Raising Compassionate Children

How to reinforce this important quality in your home.

1160973_45744851The Talmud states that the Jewish people have three innate qualities: they are merciful, bashful and kind. Perhaps that explains Jewish people’s propensity to give so freely of their time and money. Being caring, compassionate and generous is as inherent to Jewish identity as our commitment to education.

But without proper cultivation, compassion can remain dormant. That’s why it’s important to teach children compassion at a young age and keep reinforcing this message as they grow.

Show Your Child Compassion – Acknowledge Their Feelings and Emotions

One way to model compassion is to allow your child to express the broad range of their feelings – and let them know their feelings matter to you.

Explain (in age-appropriate language) that it’s okay for people of any age to feel conflicting emotions such as dislike, embarrassment, disconnection, rejection, isolation, love, sadness, compassion, jealousy and forgiveness.

One of my client’s parents are going through a difficult divorce and this ten-year old is struggling with feelings of both love and anger at them. We discussed that it’s okay to like or love someone and sometimes feel disappointed or even angry with them. She was so relieved to learn this.

Mistakes Are a Learning Experience

As an occupational therapist who specializes in children’s behavior, my work involves helping parents and children find healthy ways to bond. Even parenting mistakes can strengthen the parent-child bond.

If you’ve lost your temper, for example, you can apologize. This shows you care about your child’s feelings. By saying you’re sorry and asking for forgiveness, you’ll also teach the value of forgiveness, a vital component of compassion.

Parents can also model forgiveness by showing we forgive others. This helps kids understand that we’re able to have compassion on someone who has hurt us, without alleviating them of responsibility for their harmful deeds. Teaching children that “hurt people hurt others” can help them let go of resentment.

Caring Conversations

We all need to feel accepted, understood and safe. If you need to talk to your child about important issues, create a comfortable setting to have serious conversations.

  1. Get in sync with your child. Talk while you’re both sitting on a porch swing or rocking chairs, or bouncing on therapy balls. Creating a relaxing rhythm can help your child or teen relax. You don’t have to tell them what you’re doing, just start swinging, rocking, or bouncing.
  2. Try to sit at the same level. (Don’t stand over them.) If your child is very young, you can hold them on your lap, otherwise, remain at eye level while having serious discussions. This lets them know you want to connect.I often sit lower than or on the same level as my own children – we like to talk while sitting on the floor or their beds. For my clients, I may join them in a large spandex swing I have in my office (I call it the “spandex river”) while discussing delicate topics such as sibling rivalry or a parent’s illness.
  3. If you find it difficult to speak calmly, wait. A softer, more relaxed voice is more conducive to connection. For younger children use a rhythmic sing-song. It helps a young child feel safe and open. Using a lecturing voice makes people of any age feel defensive and likely to reject your message.

Sometimes, less is more: saying fewer words and waiting for a response is a way to allow children to take the conversation where they need it to go. Helping your child dial down intense negative feelings while supporting him, teaches him how to do this for himself. This kind of self-regulation is a key to healthy emotions.

Being compassionate – to yourself, to your child, to others – is perhaps the best way to get across the idea that compassion matters.

Reaching Out – Teachers Teaching Teachers

Although teaching can be a reward, it also can sometimes be a lonely, and difficult job; therefore, you may need guidance or someone to talk to. Whether you are in your first year or fiftieth year, you can always find emotional strength, ideas for lessons, and guidance from other teachers. Following the five steps below can help you easily develop relationships with other teachers this summer. As Rusi Knobel my colleague and an experienced teacher said, “Establish relationships now. Don’t wait until you have a crisis.”

Continue reading “Reaching Out – Teachers Teaching Teachers”

Summertime Tips for Teachers

“One important key to success is self-confidence, one important key to self-confidence is preparation.”

-Arthur Ashe

It’s summer, the time when educators can sit back, relax and take a break from the hectic school year. Any teacher will admit that although teaching is a challenge, it is more importantly a reward. The new year can sneak up on you quickly,and throw you back into stress mode while you try to stay in summer mode.

Continue reading “Summertime Tips for Teachers”

Breaking My Habit To Create A New One

Habit: hab·it (hāb’ĭt) n. A recurrent, often unconscious, pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.Today I made a new habit. It is, something I hope will become a daily habit. I woke up at the crack of dawn, much earlier than the hectic day ahead was to start. The kids needed a ride to camp; I needed to pick up a few groceries and deliver papers across town. That was “just” the rundown of tasks to do before noon! It’s easy to look at a busy day ahead and panic. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I knew on a day like today, I needed a way to clear my head and start the day off on the right foot, so I decided to make a change. It was something simple: I took a walk in the park.

flowers birds indigo bunting 1600x1200 wallpaper_www.wall321.com_77The birds were chirping, the wind was just cool enough to combat the sun’s early morning heat and the breathtaking flowers and trees helped me feel gratitude. I returned home, woke the kids and had a wonderful day. I knew immediately that this needs to become an everyday kind of thing, a habit. We often associate a habit with something negative. Smoking tobacco is often called ‘The Bad Habit’. After doing some research, I found that  habits can be both good AND bad. Essentially, we as humans are controlled by habits. Author Charles Duhigg wrote that a habit embodies itself in “loops” which consist of:

A. Cue

B. Routine

C. Reward

Here’s an example: a 13 year-old boy bites his nails (the routine), when bored or anxious throughout the day (the cue). He feels relaxed and familiar when he bites his nails, because he is used to it (the reward). He gets braces on his teeth and finds it extremely difficult to bite his nails. The habit began to change because of his inability to enact his original habit (the changed routine).
bad-habits-1Why did he bite his nails? In my book “The Parent-Child Dance,” I discuss why the mouth is often used to regulate emotions. We use the mouth during basic tasks that are necessary for survival, such as eating and breathing. Mouths also serve as emotional regulators which is why many people over-use their mouth by overeating, smoking, biting nails and chewing gum. Now back to the example: because of the boy’s braces preventing the biting of his nails to either reduce his anxiety or keep him busy when bored, he chooses instead to squeeze a stress ball or a hand-gripper. He has healthier choices for the exact same cue. Why should it not work for people who want to change their cues and habits? We often use Duhigg’s habit loop theory while using charts with children. The cue is the visual example that the chart brings, the routine would be the task or chore that is referenced on the chart, the reward is the sticker or prize that is given upon accomplishment of the charted task. The reward becomes the motivation for change: the child sees a direct benefit to completing the task. One important term I’ve found in establishing change is conviction. With this we find strength inside of ourselves to make a change and more importantly to keep the change. See, it doesn’t just work with children, adults use this all the time. New Year’s resolutions, diet and exercise changes and even putting sneakers at the foot of your bed as a reminder to take a run in the park, could be considered conscious ways to change habits. People do it every single day, and You can do it too! Finding a way to chart your new habit for yourself can help.  You can keep a diary or journal that you can use to document your habits and changes throughout the day. There is much scientific evidence that shows journaling provides stress relief whether through the ‘release’ of emotions it takes to write it down or the ‘reflection’ it takes to remember it accurately. This habit is one you can piggyback to help with the process of your own changes. Tomorrow morning, I will wake up and take my walk in the park. I will breathe. I will think. I will reflect on yesterday and the day ahead. I will start my day off on the right foot, so that the rest of my day can be better. I will accept change. I will encourage it to help me and my family grow.

See, it’s not that hard is it?

On Stars, Wemmicks And Believing In Yourself

by Max Lucado
You Are Special

You Are Special

How many times have you tried to tell your children that they are special –but it just doesn’t stick?

Mark came home from school devastated. ‘Someone’ had said ‘something’ and he was inconsolable. No matter what I said, the power of peer review overwhelmed him. I felt helpless.

That is until my friend Nina called me a ‘Wemmick.’

She said this after I said I don’t want to do this because ‘No one else is doing it!’

“Wemmick?” Continue reading “On Stars, Wemmicks And Believing In Yourself”

Love, A Key Ingredient

The perfect family, the modern day ancestral enigma. It seems as though we’ve spoiled

ourselves with television’s finest, offering a smile and fresh apple pie to usher in each and every day. I

began to wonder, what constitutes a perfect family, perfect parent or perfect child? Being a parent and

a therapist – I researched the possible answers to this, I found my eyes opening to the various kinds of

families and children that exist in the world.

When recently someone posed a question to me: “Does a child need emotional love to develop

properly?” Obviously after my research, the question was a no-brainer. I responded: “Of course!”

How else would a child develop into a mature, grounded, secure, emotionally sound and

physically healthy member of their community without emotional love? Continue reading “Love, A Key Ingredient”

From FLAT conversation to FULL animation: How FORBRAIN Helps You Function  

I was stumped by a particularly challenging child, Andy, and I did research into how I could help him. The child in question was an 8 year old boy in a regular education classroom with a glaring diagnosis of ADHD. With lots of tutoring he was able to keep up in class but he had a hard time understanding the nuances of the material and perceiving shades of meaning in conversation. My biggest concern was that he had no facial or body affect.  A conversation in therapy would go something like this: Continue reading “From FLAT conversation to FULL animation: How FORBRAIN Helps You Function  “

Wow, What a School!

Sometimes we ask the universe or pray for something we want or wish for.  Sometimes those things, situations, feelings, or people seem unreachable.  And, yet, it comes true.  This is one of those dreams….this school is so innovate, happy and breeds confident productive members of society.  It amazes me and I thought it would amaze you too. Continue reading “Wow, What a School!”

SPANDEX: MY FAVORITE MATERIAL

I always loved that song from “The Sound of Music”…”My Favorite Things…”

My favorite thing in my OT gym is… Spandex.

So what is Spandex?

Spandex, also called Lycra, is a fabric that easily expands and contracts with your body and motion – therefore it conveys a unique feeling of comfort and freedom of movement. Besides being soft and giving a sensation of being hugged, it is also impervious to wrinkling and resistant, so that you may wear your favorite Lycra clothes over and over again. And – best of all – spandex has so much therapeutic value!

Did you know that spandex fabric can stretch up to seven time its original size? And after that shrink back again to its original size and shape, without showing any alteration.  If you buy a good quality spandex it can last for ages.

 

5 Ways you can use Spandex for Therapeutic Goals:

1) I use Spandex widely not only for myself, but also for my clients. When you wear a Spandex legging and shirt, buy it two sizes smaller than your child’s normal size for the feeling of a deep pressure hug.  This will help your body feel centered, decrease anxiety, and increase body awareness. In the summer you may want to try this with spandex materials that have some cotton in it to reduce sweat. Continue reading “SPANDEX: MY FAVORITE MATERIAL”

10 Engaging Outdoor Learning Activities for Kids

Recently, I contributed to a blog about how to use the great outdoors to help children learn…and play, of course.

Spring is Here!
Spring is Here!

Your three-year-old is literally bouncing off the walls, your kindergartener is running the stairs like he has a personal trainer and you’re just wishing you could steal some of their energy for yourself. One thing is for sure: if they stay cooped up in the living room much longer, it’s going to be declared an official disaster zone.

What’s the solution? Round them up and head outside! Not only will it give your furniture a relief but the great outdoors holds countless learning opportunities for your kids.  Continue reading “10 Engaging Outdoor Learning Activities for Kids”