Children’s Stress is Real

October 16, 2013

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

I think Barbra Streisand sang it so beautifully when she belted out the words, “What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.”

Have you ever noticed how we, as adults, tend to minimize a child’s pain if the source of that pain is something we know he will “outgrow”? For instance, if he is struggling to adjust to a new school, we might be quick to reassure him that everything will be okay. We tell him, “You will find new friends, and you will be just fine.” We easily forget how difficult it is to be the new student.

As adults, we need to remember that children’s stress is real.  We know they will move through this stage, but we should not make light of their feelings. Stress is as overwhelming to children as it is to adults because most children do not, as yet, have the necessary coping skills.

As always, begin with patience, love, and understanding to help your child through a stressful situation.  Here are a few tips to help decrease a child’s anxiety:

1.     Spend one-on-one time with your child. Find an activity or hobby that you both enjoy doing together such as reading books, baking cookies, or playing games.

2.     Never underestimate the power of touch—back rubs, massages, hugs, and gentle touches are very soothing to a stressed child.

3.     Be physically active together—it’s a great way for you both to release the stress of the day. Encourage vigorous activity and go outside whenever possible.

4.     Let your child know that it is okay to make mistakes. Share a minor mistake you have made and explain how you corrected it on a level that she can understand.

5.     Children love stories. Make up stories where the main character deals with the stress that your child is facing. Laughter is a great stress reliever so make the stories humorous whenever possible.

6.     Consider deep breathing exercises and even yoga classes for an extremely stressed child. You will find http://www.yoga4beginners.org/yoga-for-kids.htm to be a great website detailing the benefits of yoga.

7.     Validate your child’s feelings with phrases such as “I know you feel sad” and “It’s okay to feel scared.” Validation simply means that you have heard her. Your child needs to know that you have listened to her feelings more than she needs to know that the problem will be resolved.

Life brings stress. Be a role model. Let your child see you working through your stress and handling it in a healthy, positive way. Every child handles stress differently, and there are times to ask for help. Do not hesitate to involve your family doctor if you believe that your child is exhibiting signs of extreme stress and anxiety.


Write It Down

October 16, 2013

 

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

Almost all of us started a baby book and kept up with firsts … first tooth, first shots, first time she sat up, and the dates he crawled and walked are pretty standard. I want to challenge you to go beyond the traditional documentation.

My 21-month-old grandson, Holton, was clearly in charge of our family as we walked into church the other day. We always sit on the same side in a certain seat order. It is just what we do. I was speaking to some folks, but Holton was ready for us to go to our place. He led the entire family to our spot, patted the chairs where we were to sit, and then climbed into my lap. It was such a sweet and moving experience for many reasons.

When I got home that afternoon, I put all my thoughts into a letter to him. I had to write down the qualities that I saw in him that day that I want him to apply later in life. Of course, he cannot read it now; but one day, he will know how I felt about him in that moment on that Sunday morning. I tried to capture the dreams, prayers, and insight I had into his little personality in that note to him. He is a leader — we can see that already. He had no problem looking up at his Poppy and saying, “Sit.” He had a clear plan and didn’t let anyone or anything get in his way. The truth is that I have been writing letters to all three grandkids since they were born and plan to give the letters to them around high-school graduation time.

Feelings such as these will not be remembered forever, so I encourage you to keep a journal. If you are not a writer, recording your thoughts on your phone or video recorder would be a great way to save them. Find your own way to capture how you feel about your children or grandchildren in the special moments of your lives together so that they can review them over and over as they need them. You will be giving them insight into their lives as they grew up.

I encourage you to look beyond just the simple action and chronicle the gift/talent that you see in your child. Write down what you saw and the actions that allowed you to witness that trait. Your child will love reading about his life. Who knows how your insight might one day give him direction at a critical crossroad?

I firmly believe we add value to our children’s lives when we share our view of their successes, their wins, and their personalities while also providing them with many reminders of our love and devotion to them.  I am hoping to give my Ava, Ella, and Holton many letters of love with some insight into all the great things I have seen in them through the years. I encourage you to think about how you can pass along the story of your child’s life that she can keep with her forever. It will be a treasured memory of you and a great story of your love for her.


Permission to Cry Over a Win

October 9, 2013

 

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

I was recently speaking with my daughter and getting an update about her girls — Ava is 8 and Ella is 4. They are my very precious granddaughters, and I hadn’t seen them in a few days because of my travel.

Misty said that school was going well and went on to say that Ava is now setting her own alarm clock, getting dressed, and sitting in the family room prior to her mom coming out of her room. Ava doesn’t like to be rushed in the morning, so she asked her mom to wake her up very early. Misty said, “I think that is too early for you; but if you would like to set your own alarm clock and have some quiet time, you have my permission to do so.” Ava is enjoying that — getting up by herself, dressing, eating her breakfast, and reading in the quiet of the morning. Misty went on to tell me about other ways that Ava is successfully managing her own time and responsibilities.

As I listened, I felt tears running down my cheeks. Misty has the right idea about parenting, and I praised her for a job well done. Parenting is the process of empowering our children with the skills and attitude that they need to succeed on their own. If we are doing our job well, our children should be moving toward independence. In that moment, however, I just wanted time to stand still and for Ava to not grow up so quickly.

I began to think about the conflicts that parents feel. It is often tough to let go and allow your child the independence he really needs to be successful. It is much easier to maintain control, if for no other reason than to satisfy our own longing to be feel needed. Yet, we know that the goal of parenting is to empower our child to eventually stand and survive on his own.

Don’t get me wrong … Ava still needs her mommy and her daddy (and her Dee Dee), but I want to use this illustration to point out that we should empower our children to reach their personal best. However, it can still cause a feeling of conflict even when we know that it’s the right thing … even for the most knowledgeable child-development folks!

Don’t do for your children what they can and should do on their own. Perhaps you should take a minute to ask, “Am I doing this because he needs me to do it or am I doing it because I need to do it?” Take a few moments to consider these points:

1.     Are you dressing your child long after he is capable of doing it by himself? If so, could this be about your need to feel needed?

2.     Have you set low expectations of your children regarding clean-up? Do they take their dishes to sink, throw away the paper, and pick up their toys? Teach them howto take care of things.

3.     If your children want certain things, refrain from always making it easy for them to get them. How will they learn the value of hard work, the thrill of achievement, or the principle of delayed gratification if you do not teach them? What holds you back … you or them?

4.     Gradually give your children more responsibility as they prove they can handle more. Don’t go too fast, but be honest with yourself about why you are reluctant to allow them the independence if you find yourself holding back.

5.     Talk with your children about areas where they would like more freedom and try giving it to them. This will allow you to see what they can do. Motivated folks – children and adults –always perform at a much higher level.

Doing the right thing and thus seeing a real win for your child will occasionally mean tears down your cheeks when you might have expected a great thrill of accomplishment. In the end, however, it is the right thing and your child will thank you.


How is Your Child Smart?

October 2, 2013
Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

As many of you know, I am now part of a wonderful large company that is daily accomplishing amazing things for young children and families. I have so enjoyed listening to others in our industry talk about what we do but using different words. Often we are saying the same thing but just saying it differently … and therefore, it resonates differently. Listening to someone emphasizing a different part of the word or rearranging the order of the words in a sentence makes one pause and say, “WOW!” That happened to me this past week as I sat in a meeting.

A brilliant person on the Bright Horizons education team said, “We don’t ask the question, ‘How smart is this child?’ Instead, we ask, ‘How is this child smart?’” That really resonated with me.  I thought about families with multiple children and how we are often tempted to compare them. If one isn’t excelling in the same way that another did, we assume that one child is smarter than the other child.

Even if you are the parent of just one child, it is easy to compare your child to his peers. The goal for us is to figure out how to tap into the abilities and interests of each individual child. Every child can be successful. Every child has a lighted smile that emerges when she discovers something she really enjoys or a big grin of satisfaction when she masters a difficult task. It is our job to figure out by observing, listening, and then providing opportunities for each child to succeed and learn in the areas of her strengths and interests.

If you have a frustrated or struggling child, I encourage you to abandon the questioning of how smart your child might be. Instead, go on a mission to find out what areas your child really enjoys. How is your child smart?  For the music lover, those math facts can be learned easily in rap. If he loves texture, he can practice writing in sand. The dancer might need to connect how ballet, tap, or modern jazz are related to various times in history so that she enjoys it enough to stay interested. It may take more effort, but finding ways to make learning fun and finding out how your child is smart is the key to developing a lifelong love for learning. Every child deserves advocates who will keep working on his behalf to help him achieve his personal best.

Parents are a child’s first teacher and will always be her number one advocate. It is important that no one is every allowed to label your child in a negative way. If you child cannot succeed in a certain environment, perhaps the environment or approach should change. She has only one childhood, and we have only one opportunity to get it right.

I love learning new things, and I love being with amazing people who remain committed to every child. Remember … failure is not an option. If something isn’t working, it is often just the approach. Change a couple of words around, observe more closely, and get creative. Find out how your child can succeed.