Parenting with the HEART in Mind
Parenting tips and resources to grow the social and emotional capacity of your children and family.
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Weekly Parenting Tips
End of year stress
The last few weeks of the school year can be very challenging for our kids.
As the school year nears its end, children often have to complete and submit final assignments and projects that require a significant amount of time and effort, in addition to taking standardized assessments and end-of-year exams, which create additional stress and anxiety.
At this time, kids are also dealing with fatigue and mental exhaustion after a long academic year and may have a hard time keeping their motivation and focus. The many social and sports events, family commitments, and other extracurricular activities compete for their attention, making it hard to balance all these responsibilities effectively.
The end of the school year also marks a transition to a new grade level, a new school, or a new educational stage in their life. This means saying goodbye to their friends and teachers, which may cause our kids to experience mixed emotions, from excitement and sadness to fear and overwhelm.
You may notice changes in your children’s behavior. They may seem more irritable and forgetful, less patient, and more dysregulated…
As parents, it is important to continue supporting our kids through these last few weeks of the school year. Here are some things that you can do to be helpful:
- Maintain open communication and encourage your children to express any concerns or challenges they may have. This means being patient and noticing if you become judgemental. Try to practice your active listening skills and validate their experience.
- Help them to organize their time, so they can finish all the end-of-year tasks. You may think that they should have learned this already, but they may need additional support at this time of the year.
- Check the family calendar. Do you need to attend and participate in ALL those events? Are there some activities that you can skip? Make sure that your kids have (some) time for relaxation, unstructured play, and stress-free activities during this time.
In this process, don’t forget to pay attention to your own needs. If you are feeling upset or overwhelmed juggling everybody’s schedule, take some time to fill your own bucket, so you can be present and available for your family.
Is your house messy?
Do you look around your house and sometimes think that a raccoon may live there?
Socks on the couch, laundry to fold, dirty dishes in the sink, toys waiting to be picked up… the list can go on and on.
This situation can feel very overwhelming and paralyzing, as it may be hard to know where to start and have a sense that you are making any progress.
KC Davis, a licensed therapist and author of the book, How to Keep House While Drowning, says that having a messy house is not a moral failing and that there are things that you can do to make your home serve your needs, instead of you serving your home.
Davis recommends using the “Five Things Tidying Method,” a simple framework to get a messy room back to functioning. Check out this article to learn how to make it happen and move that raccoon out of your house once and for all!
The challenges of Mother’s Day
Today, the US, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Italy, and other countries celebrate Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day can be a day full of joy, getting spoiled by our children or enjoying some quiet time. But it can also trigger mixed feelings for many women and mother figures.
Women may have lost a child, had a miscarriage, or faced infertility issues; they may be mourning the loss of their own mothers or hurting because they are not close to them, physically or emotionally.
I know that I’ll be thinking of my own mother, and how much I miss her. Sometimes, I pick up the phone to call her, and then remember that we have a 9-hour time difference. I feel fortunate that I’ll be able to spend time with her this fall.
For some moms and mother figures, the experience or events that take place on Mother’s Day don’t meet their expectations and they are left feeling disappointed, hurt, or even mad at themselves for wishing a different outcome.
This Mother’s Day, let’s acknowledge the many feelings that this celebration may trigger in ourselves and others. All these emotions are valid, and they can help us connect with what’s truly important in our lives. So, whatever comes up for you, let it be.
Once we have named these feelings, we can process them with care, compassion and curiosity, and ask for what we really want and need.
No matter what you do today, I hope you give yourself permission to be.
This week, parents at my daughters’ school came to teach kids about Eid al-Fitr, one of two major holidays celebrated by Muslims around the world.
Eid al-Fitr can be translated as “the feast of fast-breaking” as it commemorates the end of the holy month of Ramadan in which Muslims who are able to do so will fast from before dawn until after sunset each day.
My daughter came home beaming because she was able to join her good friend in this special celebration, and also because she got to eat sweet treats brought by Muslim families.
As you have probably read in my book, Teaching with the HEART in Mind, my love for education was born from volunteering with Muslim women when I was in high school. I shared meals with them and learned a lot about their cultural traditions and religious beliefs.
When we have friends who have racial, ethnic, or religious backgrounds different from our own, we may be more open to embracing other people’s experiences and points of view. We get to know them and develop an appreciation for who they are as individuals, including the multiple layers of their identities.
However, we are not immune to biases.
In addition to racial, ethnic, and religious biases, we may hold particular views of people based on their age, gender, gender identity, physical appearance, ability, weight, or sexual orientation that stem from social stereotypes, and not personal experience.
This bias may show up in the ways we talk to our kids about certain groups, communities, or even people in our own neighborhoods. Our kids will carry these messages into their own relationships and how they make sense of the world.
As parents, it is important to reflect on our own biases and how they are impacting our kids’ perspectives about themselves and others.
As a first step, you can take a survey to measure your unconscious bias.
Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington created “Project Implicit” to develop Hidden Bias Tests—called Implicit Association Tests, or IATs, in the academic world—to measure unconscious bias.
Take the survey and let me know how it goes!
I got the stinky eye from my 8-year-old daughter when I tried to “help” her with a math assignment this week.
It is very hard to watch our own kids struggle, make mistakes, and sometimes fail. For parents, it requires a healthy amount of self-control to let their kids figure things out on their own!
At my children’s school, educators often remind parents of the importance of productive struggle. Rather than immediately helping students at the first sign of trouble, teachers allow them to work through struggles independently before they offer assistance, and they hope parents will do the same at home.
This is an important skill for us (parents) to develop—instead of protecting our children from feelings of frustration, we need to help them become independent learners by letting them face challenges and persist through them.
When children and youth are allowed to work through problems that are challenging, but within their abilities, they deepen their learning. Neuroscientists even say that if you are not struggling, you are not learning!
So, the next time you find yourself trying to help your child, think about stepping away and letting them wrestle with that math problem or classroom assignment.
And if you want to learn more about the importance of productive struggle for the brain, read this article by Dr. Jo Boaler, a leading scholar in mathematics education.
Raising kids who care about the planet
Last Sunday, we spent time as a family working in our backyard. We planted new seeds, vegetables and flowers, pulled weeds and water all our plants.
It was a great day with meaningful conversations about how to take care of plants, water usage and the beauty of flowers.
Perfect timing because April is Earth Month, a time to raise awareness about the environment and the need to protect our planet.
At home, you can contribute to this celebration by engaging your kids in different activities focused on appreciating nature, understanding how we use natural resources, and the consequences of environmental issues, such as deforestation or pollution.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Go on a nature walk: Take your kids on a nature walk and explore the great outdoors. You can teach them about the different plants and animals that live in your area and how to appreciate nature.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle: Teach your kids about the three Rs – reduce, reuse, and recycle. You can do this by setting up a recycling station in your home and encouraging your kids to recycle as much as possible.
- Make eco-friendly crafts: You can make eco-friendly crafts with your kids using recycled materials. For example, you can make bird feeders out of old plastic bottles or create art using recycled paper.
- Go plastic-free: Challenge your family to go plastic-free for a day or a week. This means avoiding single-use plastics such as straws, water bottles, and plastic bags.
- Learn about environmental issues: Use Earth Month as an opportunity to teach your kids about environmental issues such as climate change, pollution, and deforestation. You can watch documentaries, read books, and have discussions as a family.
- Participate in a beach or park cleanup: Join a local beach or park cleanup and get your kids involved in cleaning up the environment. This is a great way to teach them about the impact of littering and pollution on the environment.
May we make a positive impact on the planet and ensure a better future for generations to come.
Dealing with own disappointment
I don’t know a single parent who hasn’t dealt with disappointment when raising their kids.
In Brene Brown’s Rising Strong book, Brene says “disappointment is unmet expectations, and the more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment.”
As parents, we can’t help but have expectations about our children’s behaviors, how they act with others, their contributions at school, how they perform on the soccer field or how much time they want (or don’t want) to spend with us.
And sometimes young people make choices that are not aligned with our expectations. When this happens, it can be a very difficult experience for parents, so I would recommend taking time to process these challenging feelings before engaging with the kids.
When we don’t make space to process our own emotions, we may react to our kids’ behaviors by making them feel ashamed, using verbal threats or focusing the situation on us, instead of the poor choice they made.
According to Dr. Dan Siegel, the goal of discipline should be to teach. “We use discipline moments to build skills so kids can handle themselves better now and make better decisions in the future.”
So, if you are dealing with moments of disappointment in your parenting, make sure you take time to understand and process what you feel and check if the expectations you have for your kids are reasonable and realistic.
Then, you can work with your kid to see how you can support them in making better choices in the future.
It is normal for children and youth to fight with friends, have conflicts or feel hurt by a friend’s action.
While these situations can help children develop their social skills and know what to do when things are not working with their friends, it can be difficult for us, parents, to see them struggling or feeling hurt.
While you may be tempted to step in and fix the problem for your child, our support should be focused on helping them navigate the challenge, so they know what to do the next time they are in a similar situation.
One important role in our parenting is supporting our kids to navigate these difficult social situations successfully, so they can use those tools at any time and with different people throughout their lives.
In this helpful article, you will find tips and strategies to support your child if they are having friendship troubles.
Are You a Multitasking Pro?
I am on my way back home from a work trip this week, when I realize that my daughter’s performance is the following afternoon. She has been working so hard and I am excited to see how the play comes together!
Then, I notice that my other child also has an event that afternoon. I start to sweat a little, standing in front of my gate, while I rapidly search for the emails that contain all the details… yep, same time, opposite part of town.
How didn’t I notice earlier? I could have planned ahead, cancel the second event or look for back up transportation. Argh! I guess my attempts at multitasking failed me this time…
But the truth is that it is very difficult and stressful to keep track of ALL the things that need to be managed on a daily basis. From work responsibilities and parenting duties to house chores, life can feel like a roller coaster.
I know that I am not alone in having a hard time with multitasking or paying attention to one thing for an extended period of time. In fact, research has shown that over the past couple of decades people’s attention spans have shrunk in measurable ways.
Dr. Gloria Mark, from the University of California Irvine, is an expert on distraction and multitasking. In her recent book, Attention Span, she explains that multitasking hurts our productivity, draining our mental resources and impacting our ability to focus and get things done.
In this audio interview, Dr. Mark talks about how the internet and digital devices have affected our ability to focus, why multitasking is so stressful, and how understanding the science of attention can help us to regain our focus when we need it.
Maybe you can listen to this episode while going for a walk or folding laundry at home? Oh.. wait… that would be multitasking!
Better yet, try to simply listen and see how it feels to focus on one thing and one thing only 🙂
Kids, Please Stop Fighting
Do your kids fight?
It may be Daylight Savings, but my children have been grumpy and bickering with each other all.week.long.
I can hear their conversations escalating from a simple disagreement to a full-on blow up.
As I listen, I can feel my anger growing, which makes me want to shut it down immediately. My anger is telling me, “there is a problem. And it is BIG.” I can feel my body wanting to let that anger out in ways that won’t be constructive. Or SEL-ly.
Then, I remember that yelling at them won’t help the situation and that they need to figure out how to solve these conflicts by themselves. I focus on my breath to calm down: breath in, breath out. I do that several times, until I can sense my body and my mind relaxing. Phew! I don’t feel as angry anymore. Okay, now I am ready to go talk to my kids.
As difficult as these situations are for parents, especially when we feel triggered by our children’s fights, these are important teaching moments for kids to learn and practice their conflict resolution skills and avoid (or at least decrease) future fights.
If this happens to you, make sure that you let your anger or frustration pass before you engage with them. Once you are calm, follow these steps to help them problem-solve and keep the peace in the house.
Run Like a Girl
March is a celebratory month for women, girls and those who support them, as we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8.
Although we have made progress to eliminate pay gaps and remove (some) barriers to career advancement, the truth is that women and girls continue to experience gender-based discrimination and harassment.
Since I have two daughters, I often reflect on the messages that they hear about who they can be, the things they can (and cannot) accomplish or what they need to look like. From clothing design to media marketing, we continue to live in a society that perpetuates stereotypes.
For example, gender-based marketing continues to display girls as “sweet” and boys as “strong”. My youngest daughter often complains that we need to go to the boy’s section to find cool graphic shirts with NASA logos or non-pink socks.
This 3-min commercial from Always, the company that makes menstrual hygiene products, is a heartbreaking look at the stereotypes that still exist in our society about being a girl.
This week, I would like you to watch it, and notice the thoughts and feelings that come up for you. Then, identify one action you can take to fight these stereotypes in your family and community. If you are willing, reply to this email to share it with me!
Did you know that this upcoming Friday, March 10 is the fourth annual International SEL Day? The theme this year is Uplifting Hearts, Connecting Minds.
During SEL Day, SEL4US (the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for US) and the Urban Assembly (a NY-based organization promoting social and economic mobility through public education) invite schools, families and communities around the globe to celebrate the importance of SEL.
In honor of SEL Day, I’ll be joining great colleagues in a free webinar, SEL for EVERY Family, hosted by EQuip Our Kids. The event will take place on March 9 at 12pm PST. Watch the recording here.
Should I Bribe My Child to Clean Up?
When you think about your best parenting moves, nagging is probably not on the list. Many of us don’t want to be that nagging parent who is always harassing their children to get things done, right?
However, there are moments when we can’t help ourselves! In my case, I become a nagging jedi to get my children to clean up their bedroom. It’s a daily battle that I know I will never win. And yet, I keep trying…
For you it might be something different, like getting the kids to do their homework, improve their grades, brush their teeth or take care of the dog.
The first step is to be aware of our own triggers, because these are the things that will make us react to our kids’ behaviors without thinking. Those are the moments when we will most likely revert to the parent we don’t want to be, so make a plan to address the issue with your child when you are calm.
The second step is figuring out how to motivate the kids to do the task on their own, without our intervention. To answer this question, I would recommend listening to this podcast episode (26 min) of Ask Lisa, where Dr. Lisa Darmour explains different approaches to motivating kids and how to respond when they reflexively say “no.” She also discusses if bribing our kids is appropriate.
Have a listen and let me know what you think, or most importantly, if it worked for your particular situation!
Sharing Difficult News With the Kids
This week has been hard with the news of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, which has killed more than 23,000 people.
I have felt completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the tragedy and, at times, unable to discuss these events with my kids. Maybe that has been the case for you too.
Even when we try to protect them from the news, children generally end up knowing about tragic events. They hear adults talking about the news, see it on TV or hear it from friends at school.
Even when it is difficult to have these conversations, it is better to discuss scary events at home than letting children to process them on their own.
In this article, you will find tips for how to talk to children about frightening events in the news. For me, it has been helpful to process my own emotions first, so I am ready to answer questions and hold space for their own feelings.
Let’s Celebrate Black History
In the United States, February marks the beginning of Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. In 2023, the central theme is “Black Resistance”.
Here’s a resource to get you started: 3 things to know about Black History Month.
As parents, it is important that we continue exposing our children to an inclusive and rich narrative about the contributions of African Americans in the United States, celebrating the beauty in our human diversity.
Many white parents may feel inadequate when talking with their kids about groups, believes or traditions that are not their own. It may also be difficult to discuss racism, slavery or the existing race-based inequities in our society.
Despite how difficult these conversations may be, we live in a global, diverse and connected world. Our children need the tools to navigate multicultural contexts and work across borders. They need to understand the history that got us where we are today.
It is also the right thing to do to raise children who are compassionate, curious and respectful of others.
This February, I invite you to take some time to talk about Black history in your family. Libraries can be a good starting point, since many of them create lists of book recommendations written by Black authors and illustrators during this time. You can visit your local library or access their website to see their favorite picks.
In addition to books, there are many other ways to celebrate Black History Month. Here are some ideas:
- Support Black-owned businesses in your area.
- Enjoy a TV show made by a Black creator.
- Create a playlist by Black artists.
- Volunteer or give a donation to a Black-led organization.
Every intentional action matters. Get started today!
Parents’ Concerns About Anxiety Are on the Rise
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, mental health concerns top the list of worries for parents:
Four-in-ten parents with children younger than 18 say they are extremely or very worried that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression at some point.
This is not surprising given what we know today about the long term impact of the pandemic on our kids.
If you are dealing with an anxious child at home, know that you are not alone.
But how can you help and support your kid?
If your child is suffering from anxiety, it may be difficult to know what to do as a parent. Here’s a list of 10 tips to parent an anxious child from the Child Mind Institute. You may be already doing some of these things, but it is worth checking what else could help your child.
According to the American Psychological Association, untreated anxiety during childhood is associated with increased risk for future anxiety disorders (including the same or another type), as well as a higher risk of depression.
So, if you haven’t done it already, make sure you talk to your child’s teacher and pediatrician about your concerns. Be proactive, ask for help and persist to get your child the help they need.
Are You Giving Your Kids Enough or Too Much Vitamin N?
A good friend, who had been an educator and school principal for many years, once told me:
“Children need Vitamin N.”
I looked at him puzzled and he explained, “You know… they need to be told ‘no’, so they can learn the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong.”
This is a lesson that I haven’t forgotten, and one that I revisit and question as new things come up in my parenting.
However, I have noticed that many parents in my community are afraid to say “no” to their children. Maybe they are concerned about hurting their feelings, making them upset or losing their love.
So, is it possible to set up healthy limits while being respectful of our kids’ perspectives?
In her positive parenting approach, Dr. Laura Markham recommends setting limits, but doing it with empathy. That is to say, we can enforce rules and behavior expectations while acknowledging our kids’ perspectives and desires.
To learn more about positive parenting, check out this article. The call for vitamin N is number 4 🙂
What Are You Doing for Others?
How was your week?
We’ve had a LOT of rain in California over the last few weeks. Many families and small businesses in our community are struggling with flooded houses and muddy floors. In other areas, schools have closed their doors due to fallen trees, flooding and unsafe conditions. My heart goes out to all affected by this weather.
On Monday, we celebrate and honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. He once said:
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”
Even under difficult circumstances, this is a question worth considering as parents and with our children. What would happen if this was a question that we asked in our families everyday?
I image we would raise a generation full of empathic and compassionate individuals, committed to build a more just and equitable future.
As parents, we can model for our children what it means to live a life with purpose, where we can be of service to others. With the recent storms, our favorite taquería in town got flooded. My husband and my oldest child went there to help clean up the restaurant. The owner thought they were there to eat, and was shocked when they told him that they were there to help.
Sometimes the hardest part is getting started.
This weekend, find an activity that you can do with your kids to help others. Here are some ideas:
- Volunteer at a local organization.
- Put together hygiene kits for the homeless.
- Donate non-perishable foods to your local food bank.
- Remove litter in your neighborhood.
There are many ways for families to contribute to their communities in significant ways. Find something that works for your family today and into the future.
Can the Holidays Be Stress-Free?
Growing up in Spain, celebrating la Navidad was a big deal. The expectations for how the table was set up, which food items were served and how people got along were very high.
While everybody tried their best, there were always high levels of stress which made people exhausted and cranky by the time they sat down to eat dinner on Christmas’ Eve.
When I started my own family, I made a decision that I didn’t want to put so much pressure on myself or my family to have the “perfect” holiday celebration. It is not easy, and sometimes I still get caught up on how things should be or look.
I know that I am not the only one.
Many parents struggle to create or keep meaningful traditions, while enjoying themselves. The holidays are supposed to be a time of family celebrations, however having certain expectations can really harm our ability to be present and focus on what really matters.
This week, I would like to offer you these three tips to reduce stress during the holidays:
- Check your expectations. Are they reasonable, for yourself? What about for your family? While you may be tempted to think “we always do it this way…”, sometimes it is just not possible and we need to practice our flexibility.
- Prioritize things that bring you and your family joy. This may mean saying “no” to certain invitations, skipping certain activities or taking a nap (adults included!).
- Stay present and practice small moments of gratitude. Even when things are difficult, we can pause to appreciate each other and the positive things in our lives.
Wishing you and your families a peaceful holiday season, and a joyful and healthy New Year.
I’ll be back in 2023 with more tips for parenting with the HEART in mind.
Helping Kids Understand Marketing Tricks
How many times have you bought something just because it showed up on your Facebook feed or a Youtube video? I have done it a few times…
With the holidays around the corner, companies are increasing their marketing efforts, trying to get you to click on their “holiday sale” or purchase the latest gadget that you really “cannot live without.”
Effective advertisement = increased sales.
This also exists in the media that our children consume. Advertising has evolved far beyond traditional TV commercials. Nowadays, advertisements are “embedded within content in ways that are hard to see, and they’re also more uniquely targeted to kids.” says Michael Robb, senior director of research at Common Sense Media.
Since our children consume so much digital content, they are more exposed to ads than ever before, making them vulnerable to selling tactics. Our children may not know the difference between a commercial and media content, so we need to help them identify the difference and start thinking critically about the intent behind those advertisements.
This is a good time to have a conversation with your children about what they’re seeing, discussing the marketing techniques used in each commercial and the intent behind it. You can also talk about media influencers and how they may impact their desire to purchase goods.
For more tips and examples, check out this article from National Geographic.
Is That Your Best Effort?
Do your kids play any musical instruments? One of my children has started playing the flute with her school’s band and let me tell you, it has led us to have very insightful conversations about effort and what to do when something is hard to learn.
Being the first time she was learning to play an instrument, the first few days were very frustrating, with strong feelings of anger, overwhelm and a bit of blaming-the-parent-for-telling-me-to-join-the-band.
She quickly learned that playing the flute was difficult and was not happy with the amount of “effort” it would take to learn it.
Even though the band teacher had told them “you need to practice EVERY day”, she didn’t do it. When she picked up her flute the evening before band class, she realized that she couldn’t play the songs the teacher had assigned and didn’t have enough time to learn them. It was a hard evening!
When kids realize that something is difficult, they may want to quit and give up. While it is understandable and it happens to adults too, we know how important it is for our children to stick with something that doesn’t come easy, especially something that requires practice and doesn’t have an immediate reward. This is how kids develop grit and resilience, right?
However, sometimes children don’t know what to do when we tell them “give your best effort.” The trick here is to support the child to understand and experience what “effort” means for that particular situation and/or skill.
In my case, I helped my child by working with her to create an afternoon schedule that includes flute practice most days. For her, effort means that she needs to give up other activities, in order to dedicate the time that it takes to learn something new. In other situations, effort may mean focus and concentration, or doing the same thing over and over again until you master it.
As parents, we can develop our kids’ grit and resilience by supporting them in understanding what effort looks and feels like, and by helping them create the conditions that make their best work possible.
Over the past decade, research has shown that practicing gratitude has great social, physical and psychological benefits; increased happiness and life satisfaction, stronger immune systems or reduced anxiety and depression are just a few examples of how practicing gratitude can improve our lives.
In other words, we can feel happier, be healthier and stay more connected to others by making gratitude part of our lives.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in the US, many families will get together to celebrate and show appreciation for each other. While gratitude is built into the Thanksgiving holiday, you can practice gratitude with your family every day!
- Pay attention to the small moments and experiences that bring you peace, joy or love. That means intentionally looking for things that you can be grateful for.
- Appreciate others by doing something that shows you are thankful. It doesn’t need to be material things, acts of service or spending time with someone may be a way to show your gratitude.
- Show yourself some gratitude. Recognizing your strengths and appreciating who you are as an individual is an important part of living with gratitude.
Wishing you all a restful and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.
I am grateful to be in community with you all.
National American Indian Heritage Month
Do you know the history of the land where you live?
I recently learned that the Ramaytush (ra-MY-toosh) Ohlone lived in ten independent tribes on the San Francisco Peninsula for thousands of years. The title Ramaytush Ohlone recognizes the Ramaytush as a part of a larger group of the Ohlone/Costanoan peoples who lived in the area of the San Francisco Bay south to Monterey. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1769, the Ramaytush Ohlone numbered approximately 1500 persons.
While children may learn some of the history of their town or county in school, it is important that parents learn along with them and have a good understanding of the local history. And November is a great time to do it!
November is National American Indian Heritage Month, a great time to learn about the history of the land where we live, and pay tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.
There are many ways to celebrate National American Indian Heritage Month with our children. From learning about the local history, visiting history museums to reading books about Native Americans, there is always something new that we can learn with our kids about this land and its indigenous people.
Here are a few resources:
- Native American Heritage Month resources from the Library of Congress
- Resources from PBS Kids
- Children’s Books
Discipline and Preteens
One of the hardest things about parenting is having to change our parenting tricks as kids grow older.
There are certain things like timeouts or consequences that may not work during the preteen years.
Younger children tend to respect their parents; however, when kids become preteens, parents realize that they need to start earning their kids’ respect, otherwise there is NO cooperation.
Parents quickly become aware that the things they used to do to control or set up boundaries with their kids no longer work.
If that’s you, you may be wondering… what now??
One of the most important things is nurturing a positive relationship with our children, where we can be firm with family non-negotiables or behavior expectations, but can also be flexible and kind, and have a healthy dose of patience!
For more ideas on how to develop a positive discipline with your preteen, check out this great article from Aha Parenting.
Have a spooky Halloween!
Why Does My Child Whine so Much?
Do your children whine?
Mine do… especially when they have to clean up their bedroom. Everything seems to be great until I ask them to clean up. Then, they behave as if the world was coming to an end.
We have a “talk” about the state of their bedroom several times a week. It is exhausting and quite upsetting, since I feel that my standards are WAY lower than my mom’s when I was a child.
Are my children particularly messy?
I felt in lack this week, when my friend and colleague Jennifer Miller from Confident Parents, Confident Kids published a post on how to transform whining into positive connections.
In reading it, I realized that when I talk to the kids about their bedroom, I am already experiencing big feelings, which is not a great place to build connection, right?
This weekend, I am going to work on communicating my expectations from a place of calm, and also on breaking down the cleaning into smaller tasks.
What about you? What can you take from Jennifer’s suggestions to decrease whining and increase positive connection in your family?
Is That Costume Offensive?
Are your kids excited about Halloween?
My girls love this holiday and spend weeks talking about their costumes, and changing their minds at the last minute! This year the themes are soccer and Harry Potter.
The Halloween tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.
While Halloween costumes are designed for fun, some costumes still perpetuate stereotypes or reinforce limited and/or hurtful ways of thinking about people. Some are plain racist. To avoid last minute challenges, make sure you have a conversation with your children about their costumes.
These are some general rules to avoid offensive costumes:
- Avoid costumes that can be associated with an ethnicity, race or culture that is not your own. For example, dressing up as a Mexican, Chinese or Native American, unless this is your own ethnicity.
- No blackface.
- If your child wants to dress up as a historical figure, consider what this figure represents and the historical context. Did they portray positive human values?
- Avoid costumes related to COVID-19, since it has been a very painful time for many people.
- Avoid costumes representing mental illnesses, unhoused individuals or any kind of animal cruelty.
If they have chosen something that can be hurtful or offensive, have a conversation with your children about why and support them to choose a different costume. These can be important moments to teach your family values!
Here are some additional resources to get educated on the topic.
Don’t Become Your Children’s Referee!
Soccer season is in full swing! Every weekend, you will find me watching games and cheering for my girls’ teams. When the rules aren’t followed, the referee steps in to ensure a smooth running of the game. The referee is the final decision maker about the play and the one that enforces the rules.
You may be wondering, what does soccer have to do with parenting? A lot!
Let me illustrate.
When children fight with their siblings, many parents step in as a referee–they take a side to enforce rules: “Your brother is right. You cannot take his magnet tiles without permission.” They may continue by saying: “Apologize to your brother and say you won’t do it again.” The kids go back to playing, and five minutes later you need to intervene again. This time they are punching each other and you need to take out your red card.
Does this situation sound familiar?
The challenge with this scenario is that when parents fix the situation or intervene taking sides, the kids don’t learn how to solve conflicts or disagreements on their own. If we don’t teach children the skills they need in order to navigate sibling relationships, we will get stuck being the referee of their relationship. It’s no fun and actually counterproductive in the long term.
A better alternative is to use a mediation approach. That is, helping kids to come up with their own solutions and supporting them to follow through on those agreements. Although this is not an easy task, or something that will happen right away, it is worth the effort.
Check out this article to learn how to do it.
Raising Bilingual Children
Last week, I shared with you that 23% of Latino Spanish speakers said they had been criticized for speaking Spanish in public, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2021.
This data is disheartening considering that there are more than 62 million Hispanics living in the U.S., and the fact that Spanish is the world’s second largest mother tongue and the third most widely used language on the internet.
Also, this really hits home, because I grew up speaking two languages, and I am raising bilingual children. It is hard work, but bilingualism has many cognitive, social and emotional benefits for my kids, so I persevere.
This week, I am excited to share this article that I wrote for Confident Parents Confident Kids, where I share my experience growing up bilingual and raising bilingual kids. You can read it here:
Raising Bilingual Children
Gratitude to Jennifer Miller, author and founder of Confident Parents Confident Kids, for making space for this important topic during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
As we enter Hispanic Heritage Month–a time to recognize and celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Hispanics in the United States–I am reminded of the experiences of discrimination that many still face.
According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2021, 23% of Latino Spanish speakers said they had been criticized for speaking Spanish in public, and 20% of all Latinos said they were called offensive names in the last 12 months.
There are more than 62 million Hispanics living in the U.S. They trace their heritage to countries in Latin America and Spain, and have varied demographic and economic backgrounds.
Hispanics are often perceived as a homogeneous group, when in fact there is great racial and cultural diversity within this group. “Hispanic” heritage includes a diverse range of cultures, nationalities, histories and identities. Although the term has been used to influence positive change, many stories have also been erased. If you want to learn more about when the term Hispanic started to be used in the US, check out this great article.
About half (48%) say discrimination based on race or skin color is a very big problem in the U.S.
While it is important to celebrate the accomplishments of influential Hispanics such as US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor or activist Cesar Chavez during Hispanic Heritage Month, it is also necessary that parents intentionally build connections with those who live in their own communities.
You can involve children in this process by asking them to interview and/or write a short story about Hispanic individuals in the community. How do they celebrate? What are their hopes and dreams? What can your family learn from their traditions, language and values? And how can you help eliminate the discrimination they experience?
By taking the time to know more about Hispanics in our community, we are increasing our racial awareness, reducing our implicit biases, and modeling for our children how to nurture bonds with others.
By acting to eliminate discrimination, we are showing our children that it is possible to build a more just world.
Do you want to be a better parent?
Do your kids play sports?
My girls both play soccer, which means I spend a lot of time watching soccer games during the weekend, and sometimes I observe interesting behaviors that provide good material for this newsletter.
Last weekend, I overheard a parent yell to their child in the middle of a soccer game:
“Try harder! You can do better than that.”
My eyes went straight to the child. Would these words motivate her or bring her down? When the parent finished saying these words, the 7-year old put her head down, and started moving slowly towards the ball. She looked defeated.
As parents, we all want our children to improve themselves and use the skills we know they have.
However, when we approach our kids with accusation (try harder) or judgment (you can do better than that), the outcome may be quite the opposite of what we intended. I assume this parent really wanted to encourage their child, but that was not the impact these words had on the kid.
What could we say instead?
Dr. Brooks says that empathic communication with our children can help us be supportive and encouraging parents.
In this article, he suggests considering the following three questions:
- “In anything I say to my child, what do I hope to accomplish?”
- “Would I want anyone to say to me what I have just said to my child?”
- “Am I saying or doing things in ways in which my child will be most likely to hear what I have to say, not become defensive, and be willing to cooperate with me?”
I find the second one particularly helpful to check myself before I say something hurtful to my children.
I hope these questions will help you too, so you can apply more empathy and curiosity when you communicate with your kids in everyday situations.
Good Kids Can Be Mean
There is a big difference between bullying and being mean.
Bullying is repeated, aggressive behavior towards another person that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Kids who bully tend to use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. There are three types of bullying: verbal (teasing, name-calling), physical (pushing, spitting, hitting) and social (embarrassing someone in public, spreading rumors). For more information, check out StopBullying.gov.
Bullying can have long-lasting negative consequences for those who bully and those who are the victims of bullying; this is why schools and parents work hard to eliminate bullying when it happens.
However, there are similar behaviors that although may not be considered bullying, can be very mean. Experiences such as being excluded from a game, being the source of gossiping or being avoided by peers can be very difficult for children and are common in childhood.
Even in supportive school communities and caring families, kids can be, intentionally or not, mean to each other.
As parents, we can teach our kids alternative behaviors if they are the ones being mean or help them navigate a difficult situation if they are the receivers of meanness. In this episode of Dear Highlights, parenting educator Jennifer Millers explains how to support our children to be kind and effective advocates for themselves.
Being able to name our emotions is an important skill. When children (and adults) can put a name to what they feel, they are better equipped to make good choices.
However, is annoyed the same as frustrated? Happy as content?
Many children can name emotions such as happy, sad or mad, but miss the subtle gradations in emotions because they don’t have the words to describe them. You may know an adult or two who also have a hard time naming their feelings…
Accurately naming emotions helps children to be clear about what is happening inside, so they can manage themselves in positive ways. According to neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, it is important that we help children distinguish between their different emotions and name them with precision. This is what she calls “emotional granularity.”
Barrett’s research showed that people who could distinguish finely among their unpleasant feelings were 30 percent more flexible when regulating their emotions, less likely to drink excessively when stressed, and less likely to retaliate aggressively against someone who had hurt them.
You can learn more about emotional granularity in her book, How Emotions Are Made.
And if you know an adult or two who need help with this, share with them my new online course Growing Your HEART Skills!
SEL and Parenting
This week, my friend and SEL parenting expert, Jennifer Miller, celebrated the 10th year anniversary of her well-known blog and parenting book, Confident Parents Confident Kids. You may recognize her name because I often share her insightful and practical articles in this newsletter!
This week, she invited me to celebrate this big milestone with her and a group of parents, who are also SEL experts.
We talked about what we have learned in our parenting journeys, how the pandemic changed us and what are currently working on in our parenting. You can watch the recording here.
And if you are inspired, let me know what you are working on in your parenting. It will help me curate additional resources to support your journey.
Ready for School?
Are you ready for the new school year?
For many children and parents, the start of the new school year is welcomed with enthusiasm and eagerness. However, it can also make children (and parents) anxious about starting school again.
While in many cases, this anxiety will go away as children settle into the new routines and expectations, there are things that you can do to support your child get off to a good start.
Here’s a great resource from the Child Mind Institute that can help you with this process!
And if you are looking to support yourself this fall, check out my new online course, Growing Your HEART Skills. I’d love to support your growth!
It’s Here! The HEART of Parenting
I have been away from home this week, teaching a course on Emotional Intelligence to aspiring principals at SPA, an intensive leadership program from Columbia University Teachers College.
Two times this week, my daughters called me crying because they missed me. It was very difficult to see them through the screen, tears flowing down their faces because Mama was not home.
If you are a working mom or dad, you know the emotions that come with this situation: guilt, sadness, sometimes even shame for being the cause of your own kids’ pain.
I had to sit with these feelings and honor their message: sadness helped me to focus on how important their love is, and guilt helped me to acknowledge my responsibility in the situation.
As parents, it is not easy to sit with our emotions, especially when we have caused pain to our kids. And yet, when we are able to do this work and cultivate our emotional agility, we are better equipped to teach and model it for our kids.
So, how can we grow our social and emotional capacity to become more effective and compassionate parents? I’m SO excited to share that my new online course is finally ready!
Growing Your HEART Skills
Growing Your HEART Skills is a 7-module online course that will teach you the HEART in Mind Model and help you develop your social and emotional capacity so that you can become a more effective parent and live your entire life with more compassion, empathy, and peace.
As part of Growing Your HEART Skills, you’ll receive:
- 7 Learning Modules that will teach you the five HEART skills step-by-step
- 14 tools to help you dig deeper into what you’re learning in the course and implement it into your work and life, including a pre and post assessment of HEART skills
How does that sound?
While this course was created with educators in mind, HEART skills are as needed and relevant in the life of a parent. So, check it out! You can learn all about my new course and get started today by clicking on this link.
And since you are on my VIP list and I can’t wait for you to experience this course, I have a special offer for you! The first 20 people that sign up for my Course + Community will receive a FREE group coaching call with me. So don’t delay, and sign up today! I would love to see your name on that list.
Looking forward to supporting you in your HEART journey!
Resources to Talk with Children about Racism and Injustice
- Books to help you talk with kids about racism and protest, New York Times
- Talking to children about racism, Unicef
- How to talk to kids about race and racism, Today
- Racism and violence in the news, Child Mind Institute
Resources for Adults Looking to Develop their Cultural Competence
Mental Health Resources for Parents
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, mental health concerns top the list of worries for parents:
Four-in-ten parents with children younger than 18 say they are extremely or very worried that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression at some point.
This is not surprising given what we know today about the long term impact of the pandemic on our kids.
Resources to support the mental health of children:
- 10 tips to parent an anxious child from the Child Mind Institute
- Role of social media in mental health from Children’s Health Council
- Supporting your chid’s mental health from Very Well Family
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