Friday, February 28, 2014

Ouch! Now I Remember How Painful It Is To Fall!



I fell a few days ago.  I didn’t know I was stepping on ice and, before I could brace myself, my knee hit the pavement.  It was the first time in perhaps 40 years that I skinned my knee.  I had forgotten how much it hurts.  Days later, it still hurts every time I bend my knee.  I can feel the loss of the skin and the surrounding soreness.  I am grateful that the injury was superficial but it remains painful and annoying. Last winter, I had a cold that seemed to be going away when I woke up in the middle of the night with a most terrible pain in my ear.  I couldn’t wait to get to the doctor the next day for antibiotics.  I sat in the waiting room holding my head and wondering if I had ever lost patience with my boys as they cried from ear pain.  

Our brains are wired to help us forget pain.  Anyone who has had a baby can attest to that.  Every so often it is probably good for us to re-experience the physical pain of a skinned knee or an ear infection.  It helps us to feel more sympathy for our children when they are physically hurt.  Our children experience other pain, though.  We cannot go back to the playground and re- experience the pain of first rejection when a supposed friend goes off with someone else.  We cannot go back to the first time we felt picked on for being too short or too tall or too fat or too skinny.  We remember that we felt badly but we have bigger issues now.  What seemed like the most important problem in the whole world to us then seems so trivial now.  We have learned to cope with the fact that not everyone will love us.  We have emotionally fallen and gotten back up.  We don’t do our children any favors when we either protect them from every hurt or trivialize their feelings when they occur.  What is a parent to do when our children come home from school upset from a hurt that is not physical and that a band aid cannot solve?

  • Listen.  Take a breath, walk away from your very busy adult world filled with stress and the next appointment on your calendar.  Listen.  Listening is often harder than it sounds.  Let your children tell their story without interruption, questions or suggestions.  We need to remember how good it feels to just talk about what is weighing heavily in our minds.
  • Take their situation seriously but don’t get involved.  If your children are upset, it is serious business to them.  We have the experience to know that life holds more difficult problems in store as they get older but they are in the present.  Today, the children whispering about them matters.  Today, being left out or teased is the most important thing in the world. It is not your job, however, to approach the offending child to defend yours.  It is not your job to start a battle with the offending child’s parent.  It is simply your duty to help your child to know how to respond appropriately when you are not there.
  • Offer support without dismissal.  Your children need to know that you are willing to offer advice and have a dialogue.   Simply telling them what to do and moving on doesn’t show them that their feelings matter.
  • Be willing to have your advice rejected.  Children, especially as they become teenagers, think that you cannot understand and that your advice comes from experience gained in the ice ages.  They may reject your advice.  They will find their way and learn anyway.  Accept that their life is about their path and not yours.

The ultimate goal of parenting is to have your children leave you capable of managing the good and the bad.  They need to know that hurt ends.  They will heal and move on.  They will scrape themselves again but you will be there to comfort them as they get back up, put on the band aid and independently find their way.  Sometimes, I still call my mom when I am troubled.  I remember telling her about friends and fun and hurt as I dried the dishes she washed.  She scrubbed pots and listened.  She offered the advice I rejected.  She still does the same.  I hope my children know that I will be that mom for them even when they have children of their own.
                                                           
                                               


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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.          

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Trying, Confidence, Falling and Getting Back Up: Life Lessons from the Olympics



My family and I are fans of the Olympics.  We look forward to spending time together watching and routing for the athletes from our country.  There is something magical about the young people who come together in peace from around the world after having worked so hard.  Their hopes are like raw nerves on display for us and we can’t help but get caught up in the drama.  My husband, boys and I have watched together from the time they were so very young.  Each time the Olympics ends, I hope that my children have learned:


  • Hard work can reap rewards.  Every time we watch, we say to each other, “Look how easy they make it look” as we joke about bobsledding, figure skating, skiing or curling like they do.  We know that it isn’t so easy.  We also talk about how many years the athletes have devoted to honing their craft.  They have worked hard.  You don’t get far if you don’t.  I like to think that my husband and I are living examples of the value of being hard working people.  Seeing the young athletes of the Olympics reinforces that it isn’t only at home – the world works this way.  Hard work is not only important so that we have “things.”  It is emotionally rewarding.
  • Sometimes you win.  Winning and achieving are great feelings.  We can see it as we watch the faces of the athletes as they know they have done well and the scores reflect it.  We watch them receive their medals and imagine what that must feel like.  I’ve known many a preschooler who enjoys reenacting what they’ve seen as they pretend to get their own medal.  Young children should know that accomplishment feels good. 
  • Sometimes you fall.  The graceful skater leaps and falls.  The skier races down the mountain so swiftly only to lean incorrectly and topple over.  The spectators gasp and wait to see if they are hurt.  They get back up.  The audience applauds.  Isn’t that the essence of life?  None of us will be “on our feet” all the time.  It is okay to fall.  It is brave to get back up and keep going.
  • The heroes are those who try.  The Olympics are all about trying.  These young people have spent years training just to try.  They try to do their best.  They try to make the finals.  They try to get a medal.  They may succeed or they may fail but they will not regret a lack of trying.  How often do we say to our children, “Just try it.”  Olympians are a fine example of strength, courage and the willingness to do.

Soon, my family and I will watch the closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics of Sochi, Russia.  I will watch with my 16 year old.  I hope that he takes the same lessons from the past two weeks that I wanted him to learn even when he was a preschooler.  We are never too old be reminded that we have witnessed effort, success,  courage, disappointment and even failure but there they are - the hopeful athletes - marching together as their lives leave the Olympic venue and go on to new adventures.
                                                           

Read my articles in “The Shriver Report”:  and "Stress in the Family:  Helping Our Children to Cope" and "From Working Mom to Working Woman:  The Opportunity of the Empty Nest"

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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.          

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Children and Honesty: Do You Set Them Up To Lie?



Two young children are playing.  Both start yelling and crying.  Both are obviously involved in a disagreement.   An adult walks in and says to both emotional children, “What happened?”

A child comes home from school upset.  There has been a history of arguments with a classmate.  An adult says, “Did he pick on you again?”

A teen is quiet and sullen.  Something is definitely amiss.  An adult says, “Are you okay?  Are you feeling sick?  Is it your stomach again?”

Why don’t we let children tell their own stories?  We assume.  We speak for them.  We suggest a way out of telling us what really happened.  We set our children up all the time.  I want children to tell me what they are thinking or feeling.   I don’t want them to tell me what they think I want to hear.  When they think they may in trouble or when they simply don’t feel like sharing yet, they will say whatever it takes to satisfy us and get us to leave them alone.   Imagine this – you are pulled over by the police.  What is your first thought?  Is it “how do I get out of this?”  Of course it is.  So is theirs.

Children cannot be honest when we set them up.  Adults can’t be so honest under pressure either.
A reporter recently asked me to describe the greatest lesson that I’ve learned from being an educator and a parent.  I told her that I’ve learned the value of listening.  Stop talking and listen.  Stop probing and wait.  Just be present.

Does the story even matter more than the current emotion?  It doesn’t matter why a child is upset as much as being presented with the opportunity to teach children to cope with upset.  We cannot protect them from every hurt, failure or social misstep – nor should we.  Children need to learn to navigate both the good and the bad because their entire lives will be full of both.  Too many times, parents worry more about blame than about the lasting lessons their children can learn.  Children need to know that being sad or upset is a normal human condition and it is acceptable.  They need to know that we are there to listen but not to get caught up in the drama.  We will listen, provide a safe place to talk and then we will guide.  We need them to learn that not every situation will go their way and not everyone will love them as much as we do.  Children don’t need us to commiserate.  They need us to help them to take the next step.

Be quiet.  Be in their space and wait.  Tell them “I am here if you want to tell me what’s wrong” but don’t suggest what could be wrong.  Accept it if they don’t feel like sharing.  Sometimes just being with you is enough.  Sometimes they can figure it out.  When young children come home from school upset, don’t participate in the focus on the perpetrator.  Focus on the victim.  Teach your children better strategies for interaction and show them that they can manage themselves.  By staying steady and calm, we model the very calm that we wish for them. 

Two young children are playing.  Both start yelling and crying.  Both are obviously involved in a disagreement.   An adult walks in and says, “I see you are upset.  Take a deep breath.  Let’s figure this out.  What can we do?”

A child comes home from school upset.  There has been a history of arguments with a classmate.  An adult says, “You look upset.  I’m here if you want to talk.”

A teen is quiet and sullen.  Something is definitely amiss.  An adult says, “I love you.  Tell me if I can help you.”



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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
 
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.