vulnerability for it.

What Are the Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
The following are some of the signs parents should look out for:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Excessive pre-occupation with physical appearance
  • A pervasive belief that one is ugly or unattractive despite assurances and evidence to the contrary
  • A feeling of shame or self-loathing related to one’s body
  • Frequent examination of the body parts they consider as flawed
  • Eating disorders
  • Use of many cosmetic products or procedures, exercise regimens, with no pleasure at results
  • Social withdrawal or social anxiety
  • Inability to function because of preoccupation about appearance

What Can Parents Do?
If you see signs that a child or teen may have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, it’s best to consult a mental health professional. The obsessive-compulsive nature of the illness, as well as the pervasiveness of the perceptual disturbance make simple assurances ineffective. Counseling, therapy and medication are known to help. If the illness is accompanied by dysfunctional eating and exercise habits, then the help of a medical doctor, eating disorders specialists or psychiatrist will also be helpful.