Tag Archives: children

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. 

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.

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.

family dinner

Meals as a family have many benefits

Life can be hectic. Between shuffling the kids around, getting your work done, and taking care of life’s many chores it is easy to let family dinner time fall by the wayside — but that is exactly why it is so important. 

Research shows family dinners are among the most important things you can do as a family. Children who eat family dinners do better in school, eat healthier, and make better life choices; and parents who have family dinners report lower levels of stress, according to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Of course, skipping family dinner is going to happen and that is ok. But, next time you are thinking about “just going through the drive-thru,” think about this:

1.) It is good for yours, and your child’s, waistline — A study by the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School found that children ages 9 to 14 who ate dinner with their families ate more fruits and vegetables and consumed less soda and fried foods. Their diets were also found to be more complete with essential nutrients. Not to mention a homemade meal packs more nutritional punch than the fast food, or pre-packaged version, and you control the portions. 

2.) Family meals are good for your child’s mental health — Children who eat with their families are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, or develop an eating disorder. They are also more likely to feel their parents are proud of them, and delay sex, according to a study by the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. It reinforces the child-parent connection and grows that bond.

3.) Your kids are less likely to abuse drugs — Having mealtime together at least five times a week leads to lower instances of drug and alcohol abuse, according to a CASA report. The study found that teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are 3.5 times more likely to abuse prescription drugs and try illegal drugs other than marijuana.  

4.) Your kids will do better in school — Teens who have family dinners regularly report higher grades. The time at the table allows children to have face-time with adults to ask questions, and also allows children to pick up on vocabulary and learn more about world events.

5.) It is a time to relax — Sitting down for a meal and being in the moment as a family can be a huge stress reliever. It is a time for adults to forget about the craziness of the day and be one with their family. It is a good reminder of what matters in your life.

6.)It is cheaper — A family dinner at home can cost half as much as eating out, and you usually have leftovers. While eating out can also be family time, it is frequently filled with more distractions making conversation a little more difficult.

Making family dinners more frequent in your home is a small change that can have a big impact. It is important to remember to also keep the TV off to minimize outside distraction and allow more conversation. Check out the Family Dinner Project for conversation starters, allow your child or teen to have a say in the meal, and put on a little dinner music to make the experience something everyone looks forward to. 

parenting kids image

Are we making things too perfect for our kids?

The other day I read a story about a child who was running on the pool deck at the local swimming area. The lifeguard told the child to walk, as to be expected around a big hole of water. But what happened next was shocking. The dad went up to the lifeguard and told him to not tell his child what to do, he (the dad) would decide what the child was and was not allowed to do. 

Now, I know this is not every parent and I also know that everyone has their own parenting styles. I am not one to judge. The part of this that irked me most was they were in a public area where there was a trained professional, whose sole job it is to keep everyone as safe as possible and minimize risks. That lifeguard was just doing his job, and couldn’t dad see and respect the fact that it is not safe for a child to be running around a pool. Not to mention, if you are at a public pool you need to follow its rules. 

Regardless, I think this situation was an example of a larger problem in parenting these days. We are afraid to step on each other’s toes, to parent each other’s children. I agree that there are right times and wrong times for intervention. But when it comes to the greater good of all the children involved it should be understood. If my child hit another child, and I missed it, I would respect another parent telling my child that was not nice and then coming to tell me the situation so I could take it from there. 

How are we preparing our kids for the real world if they are only supposed to take direction from us? We won’t be around forever, and we definitely are not involved in every single situation as our children are. Don’t we want to teach them to respect authority, within reason (obviously)? We do, of course, want to teach our kids what boundaries are and when an adult might be crossing those boundaries. But, we also want them to understand there are rules in the world that need to be followed. We do not steal. We do not hurt another. And, it might not be a good idea to run at the pool.

What do you think? 

coparenting with ex

How Do You Coparent When You Don’t Get Along?

Divorced parents, who don’t get along, are always asking me how they are supposed to coparent when they are always fighting? The truth is, they can’t. If you can’t get along and are always being harsh or disgruntled with each other, you can’t successfully co-parent. 

You have to make a choice. One parent can take primary custody of the kids and end the co-parenting relationship altogether, or you can decide to make a change. Together the two of you can make the decision to be civil with each other, to be kind, to communicate effectively and calmly because you have to. You have kids that need their parents. Constantly putting them in a toxic environment or bad-mouthing each other in front of your kids, is not helping them. In fact, it is doing the very opposite.

Shift In Dynamics

Someone in the relationship has to start this shift in dynamics. One of you has to make the choice to keep your mouth shut for the sake of your children. Ok, so you don’t agree with your ex’s behaviors, personal choices, or whatever it is that irks you but I am sure you can agree on one all-important thing: You love your kids. You want the best for your kids. 

Your kids need to be in a positive environment. They need to be raised in a place where they feel loved, safe, and comfortable turning to either parent in times of need. As a parent, you need to help guide your children in making the best decisions and you need to set an example. If your children are always seeing you and their father and/or mother arguing, name calling, being verbally abusive, or talking bad about each other behind the others back, you are teaching them that this behavior is ok. And, your child is likely going to experience more feelings of anxiety, depression, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. They will likely withdraw from both of you because they don’t feel safe and secure with you. 

Best for your Child(ren)

You decide. But, the answer is simple. You have to get along with your ex in some capacity in order to raise your children in a healthy environment. To do what is best for them, you need to get past your differences. If you can’t, then it is time to decide who your children should be with. 

Seeking help from a licensed counselor can also help you to determine the best course of action for you and your kids. 

undermining

Ask Mabel: How do I communicate with my husband in front of our kids without undermining him?

Dear Mabel, 

I am reaching out to you again for your guidance and support. I have an issue with my husband and the way he addresses our children when he is angry. He can get to the point where he looks and speaks very terrifyingly at them, and my heart just breaks. They are fearful and he drowns himself in shame afterward. This morning he was yelling at my six-year-old daughter and she was dysregulating in all kinds of ways as a result, which was pushing him even further into his anger. I felt compelled to jump in and protect her, which often results in him feeling betrayed by me and upset that I am making him a “monster” in front of the kids. 

Today we were able to talk afterward and I told him that I feel like I need to protect them and his feelings when I intervene because I am in flight-or-fight mode myself. It is usually very hard. I am stuck. What language can I use in these moments to communicate that he needs to stop without undermining him in front of the kids? This is a heavy day for our family. 

Sincerely, Amy from Florida

Mabel: Hi Amy, I am so sorry to hear of your struggles. There are a few ways you can approach this situation. You can have a family meeting when calm, where you all make an agreement that when things escalate you each are empowered to call a time out and take a break. Make a plan that you can all follow. If you are all following the same plan together that would take the shame out of it. I also suggest you look at the Zones of Regulation curriculum for some help on the language for self-regulation and emotional control. 

Together, you two can come up with a plan, or code word, for timing out and determine how long the timeout should last. Come up with something you can both agree on. Determine what you can do when he is in that state to deescalate the situation. 

This is a quick bandaid. Long term, you need to have a discussion about what he wants to do about this and go from there. Seeking some help from a licensed mental health professional could also help the two of you to work together as a team in these situations.

Help yourself and your kids by managing anxiety

Anxiety is a very real thing that many of us face. It can be so easy to get overcome with emotions, feel overwhelmed by the day’s events, and get frustrated. Next thing you know you are lashing out at your children. Yelling at them for things that aren’t really their fault. We have all done it. But for those with anxiety, these occurrences can get more and more frequent, passing on your anxiety to your children. 

If this sounds like you, first of all — take a breath. You are not alone. There are healthy ways to deal with your anxiety so that you aren’t passing it on to your children.

Healthy Coping

Here are some things to get you started:

1.) Take notice — Before you can make any changes you have to recognize where changes need to be made. Pay attention to the way you are reacting to things. How are you speaking to your kids? What do their faces look like when you talk to them this way? How are you feeling internally? What led up to this instance? Recognize it, so you can alter your behavior. 

2.)Take a break — When you realize you are feeling overwhelmed, stop what you are doing. Take a moment to look around and examine what you are doing, what is making you feel overwhelmed? Remind yourself of your reality. Bring yourself back to earth. If it is an ongoing thing, then take the time for yourself to get done what you need so that you can regain calm. 

3.) Alter Your Schedule — If you are seeing a pattern of anxious feelings, maybe it’s during deadline week at work or maybe it is during a certain time of the day, then make the necessary changes in order to feel relaxed. Get up a few hours early to get things done. Go to bed earlier. Plan ahead of time. Whatever works best for you in order to feel like you are in control of your time. 

4.) Learn Stress Management — Healthy stress management is not always known. Instead, we tend to turn to things like alcohol or eating which can increase our anxious feelings. Instead try breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, reducing your workload, etc. 

A licensed professional can help you to recognize and conquer these anxious feelings so that you are not passing them on to your children. Your children are hyperaware. They turn to you for guidance. Be a good example. Learn healthy coping mechanisms. 

Ask Mabel: Is It Selfish That I Don’t Want Kids?

Dear Mabel, 

Everyone expects that as a woman you will have kids. I hate that expectation. I don’t want kids. My mom, my boyfriend, my father, my grandparents, etc. all talk about me having a baby someday. But, I can’t even imagine being a mother. I don’t want to have kids. Is it selfish that I don’t want kids?

Sincerely, Charlotte from Nevada

Mabel: Hi Charlotte. It is not selfish for you to not want kids. The selfish thing would be for you to have kids just to please those around you and then not giving your kids the attention and care they need/deserve because you never wanted kids. You know yourself best and if you don’t want kids, then you don’t have to have them. It is fine to not want kids. The world is fine without you having kids. The world won’t end if you don’t have kids. Your family can wish whatever they want to wish. It is ok for them to wish. They can want you to have kids, but it does not mean you have too. You do not need to fulfill their needs. Do what feels right to you. 

On a side note, it is also important that whoever you end up with is on the same page. Make it clear from the beginning of your relationships that you don’t want kids. This will help you to avoid the heartache later if your significant other has different feelings. 

Just because you are a woman, does not mean that you need to have children. Follow your heart. Do what feels best for you.