Books

3 Tips for Helping Your Kids Develop Empathy

Every child is already empathic. We all are (with a few exceptions). We are wired for empathy. We are wired to connect, communicate and collaborate with others.

Empathy develops in infancy. “A child first learns to tune in to his or her mother’s emotions and moods, and later on to other people’s,” write Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl in their new book The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids.

They further explain, “What the mother feels, the child will feel and mirror. This is why things such as eye contact, facial expressions, and tone of voice are so important in the beginning of life. It is the first way we feel trust and attachment and begin to learn empathy.”
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Children and Teens

Your Children Keep You Sane

We’ve all heard the old saying “My kids make me crazy.” But isn’t it also true that kids keep us mentally sound?

I’ve been a parent for 12 years, and this is the most important thing I’ve learned: A parent simply can’t shut down, lose it, and ignore her kids. She must hold it together for them.

It was a cold day last January when Kathy, my neighbor, and her daughter were moving out of their house. Kathy had asked her friends to help her because she couldn't afford the cost of a moving company. So I arrived at 8:00 A.M. to load boxes onto a rented truck.
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Children and Teens

5 Tips for Teaching Your Kids Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is vital for adults. It reduces anxiety and depression. It’s been linked to greater well-being, emotional coping skills and compassion for others. Unfortunately, many of us have a hard time practicing self-compassion. Instead we default to blaming, shaming, and bashing ourselves. We assume that self-criticism is a more effective approach. (It’s not.)

This is one reason why it’s important to teach self-compassion to our children — to give them a solid foundation for the future. A foundation for being kind and gentle with themselves and processing their thoughts and feelings without judgment. These are important skills for being a healthy adult and building healthy relationships.

But kids also need self-compassion now.
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Children and Teens

What ‘Stranger Things’ Can Teach Us about Parenting

If you are one of the few out there who have not seen it: Stranger Things is a science fiction series that is very reminiscent of "The Goonies." The story takes place in 1983 and the central plot line follows a group of four boys. In the first episode, one of the four boys goes missing. The three remaining best friends do their best to find and rescue their friend. They do so independent of adults. They work together as a team (mostly) and it all involves a lot of bike-riding. We all love the nostalgia in this throw-back drama. As an instructor of college courses in Infant and Child Development, I was immediately hooked on how the show depicted the preadolescent gang of boys.

Prior to the disappearance of their friend, the main characters spend their free-time riding bikes and playing Dungeons and Dragons, a table-top role-playing game. After the disappearance, they use the skills learned through years of friendship and freedom to participate in their own mystery man-hunt. If these kids survive what they are up against, every major CEO would want to hire them. They are smart, creative, team-players who are confident in their abilities to solve problems.
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Anxiety and Panic

Waiting for an Autism Diagnosis

Tommy was having trouble growing up.

He wasn’t talking at age 2. We waited it out for a bit, but, at 3, when he was still barely communicating, we sought out professional speech therapy. We found a great therapist at our local children’s hospital. With help, Tommy began to communicate more. The therapist worked on his vocabulary and eventually on one-step commands.

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Family

Coping When You Have a Narcissistic Parent

Jaci came to see me one month before the christening of her niece, for whom she was honored to be named godmother.

Jaci could turn off the familiar anxiety video playing in her head. This is what Jaci imagined would happen at the christening, given her past experience with her narcissistic mother, Betsy.

Jaci would be taking with friends and family at the party after the service, having successfully avoided her mother’s company at church. She’d be feeling happy. It would be a joy to hold the baby and know her sister trusted her to be godmother. Then, Betsy appears at her side, cutting into the conversation.
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Children and Teens

Communicating with Your Teen

Having healthy communication with your teen is important to their well-being. Approximately 20 percent of teens will experience depression before adulthood and depression increases a teen’s risk for attempting suicide by 12 times. These numbers indicate teens need someone to turn to.

Some parents struggle having a dialogue with their growing teen for a number of reasons, including fear of certain topics, strictness or busy-ness. The tips below can help you open the lines of communication.

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Anger

How to Stop Hurting When You Have a Narcissistic Parent

“If I accept that I can never have a real relationship with my father, it feels like I don’t have a father. If I accept that, am I still a son?”

Jack’s Story:

Jack is a 45-year-old architect, recently married for the first time. He came to therapy to deal with long-standing feelings of depression. His wife, ten years younger than Jack, wanted to start a family. Jack had spent years keeping a cool and cordial distance from his critical father. Now, as his wife pressed him to become a father himself, he felt flooded by sadness and insecurity. Could he be a good father? What if he messed it up?
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Children and Teens

Maintaining Your Sense of Self as a Stay-At-Home Mom

I don’t know who I am other than mom. Even when I have the time and can do whatever I want, I don’t know what I like to do anymore. I feel invisible. I only feel valued for the things I do for others. I have nothing to talk about aside from my kids. I wonder if they’ll think I’m boring.

Clinical psychologist Jessica Michaelson, PsyD, often hears these statements from her clients. It’s not that being a stay-at-home mom is inherently bad or damaging to our sense of self. In fact, if it aligns with your core values, it can absolutely strengthen it, said Michaelson, who specializes in postpartum depression and anxiety, stress management and parent coaching.
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Children and Teens

5 More Strategies for Helping Your Teen Strengthen Their Self-Worth

It’s important for teens to have a solid self-worth. It’s important for them to know that they matter and are already lovable and worthy. Because when kids have a shaky sense of worth, they may latch onto toxic people and make poor decisions. They may let people walk all over them. They may try to earn their worth.

Adolescence is already a tricky, tumultuous time. Teens are trying to figure out who they are, what they like, what they stand for, what they need. Having a solid self-worth helps them navigate these questions more effectively.
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Anxiety and Panic

Mothering with OCD: You Can Call Me Crazy if You Want To

Day One: They say my soul is troubled and I imagine it stumbling through an alley somewhere, barefoot and drunk with no idea how to get home. “But beautiful,” they add, and I imagine it with lipstick. Maybe eyeliner too -- something bold and daring. Something that really accentuates.

It used to chase me in my dreams, my mental illness. It still does, if I’m being honest. Me in a red-hooded cape running through a forest as fast as I can (which isn’t very fast at all, if I’m being honest). It laughing maniacally behind the trees, always behind me, no matter which way I turn: The Big Bad Wolf, strong and powerful. Branches break underneath my feet as I run them over; they slow me down and give me pause. I know the monster from my nightmares will catch up with me. It’s only a matter of time.
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