How Parents Influence Kids’ Media Use
April 18, 2017 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments (0)

An infographic by Amy Williams.

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.

Infographic Source: www.teensafe.com

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Common Digital Challenges Facing Parents Today
March 6, 2017 · Posted in Media, Parenting, Technology · Permalink · Comments Off on Common Digital Challenges Facing Parents Today

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By Hilary Smith

What was one of the biggest obstacles your parents faced raising you as a child?

For many of us, we answer with the typical struggles of late “Gen X’ers”. Our parents might have limited our consumption of sodas, flavored lip gloss, MTV, or time spent talking on the home phone. During our youth, we could only dream of brick cell phones and high speed Internet that didn’t require a dial-up modem. However, today we are faced with new parenting challenges that our mothers and fathers never had to encounter: digital technology.

Common Digital Challenges Facing Parents Today

The digital era has ushered in a variety of modern conveniences. Our homes are filled with cell phones, tablets, laptops, and other smart devices that promote easier communication and access to information. In fact, we are the first parents to raise digital natives, children who are growing up in a technology driven society who can’t remember a time without the Internet or wireless capabilities.

Unfortunately, this access comes with a potential cost to our children’s well being. With a swipe of a finger, our sons and daughters are facing cyberbullying, insecurities, predators, and addiction to the fast paced world of the Internet. To put this into perspective, we have compiled the following data:

  • 9 hours is the average time teens spend online everyday.
  • 87 percent of our kids have encountered cyberbullying!
  • 750,000 predators are estimated to be online everyday grooming victims.
  • 54 percent of teens under 18 admit to sexting.
  • 56 percent of people admit to suffering from a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) when unable to access social media.

Parenting Do’s and Don’ts for Living in the Digital Era

Reading the above numbers can be frightening, but thankfully we have the ability to intervene and help prevent our kids from becoming just another statistic. Listed below are some tips to help us navigate these common digital challenges facing our children:

Do understand the adolescent brain is undergoing major brain growth. Surprisingly, our children’s brains aren’t fully mature until they reach their mid-20’s. This development is creating connections deep inside the prefrontal cortex and affects everything from decision making to assessing risks. We need to remind ourselves that even though our kids act and talk like mini-adults, they are still growing.

Do keep all digital devices in common living areas. This allows kids freedom to enjoy technology, but reduces the chances they will take part in risky online behaviors. By keeping devices in open areas, we have the opportunity to see what our kids are doing online and can step in if we witness questionable choices. As an added bonus, this keeps devices out of the bedrooms to safeguard our children’s quality of sleep.

Don’t forget to design a family technology contract. As a family unit, take a few minutes to list all of expectations for proper device usage. Next, make sure to outline the consequences if someone doesn’t uphold their end of the contract. This will allow children and parents to clearly know what is expected and prevent future disagreements.

Do begin an ongoing conversation about social media etiquette. We need to empower our sons and daughters with the skills needed to protect themselves online. Talk about ways to handle cyberbullying, sexting requests, or avoid sharing personal information.

Do encourage children to notify you if they encounter cyberbullying. This will allow you to document cruel messages and offer a shoulder to cry on. If cyberbullying continues, seek help from school personnel or authorities.

Don’t forget about the Internet’s permanence. It’s vital kids realize everything they post could be uncovered years down the road. The Internet never forgets and future colleges, employers, and scholarship boards might look online to glimpse how a child represents themselves.

Do help kids set their privacy settings. This is important, because social media sites and our devices constantly update their privacy settings and add-on services often leaving us vulnerable.

blog2Do stress that it’s okay not to sext. Today’s teens view sexting as normal and often think it is a safe alternative to physical activity. However, similar to STD’s, sexting carries lifelong consequences. Sending or receiving a sext among children is considered a felony.

Never friend people you don’t know in real life. “Catfishing” or using fake profiles is common among child predators and cyberbullies looking for victims. They create identities that make our kids feel comfortable and lure them into sharing photos, addresses, and personal information.

Do use technology to stay in touch with kids. Technology isn’t terrible, in fact it can benefit our families in a variety of ways. Take advantage of social media, games, monitoring software, and texting features to communicate with your kids throughout the day.

 

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When Should the Kids Meet the New Boy/Girlfriend?
December 12, 2016 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Separation/Divorce · Permalink · Comments (3)

If only life was really like ‘The Brady Bunch’. An easily blended family, no exes to complicate matters, minor disturbances that are resolved with a great little moral lesson. In actuality, real life mirrors what was going on behind the scenes of the show – complicated, passionate, and sometimes stormy. So introducing a new romantic partner after divorce or death is a situation that may not go as smoothly as when Carol met Bob. It is a decision that warrants a lot of thought.

When you meet someone new, your initial instinct will be to want them to meet your children. Your kids are central, important and in many ways the main loves of your lives!  It may feel odd to keep a relationship separate from them.  It may feel sneaky.  You may be inclined to resolve this by having your new lover hang out and share in activities with your children as a new “friend”. Right? Wrong!!!  These reactions are completely understandable but remember, not all are instincts are best followed. Children are no dummies – even children under three will register the different energy present with a platonic vs. non-platonic friend. Furthermore, if there was an extramarital affair involved with this partner  your children will be aware consciously or unconsciously regardless of being told explicitly.  So don’t kid yourself.

A good rule of thumb is wait to introduce your children to your romantic interest until the relationship reaches six months of seriously seeing one another.  This guideline protects kids from experiencing the inevitable romantic ups and downs of a new relationships and of having another potential loss. Shielding your children from the early stages of your relationship will require sacrifice on your part; keeping your private life private takes energy, planning and giving up time with your new lover.  It is not lying, it is not sneaky, it is privacy – necessary privacy.

Children have very mixed feelings about new relationships. They may feel disloyal to the other parent if they have fun with this new person. They become jealous of sharing your time.  They may feel uncomfortable because the sexual energy present with a new relationship is different than that of their married parents. It is not as if kids cannot develop meaningful relationships with girlfriends or boyfriends after divorce — of course they can — but the more thoughtful consideration on your part the better the chances for your children to adapt to the new situation.

It is in your child’s best interest to wait and see if this looks like a relationship that will have sticking power to withstand the pressures of step parenting and blending families. Once the six month mark has come and gone, you are ready to begin integrating this person into your family. Inform your ex of all developments. If he/she introduces your children to a new relationship as well, try to be as generous as you can — keep all complicated feelings to yourself. Your reaction will play a huge role in your kids openness to accept this new person and to experience less conflict over loyalty.

The first kid-new-partner meeting should be activity based. Do something together, a movie, bowling, ice skating — something that comes with distinct time limits and allows your child to ease in to the meeting with focus on the activity rather than “getting to know” your new lover. Gauge your child’s readiness as you decide the frequency of these get-togethers — keeping in mind that slow is always better in these matters. In terms of sleep overs and joint vacations, especially if other children are involved, take it very slowly. No one has ever complained that they wish they had moved faster on integrating families — on the contrary, most difficulties come from rushing in with idyllic expectations. Consider yourself very lucky if all goes smoothly as life is not The Brady Bunch.

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Twist The Wrong Way
December 5, 2016 · Posted in Parenting, Pregnancy · Permalink · Comments (2)

pexels-photo-25199Last week in yoga class, my mat was next to a pregnant woman. She moved like an experienced practitioner, not a newbie, so I was distracted and surprised that the teacher had to come over repeatedly to remind her not to twist in the direction of everyone else but twist the opposite way, so as not to crowd the baby. The woman was obviously pushing herself intensely, and it upset me.  I found myself judging. “Is she crazy? Can’t she stop herself? She’s not taking care of that baby…” It was preoccupying me and I  was having a very hard time focusing on my own practice.

Yoga teaches you to notice your flow of thoughts and to stop them. To note the thoughts and judgments that pass through the mind and then gently bring yourself back to a centered place. So, I started to observe my thinking rather than being lead by it. I noticed I was worrying about the baby in her belly. I was identified with the baby. Caught up in judging this woman for her inability to override herself and do what was right for her baby.  Then I thought about all the times, not in yoga,  but in life as a mother, that I “twisted the wrong way”.

  • The snarky comment I made the ‘nano’ second after I told myself not to say anything.
  • The lecture I gave when I knew I should be listening
  • My impatience when I knew that one of my daughters needed calm and comfort more than anything.

The times when I knew what to do but somehow “chose” to twist the wrong way, and not care for one of my children in a way my higher self knew I should. As we moved on through poses on the mat, I started to feel empathy sliding in to replace judgement. Pushed by fear or worry (for her, maybe about her weight, or her changing body) we all do things that hurt our children. I began to feel connected to this pregnant woman, instead of separate from, or better than. I noticed the relief I felt that I when I was pregnant, it was fine to just take it easy and eat and wear big clothes. Now, with so much pressure to be a skinny, sexy, pregnant person, who knows if I would be able to fight the urge to push too hard instead of taking good care of myself, or my growing baby. I felt grateful for the freedom that came with being pregnant in a very different time.

I let go of my focus on her and got back into my own body, enjoying the ability to move-the exertion and the relaxation. When I noticed her again at the end of class, I wanted to say, “Welcome to motherhood, where we often twist the wrong way.”

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Thanks Giving
November 22, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off on Thanks Giving

 

 

pexels-photo-260487Kids love traditions. The smells and tastes of the holidays, the family rituals, are stored in their little brains forever. Here is a great tradition to make Thanksgiving true to its name.

Using a sketch or scrap book start a ‘Family Thanksgiving Book’ together. Give each person, large and small, a page to write or draw what they feel thankful for. From the sublime to the ridiculous, your health to your boots, from “Mommy and Daddy” to “my legos.” Do this each year at Thanksgiving and over the years it will become a real treasure.

 

 

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How to Incorporate Fitness With The Creative Types
November 3, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on How to Incorporate Fitness With The Creative Types

By Katrina M. Phillip, Energetic Juniors Trainer little-katrina-e1474150900509-768x1024

Growing up, my parents would be the first to tell you that they couldn’t shut their daughter up or keep her still, especially if there was music playing or the sun shining. I wanted to run and dance and sing, and loved to simply talk to myself in as many different voices as possible.

The one way they could calm me down and get me focused, was watching old movie musicals. And years later, enrolling me into dance class and acting. It was here that I was able to show my exorbitant amounts of energy and creation, and where I felt most at home.

At school, in class, in P.E., things were more difficult. I was very coordinated; however, throwing and catching a ball was not “fun” for me. Why? I mean, “Where’s the music?” “Where’s the storyline?” Or “Whaddya mean I’m out? Can’t we all play?” Rules of these sport games eventually made sense enough, but it didn’t get me going like making up stories and characters, and moving to music.

Because of this I was always last to be picked for teams during P.E. or recess… I was made fun of ruthlessly. Going up to bat was paralyzing. The others on the team made fun of me, and it was all I could do just to walk up to the plate. I tried, but I longed to just be in dance class and acting. Always.

20 some odd years later, I find myself helping these creative children that remind me of myself, through Energetic Juniors. Energetic Juniors is an in-home fitness training company, in New York City, geared to helping children one-on-one with fitness and exercise training. I have been with this company for over 13 years now, and I must say that most of the children I work with fall into this category; being a Kreative Kid. This kind of child tends to think outside the box, marches to the beat of their own drum… Sports don’t interest them, P.E. class are more of a challenge, even a hindrance, and they become a target for their bullying peers. What do we do for this child? How can we encourage their creativity AND keep them active and motivated physically?

This is where Energetic Juniors comes in and WHY it is so VERY beneficial and crucial for these kinds of kids. There are NUMEROUS ways to get children moving that do not involve sports. I’ve personally developed several games that merge improv, dance, and storytelling with fitness; incorporating calisthenics, running, jumping, agility, etc. getting their bodies, minds, and creative juices flowing and shining! The child not only is more engaged, he / she is having fun, and will gather the confidence they need in order to build upon their natural abilities and talents. Indeed, if we nurture these skills, it will help them in the long run. They will find their path more easily when approaching adulthood, and have a better chance at becoming a more successful and healthy (mentally and physically) individual.

I mentioned that I was “lucky”. I AM lucky, because my parents accepted me for who I was, and who I am. They recognized that my abilities and my talents were able to shine and flourish in the arts, as opposed to sports. Now, what if I was a male? Not Katrina Marie, but Jonathan Miles? What then? Would my parents be as supportive and encouraging? I would argue, yes, but then again… Hmmm… There is definitely an extra pressure for boys in our culture, in our society, to participate in and LIKE sports. WHY? Once again, this is where Energetic Juniors can be such a highlight and chariot. It’s ok to not like sports, and there is a way to be active & physically fit without being on a sports team.

 

Learn more about Energetic Juniors, visit their website at: www.energeticjuniors.com.

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When Should Kids Start Organized Sports?
September 27, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Play, Pressure on Children, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on When Should Kids Start Organized Sports?

just-letem-playBy Dr. Andrew Jacobs

One of the most popular questions young parents are asking currently is what is the best age to sign my child up for organized sports participation? This is an issue I       have discussed for years with parents, sports administrators and coaches. In today’s social environment, there is more and more pressure to get your child signed up at earlier and earlier ages. Leagues are being formed in many sports for ages four and five, for both girls and boys. For many, the pressure to get their child signed up can come from a variety of sources. Often, parents of youngsters just starting nursery school or kindergarten will feel they need to sign their child up because everyone else in the class is doing it. Social media has made youth sports accessible to almost everyone and the benefits of youth sport participation in a healthy scenario tremendously outweigh the detriments. Many are inundated with information about youth leagues in almost every sport and often feel the need to get involved or face the stigma of having their child “fall behind”.

So if you are interested in signing your child up at an early age, what should you be looking for? There are several factors that can play a role for young children when they start a sport activity. First, I remember a discussion I had with a very prominent college basketball coach. He told me that he thought all young children should participate in both an individual and a team sport. He emphasized that he felt individual sports really helped develop self-confidence, self-esteem and independence, while team sports helped tremendously with learning about sacrifice, communication, selflessness and sharing. Second, there are several factors I believe you should look for when deciding what kind of sport and organization to sign up with.

Let’s say your child is interested in a team sport like soccer, basketball or softball at age four or five. First, find out why they are interested. Many kids get excited after watching a team play on television or at an actual competition. Many want to play because their parent or older sibling participate. Check out what is available in your area and school district. Look for sport programs that focus on teaching skills and development with an emphasis on having fun. Check out the background of the coaches. Speak with parents of others who have had children coached by them. Your first negative warning sign will be if the coach talks a lot about winning and beating other teams. Also, at this young an age, stay away from coaches that want more than two practices a week. Your child will quickly lose interest at that age. Initially, it will be best to give your child some private lessons at a club that specializes in that sport. It would be best to give your child the opportunity to learn the sport on an individual basis before signing up to be on a team. However, often that opportunity is not available or is a possibility financially. The next option is to sign up on a team through the school or park and recreation department. But, make sure you take the time to find out about the league and the instructor/coach. Find out about the coaches goals for the team. As I stated before, if winning and losing are emphasized, run away as fast as possible. I have seen children’s self-confidence destroyed and the desire to play again ruined by coaches who are interested in the score and results, rather than on teaching skills and HAVING FUN.

If your child is interested in an individual sport, find a program through a sport club that specializes in teaching that sport. Check out the instructors and make sure you stay involved. Many like to drop their child off and not stay involved as if it is childcare. Practice the sport with them when you can and encourage them to have fun doing it.

There is no right or wrong age to start your child in a sport activity. Don’t let the pressure you feel from others to result in signing your child up before they are ready or excited about it. Many successful professional and Olympic athletes didn’t start their sport until the end of elementary school or the start of middle school. However, lately I have been hearing from many parents and coaches about starting their child on an organized team at ages two or three. My personal and professional opinion is that children younger than four aren’t mature enough or emotionally, psychologically and physically developed enough. Give your child the opportunity to play with other children their age. There is no reason to have them on an organized team before kindergarten. One of the main reasons leagues are starting for younger and younger ages for boys and girls in many sports is because someone is making a profit on it. As I previously stated, I don’t believe there is a right or wrong age to start your child in a sport activity, but I feel most aren’t ready until they begin elementary school. In the end, you as the parent need to make the right decision you believe is right for your child and most importantly, it should be about learning skills and HAVING FUN. Perhaps the most important factor that concerns me in today’s society is that youth sports have become so structured and organized, that the concept of play has disappeared. Make sure your child has the opportunity to play with their friends. Obviously, safety is an issue, but encourage your child to play with their friends without a parent coaching or barking instructions. Give them the opportunity to create on their own with their peers, and they will probably stay involved in that sport much longer than getting burned out by 10, 11 or 12 from going to organized practices and games since age four or five.

You can learn more about Dr. Jacobs on his website www.winnersunlimited.com and read his book Just Let ‘Em Play

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Blind Spots
September 21, 2016 · Posted in Communication, K-5 Kids, Marriage, Parenting, Preschoolers, Relationships, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (3)

 

pexels-photoEveryone has blind spots. They are unconscious conflicts from the past that creep up on us unexpectedly and influence reactions we have and decisions we make in the present. They are a normal part of the human experience; pockets of feeling or behavior that are hard to explain or understand, and which seem to control us.

In the course of parenting, we all hit up against these blind spots. Something in our child’s behavior or stage of development triggers an overly intense reaction. We may know that we are “over-reacting” but do not know why. Left to our own devises these areas can become repetitive patterns of negativity in our relationship with our child. At Soho Parenting, we help parents learn to identify their own blind spots so they can untangle the past from the present.


Jeff sits in my office looking sheepish as his wife Tina, frustrated and angry, talks about why they have come for some help. She complains that Jeff continually undermines her attempts to control the wild and often disrespectful behavior of their four-year old son Gabe.

“It’s like having 2 children,” she says in exasperation, “I cannot stand to be the only parent. He just cannot say no to him.”
“I’ve tried to be stricter”, says Jeff, “but I hate it when he gets so upset.”

In trying to understand more about why saying no is so hard for Jeff, I ask him to talk about his own upbringing and early experiences of discipline. Jeff looks uncomfortable and then starts to talk haltingly about his own strict and overly harsh father. He describes him as cold and quick to anger, with little patience for childish behavior.

“My father was always flying off the handle. He wanted us to be like perfect little adults. If I didn’t hang up my towel after a bath he’d freak.”

Jeff has sworn that he will not repeat this treatment with his own son and in these first four years he has been very successful in being a warm, affectionate and available father to Gabe.

So where is the blind spot? Jeff has not been able to see that his old hurt from childhood has been keeping him from entering into an arena of parenthood that is critically important for a growing child’s health and development. Discipline. Not the harsh and punitive kind, not the arbitrary and scary kind, but the kind of discipline that teaches you how to be respectful and gives the feeling of safety that comes with knowing that your parent is the adult and will keep you from getting out of control. It was easy for Tina –and anyone else for that matter– to see that Jeff was not providing the stabilizing function of a strong but loving parent. But for Jeff, who was unconsciously avoiding setting limits for fear that he would “become his father”, couldn’t act on his son’s need for boundaries.

Jeff really understood and felt this connection in the session. He knows now that he needs to actively counteract his worry about “becoming his father” and step up to the challenge of being Gabe’s father. He was thankful for the concrete advice about discipline; having a real game plan was reassuring. TIna felt validated and more hopeful about being allies instead of adversaries. A blind spot uncovered and a path made clearer!

For all parents, raising children confronts us with our inevitable vulnerabilities. If we use these discoveries as an opportunity for growth, we can take more control of our behavior, and be more the parents we want to be.

This article first appeared on A Child Grows in Brooklyn.

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Creating a Homework Haven at Home
August 25, 2016 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Creating a Homework Haven at Home

logoBy Dr. Colleen Carroll

Back-to-school season can be a distressing few weeks leading up to the first day in the classroom for so many kids. While some of the angst around this return to routine makes sense – after all, days get colder and shorter and we need to get back to tighter schedules and earlier bedtimes – there are also a few things we can do to ease this transition and actually make it an empowering time for kids.

Many kids dread, and even fear homework. Even the word can spark anxiety in some children (and parents!). This is understandable; as kids get older the homework gets harder and the time spent on it gets longer. However, you can be prepared in advance and lessen anxiety by creating a homework sanctuary of sorts for your child to feel safe, even empowered, as he gets his work done.

The following are my top 5 ways to empower your child at homework time:

  1. Create a homework haven in the house somewhere that’s bright, cheery, and full of all the items he needs to get his work done efficiently, with minimal distractions. Consider the kitchen to be close to a helpful parent, or a bedroom if noise can be a problem.
  2. Don’t let it be obvious that you dread this time too. Children pick up on your emotional state. Instead, be as positive as you can about this learning experience, even when things get tough.
  3. If your child is having a rough time on homework, let the teacher know. There is no reason to struggle for hours over a few problems when really the child just needs more instruction.
  4. Get the hardest subjects done first when she is less tired; trying to tackle the hardest at the end is never a good idea!
  5. Set up an afternoon routine to get homework done before other evening activities whenever possible so it isn’t hanging over your child’s head.

Kids crave routine; they (and most adults) do best when they know what’s coming next and they can be ready for it. By having a homework routine and a space that is comfortable and efficient, it probably won’t make homework fun but it will make it easier to accomplish and more organized for return to school the next day. This in turn will definitely lessen the anxiety around homework in general and allow your child to focus on some more pleasurable activities each evening, perhaps even a little reading.

 

Dr. Colleen Carroll works with parents of kids who struggle and hate to read by getting them off the Xbox and TV and onto books, fast. Her international tribe of Innovator parents testify that their kids are now saying, “Mom, I LOVE reading!” after just a few weeks of her techniques. 

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Don’t Overdo the Prep for Going Back To School
August 19, 2016 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments Off on Don’t Overdo the Prep for Going Back To School

school-colorful-colourful-colors

 

Finding balance between acknowledging that a new grade begins in a months’ time and reveling in summer fun is hard to strike. Here are some ideas about how to do it:

 

 

  • Don’t talk about school everyday. Let your child be in the present, without the new school year hanging over their head.
  • Do answer any questions that come up, like, “Will so and so be in my class?” or “Will you stay with me at school”, honestly and simply. No long monologues.
  • Do go and walk by school the week before class begins. Point out landmarks, like the pet store, the deli etc. so you can look for them on the walk to school the first day.
  • Do get a little back pack or lunch box to bring on the first day.
  • Do expect stomach aches, difficulty falling asleep or grumpiness around the first days of school.
  • Do tell stories about your first days of school.
  • Don’t talk about the beginning of school with your peers and assume the kids can’t hear.
  • Do remember that a parent taking their child to school is one of the most important jobs. Try to adjust work schedules so one parent can do drop off at least a few days a week.
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