As we navigate through the challenges of parenting, it's important to explore ways to support our children in their overall development. Today, I wanted to touch upon the topic of physical activity and its benefits, especially for children with ADHD.
Studies have shown that even half an hour a day of exercise can significantly help children with ADHD function better and feel better. By incorporating regular physical activity into their routine, we can provide them with an outlet to release excess energy, improve focus, and promote a sense of well-being. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to get our kids moving, regardless of their preferences or comfort levels.
If your child isn't comfortable participating in team sports, there are plenty of noncompetitive activities that can raise their heart rate without putting them in potentially stressful situations. Activities such as swimming, track, fencing, or martial arts can offer both physical exertion and a sense of individual accomplishment.
Moreover, it may be beneficial to discuss with your child's teachers the possibility of integrating more noncompetitive physical activities into the school day. Exercise doesn't have to be limited to gym class alone. By incorporating movement breaks or incorporating physical activity into lessons, we can create an environment that promotes both learning and physical well-being.
Finding an activity that suits your child's interests and preferences is key. When kids find activities they enjoy, they are more likely to participate willingly and stay active as they grow older. It could be a team sport, individual pursuits, dance, yoga, or anything that captures their enthusiasm. Supporting and encouraging their involvement in such activities can have a positive impact on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Remember, it's also easy to integrate exercise into our daily lives at home. Family bike rides, brisk walks to school, or even a simple game of tag in the yard can get everyone moving without the pressure of organized activities. Additionally, I wanted to bring to your attention the option of enrolling your child at Soares Martial Arts. It provides a safe and supportive environment for children to learn martial arts while enjoying the benefits of physical fitness and personal growth.
Let's work together to promote an active and healthy lifestyle for our children. By encouraging physical activity, we can contribute to their overall well-being and help them thrive both academically and emotionally.
If you have any questions or would like further suggestions on how to incorporate physical activity into your child's routine, please don't hesitate to reach out. Your active involvement and support make a significant difference in your child's life.
Today, I wanted to share with you some valuable parenting tips specifically designed for preteens and tweens. These tips will help you navigate through this important stage of your child's life with confidence and understanding. Let's dive right in!
Tip 1: Don't feel rejected by their newfound independence. Understand that it's natural for kids this age to start seeking more independence from their parents. Avoid taking their withdrawal as a personal rejection.
Tip 2: Set aside special time with your child. Establish a dedicated period of one-on-one time once or twice a week to spend with your tween. During this time, provide undivided attention without distractions like work or texting.
Tip 3: Try the indirect approach. Instead of bombarding them with direct questions, position yourself as a listener. Just sit down and listen attentively to what your child has to say. This approach encourages them to share their thoughts and feelings openly.
Tip 4: Don't be overly judgmental. Be mindful of how you talk about other children, especially those who get into trouble. Avoid being excessively critical or judgmental, as your children are keenly observing your behavior.
Tip 5: Watch what they watch with them. Engage with the media your child is interested in and use it as an opportunity to connect with them. Laugh and discuss the content together, while subtly addressing important values and gender stereotypes.
Tip 6: Don't be afraid to start conversations about sex and drugs. Recognize that these topics are relevant during this stage. Provide your tween with accurate and age-appropriate information through resources like books, allowing them to come to you with questions.
Tip 7: Don't overreact. When faced with challenging situations, avoid amplifying the drama. Maintain composure and support your child through their struggles instead of making things worse.
Tip 8: Don't be "clueless" either. Strike a balance between being involved and aware of your child's activities without being overbearing. Find a middle ground where you show genuine concern and interest.
Tip 9: Encourage sports for girls. Girls who participate in team sports tend to have higher self-esteem, perform better academically, and have fewer body image issues. Encourage your daughter's participation in sports for a well-rounded development.
Tip 10: Nurture your boy's emotional side. Help your son understand the importance of emotional expression and vulnerability. Encourage him to embrace these qualities at home, knowing that they will benefit him in his future relationships.
Remember, finding the right balance during this stage may require some trial and error. By maintaining open channels of communication with your preteen, you offer them a safe and trusting environment. This foundation will contribute to a smoother adolescence.
I hope you find these tips helpful in your parenting journey. Let's continue supporting one another as we navigate the joys and challenges of raising our children.
Today, I wanted to address a topic that many of us may have encountered as parents - when our children are too hard on themselves and engage in negative self-talk. It can be challenging to witness our kids struggle with such destructive thoughts, but there are ways we can support and guide them towards a more positive and realistic mindset. I'd like to share some strategies that can help free our children from negative thinking and promote a healthier self-image.
First and foremost, it is crucial to listen and validate our children's feelings when they express negativity. Even if their comments seem silly or unfounded, it's important to create a safe space where they can openly share their concerns. By taking the time to understand what's going on, we can provide the support they need.
When it comes to addressing negative self-talk, it's best to adopt a realistic approach. Instead of countering it with overly optimistic "positive thinking," we should offer a more balanced perspective. For example, if our child believes no one will talk to them on their first day at a new school, we can say, "The first day of school might feel a bit scary, but as you settle in, you will likely make friends and grow to love it."
Putting their negative thoughts in context is also helpful. By discussing the specific incident or experience that triggered their self-critical statement, we can help them understand that one setback doesn't define their overall abilities or worth. It's important to remind them that everyone has ups and downs, and one mistake doesn't make them the worst at something.
As parents, we play a crucial role in modeling realistic and positive self-talk. Let's try to avoid self-critical comments about ourselves and focus on our strengths. By sharing stories from our own lives, we can demonstrate non-anxious coping and realistic self-talk. Whether these stories are slightly exaggerated or entirely factual, they can provide valuable examples for our children.
Correcting the record in the midst of making a negative statement can also be a teachable moment. For instance, if we burn something and exclaim, "I'm a terrible cook!" we can follow up with a more balanced perspective. We might say, "Actually, I'm a pretty good cook most of the time. I just messed up this dish, but I won't let that stop me from cooking in the future." This shows our children that mistakes happen to everyone and shouldn't define our overall abilities.
Maintaining open communication with your child's teachers can also be beneficial. By checking in with them about what you're observing at home, you can gain additional insights and a more comprehensive understanding of your child's experiences. This information may prove useful if you ever need to seek professional evaluation or assistance.
Now, I would also like to highlight how martial arts can be part of the equation in helping our children develop a positive mindset. Martial arts training not only promotes physical fitness but also fosters mental and emotional growth. It instills discipline, perseverance, and self-confidence, which can counter negative self-talk. By engaging in martial arts classes, our children can learn to set realistic goals, overcome challenges, and celebrate their achievements. The supportive and encouraging environment within martial arts communities can further reinforce positive self-esteem.
However, it's important to note that if the behavior persists and negatively impacts your child's life or if it's accompanied by concerning shifts in mood and behavior, it might be appropriate to seek professional help. A diagnostic evaluation from a mental health professional can provide valuable insights into the underlying causes and guide us toward appropriate treatment.
Remember, helping our children develop a healthier mindset takes time and patience. By implementing these strategies, encouraging martial arts participation, and offering our unwavering
For a year, we’ve worried about our kids’ mental health as they cope with social isolation, remote school, health anxiety. Now, a return to in-person classrooms and the resumption of some kind of normal life carries fresh concerns: How will kids actually re-acclimate? We might be excited for our kids to go back to school (and get out of the house!) — but are they ready?
The transition is especially worrisome for adolescents and teens, who are adjusting to puberty and have been grappling with normal issues relating to social development in an abnormal bubble.
“One should expect it will be an adjustment, even if parents are really excited about their kids going back. Kids are going to feel — at the very least — mixed emotions. Kids are really nervous about seeing classmates they haven’t seen in a full year; now they have acne, braces, weight gain, or are just more self-conscious,” says Chessie Shaw, a middle school counselor in Somerville.
According to new data from Boston-based Common Sense Media, nearly 4 in 10 teens and young adults report symptoms of moderate to severe depression, up 25 percent from two years ago. The CDC reports that adolescents ages 12-17 accounted for the largest proportion of children’s mental-health-related emergency visits during 2020. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for kids ages 12 to 18.
Parents I heard from for this piece reported frustration with homework; social isolation; the sense of missing out on rites of passage like the Prom; issues around weight gain and self-image; and intense anxiety about returning to school and fitting in.
“As much as we’re hearing kids say that they want this to be over and can’t wait, we’re also hearing a lot of anxiety about what the future holds. How do we conduct daily business in a post-COVID world?” says Dr. Jonathan Jenkins, a clinical psychologist with Massachusetts General Hospital who specializes in adolescents and teens. “There’s this worry about a performative aspect. How will I perform, and how will I be perceived? But there’s also the anxiety of not knowing what [a return] will be like, what it will look like, and what it will feel like.”
Here are five things to keep in mind as we teeter on the edge of normalcy.
Grief is real and persistent. Kids are still mourning a missing year, and parents need to treat that grief as real.
“We’ve been asking youth to make a ton of accommodations and suffered losses. When we think of losses, we often think about death and something ‘serious.’ But losing Prom, losing your sports season, losing your concert season, and physical contact with friends and coaches” is just as real, Jenkins says. Don’t assume that they’ll snap out of it as soon as they go back to school.
Be open about your own anxiety or trepidation. “Teenagers don’t want to talk to their parents or tell them exactly how they’re feeling. So talk casually,” says Shaw. Instead of probing them about their feelings, work it into casual conversation: Talk about how you’ve heard that many kids are nervous about going back to school — or share how you might be feeling anxious about returning to your own daily grind. “Try to depersonalize the issue for your child,” she says.
Pre-process with your child. Lots of things could have changed over the course of the year. Social groups have morphed and shifted. Kids who once loved video games now might want to play basketball. Life won’t look the same.
Jenkins recommends “pre-processing,” which is basically the opposite of a post-event debrief. Sit down with your child and discuss their thoughts, misconceptions, or fears relating to returning to school. Ask about what they’re excited or fearful about. Talk about what their new schedule will look like: Will they return to sports? Go back to music lessons? Do they even want to? Interests can evolve over the course of a year, so check in before plunging back into your old routine.
“Offer a general roadmap for potential outcomes so they can better navigate the situation,” he says.
Lower the bar. Think about how drained you’ll be during your first full week back to work, making small talk with coworkers or sitting in traffic. Your kids will be tired, too.
“Go gradually. Think about what would be a low bar to start at and then go ten percent lower. That way, you reduce the activation energy that it takes to get started and reintroduce yourself to the habit or routine,” Jenkins says. “Kids need to be able to build the physical and emotional and social stamina and endurance to weather a full day of practice and a full day of in school. People will judge them on previous competency; how well they performed pre-pandemic. We need to wipe the scoreboard clean and start over again. Give them grace and compassion and the ability to really allow themselves to get readjusted — or else anxiety and negative self-talk will increase.”
Be attuned to warning signs. Jenkins says that teen suicide doesn’t get enough media attention, and in the rush to resume our old routines, we might overlook danger signs.
“Suicide rates were high during the pandemic because people were isolated and removed from their supports that kept them persevering. People assume because the world has reopened that those resources and foundations will now still be available and provide the same sustenance, and that might not be the case. We need to be watchful during the transition,” he says.
Be alert to any deviation in behavior — even if it’s a sudden increase in energy or euphoria, which can be misconstrued. Maintain multiple points of reference in your child’s life.
“Establish good relationships with people they love and care about: aunts, uncles, older cousins, coaches, mentors,” Jenkins says, especially since teenagers might not want to open up to parents.
If you’re worried about your child, don’t hesitate to go to your local emergency room. For longer-term help, Jenkins recommends investigating group therapy practices that have multiple clinicians and therefore more availability.
Most of all, trust your intuition. “If you feel like there’s something going on, bring [your child] to the ER or call your pediatrician. You don’t want to assume your kid’s OK when they’re not. I’d rather you assume they’re not OK and they are,” Jenkins says.
For suicide resources in Massachusetts, visit www.mass.gov/suicide-prevention-program. A Samaritans 24-seven crisis helpline can be reached by calling or texting 877-870-4673. People experiencing a crisis can call also the Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, or the Crisis Text Line: Text CRISIS to 741741.
Mindset is a set of attitudes, says Carol Dweck, a world-renowned Stanford psychologist, who discovered after years of research that dedication, hard work and resilience are much more important to growth and success than brains or talent. When we change our mindset to one of growth, we change the course of our lives.
We can do these simple steps every day, quickly and easily, to improve our mindset:
1. Just breathe. (5 minutes)
Studies show that just a few minutes a day of quiet can open our brains and make it available for our most innovative ideas. Sit or stand in a quiet spot, feet on the floor, and hands by your side or on your knees. Now just quiet your mind—picture a place that is your idea of peace, such as a beach or a mountain. Just breathe, consciously and deeply from your belly. If your thoughts start to intrude (the project is due today, a late bill, etc.), just notice, then go back to your picture. You don’t have to be a meditation expert to do this. Five to 10 minutes of quiet, deep breathing during the day can also help us get back on track when stress levels get high, and clear our minds to come up with a better solution or next step to our challenge.
2. Check your thoughts. (5 minutes)
Have you ever gotten up in the morning when the weather is lousy and said, This is going to be a bad day? I have. More times than not, it guaranteed a day that finished the same way. Our thoughts are powerful. They create feelings, which leads to actions and behaviors that determine whether our day goes well. Learning that we can choose our thoughts is one of the most powerful things we can do to take charge of our lives. Taking five minutes to make sure our thoughts are positive starts the day off with the right mindset.
3. Write your grateful list. (3 minutes)
Set the timer and write down five things you are grateful for every day. According to research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, keeping a gratitude journal contributes to a positive life attitude, and makes us feel better, sleep better and even have stronger immune systems. Try for a different list each day, and at the end of the week you will be surprised how this helps your mindset.
4. Set your intention for the day. (5 minutes)
Before you leave in the morning, set an intention of how you want the day to end. How do you want the actions you accomplish today to make you feel at the end of the day? How do you want to feel about your relationships, and what can you do today to move that forward? It doesn’t have to be major. What is one thing you can do that will make you feel better at the end of the day?
5. Turn off the noise. (2 minutes)
Just for today, find something else to listen to when you begin your day. Do your morning commute without listening to the news (it’s never positive), talking on the phone or checking social media. Listen to your favorite music, a lecture you’ve recorded and have been wanting to get time for, or just observe what’s happening around you. There will be plenty of time to find out what’s happening in the world when you get to your destination. Do this for a week and you will find yourself arriving at work in a calmer, more positive and relaxed mindset. Best of all, you will discover you haven’t missed a thing.
That’s it—just 20 minutes and you are well on your way to a more positive mindset. Practice this for just two weeks. You will see a tremendous difference in your productivity and your attitude.
The human brain is remarkably malleable. It can be shaped very much like a ball of Play-Doh, just with a bit more time and effort.
Within the last 20 years, thanks to rapid development in the spheres of brain imaging and neuroscience, we can now say for sure that the brain is capable of re-engineering. In fact, you could say that we can facilitate these changes.
In many ways, neuroplasticity – an umbrella term describing the lasting change to the brain throughout a person’s life – is a beautiful thing.
We can change our brain for the positive, so we don’t have to feel “stuck”. We can increase our intelligence (our “I.Q.”). And, we can learn new, life-changing skills. In some instances, a person can recover from brain damage. Finally, we can choose to become more emotionally intelligent by “unlearning” harmful behaviors, beliefs, and habits.
But, there’s another side of the coin, we can redesign our brain for the worse! Fortunately, thanks to our ability to unlearn harmful behaviors, beliefs, and habits, we can right the ship again!
BOTH GOOD AND BAD BELIEFS CHANGE THE BRAIN
Donald Hebb, an early pioneer of neuroplasticity and neuropsychology, famously said:
“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Dr. Michael Merzenich, now recognized as perhaps the world’s most renowned neuroscientist, built on Hebb’s work, proving the relationship between our thoughts (“neurons that fire”) and structural changes in the brain (“wire together.”)
Among Dr. Merzenich’s numerous discoveries, this one may be the most important:
“Your experiences, behaviors, thinking, habits, thought patterns, and ways of reacting to world are inseparable from how your brain wires itself.”
Negative habits change your brain for the worse. Positive practices change your brain for the better.
NEUROPLASTICITY AND ILLNESS
Alex Korb, Ph.D., and author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, said this profound statement,
“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision making and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”
Neuroplasticity can be both the problem and the solution.
COMPLAINING AND BRAIN CHANGES
We’re going to get a bit more specific now, discussing the effects of negative behaviors – specifically, complaining – and how these behaviors alter the brain’s structure.
Negative people are almost always complainers without fail. Worse, complainers are not satisfied in keeping their thoughts and feelings to themselves; instead, they’ll seek out some unwilling participant and vent.
Undoubtedly annoying to their friends and family, these complainers aren’t to be chastised but understood.
Of course, we all complain from time-to-time. In fact, researchers from Clemson University empirically demonstrated that everyone grumbles on occasion. Some just do so much more often than others.
COMPLAINERS GENERALLY FALL INTO ONE OF THREE GROUPS:
These are people who seek attention through complaining. They dwell on about how they’ve got it worse than everyone else. Ironically, rational people are apt to ignore outright the person rather than waste mental energy, focusing on their negativity.
These folks live in a constant state of complaint. If they’re not voicing about their “woe is me” attitude, they’re probably thinking about it.
‘E.Q.’ is short for emotional quotient, and constituents within this group are short on E.Q. What I.Q. is to intelligence, E.Q. is to emotional understanding.
These people aren’t interested in your perspective, thoughts, or feelings. You’re a sounding board – a brick wall. As such, they’ll dwell and vent at every opportunity.
SO IS THE BRAIN TO BLAME?
The answer is (mostly) “Yes.” You see, most negative people don’t want to feel this way. Who truly would? Truth be told, it may not consciously be their fault.
Harmful behaviors such as complaining, if allowed to loop within the brain continually, will inevitably alter thought processes. Altered thoughts lead to altered beliefs, which leads to a change in behavior.
Additionally, our brain possesses something called the negativity bias. In simple terms, negativity bias is the brain’s tendency to focus more on adverse circumstances than positive.
Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuroscientist, and author of Buddha’s Brain, explains negativity bias:
“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intensive positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly.”
Repetition is the mother of all learning. When we repeatedly focus on the negative by complaining, we’re firing and re-firing the neurons responsible for the negativity bias.
We’re creating our negative behavior through repetition.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE CHANGING YOUR BRAIN TO STOP COMPLAINING
It’s not possible to be “happy-go-lucky” all of the time – and we shouldn’t try. It’s crucial to process feelings naturally as they come in. We should, however, take concrete steps to counteract negative thinking.
Research has repeatedly shown that affirmations, meditation, and mindfulness are perhaps the most powerful tools for combating negativity.
Positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson and her colleagues at the University of North Carolina showed that people who meditate daily display more positive emotions than those who do not.
Following a three month experiment, Fredrickson’s team noted that “people who meditated daily continued to display increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, and decreased illness symptoms.”
After learning the basics of meditation, which involves a focus on breathing, create a daily meditation schedule that works for you. Indeed, just 15-20 minutes of daily meditation may just make a massive difference in your life and increase the capacity of your brain. And, you’ll be better equipped to resist the temptation to complain.