Category Archives: Parenting

smartphone teen mental health

How is your teen’s smartphone impacting their mental health?

When we were teens we would leave school and actually leave. The day’s drama, while still on our minds for a short while, was left at our lockers. That doesn’t happen anymore—not with smartphones.

Nowadays almost every teen you see has a smartphone of some kind, and they are damaging our children’s mental health. Research shows between 2009 and 2017 the number of high schoolers who contemplated suicide increased 25 percent.  The number of teens diagnosed with depression increased 37 percent between 2005 and 2014.

Our children and teens are constantly in contact with bullies and are up all hours of the night responding to texts. Where they used to be able to escape to the safety of their bedrooms, that no longer exists. Technology has enabled them to always be followed and always connected to that outside world. Even though as parents we don’t quite understand this addiction to the phone, after all it wasn’t something we dealt with as a child, there are things we can do to help our kids. 

We have to set the example. It is hard, believe me I understand, to put that phone down, sometimes, but you need to show your children the boundaries. One important rule for is no phone in the bedroom at night. Your kids, and yourself, need to sleep. That phone is a constant distraction.

Taking that a step further, no phone or device use (of any kind) should be used an hour before bedtime. The blue light of these devices can be overstimulating making it hard to fall asleep. Not enough sleep can be a major risk factor for depression. 

Additionally, try to limit your child’s overall scrolling time per day to less than two hours. This doesn’t count time spent on homework. If they need the internet for a school project, that is fine. But, when homework is done time needs to be limited. This might be especially hard on weekends but it is so important—encourage them to meet up with their friends, go for a walk, be active, get out of the house, anything but be on that phone. 

There are some apps that can help parents to monitor and control phone use:  

  • Qustodio 
  • FamiSafe
  • OurPact
  • Boomerang Parental Control
  • ScreenTime
  • Screen Time Limit KidCrono
  • ESET Parental Control
  • Norton Family Parental Control
  • Limitly
  • ScreenLimit

More information on these applications can be found here.

standing up to bullies

Teaching Your Child How to Stand Up to Bullies

A friend recently came to me and told me that her son had come home from school and told her about a child at lunch who had spit on his sandwich. My friend, his parent, was hurt and shaken by this news. She wanted to help her child but didn’t know exactly how to approach the situation. Helping a child to deal with a bully can be difficult. You want your child to stand up for themselves but not respond in a way that will make things worse. 

Her situation made me think about the things we can teach our children when it comes to bullies, here are some tips:

1.) Keep Other Relationships Strong — Bullies gain power when their victims feel alone and powerless. Make sure your child maintains strong connections with others — this can be friends, family members, coaches, people they can go to when they feel bullied. 

2.) Re-Define Tattling — We are always telling our children to not be tattlers. We don’t want them to tell on little things or be the kid who is always running to an adult when they can handle the problem on their own. When my friend asked her son if he told an adult at the lunchroom about the spitting, he said: “no, I didn’t want to tattle.” My friend then explained to her son that this was a serious thing and it needed to be recognized. Children don’t always know what is serious and what is not and bullies gain power by having their victims stay quiet. Tell your child it is ok, and encouraged, to reach out to an adult when there is a problem with another child. 

3.) Act Quickly — Don’t sit on this information for days or weeks pondering how to handle it. Make sure your child knows they can come to you and seek out an adult at school as soon as the bullying happens. The longer things drag out, the more damage can be done. 

4.)Teach Assertiveness— Passive responses like moving to another part of the room, or walking away just encourage a bully more. Assertive responses like a strong comeback or a non-emotional stare are much more powerful. They teach a bully not to mess with your kid. Set your child up with a few verbal responses they can give when someone says something mean to them. 

5.) Use Body Language — Verbal responses only go so far if your child is hiding behind their coat or hair when saying it, or crying through their words. This stuff is hard but your child needs to try to fake it for a few minutes. Showing emotion tells the bully they are getting to your child, which only encourages them. Body language needs to be strong to accompany the response, things like making eye contact, keeping calm, staying at an appropriate distance, and using the bully’s name, can all have a powerful impact. 

It is hard to teach your child that they have to put on a strong face when all they want to do is tear up and run to the bathroom, but these skills will help them in life as they continue to face difficult situations. Let them know it is ok to cry and express that emotion to a trusted friend or adult after they leave the bully. Seeking help from a licensed counselor can also help with coping and managing situations. 

child bully

What to do if your child is being bullied?

Bullying has always been a very real problem for children, and with the advent of social media, the internet, and smartphones it is even more prevalent and hard to escape. Knowing your child is a victim of bullying is hard to swallow. You feel helpless as a parent. You want to listen, you want to teach them, you want to go to school yourself and pull that other kid by the hair and tell them to “LEAVE (your kid) ALONE!” But, unfortunately, that type of behavior will only end badly for you and your child. 

So what do you do if your child is being bullied?

1.) Don’t assume — It can be easy as a parent to jump to conclusions. After all, you know your child, and you know he/she/they can sometimes be an instigator. They might have done something that has brought it on themselves. But, they could also just be the victim of some mean kids. We all know kids who are struggling with other issues but express those feelings in the form of bullying. Regardless, the most important thing you can do for your child is to LISTEN. Listen wholly, intently, to what they are saying. 

2.) Pay attention to nonverbal cues — Your child might be the victim of bullying but they may not be telling you the whole story. Watch them carefully. If you see a change in their behavior, ask them about it. Open the door for conversation. For example, if your child is suddenly more withdrawn, doesn’t want to go to school, doesn’t want to ride the bus, isn’t eating lunch, etc. Ask them about it. You can’t help them if you don’t know they are hurting.

3.) Don’t go to the other kid — You are your child’s protector, so you want to go straight to the source and end the issues. But that is not usually what happens. Parents who go straight to the other child to confront them often make things more awkward and uncomfortable, increasing bullying, upsetting the other child’s parents. It also can lead to trust issues between you and your child. 

4.) Involve the teacher — Your child’s teacher is your eyes when you aren’t around. They are also a neutral party. Tell the teacher what is going on and have them interject on their end. Sometimes the teacher can involve a social worker or peer-to-peer workshops to solve these issues. 

5.) Problem-solve with your child — Come up with a solution that works for your child. Maybe it involves sitting with another group of kids at lunch. Maybe it is switching seats on the bus. Talk to them (and check out tomorrow’s blog post for tips on how to help your child).

6.) Identify a safety zone — Your child spends a lot of time at school. They need a safety zone if they feel hurt, scared, sad, unsafe, etc. This can be a school social worker, school nurse, administrator, a trusted teacher, an older sibling, etc. Get the other party on board so they know what to do if your child comes to them and gives them an outlet to find help when they need it. 

Bullying can have long-term effects on a child, but as a parent being there and problem-solving together can teach them valuable lessons. Involving a licensed counselor can also help a child (and parent) to develop healthy coping skills and solutions. 

moms

Stay-At-Home Moms Are Working Too

There was another post that caught my eye on social media the other day. It was a hand-written comparison list titled “Should Mothers Have Careers?” I have posted the image below so you can see it for yourself. 

mom image

This list is vastly unfair and unrealistic. It is media like this that gives the stay-at-home mom so little respect. This kind of subtle messaging can do so much harm. It plants these stereotypes that just because you are home with the kids you have so much free time during the day. Oh yes, you are home so you have time to cook a gourmet meal, play all day, and nap. It is this stuff that causes husbands to come home and ask their wives that much-despised question — “what have you been doing all day?”

It is not right. These moms aren’t napping all day. They are juggling the laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, and meal preparation with the constant demands (and guilt) to play (or get a snack) from their children. They are the managers of households. Their to-do lists are overflowing. They are exhausted both physically and emotionally. They are working hard as hell. 

Not to mention they can be faced with ongoing feelings of loneliness, the struggle to find a place where they belong and a purpose within themselves. It is hard when you go through 90 percent of your day with only a two-year-old to talk to. 

Whether working outside or inside the home, each has its challenges and benefits. Being a mother (period) is hard work and it deserves all the respect we can give. We need to stop glorifying the stay-at-home mom as someone who is always on vacation and instead give her a helping hand, a hug, a high-five. We also need to stop putting down the working mom, the one who is doing what she needs to do for her family, the one who may be following her dreams. We all have different paths—one is not better than the other.

kids meaning life

Should our kids really be the ‘meaning of life?’

The other day I ran across a post on Facebook that made me stop and think. The post was a picture of a mother and son holding hands and walking on the beach. The son asked his mom “what is the meaning of life,” and the mom replied, “you are.” It was shared more than 25,000 times.

meaning life image

Now, I get it, we love our kids in a way that only a parent can only understand. It is that “heart outside your body” feeling. They do mean the world to us, and yes we want them to be happy. We want our kids to be successful, make good choices, and live a fulfilled life. But, is it really fair to make them the “meaning” of our lives?

A Lot of Pressure

Think about it. That is a lot of pressure to put on our children. They might feel responsible for our happiness, which isn’t their job to take on. You did have a life path before you had children and you will continue to have one after your children are out of the house starting their own families.

It’s ok to have other meanings for living. Your children are, of course, a big part of your existence. Maybe all you ever wanted was to be a parent. Maybe you gave up a career or another life path to be a full-time mom. And, that stuff is ok. But, should you really be putting all your eggs in one basket. Should you be counting on your kids for all your happiness? Should your life-success be measured by the happiness or success of your children?

Parenting is Beautiful

It is a beautiful thing to love a child, to parent, to care for and raise another human being, but they (by themselves) don’t have to be the meaning of your life. You can do other things for yourself, and others. Maybe the meaning of your life is caring for others, exploring the world, teaching younger generations, etc. Maybe it is following a dream.

Whatever it is. One thing is for sure—you alone control your happiness.

How to curb your daughter’s people-pleasing behavior

Traditionally women have been taught to not show anger, to be complacent, to hold in their negative emotions. History has also shown us that those behaviors are not a healthy practice for anyone. But, many young women still display these kinds of behaviors. They want to be people-pleasers. They don’t want to make people angry or be the source of any negativity. 

It Is Ok To Stand Up For Yourself

As parents, we want to teach our daughters that it is ok to stand up for themselves. We want to end these people-pleasing behaviors. We want to teach our children that emotions are ok and to not hide them. So how can we curb this behavior?

Show by example. Demonstrate to your child that it is ok to be mad. As a parent, you can be mad without hurting the relationship. You can have a good quality relationship but still show anger. Show your daughter that arguments happen, that sometimes you get angry with your spouse, friends, and her. 

What Really Matters Is How You Repair

Then, show her what really matters is how you repair those arguments. How do you reconcile? When you get into a disagreement with your child show them the healthy ways to repair those mistakes. Talk to your daughter about it, explain the problem, be open with your emotions and your anger and then talk about how things can be done differently next time. 

Lessons For Everyone

These are important lessons as parents. They are difficult ones to teach because we don’t ever want to be the source of anger for our children and we don’t want to yell but we also have to be realistic. We hold the very important role of teaching our children life skills. The examples we set are the things that stick with them in tight moments and throughout their lives. 

teen suicide

Teen Suicide Rates At All-Time High, Here’s How We Can Help…

Suicide rates among teens and young adults are at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts can’t pinpoint exactly why the number of teens and young adults taking their own lives is continuing to increase, but many blame things such as the use of digital platforms, economic distress, and social isolation.

There is no question this problem is one that needs our attention and care. There are steps we can take as parents, community members, and school administrators to help those who are struggling, to make suicide a more difficult option, and to show this population that suicide is not the answer.

Where do we start?

1.) Restrict Access — Having a gun in the home to protect against an intruder may seem like a good idea but it is also giving your child access to a deadly tool. My advice is to keep guns locked up and in places where even your teen doesn’t know they exist. Same with drugs, keep them out of sight. Lock them up. Reduce access. It is a lot harder to commit the act of suicide if you don’t have the tools readily available.

2.) Talk to Your Teen — If you are worried about your teen or your teen’s friends potentially struggling with emotions, then talk to them. In fact, talk to them regardless. Let them know they have a place to turn. Ask your teen if they are suicidal. Open up the communication gates. Let them know that is not the answer and get them help from a licensed mental health professional. This subject feels taboo to many but it is clear we need to talk about it. Let your child know it is ok to not be ok.

3.) Implement Suicide Prevention Programs in Schools — Training teachers and school administrators to recognize the signs of depression, suicide precursors, and other mental health issues in teens and young adults can have a lasting impact. Teens spend much of their days in an educational environment, our school professionals can play a part in watching for the signs and getting help.

4.) Training for Parents and Other Adults in the Community — Our teens need to feel like they have a safe place to turn, even if it is not a parent, to talk about their mental health. They need a caring adult who is willing to talk about suicide and can act as a support network.

The bottom line is our teens and young adults need to know they are cared for, they matter, and they have places they can go and people they can talk to whenever they need. 

For additional information on these tips, visit https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/7/11/18759712/teen-suicide-depression-anxiety-how-to-help-resources .

after baby

How To Keep Your Marriage Healthy After Baby

Adjusting to parenthood is hard work and it can put a lot of strain on a marriage. We all have ideas of what it will be like to have a child, to add an infant to our lives, but nobody truly knows what they are in for until they experience being new parents themselves. Not to mention every baby is different and every relationship has its strong and weak points. 

In the first few months after having a child, it is important to let go of any expectations. Right now is about survival. It is about keeping your child (and yourself) healthy and adjusting to your new life as parents. Give each other some grace. You are both going through a lot of changes right now, and you are likely dealing with them in different ways. 

Time To Connect

Allow yourself, and your spouse, time for yourself to connect with your new title as a parent and to rest. Breaks are important for both of you. Take turns. 

It is also important that you make time to be together, just the two of you. That is difficult after having a child because that child relies on you for everything but it is also important that you recognize it is important to keep your marriage healthy. And, alone time is key to keeping your relationship strong. Leave baby with a grandparent or a trusted friend, even if only for an hour, and take a walk with your spouse or grab a coffee or a meal. Whatever your heart desires. 

So often I hear new moms making the excuse that they just can’t leave their baby. Not even for an hour but the truth is even a short time alone with your spouse can do wonders for rekindling the spark. 

Talk It Out

Communicate with your family, your friends. Lean on others. This adjustment is going to be hard for everyone in your household. You will have to figure out a new normal. Talk to each other. Figure out what struggles others are having and brainstorm what might work best.

Share the load. You likely have heard the phrase before “it takes a village.” There is a reason that is so popular. It is true. We all have babies and think we can do it all alone. And yes, I am sure you could do it all alone but would you be happy and healthy? Let others step in and help you out. Let your mother clean your house or hold your baby while you take a much-needed shower. Let your husband do the grocery shopping so you can take a nap. Let a friend fold your laundry if he/she/they desire.

The more you and your spouse can work together during this time of adjustment, the stronger you will be in the end. It can be so easy to get angry and frustrated with each other during this time of change. Understandably so, you are both exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed. Allow each of you to make mistakes, to learn, grow, and to adjust as a team. 

It Is All About Perspective

Parenting is one of the hardest things a person can do in a lifetime, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. All will come with time. For now, snuggle that baby (or babies) and do your best to keep things in perspective. 

If you find you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or adjusting, in general, it can help to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. They can help to provide you with healthy coping mechanisms and support during this transition.

Teaching kids independence through chores

Getting children to help around the house can be a great benefit for parents, while also teaching children accountability, responsibility, and independence. Kids who are expected and required to complete chores around the home gain an appreciation for all the work that goes into taking care of the family.

Chores also help to increase self-confidence in children. They gain a sense of accomplishment at getting things done and doing things well. Chores teach self-sufficiency, which is, after all, our primary goal as parents. 

But, even though the benefits are mounting it can be hard as a parent to loosen the reigns and allow our children to take over household tasks. After all, it is much easier most of the time to do the cleaning ourselves. Children have an intrinsic desire to be independent and as a parent it is important we nurture and sustain that. And, once they get the hang of a task they can be super helpful. It just takes some patience and calm instruction. 

Start small. Have your children help with age-appropriate tasks that are safe and easy for them to get done. For example, you can have them put plates in the dishwasher, help to clear the table after meals, water plants, throw dirty clothes into the hamper, pick up toys, get the mail, collect garbage around the home, strip sheets off beds, feed animals, help with meals, etc. As they get older you can add things like cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, and even mowing the lawn.

Make a list and come to an agreement with your child to help avoid nagging. Sticker charts can be helpful and incentives like allowance or activities can also be motivating but they are not necessary. Don’t feel like you have to reward your child with anything more than a “good job” for the chores they have done.  After all, that is not real life. You don’t get $1 every time you do a load of laundry, so they don’t need to either.

Meal Prep

Ways to Get Your Kids Involved in Meal Prep

Mealtime can be hectic, but there is no reason you have to do it all yourself. Getting your kids involved in meal preparation can have a lot of benefits for both you and your children. 

When children feel invested in the meal they tend to be more willing to eat it. They get excited that they were able to help. They feel accomplished and more confident. Children also tend to be more willing to try new things, expand their pallets, and eat healthier when they are involved in the preparation process. Not to mention it is a good bonding moment for parents and children and helps to create healthy habits.

Everyone Can Be Involved

It is also important to note that this task is appropriate for both male and female parents and their male and female children. Everyone can be involved in the cooking and meal prep process. It is important we show our children that time in the kitchen is for the whole family, not just females. 

What are some ways to get the kids into the kitchen without adding to the chaos?

1.) Ask their opinion on what they want to eat for a couple of meals during the week — Get the cookbooks out and let your kids look through them and decide on one or two meals they want to eat during the week. Encourage them to switch it up so they aren’t picking the same meals every week. 

2.)Take them grocery shopping — After your kids pick out the meals they want for the week, take them to the store to get the stuff you will need. Let them help pick out the produce and get the boxes off the shelves.

3.)Allow them to use their hands — When prepping the meal give your kids a couple of tasks, it could be washing fruits or vegetables, putting salad greens on a plate, pouring ingredients into a bowl, measuring, stirring, etc. 

4.)Have them set the table— Not only can your kids help with the meal prep, but they can also help set the table. Allow them to get the drinks out, put the silverware on the table, and arrange things the way they choose. 

5.)Get them cleaning — They can also help to clear the table, load dishes in the dishwasher, and wipe down countertops or eating spaces. 

And, lastly, you can have them choose the music for dinner one or two days a week. It doesn’t take much to make your children feel like they were part of the creating of the all-important family dinner, and the benefits can be huge.