* Teaching Tolerance to Children is Vital *

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, December 27, 2016 –

Now, more than ever, we live in a world where global interaction is normal, and even expected, in many fields of work. This trend will continue to grow, so it is important to raise children to be accepting and tolerant of cultures and norms different than their own.

Children are taught about other cultures in school, but as far as molding a child into a tolerant human being, most of the responsibility falls on the parents or caregivers.

The primary way for a parent to teach this is by example. Your children are going to model your behavior. If you show respect for people of all races, genders and religions, your child will learn to do that too.

It is very difficult to teach your child to respect others if you are not doing it yourself. The way you speak to (and about) a person from another culture does not go unnoticed by your child. Make sure you always treat others with respect and dignity so your children learn to do the same.

Don’t be afraid to talk about differences with your children. At times it seems as though people get embarrassed when their children point out different physical characteristics, races or ethnicities. The truth is, there are a lot of races, cultures and ethnicities in the world. Your child is simply learning through observation and pointing this out.

It is a positive thing to have conversations with your child about these differences and encourage them to be accepting of everyone — no matter what they look like. Diversity makes our world a great place, and introducing this to your child will help them become a better-rounded individual.

Helping your child build their own confidence is also a tremendous help. People who are comfortable in their own skin and confident about their own lives are more likely to be tolerant of the lives others choose to live.

 This is true of children too. If you celebrate your child’s uniqueness and happiness, they will radiate joy to those around them. They will be less consumed with the differences of others because they are comfortable being themselves.

Allow your child to have experiences in diverse settings. Sign them up for camps or clubs that will support your goal of raising a tolerant child. When possible, travel together. Seeing different ways people live will help your child be more aware that everyone’s lives don’t look like theirs.

Children grow up so fast. As parents, it is our job to prepare them for their futures to the best of our abilities. Raising your child to be tolerant of others is a huge step in raising a successful child.

Besides preparing them for success in an ever-changing global economy, having this strength will allow your child to build positive relationships throughout life.

* Raising Your Child with Good Coping Skills *

mother-and-daughter

Our innocent children are born not knowing how stressful and judgmental the world can be. As they grow, they often look to us for guidance on how to react to certain people and situations.

How do you personally cope when you are feeling angry, overwhelmed or sad? Your reactions are cues tucked away in the deepest recesses of your child’s brain, and they retrieve this information to determine how to treat people and cope with certain situations. They observe our behavior and in turn future presidents, teachers, fathers, mothers, mentors (and bullies) are created.

It is no secret that our kids make us angry from time to time. We are human. We all have our triggers and have learned to react in a certain way to each one.

But it might be time to take stock of how you react to your triggers. What are we teaching them when we shame our kids by yelling, hitting or calling them names?

Shameful behavior leads to low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. The child then may begin acting out in ways that are unhealthy — drinking alcohol, experimenting with drugs, fighting or engaging in self-harm.

It is every parent’s goal to raise their child to be an upstanding member of the community. As parents, however, we don’t always realize how our words or actions come across during a heated argument.

If you are seeing the same bad behavior in your child over and over again, then it is time to realize what you are doing is not working.

One of the skills I teach students in my Coping and Skills training group is STEPS. It is an acronym that stands for Stop, Think, Evaluate, Perform and Self-Praise. Utilizing STEPS is a quick and easy when used consistently.

For example, I tell my son to take out the trash, and he responds, “Just a minute.” But it never gets taken out. I get angry. I have learned that when he says, “Just a minute,” it means the trash is not going to be taken out. So I yell at him, “Not just a minute; right now!” We end up yelling at each other until he goes into his room and slams the door. We stay mad at one another for the rest of the night.

STOP. The trigger in this situation is when the son responds, “Just a minute.”

THINK. How can you respond in a way that will set a good example for your child and encourage them to do what you ask?

EVALUATE each option. Are your choices helping mold your child to make good decisions in the future and to treat others with respect?

PERFORM the option you have decided to use.

SELF-PRAISE. Praise yourself for taking the opportunity to evaluate how you will respond to your child appropriately.

The goal is to use STEPS without yelling or saying hurtful things to your child. This will help manage your mood so you can be a positive role model for your child. Teach your child how to use STEPS so they can choose more appropriate ways of handling stressful situations.

* Helping Your Child Understand Emotions *

girl-emotions

By Ashley Hale, MSW, LSW, Courier & Press, Dec. 6, 2016 –

The teenage years can be very difficult for both teen and parent. It’s a time when the child becomes bombarded with many changes.

Your teen may be starting a new school, taking on more difficult studies and more extra-curricular activities, facing more intense peer pressure, and making new friends.  Hormones and bodies are also changing, causing heightened emotions.

Teens are often described as moody, but we have to remember that all of these emotions can be confusing and turbulent. When an emotion intensifies, the child may feel like something is wrong with them.  As a therapist, I have had countless teens sigh with relief after I explain that it’s normal for them to feel angry, sad, or whatever the presenting emotion may be.

Anger is a common emotion around this developmental age because it’s the “umbrella” hovering over various other emotions such as fear, frustration, helplessness, rejection, sadness, and others.

It is tough for us to watch our children struggle. We would rather suffer these emotions for them, but we can’t. However, there are some things we can do to help them gain self-control and avoid damaging behaviors.

Not all strategies work for all children, and these are solely suggestions. Please remember that just like walking, talking, and toilet training, the regulation of emotions is a learned behavior that takes time.

  • Be present and supportive. Don’t minimize your child’s feelings (even when you don’t agree). Normalize their feelings and let them know it’s okay to feel what they feel. Avoid the words “should” and “ought to.” Provide stability and consistency.
  • Encourage discussion and discourage bottling of emotions. Avoid statements like “Don’t be angry” or “You shouldn’t be sad about that.” Encourage them to talk when they are ready. Praise their efforts to control their reactions. (i.e. “You are working very hard at controlling yourself and I am proud of you.”)
  • Help your teen process the emotion. Assist them with labeling an emotion and what may trigger it. Teach problem solving skills. Help them identify their warning signs and teach calming strategies to put in place at that time.
  • Teach and model appropriate coping skills. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. State how you are feeling and brainstorm out loud how you are going to handle it. Identify negative self-talk and substitute positive self-talk. (Positive examples: “I can calm down.” “It’s okay to make mistakes.”)

Let your teen know that although we are entitled to our emotions, it’s not an excuse to behave inappropriately or in a way that is damaging to others. We must teach our kids that they are responsible for their own actions.

Although you should be as supportive as possible, it’s necessary to set consistent limits.  Use those opportunities as teaching moments. Remember that it’s vital to feel emotions rather than suppress them. Teens must learn to be self-aware and able to manage themselves.

The absolute most important thing you can do is be an encouraging supporter and love them through it. The teen years are a struggle and new emotions are scary, but these challenges can be balanced by providing the teen with appropriate guidance and a safe person they can confide in.