Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: emotions

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    Tips for Controlling Your Emotions

    When you’re in the checkout line at the store and a 2-year-old has a meltdown because they can’t have a candy bar, nobody is shocked because well, they are two. It’s totally another story when an adult who is unable to regulate their emotions has a public meltdown. 

    Unfortunately, a rising number of teens and adults seem to be struggling with emotional and impulse control, and the results are often disastrous. Think road rage, someone cutting in line or even publicly expressing a different opinion in a rude manner.

    The Child Mind Institute defines self-regulation as the ability to manage emotions and behavior in accordance with situational demands. It is a skill set that enables children, as they mature, to direct their own behavior toward a goal, despite the unpredictability of the world and their own feelings. It includes:

    • Being able to resist highly-emotional reactions to upsetting stimuli, 
    • Calming yourself down when you get upset,
    • Adjusting to a change in expectations, and
    • Handling frustration without an outburst. 

    Children who don’t learn this skill struggle to self-regulate as they get older. And, if you’ve ever experienced this out-of-control feeling or been on the receiving end, you know it’s not a good thing. There is good news, though. If you didn’t learn this skill as a child, it is still possible to learn it as an adult. 

    Your emotional brain processes information in two milliseconds, so keeping yourself under control during a frustrating experience involves being able to pause between the feeling and your response. There is a trigger; someone pushes your buttons (we all have an easy button), there is an instant reaction, accompanied by a strong emotion often followed by a feeling of remorse. This is the body’s automatic built-in protection system, also known as “fight, flight or freeze.” 

    Your rational brain, which helps you make sound decisions, processes information in 500 milliseconds, 250 times longer than your emotional brain. People have to learn how to assess situations quickly, but if they don’t pause long enough to discern what is actually happening, their emotional brain can take control before their rational brain has a chance to kick into gear. 

    If you or someone you know struggles with self-regulation, it’s not too late! You just have to be intentional about choosing to behave differently. 

    Think about what you can control and what you cannot. You cannot control how other people behave, but you can choose how you will respond or engage with them. Sometimes, the best response is to do nothing.

    Learn how to master your feelings, versus letting them master you will serve you well. For example, when someone cuts you off when you’re driving, you suddenly feel your heart rate go up, adrenaline starts flowing, and your first instinct is to go after them. However, if you are practicing emotional regulation, you can take a breath, even acknowledge that that makes you angry, but then let it go because the consequences of your actions could bring harm to you, that driver and others who aren’t even involved.

    This should not be interpreted as people not being able to stand up for themselves or being silenced. Instead, learning how to master strong and powerful emotions can help people develop calm and constructive ways to have their voice heard. When people are out of control, it’s highly unlikely that anything positive will come from the situation.

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    Helping Kids Handle Mean Behavior

    Popular artist Taylor Swift is aware of her critics and the harshness of their comments, especially after the time she sang off key with Stevie Nicks. One critic said it was the beginning of the end of her career.

    These comments definitely affected Swift. So, what was her response? She wrote a song: Mean. 

    You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me,

    You have knocked me off my feet again, got me feeling like I'm nothing...

    While there have always been mean people, many would agree that there seems to be more mean behavior than even a decade ago.

    “I believe as a society we are seeing more meanness and we have become more tolerant of it,” says Dr. Gary J. Oliver, emotional intelligence expert. “While bullying has always been around, we have seen an escalation of inhospitable, hurtful and demeaning behavior - and not just in adults who have lived a rough life. We are seeing this behavior in children as well.”

    So, as Swift asks in her lyrics, why do people have to be so mean?

    “I think there are a number of reasons,” Oliver says. “People seem to be more accepting of mean behavior instead of stopping it. And we have a lot of hurting people out there. When a wounded person feels threatened, they lash out in an effort to protect themselves. These people are almost always unhappy, insecure and frustrated. Their effort to make themselves feel better and safer comes at a great cost to those who become the target of their anger.”

    Oliver also believes mean behavior has increased because of humans' natural instinct to fight, run away or freeze when they feel threatened. People who don't how to handle a mean situation often resort to fighting back or attacking someone out of anger.

    “Most people do not realize that when they feel threatened, the emotion portion of their brain gets hijacked. If they have never learned emotional self-awareness, they resort to instinctive responses,” Oliver says. “Parents can teach their children how to handle their emotions in a way that is assertive yet not mean and disrespectful.”

    Dr. Oliver shares these tips to teach children emotional intelligence:

    • Love your children.

    • Keep expectations realistic. No child can be number one at everything.

    • Help your child to recognize his/her strengths.

    • Teach them healthy boundaries.

    • Model how to treat others with kindness and compassion even when treated disrespectfully.

    • When someone makes a mean statement to your child, teach them to ask themselves if it is true. If not, they can dismiss it. If it is, they can do something about it.

    “Nobody likes being treated mean – not even the bully,” Oliver says. “Teaching your children that they don’t have to react to every stimulus and that they can remain calm will serve them well on into adulthood. How far your child goes in life depends more on emotional intelligence than having a degree from an Ivy League school.”

    Who would you prefer your child to hang around, someone who is mean, disrespectful and rude or someone who is compassionate, kind and respectful?

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    20 Warning Signs in Teens

    If you live with a teenager, one thing is certain: their emotions change as often as the weather or their clothes. They ascend to the heights of joy one day, the depths of teenage despair, the next.

    The teen years are a time to explore new ideas, new attitudes and new feelings. Since a certain amount of unpredictability is normal, how can you tell if your teenager’s emotional swings are beyond the normal ups and downs of adolescence?

    Although it's not always possible to know what goes too far, there are some things you can look for in the process.

    Here's a warning-sign checklist from the Minirth-Meier psychiatric organization that can help you:

    • Deterioration of grades;

    • Chronic truancy;

    • Chronic school failure;

    • Mood swings;

    • General Apathy;

    • Drug/alcohol use;

    • Blatant sexual behavior;

    • Verbal or physical displays;

    • Withdrawal or feeling of hopelessness;

    • Sleeplessness, fatigue;

    • Low self-esteem;

    • Sadness, crying;

    • Secretive;

    • Suicidal thoughts, unexplained accidents;

    • Death of significant person;

    • Interest in the occult;

    • Poor impulse control;

    • Family history of substance abuse or mental illness;

    • Extreme change in appearance or friends; and/or

    • Inability to cope with routine matters/relationships.

    Jay Strack suggests that a parent’s first response to these signs of trouble is crucial. He's the author of Good Kids Who Do Bad Things.

    “Overreacting parents often drive kids into an emotional shell from which they are reluctant to venture. Underreacting parents send a message to their kids that says, ‘I just don’t care.’ Either response can be devastating when the individual loses his emotional balance,” he writes.

    Strack says it is important to differentiate between the normal pressure of life and crisis situations.

    If your teen is demonstrating a number of the warning signs, here are several action steps you can use.

    • First, don’t panic. “This is no time to lose control of yourself,” Strack says. "A calm demeanor and a listening ear are crucial."

    • Next, act quickly. Strack writes that parents should not sit around “hoping the problem will solve itself or just go away. Timing is crucial in a crisis.”

    • Then, seek advice. Seek the advice of those who can really help, like counselors, pastors and teachers. You may need lawyers, police and other officials, depending on the situation.

    • Always stick to the main issues. “While your teenager may have several areas in which he needs improvement (e.g., self-acceptance, personal discipline, study habits, etc.), it's important to stick with the major issues of the crisis until they are resolved,” Strack says. “Only then will the teenager be clear-headed enough to focus on the other issues in his life.”

    • Finally, strike a balance. Strack’s fifth guideline is important. Teens need to know that you love and cherish them, despite their behavior.

    “At the same time,” Strack says, “you will need to balance love with discipline when necessary so that your teenager doesn’t just run over you.”

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    6 Keys to Being a ScreamFree Parent

    Hal Runkel and his family went to the Waffle House for breakfast one Saturday morning. Upon arrival they received coloring books and paper hats just like the cook wears.

    “Shortly after ordering, Brandon, our 2-year-old, became restless,” says Runkel, marriage and family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting. “Nothing made him happy. The waitress brought him a waffle which ended up on the guy’s leg who was sitting at the next table. At that point I picked Brandon up to go outside and in the process hit the same guy in the head with Brandon’s leg. By this time everybody in the restaurant was watching. As I went out the door, it slammed behind me, shaking the glass.

    "I stood outside shaking my fist and yelling at my son. When we came back inside I sat down and looked across the table at my wife who was trying to contain the smirk on her face. At that moment I realized I still had the Waffle House hat on my head. Clearly, I looked pretty silly, but the truth is I didn’t need that hat to make me look foolish.”

    Runkel contends that in many instances it isn’t the children acting foolish; it's the parents.

    Becoming a ScreamFree parent isn’t about becoming a perfect parent with the perfect techniques to raising perfect kids. You don’t have to have all the right answers at all the right times in order to be the parent you want to be. Instead, you just have to learn to calm down.

    “I am convinced that good parenting is about parents learning how to take back their own emotional remote control,” Runkel says. “Parents have to make sure they are being the grown up in every situation… no matter what the children do.

    "When a parent is screaming what they are really saying is, ‘Calm me down, I can’t handle what you are doing right now.’ At that moment the parent has lost control and handed the emotional remote control to the least mature person in the household.”

    According to Runkel, when parents focus on calming their own emotional reactivity, they begin to make parenting decisions out of their highest principles instead of reacting out of their deepest fears.

    There are six keys to being a ScreamFree parent:

    • Give your child physical and emotional space. See children as individuals in their own right, with their own lives, decisions and futures.

    • Don’t preach or threaten. Let the consequences of a child’s choice do the screaming.

    • Be an advocate for your child’s development.

    • Change your vocabulary. Don’t label children or pigeonhole how they see themselves. Labels can be very destructive and should be avoided at all costs.

    • See yourself as being responsible to your children - not for them. For example, when your child throws a temper tantrum in WalMart, you’re not responsible for it, but you are responsible for how you handle it.

    • Know that the greatest thing you as a parent can do for your kids is learn to focus on yourself.

    “What every child wants are parents who can keep their cool, even when things get heated,” Runkel says. “Children want parents who are less anxious and prone to knee-jerk reactions and far more level-headed. Your children want you to remain unflappable, even when they flip out. Most parents’ biggest struggle is dealing with their own emotional reactivity. That is why the greatest thing we can do for our children is learn to focus on us, not them.”


    Looking for more? Check out this JulieB TV episode on this topic!


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    Steps to Help Your Kids Handle Conflict

    Conflict. Just saying the word makes some people break out in a sweat while others want to run for the hills. Surprisingly, some people enjoy engaging in conflict, although most people prefer to avoid it at all costs. While many think that conflict is bad, it’s actually neither good nor bad; it’s what you do with it that can create either a negative or positive experience. The reality is, conflict is part of life. The good news is, engaging conflict properly can lead to some really powerful outcomes.

    Life can be stressful for sure. We often face complicated situations that require navigating differences of opinion, problem-solving and sometimes, agreeing to disagree. One of the greatest things parents can teach their children is the art of managing and/or resolving conflict at home, at school, in the community or on the job.

    If you are a parent, consider how you currently handle conflict. You’ve probably heard that it’s always best if your kids don’t witness an argument, but taking your disagreements behind closed doors all the time isn’t necessarily helpful. It’s a learning experience when young people see their parents disagree, work it through and make up. That’s the first step in helping children prepare for dealing with conflict in their own life, especially in those moments when you aren’t around.

    It's also helpful if you don’t step in every time your child disagrees with someone. Instead, ask your child about the issue at hand so they learn to identify what they are irritated or angry about. Then ask what they think their next best step might be. This will help them learn how to think critically and brainstorm potential next steps. It may be tempting to just point things out to them, especially if you are in a hurry, but it’s far more helpful in the long run to teach them how to do this for themselves.

    Ask your child about their role in the conflict. It’s easy to assume it is totally the other person’s fault when both parties may have contributed to the situation at hand. Helping your young person understand how they may have contributed to the issue could give them some insight into their own behavior and how they might want to handle things differently in the future.

    Before deciding what happens next, it is wise to address the feelings connected to the offense. Stuffing those feelings doesn't help, but neither is physically attacking someone or doing something else to get back at them. Teaching children how to constructively handle their emotions will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Sometimes the best lesson is experiencing how it feels to be treated a certain way. As a result, they will know how not to treat people in the future.

    Finally, it’s time for your young person to decide their best next move and take action. They might want to rehearse a conversation with you before facing the other party. Writing out their plan might be beneficial. If you’re hoping for a constructive outcome, perhaps both parties could respectfully share their perspective of the situation. Even if nothing gets resolved at this point, they are making progress. 

    Throughout this process, your child learns how to handle conflict themselves, which is a major confidence-builder. They will also learn how to slow down long enough to identify their feelings, brainstorm the possibilities when it comes to managing or resolving the conflict, and come up with a constructive way to move forward. These tools can’t be purchased at the hardware store, but they are certainly valuable ones to have in their toolbox.

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    Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

    Thousands of children will soon make the transition from preschool or home to kindergarten. Some children will look forward to this moment with great anticipation, but others may experience some anxiety about leaving familiar surroundings. Regardless of how your child is feeling, parents play a powerful role in helping make the transition a smooth one.

    Timing Is Everything

    Now is the time to begin emotionally preparing your child (and yourself) for this new phase in life. Your attitude makes a big difference. Even if you are struggling with the idea of your little one going off to kindergarten, your goal is to deal with your emotions appropriately and prepare your child to make the most of this rite of passage.

    Tips to Help You Prepare Your Child

    • Visit the school where your child will be attending kindergarten.
    • If your child has not been in the care of someone other than Mom and Dad, allow your child to stay with other trusted adults prior to kindergarten to help them get used to another adult being in charge.
    • Plan activities with other children where your child has to learn to take turns and share.
    • Point out colors and shapes at the grocery store and count apples, bananas or cereal boxes.
    • Encourage active play, especially pretend-play, with other children.
    • Read, read, read.
    • Limit TV, computer, tablet or smartphone screen time.
    • Encourage independence in managing daily tasks. For example, teach your child how to tie their shoes, let them set the table, make their bed, dress themselves, etc.
    • Start your school routine early to help your child adjust to the change in schedule.

    Dealing with Your Emotions

    If this is your first child or your youngest child headed off to kindergarten, the transition may be more emotional than expected. Guard against behaviors that might upset your child. If you are anxious about being away from your child, talk with other parents who have already experienced it. Instead of going home to an empty house on the first day of school, plan to have coffee with a supportive friend.

    While it can be scary to leave your child at school, remember this: Most teachers love children dearly. They care about their social and emotional development as much as they care about their academic growth.

    Helping Your Child Through the First Week

    The first week can be especially hard for your child. Here are some ways to make it easier:

    • Be supportive. Adjusting to school may take time. Ask, "What was the most fun thing you did in school today?" Then ask, "What was the hardest thing for you?" Only ask this after you have discussed what was fun. Don't expect your child to tell you every detail.
    • Instill a sense of confidence in your child. Celebrate your child's successes. It takes time to adjust to new people, new activities and a new environment. Don't expect perfection.
    • Set aside a time each evening to share your child's day. See if your child has brought home any drawings, paintings or scribbling. After a few weeks have passed and your child has gotten used to school, ask about play in the classroom, stories the teacher read, recess, etc.
    • Read everything the school sends home. During the first weeks of school, children bring home a wealth of information about routines, important dates and meetings that you will need to know about. Make sure to check your child's backpack daily.
    • You may want to go over with your child — in a positive, calm way — the information you have supplied to the school on the emergency card. This includes who may pick your child up other than you, where she can go if you're ever not home, etc.

    For more insight on parenting, download our E-book "4 Ways to Stay Connected After Baby." Download Here


    Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!


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    How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids

    Imagine walking out of your bedroom on the second floor and seeing your two-year-old climbing the outside of the staircase. That’s exactly what happened to Hal Runkel, marriage and family therapist and bestselling author of ScreamFree Parenting.

    “My son looked up at me with a smile on his face and said, ‘Hi Daddy!’” says Runkel. “He was over five feet off the ground. My anxiety level was off the charts, but I knew if I gave in to that anxiety, if I yelled or lunged for him, it would increase his chances of falling.”

    From biting or refusing to eat, to asking about sex or learning to drive, our kids are constantly testing our anxiety. Runkel contends that more often than not, parents fail those tests by “screaming.” Anxiety says we need to control our kids.

    “If you’re like me, the more you try to control your kids, the more out of control they become, and the more out of control I become,” Runkel says. “If you are yelling at your kids, you are saying, ‘Calm me down. I need you to change your behavior so I can change mine.’ When parents learn to manage their anxiety and teach children tools to manage their own behavior, there will be more young people prepared to launch into the real world. We have to remember, the goal is not to protect our kids in order to calm our anxiety; our goal as parents is to prepare our kids to live a productive life without us.”

    Who Is In Control?

    Runkel believes that good parenting is about parents learning how to take back their own emotional remote control. When a parent screams, they have lost control of the situation and handed the emotional remote control to the least mature person in the household.

    “When parents focus on becoming ‘ScreamFree,’ calming their own emotional reactivity, they begin to make parenting decisions out of their highest principles instead of reacting out of their deepest fears,” Runkel says. “There are specific ways parents can do this such as:

    • See children as individuals in their own right, with their own lives, decisions and futures.
    • Don’t preach or threaten. Let the consequences of a child’s choices do the screaming.
    • Change your vocabulary. Avoid labeling children or pigeonholing how they see themselves. Labels can be very destructive.
    • See yourself as being responsible to your children - not for them. For example, when your child throws a temper tantrum in Walmart, you’re not responsible for it. But you are responsible for how you handle it.

    According to Runkel, every child wants parents who can keep their cool, even when things get heated. They want parents who are less prone to knee-jerk reactions and more level-headed.

    Runkel’s message is making a difference. For example, when Runkel and his family were eating out once, a young waitress recognized him from an appearance on The Today Show. She tearfully told him, “Thank you for giving me my parents back. They heard you on television, bought your book, and now we just don’t fight as much. They respect me, and I respect them.”

    For more information on how to stop yelling at your kids, visit screamfree.com.

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    How to Help Children Handle Their Emotions

    How do you feel when your child has a meltdown? You probably do everything you can think of to help them, but absolutely nothing works. It could be in the store checkout line, at bedtime, the second you walk in your friend’s house or at a birthday party. You may find yourself at wits’ end and literally on the verge of having your own meltdown.

    There probably isn’t a parent on the planet who can’t relate to this experience. Your blood pressure goes up and you can feel everyone watching you. So, you reach into the recesses of all you know about good parenting in an attempt to use something you’ve learned, but absolutely nothing will console your child.

    What now?

    Before you judge yourself too harshly, know that you are not alone. There is nothing worse, no matter how old you are, than feeling out of control. Children have meltdowns. But guess what? Sometimes adults do too.

    Christie Burnett, editor of Childhood 101, encourages parents to consider developing a “Calm Down Plan” to help children cope when their emotions overwhelm them. These steps can help them when they are upset or feel out of control.

    5 Steps to Managing Big Emotions

    • Remember that it is never OK to hurt others. Set clear guidelines about what is acceptable and what is not. For example, physically hurting others or destroying things is not acceptable, nor is it OK to say hurtful things.

    • Take three deep breaths or count slowly to 10. Breathing deeply or slowly counting to 10 gives your child time to recognize their body’s warning signs, such as a tense body, clenched teeth or a racing heart. Talk with your child about how their body feels when they are angry or frustrated. Then introduce the idea of taking a few breaths to compose themselves and choose a better course of action than striking out at another person.

    • Use words to express feelings and hopes. Acknowledging their feelings gives them legitimacy. Saying what they wish would take place helps to open a problem-solving conversation. Sometimes what they wish would happen is not acceptable, but this is part of the learning process. It’s also a great opportunity to help them think of other options.

    • Ask for help to solve the problem. Talking through a problem helps to process the situation, even for adults. Let your child know it is OK to ask for help solving a problem, and keep channels of communication open so they feel they can always come to you for help. One day, they’ll be working on much bigger problems than a spat with a sibling or frustration with a friend.

    • Take the time needed to calm down. Teach your child that sometimes the proposed solution may not seem to be enough. They may still feel angry or upset after working through each of the steps. In these situations, it is often better to walk away or find another safe way to diffuse those feelings.

    Whether you’re younger or older, it’s difficult when you feel out of control. These steps can provide a sense of security and help you develop a plan of attack for those moments when big emotions try to take over.

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    How to Help Kids Handle Rejection

    When Sara left home on the first day of sixth grade, she was super-excited about starting middle school. She was anything but excited when she got in the car at the the end of the day.

    Sara told her mom that her friends since kindergarten had decided to end their friendship. The leader of group had told them, “We don’t like her anymore,” a statement that launched Sara and her family into a year of chaos.

    Every impulse in Sara’s mom wanted to hunt down those girls, but she knew better than to do that. In conversations with other moms, she asked, “Why all the meanness?” Many of the women had not only experienced this with their children, they had gone through it themselves. In fact, they could still recall the interactions in painstaking detail.

    “Peer pressure and rejection hurts so much because it hits a youngster’s self-esteem, which is still wobbly at best during the preteen and early teen years,” says psychologist Dr. Susan Hickman from the Mental Fitness Institute in Chattanooga.

    “To make it worse, children at this age have not yet developed good filters to distinguish that this type of experience may be more about the other person than about them. They immediately translate the bad behavior of others into seeing themselves as unworthy. In reality, these two are not connected at all.”

    Whether young or old, everyone has the need to belong. So the feeling of rejection hits a person right in the gut.

    “If children can't get a good sense of belonging from a peer group at school, parents have to help them work a little harder to develop a sense of belonging elsewhere, such as through team sports, extracurricular hobbies, neighborhood peers or church groups,” Hickman says. “Once they establish a group with which they can identify, it's much easier to teach them how to dismiss their peers’ bad behavior and grasp the fact that it is really not about them.”

    Hickman believes teaching children mental-fitness skills is the key to navigating these tough situations and evaluating their own feelings. Learning how to challenge and confront false ideas can keep them steady for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, you can help your child with these steps:

    • Develop healthy self-esteem that is not affected by hurtful people's negative opinions. Help them solidify an appropriate sense of self-approval - regardless of others' bad behavior.

    • Learn healthy coping skills in the midst of negative circumstances. Self-talk is a key component to this. It’s important for them to positively cope with emotional upheaval instead of harming themselves or flocking to unsavory peers. Walk them through identifying healthy ways they can cope.

    • Keep perspective. Teach them to assess how much the situation has to do with themselves versus the bully. Get them to ask: Why might this person act this way? This teaches them to identify with the other person and separate themselves from the event. It also helps them look at their own behavior and make necessary changes.

    • Find alternative strategies and resources for fitting in. Trying a new hobby, joining a sports team or even finding another friend group may help. A busy mind is far less likely to think negative thoughts.

    So, how exactly do you teach them these crucial skills?

    “Think of it as you would any other skill, such as tying your shoes,” Hickman says. “Know what you want to teach them and show them the steps to reach their goal. Gently correct any missteps and model the next step for them. Then, have them practice the behavior until it comes naturally.”

    This will take some time and probably patience. But in the end, you will have taught them how to handle life situations and their own emotions with dignity.

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    Give Kids Hope After Tragedy

    When tragedy strikes, it seems to bring out the best and the worst in people.  Recently, we have witnessed what may feel like one tragedy after another. Fires, shootings and a horrific bus accident have left people reeling in pain and raw with emotion.

    While some experienced personal loss and/or injury, these events have impacted everyone in the community. In most cases, adults have words and the mental ability to process what just happened, but it is a different story for children.

    “Children watch their parents' or caregivers' response,” says psychologist Dr. Gary Oliver with the Center for Healthy Relationships. “Even if their parents didn’t say a word about the anxiety they felt, their children could feel it. Anxiety and fear are contagious. Children are very good at reading facial expressions and noticing a change in the tone of voice used by their parents.”

    Situations like this are an opportunity for parents to teach their children how to handle tragedy. What do you do in the midst of crisis? How do you practice good self-care? How do you move forward even when it’s painful?

    “In many instances adults can make a difficult situation worse by our own lack of self- awareness,” Oliver says. “Thinking about your own fears is important. Listening to your children and what they are thinking can be very helpful.  Tragedies like the bus accident, a death in the family or the loss of a home can become a great opportunity to build trust and communication, and to increase a child’s sense of security, continuity and stability.”

    Oliver has these suggestions for walking through tragedy with your children:

    • Listen to your kids. Let them talk. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers. Extroverted children will usually tell you what they are thinking.  Introverted children probably won’t, so it is important for you to understand the nuances of your child’s personality. Help them to share their thoughts by sharing your own thoughts and feelings appropriately. Comfort them and remind them that they are safe, secure and loved.
    • Be honest. For example, it is okay to say something like, “I’m not sure where we are going to live for a while.” Or, “Our lifestyle is going to change a bit.” Being honest can be very healing and therapeutic.
    • Seek to respond with patience instead of react. Children may ask lots of questions and become clingy. Model the steps that will move them toward hope and recovery. Reacting creates panic, often results in poor decision-making and tends to make things worse over time. Responding is more of a process where you acknowledge that what is happening is awful. In other words, you feel the loss, but have hope for tomorrow.
    • Focus on what you can do. In the midst of the greatest tragedy, we always have choices. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the grieving and rebuilding process, but remember that the process is unique for everyone. Don’t be afraid to seek help for you and/or your children when you feel it is necessary.

    In demonstrating these steps for your children, you will give them skills for the future. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed in the midst of tragedy, your example can guide them to keep perspective and continue to put one foot in front of the other with hope for the future.

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    Why Anger Isn't Good or Bad

    Have you ever come home from work with an expectation that blew up right in your face?

    Your “quiet evening at home” turns chaotic when one of your children says they have a science project due tomorrow and your other child suddenly needs cupcakes for the class party. So much for a calm evening after an exhausting day.

    You head to the grocery store for supplies and your spouse begins to oversee the science project. When you return, you realize you should have also picked up some lice-killing shampoo.

    You have no idea what time you actually fell into bed, but the alarm blares far too soon. You get up with an edge and start barking out orders to everyone. “Comb your hair! Get the dog out before she has an accident. Where are the lunches you were supposed to pack last night?” At this point, it doesn’t seem like anybody is going to have a good day.

    On the way to work, as you yell at the drivers around you, you realize you are angry. The question is, “Why?”

    Researchers tell us anger is a secondary emotion, the tip of the iceberg so to speak. It’s the primary emotion - things like hurt, unmet expectations, frustration, disrespect, lack of trust, dishonesty, loneliness, jealousy, rejection, betrayal, disappointment, helplessness and exhaustion - that drives the anger.

    In many instances, people don’t stop long enough to figure out what is fueling their anger. While anger itself is not good or bad, how you handle it impacts not only you, but also those around you - your family, co-workers and friends.

    Studies show that the emotional part of our brain processes information in two milliseconds. In contrast, the rational part of the brain processes information in 500 milliseconds – 250 times longer. Simply put, it is much easier to react than to slow down and respond.

    Researchers studying couples in conflict asked them to hit the pause button before arguing so a videographer could film the argument in real time. In many instances, the couple had calmed down and moved on before the videographer even arrived.

    If you struggle with anger, here are four steps that can help you get a good handle on it.

    • First, determine what is driving your feelings. For the parent who expected a quiet evening at home – unmet expectations, disappointment and exhaustion could be driving the anger, in addition to not knowing or forgetting about the cupcakes and the science project.

    • Next, acknowledge the feelings in a beneficial way. Instead of stuffing them inside or spewing them all over everybody, consider how you will share your feelings. Statements such as, “I feel frustrated when you wait until the last minute to ask for my help with the science project,” are more likely to elicit a conversation than if you lose it.

    • Then, determine a course of action. You may decide to help your child this time. Later on, you can calmly share that you may or may not be able to help the next time they wait until the last minute.

    • Finally, make a plan for the future. Use this as an opportunity to talk about appropriate ways to deal with anger.

    So many adults say they never saw their parents actually deal with their anger. They saw the anger, but never learned what to do with it. Teaching your kids that anger isn’t bad or good - it’s what you do with it that can build up or destroy relationships - could be one of the greatest gifts you give them.

    But don’t stop there. Model for them what it looks like to be good and angry.

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    Overcoming the Loss of a Child

    Christi and Matt Broom married in 2005, got pregnant on their honeymoon and welcomed their son Bryan into the world in 2006. 

    “Bryan was perfect,” says Christi. “I had a great maternity leave over Thanksgiving and Christmas. I planned to return to work in January. It was Sunday morning. I remember waking up at 4 a.m. to feed Bryan and then I went back to sleep until 6 a.m. When I woke up at 6, something was clearly wrong. Bryan looked like he was struggling to breathe, so we called 911. When the ambulance arrived, they checked his vital signs and said everything appeared to be normal. We asked to be taken to the hospital anyway.”

    What followed were days of many questions with few answers. Everything the doctors thought it might be, it wasn’t. But one thing was for certain, Bryan was a very sick baby.

    “On Monday a CT scan  showed that his brain was swelling which took them in a totally different direction trying to figure out what was wrong with our son,” Christi says. “Although he seemed so sick and fragile, the medical personnel reassured us that babies are resilient. I think everyone thought they would figure this out and we would be taking our baby home soon.”

    Another CT scan showed Bryan’s brain continuing to swell, but no one could figure out why.

    “They encouraged me to go home and get a good night of rest,” Christi says. “We got home at midnight and at 3 a.m. they called us back to the hospital. When we got there, they told us Bryan’s brain had swollen to the point of death. We both sat in the room totally confused. What had just happened? We honestly believed we would be taking our son home in a matter of days. Nobody had any answers. Everything was a blur.

    “Somewhere along the way, we spoke with the organ donation people because every organ in Bryan’s body except his brain was perfect. We decided to donate his organs.”

    Christi describes this moment in time as if it were an out-of-body experience. They were just going through the motions. As they walked to their car when leaving the hospital, she realized her husband was carrying a car seat.

    “Those next days and weeks were complicated,” Christi remembers. “It was like walking into the unknown and having no idea how you are going to make it through the next minute because life as you knew it has been stolen from you. It was a fearful and confusing time. A handful of people shared that this had happened to them and wanted to offer support. I didn’t even know how to truly appreciate that at the time, but I remember seeing a lady at church who had lost a teenage son years ago. I went up to her, hugged her and said, ‘I remember praying for you, but I had no idea it hurt this bad.’ I felt like I was in a club nobody wants to be in.”

    If you are experiencing this pain, Christi hopes what she learned from her journey can help you.

    “If you are ever going to get to the other side you have to feel the pain - and that’s the worst part because nobody wants to hurt that bad. The emotional pain is so very real. You want to push it away, but the only way to heal is to allow yourself to feel your way through the pain. It is super scary because you have no idea how long it will take for it to go away. You think you will never be happy again. You can be happy, but you have to be willing to experience the raw emotion versus trying to stuff it and avoid it.

    “Sometimes you just have to let yourself cry,” Christi says. “Things would catch me off guard and the tears would flow. I learned that was really okay and part of the healing process.”

    Working with a bereavement counselor from Hospice of Chattanooga and someone from the organ donation agency helped the Brooms as well. 

    Christi also encourages accepting help from others. Let them clean your house, help you pick out what to wear or cook meals for you. Anything you don’t have to make a decision about can make it easier.

    Through all of this, Matt and Christi grew closer.

    “My husband lost his father at a very early age and his first wife died when their daughter was two,” Christi shares. “Experiencing this helped me understand the pain he had been living with for many years. We leaned on each other a lot. Sometimes we still struggle, but our bond is strong.”

    Eleven years later, the Brooms have three beautiful daughters - ages 18, 9 and 5. While the pain never completely goes away, they do experience happiness.

    “I remember someone putting a book right in front of my face, so close that I couldn’t see anything else. They said that in the beginning, you only see what is right in front of you. As you slowly move the book further away, you begin to see more. The pain is always there and you see it, but you experience other things too. Our life is rich. We enjoy our children and try to take it all in knowing that every day is a gift.” 


    Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic.