Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: children

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    4 Must-Dos for Parents After Divorce

    Based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, Dr. Warren Farrell, co-author of The Boy Crisis, says that “Dad’s time trumps Dad’s dime.” 

    “More than 100 psychologists and researchers got together. They wrote in unanimous consent that the children need their father about equally to their mother in the case of divorce,” says Farrell. 

    Farrell explained that for years researchers believed that children did better with an involved father because intact families had more money and lived in better neighborhoods. However, researchers controlled for virtually every variable and found that father involvement plays a vital role in the health of a child. It’s not just about the money he may provide, although that is very important. It is the combination of presence and provision.

    “The degree of difference between the health of a child who has both father and mother involvement, who has four things after divorce is so different from the health of the child that doesn’t,” Farrell says. 

    Farrell goes on to say that whether babies are born prematurely or full-term, the importance of the father being involved is enormous. 

    “Prematurely-born children are more likely to develop their brains better and get out of the hospital sooner and have more psychomotor functioning when the father is visiting the hospital as much as possible, according to research from Yale University,” he says.

    “The father breathing on the child when it’s first born helps the bonding process to occur and changes the dad’s brain,” Farrell says “The sooner the father gets involved with the child, a whole nest of neurons in the male brain begins to develop and connect with each other that mimics the mother instinct - overlapping with mother instinct. Oxytocin levels go up, testosterone levels go down. Dads connect emotionally with their children.”

    According to Farrell, in the event of an unavoidable divorce, here are four must-dos for your child to have a reasonable chance of doing well.

    The first one is ensuring an equal amount of time with mother and father. Being in checks and balance mode with each other never means the father going away and working 80 hours a week and coming back when he is exhausted and the children are in bed. Farrell asserts that children need more than a Disneyland Dad or just a visitor on the weekends. They need time, and plenty of it.

    The second must-do is for the mother and father to live within a 20-minute drive time from each other. This gives children greater stability and creates less resentment, because if parents live further away, the kids may have to give up activities or friends in order to see the other parent. 

    It’s also important that children are not able to hear or detect bad-mouthing or negativity from one parent about the other. If one parent responds negatively about something concerning the other one, it can affect the child’s intimacy with one or both parents. Bad-mouthing isn’t just by words, it’s also via body language and tone of voice. Farrell says that many parents will swear that their kids did not overhear them saying something negative about the other parent while on the phone, but the child could detect the difference in the tone of voice, even from another room.

    Finally, it’s beneficial for the kids if parents spend significant time doing consistent relationship counseling, even if it only happens every few weeks. If parents only seek counsel in an emergency, the chances are you need to solve the problem sooner, and you are more likely to make the other parent wrong and you only see the other parent when you are emergency mode. Therefore, you don’t have the chance to think and feel through with compassion the other parent’s best intent to solve the problem and make decisions.

    “Before you make a decision to have a child, do the research on why children need a significant amount of father involvement so that you don’t raise a child on your own and think it is just fine to do so and think that having a stepfather or you doing the father-type of role is going to be enough,” Farrell says. “If you believe your new husband is going to be a better stepfather than the biological father is a father, know that almost always the stepfather perceives himself to be an advisor, and the dynamic between a biological mother and stepfather is one where the biological mother does make the final decision. All of the dad-style parenting that a stepfather could potentially bring to a child’s life, like roughhousing, is likely to be inhibited by a biological mother with a lot more power and potency than she will use with the biological father. There’s a tendency for the stepfather to back out of equal parent engagement and just become a breadwinner.”

    Since research consistently shows that both parents are the best parents, Farrell expresses concern for unmarried biological moms who are living with the father. Farrell wants these moms to understand that when Mom is the primary parent, it often leads to the father being uninvolved and feeling that he is not valued. In situations like this, many fathers leave the child’s life within the first three to four years. 

    A word of caution here: While there is no question that some parents are unfit when it comes to filling the parent role, careful evaluation may be necessary to discern whether an ex is truly not fit to parent, or if it would "just be easier not to have to deal with them." If your thought process is more along the lines of, “I made a mistake marrying them. I want to start life over again without them. I don't like them. I don't like dealing with them,” it might be wise for you to reconsider your stance.

    There’s a big difference between safety and abuse issues and misunderstanding the other parent’s reasoning, thought processes or parenting style. If the goal is for children of divorce to be healthy in adulthood, it is important to follow these 4 must-dos after a divorce when it is possible and safe to do so.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on June 7, 2019.

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    5 Tips for Teaching the Value of Work

    In late 2018 Geoffrey Owens, known to many as Elvin on “The Cosby Show,” was spotted bagging groceries at Trader Joe’s. Social media blew up when a picture of Owens appeared, but instead of praising his willingness to work, people made disparaging comments about his job.

    After discovering what was happening, the first person Owens contacted was his 19-year-old son, saying, “I’m really sorry if this embarrasses you.” His son sent a beautiful response that moved his father to tears.

    An interviewer on “Good Morning America” asked Owens about the social media comments. He responded by saying, “This business of my being this Cosby guy who got shamed for working at Trader Joe’s, that’s going to pass… but I hope what doesn’t pass is this idea... this rethinking about what it means to work, you know, the honor of the working person and the dignity of work. And I hope that this period that we’re in now, where we have a heightened sensitivity about that and a re-evaluation of what it means to work, and a re-evaluation of the idea that some jobs are better than others because that’s actually not true… Every job is worthwhile and valuable.” 

    What message are we sending to our children when society is willing to shame someone for an honest day’s work?

    According to Fit for Work, both paid and unpaid work is good for our health and wellbeing. It contributes to our happiness, helps us to build confidence and self-esteem, and it rewards us financially.  

    Additionally, working keeps us busy, challenges us and gives us the means to develop ourselves. It can create a sense of pride, identity and personal achievement. Work enables us to socialize, build contacts and find support, and it provides us with money to support ourselves and explore our interests.

    There are health benefits, too. Working people tend to enjoy happier and healthier lives than those who do not work, and work has been shown to improve physical and mental health.

    Perhaps a paradigm shift is in order where instead of teaching children that certain jobs are beneath them, we teach them about the importance of a work ethic and doing every job well.

    Here are some ways we can all promote the value of hard work:

    • No matter what the job, encourage others to work to the best of their ability.

    • Model a strong work ethic.

    • Equip your kids with the skills they need to earn a living. Chores can help them get ready for work outside the home.

    • Avoid the temptation of giving your child everything. Allow them the opportunity to work for it.

    • Help them connect the dots to how the work they are doing (or not doing) impacts others.

    If people weren’t willing to fulfill certain positions, imagine how it would impact your life. It's definitely a great teaching moment for kids to think about as well. Every job is important. In fact, a ripple effect takes place when one person does not fulfill their responsibilities at home, in the workplace or in the community.

    Tyler Perry once said, “Developing a good work ethic is key. Apply yourself at whatever you do, whether you’re a janitor or taking your first summer job, because that work ethic will be reflected in everything you do in life.”  

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    6 Ways to Help Children Thrive During Transitions

    At the end of summer, there are many transitions in the making. 

    Kindergartners are attending school for the first time. Last year's fifth-graders will go on to middle school. Eighth-graders who were at the top of the pecking order are entering high school and essentially are now the little fish in the big pond. Then there are the seniors - some of whom cannot wait for graduation, while others want to take their sweet time getting there.

    Some parents can't wait for the transitions to occur. Others, however, secretly grieve as they see time flying by, wishing it would stand still for just a bit longer.

    No matter where you fall on the transition continuum, the air is typically charged with emotions from excitement, fear and anxiety to anticipation and perhaps feeling overwhelmed. Those with middle and high school-age teens get the added hysteria of hormones in the mix.

    As a family, it is possible to have multiple transitions happening simultaneously, each with its own set of expectations and unpredictable challenges which can make any sane parent want to disappear.

    There's good news, though! You can intentionally bring calm to the forefront and help your kids thrive during times of transition.

    • Deal with your own emotions. Sometimes parents can be full of anxiety about an upcoming transition while the child is full of excitement. Be careful not to place your emotions on your child. Find an appropriate outlet to talk about how you're feeling.

    • Acknowledge that change is afoot. Talk about what will be different. Discuss what is exciting and what might be scary about the change.

    • Celebrate the milestone. While preparing for a transition can provoke anxiety, there is reason to celebrate the end of one season and the beginning of another. Share the ways in which you have seen your child/teen grow and mature. They need to know you believe in them and that you have confidence in their ability to navigate this new adventure.

    • Determine a plan of action. The unknown can be really scary. Helping your child develop an action plan for handling their transition will help build confidence and remove feelings of helplessness.

    • Identify your support team. Coaches, teachers, guidance counselors, pastors, youth leaders, mentors, grandparents, other extended family members and close friends can all be part of this team. Don't assume your child/teen knows who is on this team. Discuss it together and make sure they can identify at least three people other than their parents who are on their team.

    • Talk to other parents and children who have already made this transition. Conversations with others who have successfully navigated the journey can be both encouraging and enlightening, saving you a lot of heartache and stress while giving you pointers on how to avoid land mines. For children/teens, talking with others their own age who have walked the road can be comforting and empowering.

    All of these transitions are a sign of growth for children and their parents. These are great times to teach the life skills that will help your children be resilient. Instead of trying to avoid the changes, embrace them and make the most of them.

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    6 Rules to Raise Your Children By

    How do you teach respect? Will your child’s strong will conquer you before you conquer it? 

    As a parent, you have probably thought about these questions and experienced the confusion of trying to figure out the best way to raise your children

    According to psychologist and author Dr. Kevin Leman, we have arrived at a place in our society where the family focuses solely on the child. He says American parents have become permissive and democratic, and children have become sassy and entitled.

    Today, many popular dramas portray children in adult roles with little respect for parents. The shows depict parents as ignorant, out of touch with the culture and not smart enough to raise a child. Innocent as it may appear, this role reversal seems to encourage teens to be disrespectful to their parents, discounting their authority and their understanding about life issues.

    If a child wants to do something and their parents say no, they sneak and do it anyway. Instead of earning money to buy new shoes, many teens believe parents should foot the bill. In fact, many young people think the idea of doing chores around the house without getting paid is unfair and beyond the call of duty.

    Leman believes that allowing young people to operate in this manner is counterproductive.

    “There are certain realities by which children are going to have to live their adult lives,” says Leman. “The sooner we start teaching what I refer to as the rules of the game, the better.” These are:

    • You’re never going to be the center of everyone’s attention all the time. This means that children should not be the center of attention in their families. Parents should be the center of attention.

    • Everyone must obey a higher authority no matter how old they are. Therefore, parents should expect children to obey, not hope that they will obey.

    • Everyone needs to be a contributing member of society. Too many children constantly take from their families without ever giving back. Leman suggests parents ask themselves if their children ever perform routine chores around the home for which they do not get paid. The only acceptable answer is yes.

    • Everyone is responsible for his or her own behavior. A child who does something wrong ought to feel bad about it and be held accountable for his behavior. Too often parents feel bad when a child does something wrong. Why should a child accept responsibility for his behavior if someone else takes responsibility for him?

    • You can’t always get what you want and what you do get, you get by working and waiting. Children should receive the things they need and a conservative amount of the things they want. More children need to hear the word "no!"

    • You experience happiness, which is the elixir of success, in direct proportion to how sensitive to and considerate you are of others. Self-centeredness and unhappiness go hand in hand.

    Finally, Leman admits that teaching your children these rules won’t create “perfect kids.” We all make mistakes and sometimes children have to learn these lessons the hard way, but by making them aware of the real world, children will have a better chance at becoming happy, well-adjusted young adults.

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    How to Navigate the Holidays as a Divorced Parent

    For so many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a beautiful season sprinkled with festive events and family gatherings. For parents who are divorced and sharing their children over the holidays with their other parent however, this can be the beginning of a very complicated time.

    “I grew up as a child of divorce, was a single mother for eight years and am now remarried,” says author and marriage and family therapist, Tammy Daughtry. “I know firsthand how difficult and chaotic the holidays can be for children going between two homes, not to mention the emotional turmoil that can come from expectations of creating the ‘perfect Christmas.’”

    Joey, now 41, recalls his saddest moments of Christmas were seeing his mom cry when he left to visit his dad. 

    “Like many children of divorce, Joey hated to see his mom fall apart when he left for the holidays with his dad,” Daughtry says. “Thinking that it was his job to make her happy, he felt sad and like it was his fault. He felt guilty about having fun with his father. At 9, he described feeling like he needed to call his mom every day while he was away to make sure she was alright. As an adult looking back, he wishes someone had been there to tell his mom to pull herself together and not place that kind of pressure on him. Joey said the mental image of his mom sitting at home crying, alone and sad caused enough guilt to last more than my lifetime.”

    Daughtry not only has personal experience with this issue, but she also works with stepfamilies to help them navigate situations such as these. If you are in the midst of co-parenting, Daughtry’s suggestions can help you make this shared Christmas bright for your children.

    • Confirm that your children are loved and secure in both homes.

    • Allow your child to share the joy they feel at their other home. Affirm their joy with a healthy response.

    • Create a photo collage of your child with their other parent and give it to them as a gift this year. Encourage your child to hang it in their room at your house.

    • Purchase a large corkboard and encourage your child to put special tokens and mementoes of their other parent and their family on the board - grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - as a way to celebrate both sides of the family.

    Additionally, Daughtry has some ideas for making your own Christmas celebration brighter, especially if you’ll be celebrating Christmas without the children:

    • Invite a friend to be there as your children leave or to ride along as you drop them off so you won’t be completely alone initially.

    • Be kind to yourself by acknowledging the pain you may feel, but plan ahead to care for yourself. You might even create your own extra-fun experience instead of becoming an emotional trainwreck.

    • Don’t sulk at home alone. Make plans to be with family or friends.

    • Get together with a single parent who is also celebrating without the children this year.

    • Volunteer somewhere and give to others in need.

    “We often don’t know what we are capable of handling until we have to do it,” says Daughtry. “Be intentional about taking care of yourself which will help you be strong for your children. Give yourself permission to re-frame and redefine your expectations as a parent. You might be surprised how much joy you actually experience this holiday season.”

    For more insight on parenting, download our E-book "10 Tips for Blended Families". Download Here


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    What Kids Really Want for Christmas

    Even before Halloween is over, store aisles are packed with Christmas everything. Mail catalogs arrive and television commercials promote things we supposedly can’t and shouldn’t live without.

    Ikea is one of the stores getting into the Christmas spirit with a commercial called The Other Letter.

    Ikea had children write a Christmas wish letter to The Three Kings and a second letter to their parents. The letters to The Three Kings were filled with items the children wanted, but the letters to parents were quite different. The children didn’t ask for things at all. Instead, they said things like:

    • I want you to spend more time with me…that we do more experiments at home.

    • I’d like it if you paid a little more attention to us.

    • I’d like it if you would have dinner with us more often.

    • Read us a story.

    • I’d like us to be together for a whole day.

    • I want to play. I want you to play cowboys with me.

    The majority of the parents were not surprised by what their children said they wanted for Christmas. But most of them read the second letter through tears. One said she couldn’t read anymore.

    Parents thoughtfully acknowledged their children’s wishes by saying: 

    • To spend all the time we have with them is the most we can give to our children.
    • You want to give them the best you can and the best is yourself.
    • The feeling of trying to substitute that vacuum with a toy.

    While the children’s letters were thought-provoking, the biggest surprise came when the children were asked, “If you could only send one of these letters, which one would you choose to send?” Each child chose the letter to their parents.

    Before your blood pressure goes sky-high about how to give your children everything they “want” for Christmas, consider their true wishes. Perhaps the most valuable gift you could give your children is your time.

    As you prepare for the holidays ahead, consider these ideas:

    • Make gift certificates for special outings with family members.

    • Buy a game to play together like Clue, UNO, Skip-Bo or Catch Phrase.

    • Learn a new family hobby together.

    • Make a video scrapbook by asking family members questions like, “What’s your favorite family memory, family vacation or family tradition, and why?” Tell your children how things were different when you were little. Open and watch it on Christmas Day.

    • Schedule a family progressive dinner in your own home where each family member is responsible for a course. Have the courses in different rooms, decorated by each preparer.

    • Create a family photo album. Include old photographs alongside more-recent pictures. People rarely make family photo albums anymore.

    • Write a letter to family members. Tell them why they are special and what they mean to you. Put the envelopes on the tree for Christmas morning.

    Families who spend time together make memories and feel a sense of belonging you can't buy in a store. Funny things happen when you laugh, start traditions and really get to know each other as family members.

    People long and crave for intimacy in their own families. Store-bought gifts will never fill the void of precious time, so give it freely. It will last for a lifetime—no batteries or assembly required.

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    Talking to Your Kids About Sex

    Where did I come from? What are the birds and the bees? What is sex? Sooner or later, your child will begin to ask questions about sex.

    The mere thought of that makes some parents blush and get sick to their stomach. It sends others over the edge. Isn’t it interesting that we don’t hesitate to talk to our children about crossing the street safely or the dangers of playing with fire, but the thought of talking to them about sex – something equally as dangerous – send shivers up the spine? Why?

    Many parents have concerns about talking with their children about sex.

    Perhaps you fear the discussion will promote sex instead of discourage it. Or that your child might ask you about your past. Maybe you're concerned about the potential for questions you can’t answer. Some parents say that it is just too embarrassing.

    These are legitimate concerns. However, there is no evidence to suggest that talking about sex encourages the act.

    Consider the facts:

    • 41.2 percent of high school students (grades 9-12) have had sex. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 11.5 percent said they had had four or more sexual partners. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 30.1 percent said they had had sexual intercourse in the past three months. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 3.9 percent of U.S. teens said they had had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 15 to 24-year-olds account for nearly half of the 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections each year. Centers for Disease Control 2015 STD Surveillance Report

    The Information Highway 

    If children aren’t learning about sex from you, where do they look for the answers? When Barna Research group asked, “Who should be responsible for teaching young people about sex?” respondents overwhelmingly said that parents should be the ones to teach their children about sex. But numerous surveys of teens and young adults say that television and the Internet are their top sources for information and ideas about sex, usually followed by schools, parents and peers.

    Today’s children are hearing about sex much earlier and are exposed to sexuality at virtually every turn in our society. Research has shown that by the time a child turns 18 he/she has witnessed 250,000 sexual acts on television. Interestingly, more than 75 percent of the videos on MTV show some sort of sexual act in which the woman is a sexual object. In 2009, approximately 92% of the 174 songs that made it into the Top 10 contained reproductive messages. (None of these figures include images on the Internet and social media.)

    YES! Parents Really Can Make a Difference!

    Studies show that you can most dramatically impact your child’s behavior by clearly defining your expectations within the context of close family connectedness. According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (and many other studies), perceived parental disapproval of teen sexual activity and contraceptive use significantly influences the delay of risky sexual behavior in teenagers.

    Simply put, parents should be the first and best educators of their children in all matters. This is especially true about human sexuality, growth and development, and healthy attitudes and values about relationships. Although young people tend to act embarrassed, research has shown that teens do want accurate information and they prefer getting the information from you.

    The best time to start talking with children about sex is when they are young. Look for teachable moments, such as when you see a pregnant woman or a peer's new brother or sister, as a natural discussion-starter.

    The Talk

    Focus your conversation with elementary-age children on:

    • the correct names of sexual organs and body parts,

    • explaining sex and reproduction,

    • personal boundaries,

    • pregnancy, and

    • building healthy relationships.

    If they are old enough to ask questions, they are old enough to receive correct answers. Make sure to clarify your child’s question. When you understand the question, answer it briefly and simply. If they want to know more, they'll ask additional questions. You might want to practice talking privately with your spouse or another adult.

    Middle school students need to talk about:

    • sexually transmitted diseases and infections,

    • emotions,

    • the consequences of sexual relationships, and

    • the benefits of abstinence.

    As embarrassing as it may be, it is crucial that you talk with your teen about all aspects of sex, including oral sex. It's also a good time to discuss why people date and what healthy dating relationships look like.

    Discussions with high school students should continue to be about:

    • sexually transmitted diseases,

    • healthy dating relationships,

    • wise decision-making when it comes to sex,

    • setting a standard and living by it, and

    • self-discipline, in addition to everything listed above.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    How Children Succeed

    What exactly does it take for a child to succeed in life? Is it good grades? High test scores? Tenacity?

    According to Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character and Whatever it Takes, adults focus on high test scores, pre-admission to preschool and SAT scores as child-success indicators.

    Based on research, however, Tough says we focus too much on these areas. He believes that the most important qualities have more to do with character. These skills include perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism and self-control.

    Tough and his wife became parents while he was writing his book. Surprisingly, the research actually made him a more relaxed parent. When his son was born, Tough was very much caught up in the idea of childhood as a race - the faster a child develops skills and the better he does on tests, the better he’ll do in life.

    These days, the author is much less concerned about his son’s reading and counting ability. While he certainly believes those things are important, he's more concerned about his character. He wants his son to be able to recover from disappointments, calm himself down, keep working at a puzzle even when it’s frustrating and be good at sharing. He also wants his son to feel loved and confident, and have a full sense of belonging. Most importantly, Tough wants his son to be able to handle failure.

    It's hard for us parents to let our children fail. Why is that? Because everything in us wants to shield them from trouble. But Tough and others are now discovering that we may actually harm our children when we try to protect them. By not allowing them to learn to manage adversity or to cope with failure, we produce kids who have real problems when they grow up. Overcoming adversity produces character. And character, even more than IQ, leads to real and lasting success.

    According to Tough, scientists realize that early adversity in a child’s life affects the conditions of their lives. It can also alter the physical development of their brains. This knowledge is being used nationwide to help children overcome constraints.

    Regardless of socioeconomic status, Tough contends that children with the proper support in the most painful circumstances can still achieve amazing things. But many children do not grow up with that right support. For example, there may be two parents in the home who are so bent on their child’s success that they never let him experience failure. Or at the completely opposite end of the spectrum, there's no support to help the child get back up when he fails.

    For more insight on parenting, download our E-book "4 ways to stay connected after Baby" Download Here

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    5 Tips for Raising Good Kids

    Any parent headed home with their first child is probably a bit nervous about this whole parenthood thing. You really want to raise good kids, but unfortunately, each unique baby doesn’t come with its own manual.

    Whether you shop local or go to Amazon for parenting help, hundreds of books offer different perspectives on the best way to raise good children. In spite of the many approaches, however, a group of Harvard psychologists found that it really boils down to some very basic strategies.

    1. Spend time with your children. 

    It's often tempting to be in the same room with your child as they play with toys or a computer while you check email or social media. That isn’t what the researchers are talking about. Engage them in play, look into their eyes and read a book with them. Learn about their friends, find out what they think about school and that sort of thing. By doing this, you're teaching them how to show care for another person and that they are a priority to you.

    2. Model the behavior you want to see. 

    It’s easy to have one set of expectations for children and another set for adults. In some cases this makes sense, but when it comes to teaching your children, they are like sponges. They take in all you do. Everything from how you care for yourself and let others talk to you, to how you deal with a difficult personal situation or how you handle anger teaches them right from wrong and what it means to be an upstanding citizen. When you model the behavior you want to see, it is a powerful thing.

    3. Show your child how to care for others and set high ethical expectations. 

    Children believe the world revolves around them. When you involve them in caring for others, especially people who are different from you, they learn they will not always be the center of attention and that all people matter. They also see what it looks like to share with others without being selfish.

    Even the little moments can teach your child about being an honest and ethical person. When the cashier gives you too much change and you return the money instead of keeping it, they see. Or when your child sneaks something in their pocket after you said they couldn't have it and you make them return it and apologize – that’s a teaching moment.

     4. Teach your child to be appreciative and grateful. 

    Parents usually start with please, thank you and you're welcome. Giving your child age appropriate chores and thanking them for doing their part also teaches them about appreciation and gratitude. Teaching them how to write thank you notes and to think about others' feelings and needs is also useful.

    5. Teach them how to see beyond themselves. 

    Find ways to show them a world beyond their family and close friends. Help them appreciate differences in ethnicity. Talk with them about other places in the world, rituals, customs, living conditions, etc. By doing this you are expanding their world.

    The children in the Harvard study thought their own happiness and self-esteem was really important to their parents. Instead of being overly concerned that kids are always happy, you can emphasize how to be kind to others in their world, whether it's the bus driver, the Walmart greeter or the referee at the sports event. Focusing on these things will help you raise children who are caring, kind, courageous and responsible.

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    How to Talk to Your Children When Bad Things Happen

    One of the biggest challenges of parenthood is explaining to your children about bad things that happen in our world. How do you talk with children about violence, death and other issues that are often difficult for even adults to handle?

    Examine your own feelings first. It is difficult to talk with your children if you have not evaluated your feelings about what has happened.

    For example, talking about death makes many people uncomfortable. Our first inclination is just not to talk about it. Somehow we believe that not talking about it will protect our children. The truth is, instead of protecting, we may cause more concern. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children constructive ways to deal with tough situations.

    Bad things happen and parents need to be armed with appropriate ways to deal with the bad things that happen as well as the feelings that accompany the situation. Children need information, comfort and understanding to help them process different experiences. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers.

    Is Silence Really the Answer?

    While your first inclination may be not to talk about what has happened, often the best thing you can do for your child is to engage them in conversation. You don’t have to say everything at once about a topic. It is best if you don’t because children are easily overwhelmed.

    When trying to talk with children about bad things:

    • First, listen carefully to your child.

    • Try to clarify exactly what your child wants to know – sometimes we make assumptions and give far more information than the child needed.

    • Keep your answers simple and brief.

    • Be honest.

    • Be sensitive to their need to talk about the issue - not talking about it can make children more anxious.

    What if I blow it?

    Sometimes parents choose not to talk about a subject because they think they are going to blow it and saying the wrong thing will harm their child for life. The truth is, sometimes we do blow it as parents and that is okay. It is rare that one conversation will cause irreparable harm.

    Tell the truth

    Honesty is the best policy. This does not mean that you tell a child everything about a situation. There are some things that a child does not need to know. You should share enough information to help them understand what is happening and to help them deal with their feelings. Whatever you do, do not be dishonest.

    Teaching children about feelings

    One of the most important aspects of helping children understand bad things is helping them identify and deal with their feelings. Feelings are not good or bad, they just are, but how we choose to deal with those feelings is significant. Children can often sense when something isn’t right. This can produce anxious feelings for a child.

    Children seem to intuitively know when something is not right. Children want their world to be neat and ordered. When something seems out of kilter, children tend to react out of fear and anxiety. Parents can help ease some of these feelings by talking about the situation and helping children identify their feelings. This exercise gives children valuable information they can use for the rest of their life. Children need a strong vocabulary of feeling words (afraid, anxious, scared, sad, mad, happy, excited) to attach to what is happening inside. To say, "This is a sad thing," or "This is scary," helps children to understand that feelings are natural and normal. This is all part of life.

    In this process, the message you'll want to send your child is, "We can find ways to deal with this." 

    To quote Mister Rogers, "Whatever is mentionable is manageable." Asking questions such as, "When you are scared, what makes you feel better?" helps children begin to process and feel like they have some control over the situation at hand.

    There are no cookie-cutter approaches

    Finally, experts caution that each child will respond differently to bad situations. Some children will become very quiet while others will become very active and loud. Don’t be afraid to trust your intuition. You know your child better than anybody else. As a parent, your job will be to stand by your child and guide them as they deal with their grief, anger, pain, feelings of uncertainty and sadness in their own way. Our world is a changing place. We can help our children feel safe and more in control by helping them to talk about these issues. Through this process, your child will learn one of the basic rules of life that with time healing can take place and things often get better.

    Experts suggest that you:

    • Listen carefully to what your child says.

    • Try to clarify exactly what your child wants to know – sometimes we make assumptions and give far more information than the child needs.

    • Keep your answers simple and brief.

    • Be honest.

    • Be sensitive to their need to talk about the issue - not talking about it can make children more anxious.

    Needs of a Grieving Child (taken from Hospice.net)

    • Information that is clear and understandable at their development level.

    • Reassurance that their basic needs will be met.

    • Involvement in planning for the funeral and anniversary.

    • Reassurance when grieving by adults is intense.

    • Help with exploring fantasies about death, afterlife and related issues.

    • Ability to have and express their own thoughts and behaviors, especially when different from significant adults.

    • To maintain age appropriate activities and interests.

    • Getting help with “magical thinking.”

    • Being able to say goodbye to the deceased.

    • To memorialize the deceased.

    Help Your Child Build a Strong Feelings Vocabulary

    Happy

    Proud

    Strong

    Important

    Cared for

    Appreciate

    Respected

    Honored

    Cheerful

    Liked

    Courageous

    Hopeful

    Pleased

    Excited

    Smart

    Gloomy

    Impatient

    Unhappy

    Disappointed

    Helpless

    Uncomfortable

    Resentful

    Bitter

    Sad

    Hopeless

    Guilty

    Unloved

    Hurt

    Angry

    Abandoned