Your child’s self-esteem start with you!

Your child’s self-esteem start with you!

parental self-esteem

Self-esteem is the greatest gift you can offer your child. How to foster a healthy sense of self, resilience and self-confidence in a child is not an easy task. It is not difficult in the sense of how to do it, it is difficult because of where we are today as a society. We have lost our way and forgotten the basic principles of parenting that help us raise children with healthy self-esteems. We have shifted our focus on externals, when really, self-esteem is an inside job. Healthy self-esteem is stable in independent of external accolades and circumstances. People today, all too often define themselves by externals. Thing is, these are fleeting.

The best way to start is a back to basics approach. A return to nurturing each child’s unique needs, and anchoring parenting choices to specific individual and family values. Simple is better, and more sustainable with the busy lives that we lead.

The first and simplest step to take on your journey to raise your child… is to start with you. Yes, you heard me right: YOU (the parent). You have to lead the way.

When you love yourself, you take better care of yourself (physically and emotionally), you make better choices, you are happier, you have healthier relationships, you are empowered, you have healthy boundaries, you don’t let external circumstances define you, you accept yourself fully, you are less judgmental of yourself and of others, and the list goes on and on.

The reason why we start with you, is simple. Children learn best by looking at what you do, rather than listening to what you say. That’s the bottom line. If you can develop true healthy self-esteem, your child has greater chances to follow in your footsteps. There is no way around it. You have to do the work. No short cuts.

So follow me on this journey, and stay tuned.

40 Good Reasons To Practice Mindful Parenting

40 Good Reasons To Practice Mindful Parenting

Mindful Parenting

Mindfulness and meditation have proven beneficial for both parents and children. More and more studies are uncovering the short- and long-term benefits of incorporating mindful parenting practices into families’ lives (1).

 

Meditation and mindfulness are not mere techniques. They are states of being that bring less suffering, more presence, and peace into one’s life. Once a person has experienced the benefits of these practices and the ways in which they permeate our daily life and being, there is no going back. Mindfulness and meditation practices have a positive impact not only on the practitioner but also the people that surround this individual, including our children.

 

A Google search offers this simple definition of mindfulness: “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Renowned meditation teacher John Kabat-Zinn also emphasizes the importance of noticing “nonjudgmentally” (2) because suffering is caused by the judgments we place on our perceptions.

 

Individuals who have chosen to apply these practices to their parenting have seen improvements in their own lives and the lives of their children. If you are not convinced of the value of these practices and wonder if they are just a fad, here are 40 benefits meditation and mindfulness can provide for parents and children.

 

For parents, a meditation and mindfulness practice offers numerous benefits:

  1. Develops more patience because we do not mix in our problems with those of our child.
  2. Reduces reactivity because we respond from a calm place instead of from past wounds when children push our buttons.
  3. Cultivates emotional awareness.
  4. Allows us to exercise self-regulation.
  5. Slows down time because we become more fully involved in our child’s life, and so do not miss out on the wonderful and simple moments of their childhood, which goes by too fast.
  6. Develops gratitude for all the mundane and extraordinary moments with our child.
  7. Helps us to become in tune with and accepting of our child’s actual needs, thus allowing us to make better choices.
  8. Promotes secure attachment with our child and a trusting relationship.
  9. Enables us to be more present, which allows space for us to listen with full attention and be able to validate our children.
  10. Develops compassionate and non-judgmental awareness in all interactions.
  11. Facilitates finding pleasure in and appreciating simple things.
  12. Helps us cope during stressful moments, such as tantrums or emotional outbursts.
  13. Promotes our ability to model proper emotion management, and this is how children learn best: by imitation.
  14. Prevents our children from becoming fearful or traumatized by our out of control reactions or screaming.
  15. Improves parenting interventions (3).
  16. Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
  17. Improves the immune system, which means parents are healthier (4).
  18. Promotes greater satisfaction with our parenting skills and therefore with our relationships with our children.
  19. Facilitates incorporating mindfulness into all aspects of our lives (5).

 

Children can also experience many benefits from a meditation and mindfulness practice:

  1. Develops the area of the brain responsible for emotion regulation and impulse control.
  2. Reduces stress, anxiety, and fears.
  3. Allows for a less reactive state to emerge.
  4. Promotes feelings of safety and security.
  5. Improves self-esteem and self-confidence because children feel heard, seen, and validated.
  6. Develops problem-solving skills by developing self-reflection and self-awareness, instead of being reactive and living on autopilot.
  7. Develops conscious individuals.
  8. Improves emotion management.
  9. Improves resilience.
  10. Cultivates better self-awareness of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Children become better skilled at communicating their needs to others.
  11. Promotes healthy psycho-social development in children. Improved social skills and interactions emerge because children become skilled communicators. Conversely, they become good listeners themselves.
  12. Creates grateful children able to live in the present moment.
  13. Fosters compassion and empathy for others; they become less self-centered.
  14. Diminishes behavioural problems, while improving emotional health and behavioural functioning (6) (7).
  15. Improves attention, focus, concentration, memory, and learning (4).
  16. Improves emotional intelligence.
  17. Reduces reactivity to others’ anger. They do not take it personally.
  18. Promotes self-reliance by teaching them to accept and tolerate their own emotions, feelings, sensations, and thoughts. In turn, they find comfort within by learning to soothe and calm themselves without depending on external factors.
  19. Allows children to find happiness from the inside, independent of external circumstances.
  20. Improves parent-child relationship during adolescence.
  21. Cultivates more emotionally and socially competent youth(8)(9).

 

If you are new to mindfulness, start small. Choose moments throughout your day where you can pay attention to the unfolding of each moment. Become the non-judgmental observer of the experiences taken in by your five senses. Moreover, take in the beauty of your life. Incorporating mindfulness and meditation into our family life can only prove beneficial to all those involved.

 

REFERENCES

  1. Many of the benefits covered in this post are also summarized here : Duncan,L.G., Coatsworth, J.D. & Greenberg, M.T.(2009) A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent–Child Relationships and Prevention Research Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2009 Sep; 12(3): 255–270.doi:  10.1007/s10567-009-0046-3.
  2. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice,10, 144–156. doi:10.1093/clipsy/bpg016.
  3. Dumas, J. E. (2005). Mindfulness-based parent training: Strategies to lessen the grip of automaticity in families with disruptive children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology,34, 779–791. doi:10.1207/s15374424jccp3404_20.  [PubMed]
  4. Mindfulness Web Site: Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. www.greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness
  5. Coyne, L. W., & Murrell, A. R. (2009). The Joy of Parenting: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Effective Parenting in the Early Years. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
  6. Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Fisher, B. C., Wahler, R. G., McAleavey, K., et al. (2006). Mindful parenting decreases aggression, noncompliance, and self-injury in children with autism. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders,14(3), 169–177. doi:10.1177/10634266060140030401.
  7. Singh,N.N, Lancioni, G.E., Winton, A.S.W.,  Singh, J., Curtis, W.J.Wahler, R.G.,& McAleavey, K.M. (2007) . Mindful Parenting Decreases Aggression and Increases Social Behavior in Children With Developmental Disabilities, 31 (6) , 749-771. doi: 10.1177/0145445507300924
  8. Eisenberg, N., Cumberland, A., & Spinrad, T. L. (1998). Parental socialization of emotion. Psychological Inquiry,9, 241–273. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli0904_1.  [PMC free article]  [PubMed]
  9. Katz, L. F., Wilson, B., & Gottman, J. M. (1999). Meta-emotion philosophy and family adjustment: Making an emotional correction. In M. J. Cox & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Conflict and cohesion in families: Causes and consequences. The Advances in Family Therapy Research Series (pp. 131–165). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

 

Lifting the Screen: Take Charge of your Kids’ Media Environment

Lifting the Screen: Take Charge of your Kids’ Media Environment

Monitor Child Media Use

Portable screens can seem like a godsend to parents. Give the kids a “hit” of your iPhone and bam! The whining, the crying, the tantrums are instantly over. Built-in TVs and iPads seem to have resolved car rides from hell. With a portable screen handy, there’s no need to suffer the nasty glares of annoyed shoppers wondering why we can’t control our kids. Ah, the peace screens can bring! Bliss. Total bliss! And yet, we know that misuse of electronic media devices is hurting our children.

I’m not here to preach for the elimination of electronic media devices. Screens, in and of themselves, are not bad. I’m the first to admit that I don’t think I could live without them. They have become my GPS, my encyclopedia, my research assistant, my editor, my accountant, my recording studio, my DJ, and even my meditation buddy. They have made my life so much easier. However, I know that I need to make a conscious effort to unplug, and it’s not easy.

Kids, just like their parents, can benefit from using screens. Among other things, they have become a convenient source of information to do research for homework and school projects. Now kids can turn to Wikipedia or YouTube to find out almost anything.  As with all good things, excess consumption of electronic media can be toxic so moderation is key. It’s also important to consider the motivation and intent behind the use of electronic media. In short, parents must guide children’s media use and help them unplug.

The convenience of screens has turned many children—and many parents (let’s not fool ourselves)—into little addicts. Many of us can’t live without them, and often the glowing rectangles are our go-to solution when our children need distraction. And therein lies the problem.

Many parents have decided to use electronic media devices as babysitters, soothers, peacemakers, rewards and punishments, time killers, and educators . When parents over rely on screens, they have handed their parental responsibilities to teach, play, care, and comfort to computers, TVs, and smartphones.

Over the last 30 years, there have been countless research articles highlighting the risks of misuse and overexposure of children to TV, videogames, and computers. It’s not a question of “if” our kids are being affected, but “how.”

After two decades of working in the mental health profession and forensics, I have seen a long and ugly list of adverse effects related to the overuse of screens: children sexually abusing children, cyber bullying, sensory deficits, school failure, lying, attention issues, hyperactivity, obesity, mood disorders, defiant behaviour, sleep deprivation, addiction, and aggression.

Screens obviously aren’t the only culprits but often when kids are placed on a “media diet,” these problems resolve themselves. They are a key factor over which we have control, and we can no longer plead ignorance.

 

Parents especially need to guide and control the media consumption of younger children. Toddlers have not developed sufficiently to be able to control themselves and limit their consumption. Kids two and younger should never watch screens. That’s the bottom line.

All this said, we know that computers, tablets, and smartphones are here to stay. We need to teach kids how to use them wisely so that they don’t become hazardous to their mental and physical health.

So now what? What are we supposed to do? Here’s what I suggest:

  • Educate yourself about the impact of electronic media on your kids (1, 3, 4, 5, 6). Assess the use of screens in your family and see if you need to make adjustments (for tools: 2, 3).
  • Model proper screen use. Don’t let the TV run in the background all day. Put your phone away when you interact with your children. Unless you’re dealing with an emergency or an urgent work matter, most emails, texts, and calls can wait.  Select specific times of the day when you will check your phone and try to do it when you are not interacting with your kids.
  • Allow the use of devices for schoolwork.
  • Don’t use their devices to punish or reward them. Research has proven that punishment does not work (7), and rewards do not teach proper behaviour (8).
  • Teach young kids to use crayons, books, paints, playdough, dolls, sticks, Lego, blocks, play structures, etc. Read to them. Encourage them to use their hands (9). These are the best ways to learn.
  • Have them play with real toys, and even better, toys that foster creativity and imagination, and cooperation.
  • Schedule recreational screen time on selected days, at the same time, and for a limited amount of time. Place it on a calendar for everyone to see. This way your kids will know what to expect. No negotiating. Stick to it and be consistent. If you can, avoid recreational screen use during school days. Don’t allow more than one to two hours per day, even less for the little ones.
  • Shut off all screens one to two hours before bedtime to unwind and allow the natural production of melatonin in the brain.
  • Have your children be active, play outside, interact with nature and real people.
  • Don’t allow kids to be on social media until they are in their later teen years and can understand the impact and responsibilities involved. Before then, they are too young to comprehend.
  • Do not leave kids unattended with electronic media. Track their use. Put blockers or filters on and use apps such as Curbi. Don’t forget: there is no substitute for parental supervision.

Our children count on our wisdom and guidance to make them safe and help them to grow into healthy and successful individuals. Children can only learn self-soothing, self- regulation, developmental, intellectual, and interpersonal skills from real people. Children learn these skills through play and real life experimentation. It’s up to parents to lift the screens before our kids’ eyes and help them to see all the other great stuff out there that life has to offer.

References:

 

  1. All the American Academy of Pediatrics articles and links on media can be found in one spot: Media Kit: Children and Media (e.g., Media Education (1999); Children, Adolescents, and the Media (2013); Media use by children younger than two years (2011); The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families (2011) ).
  2. Media History (2000). American Academy of Pediatrics  (AAP)
  3. Electronic Screen Syndrome: An Unrecognized Disorder? (2012). V. Dunckley
  4. Why the iPad is a bigger threat to our children than anyone (2016). S. Palmer     
  5. Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain (2014). V. Dunckley  
  6. Selected Research on Screen Time and Children  (undated). by CCFC
  7. Punishment Doesn’t Work (2014). Michael Karson.
  8. The Hidden Downside to Rewarding Your Kids for Good Behavior (2015). Kerri Anne Renzulli
  9. The Vital Role of Play in Childhood (2003). Joan Almon

 

How to protect your children from child molesters.

How to protect your children from child molesters.

Dr. Gina Madrigrano guides you into the world of child sex offenders to better understand who they are, how they select their victims and how to protect your kids.

Protect your kids from child molesters

Protect your kids from child molesters

In many parents’ darkest nightmares lurks the predator hunting for opportunities to sexually abuse children. Sadly, for many children these nightmares are all too real. Evidence suggests that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are sexually abused by family, including step-parents, every year (1). Strangers or acquaintances victimize boys four times more often than girls (2). Parents, thankfully, can take steps to protect their children from sexual abuse. You can reduce the odds that your child will fall prey to these predators by knowing who they are and how they target children.

 

Who are they?

 

  • Adults. Sex offenders come from all walks of life. While the sexual predator is often imagined as a stranger lurking in the shadows, more than 80% of child molesters are men known to their victims. Adult male family members are responsible for half of all incidents of child sexual abuse. And the younger the victim, the higher the likelihood that the aggressor is a family member or someone close to the family.

 

While some predators are females, they are greatly outnumbered by males. Most women offenders carry out their crimes with a male accomplice (e.g., husband or partner) (3). Often, these women are themselves victims of domestic abuse.

 

Whereas some child molesters do fit the profile of the stranger who abducts and molests children, many do not look threatening. They can be charming with adults and skilled with children.

 

  • Teenagers. Male juvenile offenders are more prevalent than females, and they are often known to the victim (e.g. babysitters, siblings, cousins, schoolmates, friend’s siblings). Most adolescent sex offenders are themselves victims of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse (4). Often they come from homes with a high incidence of substance abuse. Most juvenile offenders come from single-parent homes or have been separated from their parents (5). Their offenses tend to be more intrusive than those of adult sex offenders because they are often impulsive and not as clever at covering their tracks. Research estimates that between one-quarter and one-third of all sexual offenses are committed by juveniles (6).

 

  • Children. Children may engage in inappropriate sexual behaviours but they are not sexually motivated in they way that adults and teens are. There are three primary causes for these inappropriate behaviours: sexual abuse; witnessing sexual behaviours or assaults; exposure to pornography.

 

How they operate:

 

Because they are often known to their victims, sex offenders tend to be inconspicuous. Some offenders choose jobs that put them in contact with children. They may choose positions of authority or supervision: school bus driver, clergy member, teacher, coach, boy scout leader, babysitter, nanny, or home daycare worker. Pedophiles are often very patient and calculating. They will work hard to gain trust and can groom families for years before making a move.

 

Family members not living in the child’s home have used trips, sleepovers, and babysitting as opportunities for sexual assault. Child molesters in extended families have tended to be overly involved in the child’s life.

 

Strangers, by contrast, tend to scope out neglected children or those frequently alone outdoors. Sex offenders have lured children with animals or “lost” pets, candy, electronic devices, and money, or simply by asking for directions (7). Other child molesters seek out victims on the Internet via video games and chats, portraying themselves as children.

 

Some child molesters target single mothers to gain access to their children. They prefer needy, trusting, co-dependent women who allow their love interest to meet her kids early in the relationship, who extend invitations for sleepovers, or even seem willing to cohabitate early on. These men will first groom the mom to earn her trust, often by being generous, helpful, and kind to her and her children. Once trust is won, he will also groom the children by caring for them, buying them gifts, or lavishing attention upon them.

 

As noted above, teenage sex offenders are more impulsive than adult pedophiles. They have taken advantage of situations where they are alone with other children (e.g. babysitting, coaching, during sleepovers, in parks or school).

 

Finally, when young children exhibit sexual behaviours with other kids, it usually happens during playdates, sleepovers, at daycare, on the playground, or at school.

 

Who do they seek out: Victim Profile

 

Male victims outnumber females with regards to offenses committed outside the home. Offenders prefer children who are less likely to offer resistance or speak out. They seek out children who are vulnerable, insecure, needy, poorly attached, have poor self-esteem, and come from broken families. Children going to and returning home alone from school are more vulnerable to stranger abductions (7). Victims often have absent or abusive fathers and thus long for a father figure. Children with narcissistic dads tend to be more vulnerable. Once a child has been victimized in the home, they are often targeted for repeat offenses.

 

How to protect your children

 

Here are several strategies to protect your children from sexual offenders.

 

  • Be involved in your child’s life. Foster a close and trusting relationship, with non-judgmental open communication. Teach them to not keep secrets.

 

  • Parents play a crucial role in their children’s healthy development. Fulfill all their needs so that they don’t seek parental figures elsewhere.

 

  • Raise confident children and encourage assertiveness. Teach them to stand up for themselves and how to create boundaries. Avoiding toxic relationships is also key.

 

  • Teach them skills to actively resist attempts to grab or lure them. Explain how to make safe decisions and recognize potentially dangerous situations by regularly rehearsing different scenarios. (Good strategies can be found here 8)

 

  • Make a list of trustworthy adults.

 

  • Keep your child close in busy public places.

 

  • Not everyone in authority can be trusted. Tell them they won’t be punished for “telling on” an adult.

 

  • Age-appropriate safety and sex education are critical. Don’t forget to mention that inappropriate touching includes their faces or mouths, and nothing should be inserted in there.

 

  • If they are unaccompanied by an adult, make sure they have a buddy with them.

 

  • Before allowing your children to go on sleepovers get to know the families well. Ask a lot of questions. Sexual aggressors don’t like this.

 

  • Don’t use a fear-based approach to teach safety. It doesn’t work.

 

  • Because most perps are known to the child, don’t focus solely on “stranger danger.” Instead, teach your children not to go anywhere with anyone without parental permission.

 

  • Carefully choose all caregivers. Get a criminal record check for nannies and home daycares. Get to know teenage babysitters well. Avoid teens with the characteristics mentioned above.

 

  • Watch out for online aggressors. Monitor your children’s media use at all times. Educate them about internet safety.

 

  • For divorced parents, try to have a decent relationship with your ex-partner so that you can inform her or him of the risks. Minimize conflict in front of your kids.

 

  • Always trust your gut. If a person doesn’t feel right, don’t take a chance. Teach your children to trust their instincts.

 

Ultimately, protecting our children from sexual predators is a shared responsibility since we can’t be our child’s side at all times. Most importantly, do not underestimate the protective power of your relationship with your child.

 

References

  1. Child Sexual Abuse Statistics The National Centre for Victims of Crime. https://victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/child-sexual-abuse-statistics
  2. Ministère de la Sécurité Publique du Québec (2011). Statisques 2009 sur les agressions sexuelles au Québec. 23 pages. http://www.securitepublique.gouv.qc.ca
  3. A Profile of Women Who Sexually Offend. In: http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/005/008/092/005008-0274-eng.pdf
  4. J. Fagan and S. Wexler, “Explanations of sexual assault among violent delinquents,” Journal of Adolescent Research, 3 (1988): 363–385.
  5. R. B. Graves, D. K. Openshaw, F. R. Ascione and S. L. Erickson, “Demographic and parental characteristics of youthful sex offenders,” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 40 (1996): 300–317.
  6. Adolescent Sexual Offenders. (1990). The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. In:http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/H72-22-3-1990E.pdf
  7. Stranger Abduction. In: https://missingkids.ca/app/en/non_family_abduction-prevention
  8. Stranger Abduction: Prevention Strategies for Kids. https://missingkids.ca/app/en/non_family_abduction-prevention-safety_tips