Thursday, April 19, 2018

Red Flag Behaviors - Responding To Clues Kids Aren't Coping

Experiencing stress is part of growing up. What happens when children feel overwhelmed by stress? If your child is under age six, the result is often a tantrum. They aren’t trying to misbehave. They simply have not developed better coping skills.

Older kids may also have meltdowns when they are flooded with strong feelings. They are developing better coping skills but may not have the presence of mind to use those skills.

All kids experience stress. Some turn to talking to friends while others try escaping with drugs. How are your kids coping with their stress?

Developing Healthy Coping Strategies

Your kids may feel pressure to do well at school, sports and other activities. They also have various social pressures with classmates, friends and family.

Since all kids need to handle stress, developing healthy strategies is important. What do your kids like to do to calm down? Some healthy ways kids cope with stress include:
  • Drawing or coloring
  • Listening to music
  • Playing an instrument
  • Meditating
  • Talking to someone
  • Exercising or going for a walk
  • Writing in a journal
  • Practicing a sport
  • Reading
Ideally your children have many healthy coping skills to choose from. Establishing a daily practice for dealing with stress is helpful.

Recognizing Unhealthy Coping Behaviors

When your kids are overextended or exhausted, their coping skills may start to crumble. Even though they were coping well a few days ago, they may not be able to do it today.

Some behaviors indicate potentially serious problems in coping with stress. It’s natural to want to minimize the possible consequences and hope that things will get better. Don’t all teens act like this? Isn’t this a phase that will soon pass?

What behaviors may indicate a problem? Red flag behaviors include:

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Reducing Suicide Among Kids

You love your kids. The last thing you want to think about is that your child might commit suicide. Tragically suicide is the second leading cause of death for kids and youth ages 5 to 24-years-old.

Is there anything you can do today to prevent a tragedy like this from happening? Some parents who have suffered the devastating loss of their child to suicide are working hard to prevent it in other families.

Opening Up About Depression and Suicide

John and Susie Trautwein lost their 15-year-old son, Will, to suicide. Will is the oldest of their four children. In John’s book, My Living Will: A Father’s Story of Loss & Hope, he describes their families’ fun, loving atmosphere. The night Will hung himself they had no indication that he was depressed let alone suicidal.

Will was doing well in school and sports plus had plenty of friends. It’s hard to imagine that kids like Will would feel like ending their lives. Yet it happens.

Michael Phelps, Olympic swimmer and winner of 28 medals, has struggled with depression since his teens. In this MSN article titled “Michael Phelps: 'I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life'” Phelps reports falling into major depression after every Olympics. He finally reached out for help when he hit an all-time low where he wasn’t eating or sleeping well and didn’t want to be alive.

The article quotes Phelps saying "I was very good at compartmentalizing things and stuffing things away that I didn't want to talk about, I didn't want to deal with, I didn't want to bring up -- I just never ever wanted to see those things." After learning to talk about his feelings, he reports life was much easier.

People who share their struggles with suicidal thoughts help break the taboo of talking about it. Seattle Times columnist Matt Calkins wrote about his own mental health challenges in this article “Player’s Death A Reminder Help is Here”. He was inspired to share his struggles after the suicide death of Washington State college quarterback Tyler Hilinski.

Recognizing Boys’ Vulnerable Feelings

Males are 3.5 times more likely to die from suicide than females. Part of what puts them at higher risk is society’s expectations of males.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Establishing Healthier Eating Habits

Do you struggle to get your kids to eat healthy? If so, you have plenty of company! While it seems like it should not be that difficult to have children eat plenty of nutritious food, for many it’s an ongoing struggle.

When there’s tension around what your kids are eating, it adds stress to every meal. It doesn’t have to be that way. Changing your approach so that healthy eating is no longer a battle is worth the effort.

Recognizing Eating Issues

How do nutrition-smart parents raise kids who exist on mac and cheese, yogurt, goldfish crackers and chicken nuggets? Your nutritional knowledge can unintentionally help you justify feeding your children junk food. If you find yourself saying “well at least it has Vitamin C”, you’ve fallen into this trap!

Do you need to adjust your family’s eating habits to be healthier? These signs indicate a need to make some changes:
  • You find yourself begging your kids to eat just two more bites.
  • You battle with your kids over eating enough fruits and vegetables.
  • Your children are overweight.
  • Your children often aren’t hungry at meal time.
  • You justify poor food choices with saying things like “at least it has protein”.
  • Your children typically eat something other than what is being served for dinner.
  • Meal time is filled with tension.
  • When you eat at someone else’s house, you bring special food for your child.

If any of these signs resonate with you, it’s time to make some changes.

Establishing Healthy Eating Habits

Dr. Dina Rose discusses helping kids eat well in her book, It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating. She focuses on teaching your kids healthy habits that will last their lifetime.

Picture Courtesy of Pinterest Search for Vegetable Recipes

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Raising Moral Children Without Relying On Religion

Raising kids means eventually being asked some tough questions. They'll ask questions ranging from the meaning of life to what happens after we die. To keep it interesting there will also be many questions in between!

If you are raising your children in the same religion you were raised in, these answers may be readily provided. What happens if you've rejected the religion you were raised in? How do you provide guidance in life's big questions when you're not sure yourself?

In her book In Good Faith: Secular Parenting in a Religious World, Maria Polonchek describes her journey. Raised in an evangelical Christian home, she started questioning many of her religion's beliefs as a teen. She describes her process of leaving this church and searching for other ways of answering life's big questions.

When one of her young sons asks "Who is God?" she realizes that she doesn't have pat answers like her parents did. How can she and her husband raise kids with moral values without the support of a church? She discusses her thoughts and feelings as she searches for answers.

They discover the Unitarian Universalist religion which supports diverse beliefs. By the time they first go to this church, their oldest twins are 9-years-old and prefer other activities on Sundays rather than going to church. Because of her own upbringing, Polonchek was reluctant to bring her kids to any church before they were able to reason on their own. Unfortunately by the time they are able to reason, they can give plenty of reasons why they should not have to go to church!

Interestingly we raised our kids in a Unitarian church because it allowed both my husband and my beliefs to co-exist. I wanted our kids to have a foundation in religion. The Unitarian church provides an excellent educational program including exploring various world religions.

If you are exploring how to raise moral kids without relying on religion, Polonchek's book will give you ideas from her path.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Supporting Kids Through Heartbreaking Rejection

Being rejected hurts. You love your kids and never want to see them hurt. Unfortunately you cannot prevent your children from experiencing rejection. Whether it’s not being selected for a team or not having a date for the dance, feeling rejected is painful.

Your response in these situations can provide a healing salve for your child’s wounds or deepen the pain. When you let them know that you value and love them regardless of what has happened, you provide comfort. Knowing they always have your love is a powerful antidote.

Threatening To Remove Connection

Everyone has a deep need for connection with others. When children want to hurt others, one way they do it is by threatening to remove connection.

Words can hurt. This is especially true when they are words of rejection. Even young children know the power of saying things like:

  • "I'm not your friend anymore."
  • "I don't want to play with you."
  • "You're not invited to my birthday party!"
  • "I hate you!"
Saying these things is often a child’s way of expressing anger or frustration. When you hear kids saying something like this, begin by acknowledge their feelings. You might say “You are mad that she won’t share that truck with you. It’s not ok to say mean things. What else can you say to let her know how you are feeling?”

Kids need lots of practice developing their interpersonal skills. When you hear kids saying something unkind, help them find healthier ways to express their emotions.

Experiencing a Crushing Blow

Trying out for a team takes courage. Unless your child is guaranteed to make the team, there is the risk of failure. Responding when your child makes the team is easy. The difficult part is how you respond when your child does not make the team.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Improving Your Family Dynamics

How have things been going for your family this past week? When were you feeling happy and content? What situations left you feeling frustrated, angry or sad?

When you reflect back, think about what has gone well and what parts feel out of alignment. If you could change anything what would it be?

Acknowledging Problems

Recognizing what isn’t working well is the first step in making a positive change. When parents report their biggest challenges, they describe problem behaviors like:
  • Not listening
  • Throwing tantrums
  • Disobeying
  • Hitting people
  • Back talking
  • Being a picky eater
  • Sibling fighting
  • Being disrespectful
  • Not getting homework done
  • Arguing and questioning
If these behaviors make your list too, know that you’re not alone! While your kids will behave in ways that you would like to change, the only real change you can make is to your own behavior. Don’t despair! When you focus your energy on changing your own behavior, you increase your influence on your kids’ behavior.

Responding in Better Ways To Your Kids’ Challenging Behavior

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sage Questions For Teens Graduating From High School To Ponder

Do you know someone graduating from high school? Are you looking for a meaningful graduation gift? Hal Runkel's new book, Choose Your Own Adulthood is a perfect match!

Graduating from high school is an important milestone in anyone's life. There are many choices to be made and the decisions determine the direction of one's life. When Runkel's daughter was leaving for college, he handed her a book he had written to help guide her. Now he's sharing that wisdom in this book.

The book discusses choices and guides you to considering the ramifications of different decisions. How will you handle dating? What will you spend your time pursuing? What are your principles and how will they guide you? How can you get focus on the work you most value? What does it take to finish a project or save for your future? What are the benefits of being real instead of trying to be perfect? This book will help your teen think through these important questions and more!