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Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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How to Guide Your Toddler’s Emotional Development

April 11, 2017

By Jessica Vician

How to Guide Your Toddler’s Emotional Development | The ultimate goal in raising a child is independence, and that goal is the same in guiding your toddler’s emotional development. | Two toddlers play with their mother in the sand.

As your baby enters the toddler phase, he or she will go through many emotional highs and lows—which may put you through the same emotional rollercoaster. Guiding a child through emotional development can be taxing on the parents since the emotions and behavior can change quickly and finding the right rules and approach to managing the behavior can be trial and error.

The ultimate goal in raising a child is independence, and that goal is the same in guiding your toddler’s emotional development. Each tantrum you manage and victory you celebrate gets you closer to the goal: an independent person who behaves appropriately for the situation.

That means teaching your toddler when to be quiet and sit still (at church or in the pediatrician’s waiting room) and when it’s okay to scream with joy and run around (on the playground). Your toddler will test limits, which might drive you crazy when he or she does so at inappropriate times, but that’s when you have the opportunity to teach him or her the proper behavior.

According to Healthy Children, toddlers act out more around their parents than others because they trust their parents to protect them. Your toddler will test the limits—let’s say by going toward the street when playing outside. When you set and enforce those limits, he might react by crying, screaming, or huffing and puffing. In this example, your child might cry out of anger when you grab him before stepping into the street and telling him firmly to stay in the yard. Depending on your toddler’s age, you might want to explain the limit—playing is only allowed in the yard, not the street, because there are cars in the street that can hurt him if they hit him.

Toddlers also become more independent as they learn to live without their parents for short periods of time. That’s right—it’s good for your child to get a babysitter and have a few hours to yourself! Your toddler might become quiet and withdrawn or even cry in anticipation of you leaving, but reassure her that you will be back in a few hours and playtime with the babysitter will be fun. I recommend trying a few babysitting sessions while your child is awake so that she witnesses you coming home. Praise her for being good while you were away. After a few times with the babysitter, she might feel more comfortable with a nighttime session, feeling safe and familiar enough with the routine to go to bed while you’re away.

In this case, both you and your toddler are testing limits. She is learning how to let you leave and enjoy time without you, and you are learning how she deals with the separation.

Zero to Three offers an activity you can do with your toddler to see how she feels when you are gone. When your toddler is role-playing with friends or toys, see how he or she behaves as Mommy or Daddy. Some kids will pretend to be the parent and wave goodbye. If you’re playing with your child, remind him or her that while the doll or action figure misses Mommy or Daddy, it knows they will be back. Your child might even instruct a friend or doll to “be sad” or “have fun” once “Mommy” or “Daddy” leaves. That will give you great insight into how your child feels when you leave, and give you the opportunity to address those feelings.

These are just a couple of examples of how your toddler may test limits on his or her quest for independence. He or she is learning the rules, how to behave, and how he or she feels about being given limits. As you guide your toddler’s emotional development, it’s normal for tears, screaming, and tantrums—sometimes from both of you.

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Fame-seeking on Social Media

March 28, 2017

By Sunny Chico and Jessica Vician

Teenage Fame-seeking on Social Media | As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

There are many reasons we need to pay attention to our teenagers on social media, and a prominent one is bullying. There have been multiple times when criminals have aired their crimes on Facebook Live, like the recent rape of a 15-year-old girl and a the torture of a special needs 18-year-old man.

What made these people—some of whom are teenagers—want to broadcast it for friends and strangers to see? 

Social and Emotional Development
Social media plays a strong role in teenage social and emotional development.

Unlike television, where you just sit and watch, social media is an active medium. Teens are chatting, sharing, liking, commenting, etc. They're having unsupervised conversations with each other, which can have a lasting effect on their development.

Knowing what teens are doing on social media, we have to ask, "What could motivate these kids to broadcast rape and torture of teenagers?"

Fame
The answer? The need for fame.

I read a great article that talked about teenagers and the value of fame. The researcher noted that in the past 50 years, popular television shows have promoted friendship, family, and community. Think about Friends, Happy Days, and The Cosby Show.

But in the past 10 years, television has changed. Now popular television promotes fame. It's reality TV—American Idol, The Voice, Real Housewives, the Kardashian's. Even Hannah Montana, which your kids might have watched when they were younger, is a normal teenager by day but a pop star by night.

The value of fame is everywhere for our teens, so it's only natural that they seek it in a place that is very public and yet very private—social media.

Internet fame is the most accessible fame that teens have access to. A well-hashtagged Instagram post, a YouTube video or tutorial that goes viral, even a smart, witty tweet might get retweeted by someone famous.

It feels great to have someone—let alone hundreds, thousands, even millions—recognize and appreciate you, what you said, or what you did. And in some cases, just getting noticed is enough—like in the example of the teens and 20-something who broadcast the torture of their 18-year-old peer on Facebook Live.

Those kids were noticed for doing something horrible. But they were noticed, which might be all that mattered to them. For kids who aren't getting enough attention from their parents, often times negative attention is better than no attention at all.

How to help
So how do we prevent our kids from seeking negative attention or seeking fame online?

We don't need to keep them off of social media. After all, when used well, it's a great communication outlet for them and a way to connect outside of school with peers they might not spend time with in school.

But we do need to nurture our kids offline—in real life—to make sure they are receiving the attention, the understanding, the love, and the pride from us that they need so they don't go seeking it online, and especially in a negative way.

Share affection
You can start by showing your kids love. If your daughter plays basketball, go to the games and give her a specific compliment afterward, like, "You did a great job finding teammates who were open and passing to them. I'm really proud of you—you're a great team player."

If your son is on student council, ask about the meetings and if he is on a committee. Compliment him on his leadership skills and being brave enough to speak up to help shape the school.

Even if your kids aren't involved in extracurriculars, compliment them on what you love most about them. Maybe it's their compassion for their peers, or how they help you clean up after dinner. Specific compliments, aside from "I love you," go a long way to help them feel loved and truly noticed.

Our kids learn from us. They learn to speak, smile, even frown from watching us at a young age, and that continues as they get older.

Be respectful
Treat your friends with respect, and avoid talking poorly about others, especially around your kids.

Refrain from engaging in negative posting on your social pages as well, as you want to continue to model positive behavior.

Watch better TV
Watch television shows that promote friends, family, and community—not fame. If you must watch shows that promote fame, watch them together and talk about what the people are doing. If it's The Voice, focus on the talent instead of criticizing. If it's the Kardashian's, focus on their familial bond, or talk about why negative behavior is good for TV but not for real life. 

Talk to the school
If you're worried that your teen is spending too much time on social media, is being a bully online or is being bullied, think about what you can do to help. For example, if your teen is spending too much time on social media, find a school sport or club that your teen would like and encourage them to join. Reroute their need for socialization to offline activities.

If your teen is being bullied, talk to the school about how to address the bullying. Teachers and counselors can help you take action.

It starts with you
Remember, you are your child's first teacher. Just as you taught them how to talk, you can teach them how to find confidence and pride in themselves in the real world. By nurturing their emotional needs, they won't be as likely to hurt others in social settings—whether that's in person or online.

And while everyone seeks a little bit of fame, if you show them your love and pride for them, they might be less likely to seek it online from strangers. All it takes is a little extra love. 

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How to Discipline Kids of All Ages

March 21, 2017

By Jessica Vician

How to Discipline Kids of All Ages | Effective non-physical discipline is possible with these tips.

When discussing punishment in our YOU Program workshops, many parents tear up as they share pain and fear from when they were physically disciplined as a child. It's a pain they never want their children to feel, but sometimes don't know how to discipline their children otherwise.

Disciplining a child isn't easy. It’s normal to feel frustrated and mad. If you grew up with physical punishment, take a time-out before disciplining your child to ensure you're cool-headed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child and discourages any form of physical punishment. Effective non-physical discipline is possible. Here’s how:

Set and enforce rules.
Make it clear to your children what you expect from them. Talk about the house rules frequently, when everyone is calm and things are going well. If the rules are clear and easy to understand, your kids will have an easier time following them.

Be consistent.
Ensure every person who cares for your children—babysitters, grandparents, daycare providers—knows the rules and knows how to enforce them.

Children model behavior and may not follow the rules if you or other caregivers don’t follow them, too.

Be supportive.
When identifying your child's unacceptable behavior, be clear that while you are disappointed with the behavior, you will always love and support him or her.

Use age-appropriate disciplinary techniques.
The disciplinary method you use with your children should depend on their ages. With toddlers, use brief verbal explanations about the bad behavior, then redirect them to another activity. With teenagers, explain what they did and the consequences of their actions.

It is possible to effectively discipline your children with love and without using physical actions. There's no need to repeat the mistakes of the past when parenting in the present and future.

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14 Ways Your Child Can Share Love

February 14, 2017

By Jessica Vician

14 Ways Your Child Can Share Love | A son hugs his mother.

Valentine's Day means different things to different people. Ask a 5-year-old and he or she might tell you it's a day that your friends give you cards and candy at school. A 12-year-old might hope to receive a special note from a crush. A single 20-something might see it as a day to avoid altogether, while a couple who has been together for many years might order pizza and snuggle under a blanket while watching a favorite TV show.

This year, I'd like to recommend taking a moment to think about how you can teach your child to share their love with the world. We all need more love and joy in our lives and who better to show it than a child? In celebration of the 14th of February, here are 14 ways your child can share their love with you, a friend, or even a kind stranger.

  1. Smile.
    Being on the receiving end of an unexpected smile can change someone's day, especially if that smile is from a child.
  2. Say, "thank you."
    Teach your child to express gratitude by saying, "thank you" when someone does something nice for him or her.
  3. Hold the door.
    Holding the door for a stranger is a small gesture that makes us appreciate the kindness of others. This is an especially good tip for teens.
  4. Pay a compliment.
    Encourage your child to compliment someone at least once a week. From "nice coat" to someone in another grade to "great throw" at football practice, a little compliment goes a long way.
  5. Hug.
    Everyone needs a hug. Ask your child to hug a close friend or family member to express their love and gratitude.
  6. Give together.
    Let your child pick out a birthday present for a family or friend so that he or she can take pride in the gift and learn how good it feels to give. It will encourage your child to give often as he or she grows up.
  7. Perform random acts of kindness.
    From holding that door open to picking up a stranger's dropped glove and returning it, small and random acts of kindness make others happy.
  8. Pay it forward.
    The next time someone does something nice for your child, encourage him or her to take some of that good feeling and give it to someone else. Did your child find a dollar on the sidewalk? Encourage him or her to give 50 cents to a person in need, or to buy a friend's soda the next time they're out.
  9. Beam with pride.
    Take a walk around the neighborhood and point out the great things your community is doing. When you take pride in where you live, you create a positive environment around you. Your child will feel this, too, once you've shown him or her the work that goes into the community.
  10. Give positive feedback.
    When your child is kind to others, point out the positive behavior and reward it.
  11. Tell a joke. Then repeat it.
    Tell your child a joke that's easy to remember and age-appropriate. Then ask him or her to tell other people, since laughing makes everyone happy.
  12. Leave a note.
    Ask your child to write a note to someone he or she appreciates. It can be a "thank you" note to a teacher, an "I miss you" note to a family member who lives far away, or even an "I love you" note to mom or dad.
  13. Plant.
    Plant a tree, a bush, or flowers nearby. Planting a living green is like saying, "I love you" to the Earth.
  14. Say, "I love you."
    Speaking of "I love you," say it to your child and to those around you who you love, and encourage your child to do the same. It's that simple.
Tags :  holidayssocialemotional
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5 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Positive Body Image

January 23, 2017

5 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Positive Body Image | A teenage girl looks into the mirror as she fixes her dress.

For preteens and teenagers, body image is closely related to self-esteem. As their bodies change and they go through puberty, they are more self-conscious and vulnerable to what others might think of them. As a parent, you have significant influence over your child and can help him or her develop a positive body image.

1. Model positive behavior by accepting your body.
Your children, no matter their age, mimic the behavior they see and hear at home. If you speak negatively about your body—or those around you—your teenager will likely share that attitude about their own body.

Do you complain about extra pudge on your belly? Your daughter will start looking at her stomach and thinking it's too large, even if it's perfectly healthy. Does Dad complain about hair loss? Your son might start worrying about losing his hair, instead of appreciating what he does have.

2. Encourage activities that feel good.
Shift the focus to your child’s abilities rather than to his or her physical appearance. Exercise helps your child feel good about his or her body. Remind your child that this is about being fit—not necessarily thin—and about focusing on health rather than appearance. Focus on the positive feelings about being strong, healthy, and able to participate in different activities.

3. Help your child understand that bodies change and that there is no ideal body shape.
We come in different shapes and sizes. Focus on how strong, agile, or healthy your teen's body is and talk about all the things that it’s capable of doing.

If you believe your child is over or underweight, check with his or her health provider instead of making assumptions. If your suspicions are confirmed, make gaining or losing weight fun and a family activity—everyone can eat more greens and protein and try new physical activities together.

4. Praise your child.
Teenagers need praise from their parents. They need to know you recognize when they're doing a good job, be that at school, in music, with friends, or in sports.

When you praise your child, be specific about the accomplishment and highlight positive character traits and talents. For example, tell your teen how you've noticed how compassionate he or she is with a friend who has been going through a tough time, or how you thought he or she did a great job in the game by passing the ball when a teammate was open. Your child will soon focus more on his or her character and values than on his or her physical appearance, building a healthy self-image.

5. Encourage your whole family to be healthy.
If your child sees that the whole family is trying to have a better self-image and healthier lifestyle, it will be easier for him or her to follow. The family can make simple changes like avoiding fast food, buying or cooking nutritious meals, and exercising together.

If a healthy lifestyle becomes part of your family practices, your child will model these habits throughout his or her life and keep a positive self-image thanks to a wholesome approach.

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