Category Archives: parent category

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the awareness that comes when we pay attention to ourselves and to our surrounding in the present moment. We are not stuck to the past and have no previous thought on how we perceive a person, a situation or an activity. We are not stuck to the future either and worried about what it might bring of disasters. Contrary to what many may think, it is about NOT LIVING IN OUR THOUGHTS all the time.

Awareness means paying attention to where we are, what we are doing or who we are with. So it does not advocate for multitasking. It is being focused on one thing right here, right now. Mindfulness wakes us up in the moment. If we are not fully present in the moment, we may miss on happiness waiting for it to arrive to our life in the future. NOW is the most valuable moment in our lives.

Research has shown that practicing mindfulness has its great benefits:
1. Mindfulness quiets the mind when we are worried and reduces stress.
2. It boosts our ability to concentrate with clarity and improves listening ability.
3. It allows us to cope with life challenges and fast-paced lifestyle.
4. We are in better control of our emotions, words and actions and thus improves relationships in the family, community and at work.
5. When mindful, we can take criticism and objections positively.
6. Mindfulness improves our chances of success because it enhances creativity, memory and problem solving skills. It gives us the ability to make better decisions with clarity.
7. Mindfulness results in better health and better quality of life.

Mindfulness can be nurtured through attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery, and creation of positive mental habits. Mindfulness training has been embraced by companies and by a number of individuals, including surgeons, musicians, military personnel, lawyers, and financial advisors. Perhaps it is time to take it seriously in our life and profession.
In the fast-paced life of today how can we nurture mindfulness?
1. Practice breathing. All we need is to sit still and observe our breath as it goes in and out of our lungs, without changing our breathing. The breath reminds us to tune into our body for a few moments. This allows us to be more aware of our thoughts and feelings with a greater degree of calmness and a smarter eye.
2. Mentally scan each part of the body as we take deep breath.
3. Slow down and spend time in nature.
4. Establish mindfulness triggers associated with any recurring events during our day.
5. Eliminate needless rush.

 

Balanced Parenthood

From ‘Parenting under Stress’

Imagine this scenario:

You notice that your son is good at basketball, or maybe he is good at drawing, or interested in science. What would you do?

You would be so flattered and happy, ‘google’ courses and tutors to nurture your son’s interest or skill, and in your mind you think of Shaquille O’Neil, Picasso, or Einstein. Your son protests: “I do not need a tutor!  I just want to play to have fun!”  But you insist on giving him the right training.  You plan everything from registration to scheduling to transportation and supervising then rewarding or consequencing. You think that what you are doing is motivating him but he loses interest and stops doing what he was interested in altogether. You have good intentions and sacrifice your time and energy to make sure your child has the best life. You want him to be happy, healthy, and successful, but by planning his free time you hijack your child’s life and decide for him. You pressure him in school and also after school.

Pushing your children has its advantages when done right. It gives the child a sense of achievement and recognition, builds stamina and hard work ethics, trains children to push and discipline themselves, and shows them that you care. All these benefits are nothing if the child is not interested in the activity you want him to do.  It becomes dangerous when children are pushed harder at an early age before they settle in personality and character.

Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  Yes, you love your child, but love is not enough to child rearing. There is a need for a lot more such as patience, energy and understanding. In parenting, there are difficult questions to answer and situations to respond to. So do you have the patience, energy and understanding? You may say ‘yes’ but reality is different. Because you think too much and are under stress, you snap easily, do not have the needed energy to pay attention to what is happening in your child’s life, and you forget all about child development theories.

A very critical question in parenting rises: How much should I push my child to achieve?  Where do parents draw the line?

There is a fine line to balanced parenthood:  If children are pushed too much, they may rebel or withdraw, and not achieve success, satisfaction, and happiness.  If they are not pushed enough they may be unmotivated and underachieve.  You shelter your children from the realities of the world and keep them under your wings, or encourage them to be independent and take risks to get the best life.  When you do the right thing you raise children who are confident and motivated. A mother bird knows the right time to let its baby bird fly on its own. Any earlier, the baby bird is unprepared to fly and will fall to the ground. Any later, the baby bird would resist leaving the nest.

 

Children under Stress

Parents underestimate the stress their kids undergo. Research has proved more kids are feeling pressure than ever before and they are showing symptoms of this pressure at a younger age. Depending on the child’s age, he or she may express their stress through these various symptoms.

Toddlers:

Each toddler under stress reacts differently. Toddlers may become irritable and cry uncontrollably, tremble, or develop eating or sleeping problems. They may regress to infant behaviours, and fear being alone. They may bite or hit, or be sensitive to sudden loud noises. They have nightmares or accidents and cope through tears, tantrums or by withdrawing from unpleasant situations.

School-age children:

These children whine when things do not go their way, are aggressive, challenge adults, try out new behaviours, complain about going to school, have fears and nightmares, and have low attention span.

Symptoms to stress may include withdrawal, being distrustful of family and friends, not attending to school or friendships, and having difficulty expressing their feelings. Children under stress may complain of head or stomachaches, have trouble sleeping, lose appetite, or need to urinate frequently.

Adolescents:

Adolescents under stress are rebellious, have pains, skin problems, and sleep disturbances. They may lack self-esteem, and have a general distrust of the world. Sometimes adolescents will show extreme behaviours ranging from doing everything they are asked, to rebelling and breaking all of the rules and taking part in high-risk behaviours. Depression and suicidal tendencies develop.

PROTECTING YOUR CHILDREN FROM STRESS

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from failure, stress and crisis. Children who live in supportive environments and develop a range of coping strategies become more resilient. When a supportive environment is not present children do not learn the right coping strategies.

What do we mean by a supportive environment?

  • A healthy relationship with at least one parent or close adult. As a parent, you need to develop in your child a sense of security and trust to build a healthy relationship with your child. Keep open communication routes and it does not have to be verbal.
  • Training on emotional intelligence and that means recognizing and naming emotions of one’s self and others and being able to deal with them.
  • Well-developed social skills.
  • Well-developed problem-solving skills.
  • Ability to act independently. Some parents do not know how to show their care and support. In fact the child needs some personal space to express and explore one’s self. Be supportive to what the child chooses ‘to be and do’
  • A sense of purpose and future.
  • Having choices on coping strategies.
  • Positive self-esteem. Communicate expectations clearly so there is no chance for misunderstanding and conflict. One important thing, children appreciate and like when you set limits on behaviour and follow up on them. Setting limits and following up on them gives your child a sense of security. To develop their self esteem, assign the child a chore and make him responsible to do it. Children love the sense of achievement they get out of finishing a chore. The also need a clear identity and sense of self. Give your kids pride in who they are and teach them openness and acceptance of the other.
  • Spiritual strength. In fact it is important to commit to relationships, to people, and to humanity at large.
  • Teaching your child meditation skills. It helps her clear her mind and think more effectively.
  • Having interests and hobbies to pursue.

As parents we have a responsibility to help our children learn how to deal with stress. We do that by modelling that ability to them and developing a positive supportive environment.

Our brains on modern technology

 

Our brains on modern technology: The age of distraction

We are witnessing an explosion of digital tools that provide us access to overload of information. We use technology for long hours that make up most of our day for work, entertainment, communication, connecting to people, drawing, composing music, and all kinds of tasks. The impact of the digital revolution on our brains and the way we think is a hot topic, especially for parents and teachers who have a big responsibility towards their children and want to know more about it.

 

Young people born to this information revolution spend at least 8 hours every day using laptops, smart phones, I pads, etc…text messaging, tweeting and looking for information. They even keep these tools beside them when they sleep. The impact of these tools on young generation is underestimated.

 

Digital tools exploit a basic human instinct of social or intellectual nourishment. When an email, message, status or tweet arrives, people feel the urge to respond instantly because of the release of the same hormones released under stress. Under the constant influence of this hormone people develop an addiction to apps to an extent a digital diet is strongly needed. When the brain is always on, with no breaks to rest it, attention and concentration are compromised. Is it a coincidence the word “wired’ means both: connected to the internet, and unable to concentrate?

 

Young generation is continuously listening to music. Both parents and teachers agree that this has created an easily distracted generation with short attention span and very thin memory. When there is no access to a mobile technology, anxiety builds up. One high school student says he ‘feels naked without a cell phone.’

Adults too may suffer the impact of using digital tools for long hours. We lose the ability to concentrate and focus when reading because we get accustomed to scanning through lots of information on the Web.

Distraction and short attention span cause so many accidents. Beside car accidents, the simplest accident is bumping into another person or a piece of furniture. Young generation has developed mindlessness in eating, studying, and shopping as well as in building relationships.  Instantaneous devices have an impact on the thought processes, hindering deep thinking and understanding, and getting in the way of the formation of memories. “It makes learning more difficult and results in diminished information retaining ability and fails to connect experiences stored in memory, leaving thoughts thin and scattered,” according to Eric Schmidt, Chief executive of Google.

 

In many cases new technology makes our lives easier. I can not imagine living without the benefits of wireless communication or the ease of access to information on the Internet. We can not go back to a time without computers and cell phones, so we need to nurture a healthy balance when using technology by making smart decisions on how and how long we use it. This healthy balance is between the digital and the natural. The longer we use technology, the more we need to be in nature. We need to set limits for ourselves and our children, get downtime off computers to increase the ability to process information, sharpen memory, develop cognitive abilities, and reduce stress.

 

Share your thoughts and tips!

Sleep and School-aged Kids

Fifteen-year old John has accepted his sleepy days, dozing off in classes, catnapping during lunch and resorting to caffeine and sugary drinks in the afternoon.

Over the past 50 years, citizens of the industrialized world, young and old, have lost about an hour of sleep a night which equals one full night’s worth of sleep every week. As a result, peoples of these nations are getting fatter, more anxious and less joyful. This happened mainly because of city lights, modern technology and media, and habits of eating and exercising later at night.

In addition, there is a modern mindset that glorifies ‘pulling an all-nighter” and boasts of how little we sleep. The majority of people now needs an alarm clock to get up each morning, thus disturb the biological clock of the body. Till Roenneberg, the author of Internal Time calls this condition a permanent state of “social jet lag.” Adults’ bad sleep habits are setting an unhealthy pattern for kids when they give kids the message that sleep is “a waste of time.”

This mindset appeals specially for teens who have better things to do than sleep, or so they think.  Quite a big number of teens fail to get the rest they need, and find themselves in school the next morning too tired to learn.

In response, teens resort to caffeine and energy drinks which eventually leave them unable to sleep and living a vicious circle of exhaustion. They want more sleep, but do not know how to get it.

Sleep deprivation impacts the higher-thinking region of the brain such as decision making and problem solving leading them to make poor nutritional choices that crave sweeter and saltier tastes. As a result of sleep deprivation, a growing number of school-aged children suffer from sleep problems such as sleepwalking, sleep terrors, teeth grinding, nighttime fears, snoring, and noisy breathing. At school they have mood swings, and are irritable and cranky. Sleep deprivation also results in problems with attention, memory, reaction time, and creativity.

Modern society’s bedtime story doesn’t have a happy ending: On August 13, 2013, 21-year-old Moritz Erhardt was found dead at his London accommodation after allegedly working for 72 hours without sleep for his summer internship with the U.S. bank. Erhardt’s death raised questions over who was responsible for the long hours worked to secure jobs in the highly competitive and well-paid finance industry.  Many fields, like the finance industry, demand long hours and 20-hour days, weekends at work and meals in the office are becoming commonplace.

On the other hand, a good night sleep makes one sharper, healthier and calmer, especially teens. A growing body of research proves that sleep is especially important for development during childhood and puberty, and for increasing memory and controlling behaviour.  In fact, sleep is an investment that reduces stress and improves productivity. Research shows that good sleepers are less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise. Besides, getting extra sleep keeps us in control of what we eat so we eat healthy.

The impact of poor sleep on society is under-appreciated and deserves much more of our attention. In the discussion of fitness and wellbeing, attention goes to nutrition and exercise while sleep is largely lost. Stressing exercise without giving sleep equal weight does much harm. Parents will be happy to give priority to extracurricular activities over sleep without being aware of its negative impact.

How to help your child get a good night sleep

How much sleep people need depends on the individual’s genes, age and activity. How much sleep they get is influenced by how much light they get. It is essential that parents are aware of sleep issues to be able to deal with them. It is also important to make sleep education more central in health classes in elementary and secondary schools. The earlier students establish better sleep habits, the better.

What you can do at home is the following:

1.      Set a time for sleep and for waking up.

  1. When it is time to sleep, set up a calming sleep environment. Turn down the lights and turn off the computer and the TV.
  2. Watch what your child drinks before sleep like soda and iced tea for the caffeine it contains.
  3. Maintain communication with your child and develop a trusting, secure and safe connection with her.
  4. If sleep problems persist, speak to your child’s doctor to solve them early on.