Thousand Oaks

How to stand up to bullies & Raise nice kids

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Last weekend, I gave a talk on How to Stand up to Bullies and Raise Good Kids and wanted to share the two things you can start doing today to help your kids stand up to bullies and be a the type of kid who is “good.” Those two things are raising their self-confidence and teaching them empathy.

 

Here is a list of things you can do to help your child be more confident.   

Highlight the positive. We spend a lot of time correcting our children’s behavior which can cause kids to think negatively about themselves.

Encourage their interests regardless of if they are good at it. Your child might be an average artist or athlete, but if they like it encourage them to continue by praising their efforts. Learning how to persevere is an important part of gaining confidence.

Model confidence. Stand up for yourself, express your emotions appropriately, challenge yourself in front of your kids. Use positive language and don’t quit.

Here is a list of things you can do to teach your child empathy. 

Make a kindness jar. When someone in your house does something nice for other people place a pom-pom or gem in a clear jar. This helps children visually see their  (and your) acts of kindness. For young kids use a smaller jar so they get the reward faster. When it’s full celebrate by doing something fun together as a family.

Make an empathy bead necklace. Identify different colored or shaped beads for different feelings and when your child is feeling different emotions have them add the corresponding bead to a necklace, pipe cleaner, or other piece of string. Hang the strands from a stick to make a wall hanging, or have them hand their necklace somewhere. This helps children pay attention to a normal range of emotions and start identifying them for themselves and other people.

Make joy rocks. Paint rocks and leave them in different places for other people to pick up. Helps kids learn to do things that make other people happy.

Create Kindness Bingo. Create a chart with 12 - 16 squares (less for younger children). In the squares write things like, gave a compliment, helped someone clean up, made a picture for a friend, played with a new friend, etc. When they accomplish something and have them mark off the square they completed. When they have gotten a line or filled their board reward them with something special. This can be extra screen time, a later bed time, special one on one time with a parent or a small gift.

Take them to volunteer with people. Have them help serve food at a soup kitchen or on a lesser scale make and deliver food or a craft to someone in your neighborhood who may be having a tough time.

And of course, if you need some help, we are your Village and we are always here. #youareawesome #TOVillageWellness

Back to School Tips for Anxious Kids (and Parents)

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For kids (and parents) back to school time is often filled with anxiety. For those who suffer from an anxiety disorder this time of year can be especially stressful. Questions like, who will be in my class? Who will my teacher be? Will I like my new school? What if it is really hard? What if no one likes me? What if people are mean to me or make fun of me? The questions go on and on, and unfortunately there are no answers until school actually starts, and even then there are some unknowns.

This year, my son is starting kindergarten. And I am terrified. I am scared about all the questions above and so many more. So to help us all get ready for the start of the year, here are a few tips for a successful transition into a new school year.

 

Don’t make it the main focus.

While it’s natural for kids and parents to be excited, and for going back to school to be a huge topic of conversation, sometimes this can unintentionally backfire. When we make something a big deal, kids get scared that they are going to disappoint us or that they are supposed to be equally as excited (or as nervous) about it too. Instead, focus on normal activities and making the most of the rest of the summer. Of course if they bring it up follow their lead and have a conversation. Ask them how they are feeling using open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling about school starting?” Skip the questions like, “Aren’t you excited for school to start?” or “Are you nervous about this year?”

 

Transition their clock

Generally, school starts earlier than camp, which means everyone needs to get up earlier. Surprising kids by making them go to bed earlier and wake up earlier right before school starts, makes for cranky kids (and parents). A week before school starts, back their bedtime up about 10 minutes every 2 days until you reach an earlier bedtime. Keep in mind how much sleep your kid needs to be at their best (Learn more about how much sleep they need here).

I’ve got one kid who needs a little time in the morning before she gets her day started and another who is ready to go the minute he wakes up. I need to take into consideration how much time they need in the morning to determine what time they should go to bed. This transition might also mean an earlier dinnertime so take that into consideration when looking at your schedule. Kids (and adults) who have anxiety thrive on structured time. While this may seem like a lot of work it can save a lot of anxious energy down the road.

 

Get into the routine

Most parents know that kids don’t do well with time. They need reminders about how much time remains for an activity and what comes next. You can help guide them by creating a routine for the evening and morning using visual cues and verbal reminders. Download this visual cue chart to help your kids remember what they need to do throughout the day. When giving verbal cues make sure to give 3 warnings before a transition, and try to keep the time correct (like 2 minutes shouldn’t be 10) so that they can begin to understand how long intervals of times are.

 

Read books about starting school

So we all know reading is beneficial to kids, but it is also a pressure free way to bring up topics that might be hard to broach as well as a way to normalize their feelings. Don’t force them to talk after the book is done, you aren’t reading it to start a conversation, you are reading it to plant a seed and open a door, so that later on if they want to talk they know they can. Here are a couple or great lists of books to read about the start of a new year.

Parents Choice, Back to School Books

The Happiest Home, Books About Starting School

 

Don’t say it’s going to be ok, teach your kids problem solving skills.

Often times our kids tell us they are worried, or scared about something and we say things like, “it’s going to be ok” or “don’t worry, people will like you.” Most of us have done this. I know I certainly have. I’ve done it because I know that it’s true, but the point is that our kids don’t, and they are really worried about it. So next time your kid tells you they are worried that they aren’t going to have friends, teach them how to make one. Teach them how to ask someone to sit with them at lunch or play with them at recess. Teach them how to look for another kid that may be feeling the same way by paying attention to what their interests are and what they like to do when there is free time at school. Teaching kids to cope with their anxiety isn’t about telling them things will be ok, it’s about teaching them how to make things ok.

Test it out.

Kids with anxiety like to know what’s coming, so help them by driving them by their school, even if they have been there before. Show them where they are going to be dropped off and picked up. If they are going to be taking the bus walk them to the bus stop so they know where it is and how long it takes to get there. Go out of your way to drive by the school a few other times as well. You don’t need to point it out every time you drive by, but it is important that they become more comfortable with the outside of the school.

 

Get your own worries under control.

When we, as parents, are worried about something we tend to give off a certain energy that our already anxious kids pick up on. So if you are worried about your kids’ transition to school make sure you use all your self care techniques to manage your own emotions. Remember it is totally normal to feel worried about the transition. I’ve already confessed that I am terrified. I know he will be fine and I know I’m not the only parent worried about what this school year will look like. If you’ve read this far, remember you are never alone in your feelings, and if you need help or want to chat we are always here.

Sharing (and Owning) My Story

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A few weeks ago I made the decision to share my story with you. I had no idea how it would be received or how it would make me feel, but I put it out there and took the risk.

I have been trying to figure out how to describe what it’s been like since then, and today I finally figured it out. I was listening to a podcast (my newest obsession) and they mentioned the Japanese art of kintsugi. You may think that you haven’t heard of it before, but chances are you have.

Kintsugi is the Japanese practice of filling cracks on broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum. The metaphor has been used a million times, so forgive me for using it again, but it so perfectly describes how I have been feeling that I wanted to share it with you. I really tried to eloquently re-write the Wikipedia description of the philosophy and ultimately realized that I was failing… so instead I am just going to use their words.

As a philosophy, kintsugi can be seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.
"Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... The [changes] of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. "— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics

So I know it is pretty wordy, but this is it, this is how I feel now, and it is in stark contrast to how I felt before.

Before, I felt like if I own this, if I put this out into the world people will actually see me. They will know I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, that I thought about ending my life and that I thought I was a crappy mom.

(Aside: Here’s the place that I should probably add that being open is something that is pretty hard for me as a person. I generally write about my feelings or put them into my art, but talking about them, like really talking about them, owning them, putting them out there into the world, it’s just not something I have historically done.)

But this is what I have learned, and why I’m sharing it with you today. I hit publish on that post and went into my first, of nine sessions, for the day. This is important for me to tell you, because that was me trying to hide from it. Like when you hit send on an email and close your computer and go do something else, that’s what I did. I was terrified and needed to busy myself. What were my friends, family, clients, random people in the world going to think, and eeek, they were going to see me. But then my phone, inbox, message feed and anywhere else you can reach me started blowing up. So many people, people I hadn’t heard from in 20 or 30 years, people I see everyday, family, clients, and my community, not only offered their support but also shared their stories, and their stories were soooo similar, not all the details of course, but the feelings. The feelings were all the same.

And so this is it, this is why I shared my story. This is why I owned it. And this filled the crack, the broken piece of me, in with gold.

I now know that I want you to see it when you see me. It did not make me weak, it’s part of what makes me beautiful, strong and resilient. It reminded me that we all have cracks, and that it feels good to own them. Thank you for teaching me this, for sharing your stories, and for supplying me with the gold to fill mine in.