“There is no limit to the amount of compassion that you can develop in your life if you are willing to practice”
Tim Desmond, The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook
This month I am highlighting one of the few workbooks I’ve ever used. Usually I read a book, cover to cover and then share what I’ve learned in a blog. But with this workbook, I had to complete exercises in each chapter over a 14-day period (hence the name workbook!) It was challenging and quite rewarding. The author of this workbook and I are reaching for the same goal, to offer something useful for you as a reader you can use in everyday life.
So what is this thing called compassion? Compassion is one of those concepts that can be easily misunderstood; it’s very similar to empathy and it sounds like one of those “coined” terms we already know about. The assumption from there is that if we know it, we already know how to and use it, or we already have it incorporated into our way of being. And that may not be true. It’s actually more than just a term or concept, it is a mindfulness technique, and a skill that must first be understood and then practiced. For true compassion to be manifested, it must be practiced in the moment, in our daily activities.
And why do we need to practice this?
Abraham Maslow eloquently pointed out that we have a complex motivational system at work in us, a hierarchy of needs of sorts: we seek food, clothing and shelter, then safety, and then relationship, where we seek acceptance, validation and love. Ultimately we seek to self-actualize and then self-transcendence. We naturally seek relationship, with our self and with others. We know from studies in psychology that many things happen outside and around us that we interact and respond to but what now we are also learning is that the most important work going on is inside of ourselves. So concepts like self-compassion become really important because they help us learn more and also get along better with ourselves.
One of the tasks in teaching empathy and self compassion is learning to temper the negative, harsh critical voice so many of us have inside our head. Through the modeling of parents and other adults in our lives many receive this training as children. We naturally incorporate behaviors and concepts we see and hear, and then practice them on others. As we learn this skill set, it grows with us as our brain develops cognitively and we develop complex thoughts and feelings along with a healthy form of self-talk. We develop that soft spoken voice that is encouraging, we learn what patience feels like, we learn when to be silent, and we see when to show forgiveness, empathy, warmth or an expression of love.
But not all training is good. Maybe an adult modeled an unforgiving way of handling things in life, so tolerance was never modeled. Or perhaps the family culture had an implicit message embedded in it by modeling a lack of discussion around feelings. As a result emotions were pushed away. Perhaps feelings were seen as a weakness and as a result, they were forbidden and a feeling of guilt around expressing them developed. Maybe conformity was valued or authenticity. And silence praised instead of expression. Or, maybe there was simply an absence of all of this kind of thing, so the scripts in our heads developed on their own. Sometimes the dialogue or voice inside our head isn’t so great. As a result, it’s actually inhibiting or blocking our productivity and happiness. It can almost become a way of being for. We can get used to the limits, and predict the outcomes, which are unsatisfying. Perhaps it impacts sleep or performance at work. Or it’s a subtle saboteur in relationship, always keeping us from what we really want and deserve. It can be negative, judgmental, and unrelenting. Maybe it comes out in an expression of explosive anger at inappropriate times.
When a negative inner voice develops and goes “unchecked” so to speak, it can almost take on a life of it’s own. Although it serves a purpose, sometimes it ends up impeding the work that is trying to be achieved. This voice can actually become painful to listen to. Even if it’s based in fact, the way it’s being expressed and received is unproductive. This form of negative self-talk tends to lead people down a road that actually decreases self-esteem and undermines self-confidence. It can undo trust, damage relationships and effect productivity and performance. An unexpected side effect can be in increase in anxiety; it can actually create an uneasy perspective about the world around us.
The good news is that these scripts and the perspective can be changed. That’s all they are, scripts. Scripts tied to beliefs that are not really true. They are scripts and dialogues that you wrote that you have the power to change. One way to develop healthy scripts and self-talk, is through learning to practice self-compassion.
The idea of what self-compassion is may be a little fuzzy by definition for those of us that don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it. It’s those moments when you feel impatient or critical of yourself and that soothing voice kicks in to calm the siege inside. It’s that part of yourself that questions something and gently suggests why that really might not be a good idea even though you really want to do it. It’s that nurturing voice that acknowledges when you are sad or suffering and allows the feelings to be experienced and the emotions to flow freely. And it’s that voice inside that forgives you when you’ve made a terrible mistake. It’s part of that inner wisdom people refer to. It’s the cheerleader that always rallies in your corner.
What is the difference between self-compassion, empathy and sympathy? Sympathy is defined as: harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another. Empathy is defined as: the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. And Compassion is defined as: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. (Dictionary.com)
The distinguishing feature of compassion is: “to alleviate the suffering”. If that’s true then we could easily say that self-compassion is the feeling of deep sympathy for ourselves along with the desire to alleviate our own suffering. That means we don’t have a harsh critical voice, but rather a gentle voice with a softer attitude. Not based in fear or anger but rather self love In this we then practice Maitri, loving kindness towards others and oneself
So how do we practice this? Here are 6 tools to help you develop Self-Compassion:
“The root word “buddh” means to wake up, to know, to understand; and he or she who wakes up and understand is called a Buddha. It is as simple as that. The capacity to wake up, to understand, and to love is called Buddha nature. When Buddhists say, “I take refuge in the Buddha”, they are expressing trust in their own capacity of understanding, of becoming awake”.
– Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace
Awareness – Begin thinking about self-compassion more. Think about times when you have expressed empathy and compassion towards yourself and others. What have you learned about yourself recently?
Mindfulness –Develop a routine for listening to the voice in your head. Do you have time in your day to sit quietly and reflect? What can you do to improve your inner dialogue?
Breathing – I read a book recently that recommended starting each day with 40 deep breaths. Have you ever tried breathing exercises, meditation or yoga? Attention to breathing will not only decrease the experience of stress but also allow the space for reflection and awareness to develop.
Practice self-acceptance – Try a new script when something doesn’t go right. Find the positive and replace the negative. How skilled are you at forgiving yourself?
Embrace suffering – Not like your looking for things to suffer about but rather just to acknowledge the truth that suffering exists and your suffering may be very real right now. And it will pass. What can you do to nurture yourself during this time?
Cultivate Joy – We must find meaning in our world. Part of this is by embracing the positive and joyful things inside of us, as well as around us. Find joy. For example for me, when I need something uplifting, I hug my children more, or watch funny pet videos on You Tube. Sometimes I look at motivational quotes or go for a walk. Find something that warms your heart and helps make you feel grounded again.
*In his workbook, Desmond offers 8 exercises to help cultivate self-compassion. He reminds readers that embracing suffering and cultivating joy are two points that need to be balanced and offers suggestions how to do this.
In closing, I offer you this on your journey towards happiness:
“May you be happy. May you have ease. May you be free. May you be loved”.
Buddhist Meditation, Cited from the Self-Compassion Skills Workbook
The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook, Tim Desmond, 2017
Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh, 1987
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from Wikipedia.
The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook on Tim Desmond’s website.
Empathy and compassion on Scoop.it.
Developing self-compassion and learning to be nicer to ourselves on Tiny Buddha website.
1. Communicate directly with the person.
First make sure the situation has something to do with you directly. Decide if the situation is really worth your time and energy. Then go directly to the source, and try not mentioning things to others or posting comments on social media. Be respectful by being direct. Example: “I understand that you are angry with me, can you tell me why?” Or, “I heard that you are the manager for the new department and I would like to talk with you about possible upcoming positions”.
2. Start with a genuine compliment or positive statement.
Research shows that starting a conversation with a compliment or positive comment increases receptiveness in others. “Thank you for taking time to speak with me”. Or, “I know you were very angry last night and I appreciate your willingness to talk with me today”. With a child, it might sound like: “I really like how you calmed yourself down, good job”.
3. State your needs in a clear honest way.
Clarify in your mind exactly what you are asking for and why. Communicate that in a non-defensive tone. Research shows that too many words can confuse the listener. Try to state it 2-3 sentences. For example: “I wanted to talk with you about the fight at the table last night with your brother”. Vs. “I wanted to talk to you about that terrible tantrum you had at the table last night in front of our family, when you were acting like a 3 year old and picking on your brother”. Another example might be: “I would like to talk to you about the promotion. I understand I was not a candidate and would like to know why?” Vs. “I heard so-and-so got the promotion and I was so bummed to hear that because I thought I was a better candidate”.
4. Use “I” statements.
“I feel”, “I need”, “I want”. “I” statements are about you and no one can question your feelings or needs. It also outlines the place you are coming from. Then state your need. “I felt disappointed about the fight at Christmas dinner. I really wanted everyone to get along”. Or “I would like to apply for the promotion and would like to know what I need to do”. Stay out of their backyard and away from blaming. It puts people off and makes it harder for them to hear what you want. Focus on what you would like to see happen. “I would like to advance my position and use more of my skills to help this company increase it’s sales”. Or, “I would like for us to have family meals without fighting and am wondering what you think we could do together to make that happen?”
Yes, to their response. Often we have a script already running in our head about what they will say or what we need to say next. Turn that off. Make your statement, pause, take a breath and listen for their response. Be in the moment as much as possible. And let go of outcome. We can’t control others or the outcome, even if it’s with the best intentions.
6. Ask questions to clarify.
Coming into the conversation without a singular result in mind will allow for exploration and curiosity. Ask questions with an engaged curiosity. Seek to understand the other person’s perspective, their experience and their opinion.
7. Try phrasing it in a different way.
If the person does not understand what is being said, try phrasing, literally using different words. For example” “I feel like we haven’t spent any time together” (They don’t understand). Second try: I really like you and would like to spend more time together, what do you think about that?” If you are on the receiving end of communication and don’t understand what they are saying, ask for clarification. Ask for specifics. “ Can you give me an example of a time when I talked over you?”
8. Take a break if things start to get heated.
You can take a break anytime, especially if you know the next line of defense is going to be slinging hurtful insults you won’t be able to take back. Revisit it when you are both calm and level headed. Check-in with yourself to see if you missed something or maybe could try to say things in a different way. And if things can’t get resolved, try mediation or communicating through someone else, like a counselor.
9. Apologize and reconcile when possible.
They are healing acts that help move relationships forward. Some people think that apologizing is sign of weakness but it’s actually a sign of respect towards the self and others. We are after all human and fallible. Admitting that actually takes courage and emotional maturity. Some say that reconciliation and forgiveness are the most important parts of the communication process.
Resources and References
The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns
When Anger Hurts, Quieting the Storm Within, by Matthew McKay, Ph.D., Peter D. Rogers and Judith McKay
Articles & Blog Posts:
Counseling Advice: Healthy Communication & Relationships by Amy McNamara, LMFT, CounselingPsychology.org.
The 7 Cs of Communication: A Checklist for Clear Communication on MindTools.com.
Tips for Better Communication on LoveIsRespect.org.
5 Habits of Highly Effective Communicators by Susan Tardanico, Forbes.com.
14 Very Effective Communication Skills on AdvancedLifeSkills.com.
10 Effective Communication Habits of the Most Successful People, by Marcel Schwantes, Inc.com.
6 Surprising Ways to Communicate Better With Your Partner by F. Diane Barth L.C.S.W., PsychologyToday.com.
Simple, Powerful Tools for Becoming a Great Communicator on MastersinCommunication.org.
TIP #1: Make the Children Your Priority
“As we go out into the world, we will face challenges and we’ll need both of you to help us through them. If we’re struggling, in need of help or you’re worried about us, we hope you will pick up the phone and let each other know. We get that this won’t be easy. At one time you loved each other enough to become parents. Please do your best to see the good in one another instead of always expecting the worst.”
A quote from an adult child of divorce
Research shows that helping others is a great way to get through a loss or stressful event. Transitions and change are normal. Divorce isn’t necessarily a life skill but going through a transition that comes with stress (like in a divorce) is. Shift the focus and your energy onto them.
Talking about the divorce is important, especially with your children.
This means less or no talk about why the divorce happened and focusing more on the struggles each child is going through at that moment. Less drama and more focus on kids are good modeling and leads to helping the family move forward in a healthy way.
What the children come to the parent for help with may not really be what they want or need. It may be more about seeking parental support and making sure they won’t be abandoned. They may need help telling their story to others, problem solving, assistance with time management or scheduling changes, or handling missing a family member.
To see a quick outline of developmental tasks for children by age group, read Does Divorce Inevitably Damage Children? by Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D. on the Huffington Post.
TIP #2: Create a Support System for Your Kids
One of the most important developmental tasks for children is social development. Part of this process is explaining what is happening and how to maneuver through relationships. The process of divorce can impact family members in a variety of ways. It can include the break-up of a family system, the loss of seeing or living with one parent regularly, or dealing with the stigma sometimes associated with divorce.
Providing support for children going through divorce can help them with the adjustment and changes happening. Others can play a vital role in needed support, such as family members, family friends, a church community, theirs peers or even a therapist. Not only do others provide a feeling of security and normalcy, they can also provide unconditional love and support.
About therapy: There doesn’t need to anything wrong with a child for them to be in therapy. Whether it’s a counselor at school or a therapist at a clinic or in private practice, therapy can provide an additional layer of support for family members.
TIP#3: Stick to Consistency and Routine as Much as Possible
This can include morning routines, school schedules, sports, social outings, attending church, family meals, holidays, going on vacations etc. Routines create a feeling of normalcy and familiarity for everyone. After school activities and hobbies help children gain their own sense of autonomy in the world and solidify their identity. Help the children develop their own hobbies and interests, to do at your home and at the other parent’s home.
TIP #4: Don’t Speak Badly or Gossip About the Other Parent
When we are hurting, it’s easy for us as adults to fire back with hurtful comments or actions. Children hear what parents are saying on the phone or to the adult in the other room. They often tune into what their parents are feeling, even if they don’t come right out and say it.
Model healthy communication and boundaries. Avoid blaming and negative talk about the other parent. Save personal feelings and negative thoughts for friends, therapist or a journal. If you find you can’t stop talking about it, try counseling. It’s a safe place to express yourself that won’t due unnecessary damage.
Communicate directly with your ex partner in a healthy way, not through the children or through others (unless mandated by the court). State your needs to them in a clear honest way. Use “I” statements. Try phrasing your needs in different ways, literally using different words. Keep accusations and blaming out of it, instead replace with compliments. Research shows that starting a conversation with a compliment or positive comment increases receptiveness in the other person. They will be more likely to hear what you are saying. If or when the communication starts to get heated, take a break. Revisit it when you are both calm and level headed. If things can’t get resolved, try mediation or communicating through a counselor.
References and Resources:
The 18 Best Things You Can Do For Your Kids After Divorce by Brittany Wong on HuffingtonPost.com
How to Keep Yourself From Yelling at Kids Even When You are Hopping Mad by Sumitha Bhandarkar on AFineParent.com.
Four Things to Keep Stable with Children of Divorced Parents by Shannon Philpott on Mom.me.
Establish Post-Divorce Traditions on KeepYourChildSafe.org.
Helping children adjust to two homes after separation or divorce on RaisingChildren.net.au.
Why routines are so important for children of divorce from GabriellaDavis.com.
The importance of safe, stable and nurturing environments for young children by Dr. Rachel Wood on TheOlympian.com.
8 Things Adult Children of Divorce Desperately Want You to Know by Christina McGhee on DivorceAndChildren.com.
Find information about ending a marriage or registered domestic partnership see the Divorce or Separation resources page on the California Courts website.
Divorce Etiquette 101: What to Say on WeVorce.com.
Tips on Communicating With Your Spouse During a Divorce by Joseph Pandolfi, Retired Judge on Lawyers.com
Find resources on Coping in Divorce Support on About.com.
4 Tips for Effective Communication During Divorce from OutofCourtSolutions.com.
5 Ways for Better Communication During a Divorce by Nicholas Baker on FamilyLawRights.net.
TIP #1: PLAN HOW YOU WILL TELL OTHERS ABOUT IT
It’s going to come up in conversation. Take the opportunity to create healthy boundaries from the start. Preparing for these conversations can help manage the emotions that might come with it and prepare you for the responses of others. Other’s often have strong opinions about divorce with unsolicited advice to go with it. And it’s not always helpful or positive stuff.
First, decide who needs to know. As life changing an event as it might be, some people (like co-workers) may not need to know. It’s good to ask: who you would like to tell and why?
Second, decide what kind of impression you want to leave with that person you’re going to talk to. It sounds self-centered, but it’s actually fact. It takes 7 seconds to make an impression, so decide what you want that other person to remember. Facts people won’t necessarily remember, but how a person made them feel is something that will stay. Experts recommend saving the personal emotions and intimate details for those closest, a therapist or a journal. It might not matter if it’s a best friend or family member, because they’ve already seen you at your best and your worst. But if, for example, you decide to tell your boss, what do you want him/her to remember, the facts and how well you are handling it, or how upset you were about the whole thing?
Third, ask for you what you need. The process of divorcing can be stressful. It’s an important life change and people often want to help but don’t necessarily know how. Communicate what is needed, whether it’s just hanging out for a change of pace, or getting added support for the children. Don’t be afraid to at least ask.
For more information about creating healthy boundaries, check out this article: This Is What It Really Means To Have Healthy Boundaries by Kelly Coffey on MindBodyGreen.com.
TIP #2: REBUILD SELF-ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE!
The act of divorce isn’t exactly a positive self-esteem building experience. This process could easily hit hard. It often brings up questions of confidence and how we see ourselves. It can leave someone feeling bad, like they failed at something. Or they might become riddled with guilt, especially when they see how it is impacting their children. But not to worry, divorce is much more common now a days. And kids are very resilient. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or fun, but what is does mean is that the person asking about it probably has either been through it or knows someone who went through something similar. And research shows that the 3 years following a divorce is the most impactful time for children to heal and recover, so don’t give up hope!
Staying in the present moment and looking to the possibilities in the future is a great way move everyone forward and keep the mind clear and emotions out of the drama. Set a goal in the future for yourself. Practice positive self-talk daily, especially positive affirmations. It might be thoughts like “I am taking action and making necessary changes in my life right now to better myself”. Or, “I am managing each situation as it comes up”. Sometimes, it’s “This is stressful and I am handling this really well!” Or it might be “this is tough right now, but it will pass, I am strong and resilient and can get through this!”
Check out the blog post Meditation Made Easy or present, in-the-moment exercises article.
Dr Pamela Blair talks about Recovering Your Self-Esteem in this article about self-esteem building.
And here on ReachOut.com find out more Steps to improve self-esteem.
TIP #3: MANAGE THE ANGER
Traditionally, separation is when there is the highest level of anger and potential violence between partners. Unmanaged anger comes in many shapes and forms including words and actions, or a lack thereof. It usually presents as passive (implied, indirect or insinuated to create or maintain conflict) or aggressive (directly threatening or physically hostile). And it can be VERY destructive. For example, when a parent or partner posts negative comments about their ex on Facebook. Or someone sends out an insult in a group text. Or a parent makes negative comments directly to the kids or another adult in ear shot range of the children. Actions like these reflect poor boundaries. Children pick up on this and it often makes them feel conflicted. Blaming is a common destructive pattern also. It’s good to remember that as intense as those emotions are in that moment, they will pass. And once something is said, it’s out there and can’t be taken back. Ongoing negative comments, blaming and criticism can have long-term negative psychological effects on everyone, especially children. They actually do not rebound as easily from this kind of behavior. Blaming and negative criticism are also polarizing for others who often feel conflicted between their loyalties and what they should do. And then it becomes one more thing that needs to be resolved. The same goes for threats to others or acts of physical violence. They can have far more serious long-term effects. Practicing this from an emotional intelligence perspective means managing the emotions before they take over.
The best way to manage anger is to develop awareness around it and learn specific techniques to help manage the emotions. Steps like:
- Identify the comments or actions of others that lead to feelings of anger or rage. Take note of the person or situations that create strong feelings, like fear or feelings of powerlessness. Notice how angry you get and how you respond. Then take not how long it took to calm down.
- Use strategies to calm yourself down before the anger turns into regretful words or actions. A “trigger” might be discussing a certain topic with an ex-partner or seeing repeated behavior that is perceived as threatening. Once this happens, take action to manage the anger. This could be the act of stopping the conversation in that moment and taking a break for a few minutes to get a handle on the intense feelings.
- Revisit the conversation when everyone is calm and level headed.
- Try an anger Journal: An anger journal is a great way to start creating that awareness. Questions include recording how many times a person gets angry in a day, what happened leading up to a change in emotions, and recording how the person responded when the anger took over.
- Utilize techniques even after the anger hits. Breathing techniques area common way address things immediately. (check out Youtube.com or try an app on your phone). And time-outs are great ways to handle “in-the-moment” emotions. So is exercise. It’s ok to put a stop to what ever is escalating and switch gears for a bit. Meditation and yoga are great practices to incorporate, especially before a stressful meeting. Studies show that people think more logically and make better decisions when their minds and bodies are in a resting state, not a raging state. Breathing exercises are the fastest and easiest way to calm down. Too much anger becomes self-defeating. Avoid mean or threatening language or physical violence. They are psychologically very harmful to children. Practicing positive self-talk, is another tool that helps decrease anger. Learning to stay calm and express emotions in a healthy way is a great way to model emotions for children and decrease unnecessary stress. If it becomes an ongoing problem, talking to a specialist, like a counselor or psychiatrist can be very beneficial.
A note about exercise: a good amount of cardio exercise can change the balance of serotonin, endorphins and other hormones to help balance the mind and body. Like the mind, the body can be changed too. This is one area many people utilize.
References and Resources:
From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life, A Woman’s Journey Through Divorce by Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC.
Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, by Thich Nhat Hanh
Blog Posts –
How to Tell Others You’re Getting Divorced from PsychologyToday.com
Divorce Etiquette 101: What to Say from WeVorce.com.
Working it out from AJNovickGroup.com.
Types of Anger from LoveToKnow.com.
4 Tips for Effective Communication During Divorce from OutOfCourtSolutions.com.
5 Ways for Better Communication During a Divorce from FamilyLawRights.net.
Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper from MayoClinic.org.
Social Media is a growing industry. For kids, this means there are more devices, more things to do on devices and more ways to communicate. It’s also cool to have a device (like a phone) and have your friends watch that cool video on your phone!
As parents we often hear about how bad it is for children to watch too much TV or spend too much time on the Internet, but some studies have shown that children can actually build communication, social or technical skills. And for special needs children, often programs specifically designed for TV, I pad or computer can be a “saving grace” as a learning tool option.
For those of us on the hunt for the best way to help our kids, here are some ways parents can help kids maneuver through the world of social media and technology. Please check out the references at the end for additional information:
- KNOW WHAT YOUR CHILD IS DOING. Take the time to get to know which devices your children spend the most time on.
A NOTE ABOUT PRIVACY: experts, across the board, suggest that parents get involved, yes, even with teens. Their privacy is important but making sure they are safe should always come first. This includes teaching them smart choices good boundaries, critical tools for maneuvering through media.
- KEEP AN OPEN DIALOGUE WITH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE VIEWING. Ask questions with curiosity, not judgment. Ask them to tell you about it. Gather information first so your child doesn’t feel attacked. If there is a concern, start with a positive statement like “wow that’s great you like that site and know so much about it” and then bring in your concern, “I’m wondering about that guy you mentioned that keeps hacking, does that effect your account?” Follow up with an action option “so what can you do about it?” or “did you know you can block people like that?” Turn it into a teaching opportunity.
- LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF TIME CHILDREN SPEND ON DEVICES WHEN POSSIBLE. Less is better. It’s better for the brain. Extended use of computers and devices has been correlated with higher rates of depression. Moderation is good.
- BE AWARE AND TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT SECURITY. Explain to them about why security is needed and what is not appropriate behavior, for them and for others. Kids need to learn to protect what is theirs from the beginning, not after they have lost something valuable. They also need to know how to put up appropriate boundaries. Educate children about the importance of screen names or gaming names, and never stating their full name or their age. They also should never provide their address, phone number, your credit card information or an IP address. Also educating them about keeping passwords private is a must.
There are online filtering software apps like “Net Nanny”, that allows you to monitor sites, block chats and filter content. Xfinity has a parental control feature to password protect certain channels. Search for “filtering software” to learn more about this option. Some phones also have a location device feature on their phone, allowing parents to track the physical location of their child.
Subscription service for smartphone monitoring and control capabilities by TeenSafe.com.
Info about parental controls for cell phone carriers: 11 Mobile Parental Controls from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint & T-Mobile from Internet-Safety-YourSphere.com
Info about parental controls for computer sites and online gaming: Parental Controls by StaySafeOnline.org.
Info about parental controls on gaming devices: Gaming With Guidance: How to Set Up Parental Controls on Modern Consoles, Handhelds, and Computers by DigitalTrends.com.
- TAKE AN ACTIVE INTEREST IN WHAT YOUR CHILD IS POSTING. Children will not automatically know what boundaries to use when texting or posting on Facebook, Instagram etc., so this is a great topic to keep an open dialogue. Children up to the age of adulthood often will feel something but may not be able to put words to the experience or know what their choices are. Dialoguing about what bullying is, what safety means, what boundaries are is a language they need help to develop. Educate them about bullying, what it is, what is sounds like, how it makes people feel and what they can say in response. Give kids words or statements to choose from so they are ready when the conversation comes. Information and choices give kids power.
- ADVOCATE FOR YOUR KIDS WHEN NECESSARY. Yes, they do need to learn to fight their own battles, but sometimes a parent’s support can go a long way. Some online games have “reporting” features so players can report kids who are hacking and doing inappropriate things. Developers often have contact information on the site. It doesn’t always work but having a child see a parent advocate for them is a good thing. It also offers the opportunity for the parent to talk with the child about they could have done differently to avoid the situation. And it reminds your child that even though they saw someone else make bad choices, it’s still wrong and they should never follow suit.
References and Resources:
Media Benefits for Children and Teenagers by RaisingChildren.net.au.
The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families from Pediatrics.AAPPublications.org
Top Social Network Demographics 2017 [Infographic] by OurSocialTimes.com.
40 Essential Social Media Marketing Statistics for 2017 by WordStream.org.
Six Tips For Keeping Teens Safe On Social Media from Kids.USA.gov.
13 Tips for Monitoring Kids’ Social Media by Parenting.com
6 Expert Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe on Social Media by Kyli Singh on Mashable.com.
Social media related articles from CommonSenseMedia.org.
Rules for Social Media, Created by Kids by Devorah Heitner from the NYTimes.com.
Best Facebook Parental Controls Review by TopTenReviews.com.
The Good Digital Parenting blog from Family Online Safety Institute(Fosi.org.)
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
― John Lennon
Did you know that development for this age group actually starts around age 10? Initial changes in body, mood, thought, self-image, identity and perception are already happening! Kids in this age group undergo many changes socially, physically, cognitively, emotionally, and sexually. Some of these changes include:
- “More concern about body image, looks, and clothes.
- Focus on themselves; going back and forth between high expectations and lack of confidence.
- Experience more moodiness.
- Show more interest in and influence by peer group.
- Express less affection toward parents; sometimes might seem rude or short-tempered.
- Feel stress from more challenging schoolwork.
- Develop eating problems.
- Feel a lot of sadness or depression, which can lead to poor grades at school, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex, and other problems.”
“The teenage years bring many changes, not only physically, but also mentally and socially. During these years, adolescents increase their ability to think abstractly and eventually make plans and set long-term goals. Each child may progress at a different rate and may have a different view of the world. In general, the following are some of the abilities that may be evident in your adolescent:
- Develops the ability to think abstractly
- Is concerned with philosophy, politics, and social issues
- Thinks long-term
- Sets goals
- Compares one’s self to one’s peers”
Learn more about Adolescent Neurodevelopment on the World Health Organization website.
“Communicating your love for your child is the single most important thing you can do. Children decide how they feel about themselves in large part by how their parents react to them. For this reason, it’s important for parents to help their children feel good about themselves. It is also important to communicate your values and to set expectations and limits, such as insisting on honesty, self-control and respect for others, while still allowing teenagers to have their own space.”
These types of changes lead to a maturation and can be seen in early, normal or late development. Everyone’s body grows at it’s own pace. Physical changes can include: growing facial hair, change in voice, growth in height or weight, and changes in hormonal cycles. Body shape can also change during this time. Sometimes there is a period of awkwardness as the body and the mind try to catch up with each other, or their peers. Girls are seen to generally develop earlier than boys.
“During adolescence, young people go through many changes as they move into physical maturity. Early, prepubescent changes occur when the secondary sexual characteristics appear.
- Girls may begin to develop breast buds as early as 8 years old. Breasts develop fully between ages 12 and 18.
- Pubic hair, armpit and leg hair usually begin to grow at about age 9 or 10, and reach adult patterns at about 13 to 14 years.
- Menarche (the beginning of menstrual periods) typically occurs about 2 years after early breast and pubic hair appear. It may occur as early as age 9, or as late as age 16. The average age of menstruation in the United States is about 12 years.
- Girls growth spurt peaks around age 11.5 and slows around age 16.
- Boys may begin to notice that their testicles and scrotum grow as early as age 9.
- Soon, the penis begins to lengthen. By age 17 or 18, their genitals are usually at their adult size and shape.
- Pubic hair growth, as well as armpit, leg, chest, and facial hair, begins in boys at about age 12, and reaches adult patterns at about 17 to 18 years.
- Boys do not start puberty with a sudden incident, like the beginning of menstrual periods in girls. Having regular nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) marks the beginning of puberty in boys. Wet dreams typically start between ages 13 and 17. The average age is about 14 and half years.
- Boys’ voices change at the same time as the penis grows. Nocturnal emissions occur with the peak of the height spurt.
- Boys’ growth spurt peaks around age 13 and a half and slows around age 18.”
Sexual changes not only happen for kids in this age range physically but also mentally and socially. Feeling of sexual attraction develops, as well as awareness about the body changes in themselves and others.
“During the teen years, the hormonal and physical changes of puberty usually mean people start noticing an increase in sexual feelings. It’s common to wonder and sometimes worry about new sexual feelings.
It takes time for many people to understand who they are and who they’re becoming. Part of that involves better understanding of their own sexual feelings and who they are attracted to.”
MedlinePlus.gov has articles and resources for both parents and teens on their Teen/Adolescent Development resources page.
Read Understanding Your Teenagers Emotional Health on the FamilyDoctor.org.
KidsHealth.org has an article on Sexual Attraction and Orientation written for teens.
The University of Minnesota has an article on the Biological and Physical Changes that teens experience written for parents of teenagers.
The World Health Organization has an article on Adolescent Neurodevelopmental Changes.
Visit the University of Maryland Medical Center page on Adolescent Development.
Read The Teenage Brain Is Wired to Learn—So Make Sure Your Students Know It on Edutopia.org.
Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls is recommended for parents of teenage girls first, for opening up the conversation and second, for providing step-by-step parental suggestions for dealing with conventional bullying.
It takes courage to grow up and become who you
e. e. cummings