Blog Articles and Resources
by Parent Co.
When emotions run high, people do and say things they normally would not. When you’re a young child, this is what you do all the time.
Emotional self-regulation, a large component of emotional intelligence, is the ability to manage one’s experience and expression of emotions. With practice, children improve their capacity for emotional self-regulation. By age four, most children start to use strategies to eliminate disturbing external stimuli. In other words, they cover their eyes when they’re scared and plug their ears when they hear a loud noise.
It’s not until age 10 that children consistently use more complex strategies for emotional self-regulation. These strategies can be broken down into two simplistic categories: those that attempt to solve the problem and those that attempt to tolerate the emotion.
When a child can make a change to address a problem, they engage in problem-focused coping by identifying the trouble and making a plan for dealing with it. When they deem the problem unsolvable, they engage in emotion-focused coping by working to tolerate and control distress.
All of these strategies are a part of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence encompasses awareness, understanding, and the ability to express and manage one’s emotions.
While the world has been focused on academic achievement in childhood, emotional self-regulation has been largely ignored. This is a poor strategy, given that research suggests emotional intelligence is twice as strong a predictor as IQ of later success.
Self-control, one piece of emotional intelligence, is particularly important in predicting achievement in children. Children who are able to inhibit impulses (often driven by emotions) and avoid distractions are able to engage in more prosocial behaviors and accomplish their goals.
A particularly powerful study tested school-aged children on self-control and conducted follow-up studies on those children in their 30s. The study demonstrated that self-control predicted success better than IQ, socioeconomic status, and family environment. Those children high in self-control were also healthier, made more money, and were less likely to have criminal records or trouble with alcohol.
Feelings serve a purposeThe first piece of emotional intelligence is awareness and understanding of emotions. We have to understand and accept before we can control and express our emotions. Emotions are not an inconvenience, but rather a piece of human evolution that serves a purpose. The discrete theory of emotions suggests that each of our primary emotions have evolved to serve distinct purposes and motivate our behavior.
Sadness is an emotion uniquely capable of slowing us down, both in thought and motor activity. This can allow us the opportunity to reflect on the source of our emotional upset and take a closer look at the antecedents of it.
In contrast, anger speeds us up, mobilizing intense energy and sending blood to our extremities. While evolutionary, this geared us up for a fight; in modern times, it allows the sustained energy for a fight of a different nature. Anger cues us that our rights have been violated and helps us mobilize to protect against future threats.
Our emotions are to be respected and reflected upon. This includes our children’s intense emotions at seemingly non-intense situations. My daughter experiences intense anger when she is not able to do something she had previously accomplished, such as buckling her car seat independently.
In their recent policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents not use technology as a way to calm or pacify negative emotions in their child. Specifically, they expressed “concern that using media as strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation.”
Basically, children need the experience of feeling these emotions and practice tolerating them to develop self-control and emotional intelligence.
Increasing your child’s emotional intelligenceBecause emotional intelligence appears to be such a strong predictor of success, researchers have looked at how caregivers can encourage its development. Specifically, Dr. John Gottman observed how parents respond to their children’s emotions in an effort to understand how emotional intelligence develops. He found that parents respond to children’s emotions one of four possible ways.
Dr. Gottman found that emotion coaching parents only followed all five steps 20-25% of the time, suggesting there is no need for guilt as no parent can complete this process all the time.
Practicing the five steps to emotion coachingStep 1: Be aware of your child’s emotions.
Parents who emotion coach are aware of their own feelings and sensitive to the emotions present in their children. They do not require their child to amp up their emotional expression for the feelings to be acknowledged.
Click here to purchase this printable poster.Step 2: See emotions as an opportunity for connection and teaching.
Children’s emotions are not an inconvenience or a challenge. They are an opportunity to connect with your child and coach them through a challenging feeling.
Step 3: Listen and validate the feelings.
Give your child your full attention while you listen to their emotional expression. Reflect back what you hear, thus telling your child you understand what they’re seeing and experiencing.
Step 4: Label their emotions.
After you have fully listened, help your child develop an awareness of and vocabulary for their emotional expression.
Step 5: Help your child problem-solve with limits.
All emotions are acceptable but all behaviors are not. Help your child cope with his or her emotions by developing problem-solving skills. Limit the expression to appropriate behaviors. This involves helping your child set goals and generating solutions to reach those goals.
Sometimes the steps of emotion coaching happen quickly. Other times, these steps may take a great deal of time. Patience is key. If the problem is a big one, all five steps don’t have to be completed in one interaction.
This article was originally published by Meghan Owenz for Parent.co.
IntroductionWe see news stories about the impact of technology on our everyday lives all the time these days. Many of us started to think about how technology affects us personally. But how many of us have stopped to think about how it affects our children?
85% of mothers said they use technology to keep their children busy (source).
Kids are receiving their first internet-capable device earlier and earlier. That same study showed that 83% of American households have tablets, and 77% have smartphones (source).
Even in school, technology is abundant. Teachers set homework that requires online research and tools and use apps to manage that homework.
Technology is always adapting and it’s here to stay, but many do not think about the safety risk in terms of cybersecurity. A recent study revealed a startling figure: 68% of parents never check their children’s online activity (source). And that online activity increases year after year.
For a lot of children, the online world is more real than the real world. It is crucial to our children’s wellbeing that we understand what they see online, what is out there, both good and bad, and how it impacts their physical and emotional wellbeing.
The problem, as many of us would eagerly admit, is that we feel we don’t really understand the online world. Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are bewildering enough, without even mentioning 4chan and TOR. Furthermore, we don’t feel that we have the technical skills to navigate this complex landscape.
The good news is that it’s not that difficult to put certain technical controls in place to protect your children online. Far more importantly, the best thing you can do to protect your children is to talk to them; set clear boundaries for what and when they access online, but also to be there for your children when they make a mistake, or when they have gone too far. Isn’t that what parenting fundamentally comes down to?
In this comprehensive guide, we outlined eight areas that you should pay attention to as you navigate this complex online world. Depending on the ages of your children, not all of it will apply to you. Think of it not only as guidelines for what you should do now but what you should pay attention to as your children grow.
1. Mobile phones and appsAccording to consumer research by Influence Central, the average age that children get their first smartphone is 10 years old. Giving your child a smartphone comes with numerous benefits. A phone is an excellent safety tool; your child can use it to let you know they safely reached their destination, call you for a ride, or call in case of an emergency. You can also use the GPS on their phone to track their location. Knowing that you can always reach your child is a tremendous peace of mind for a parent.
Smartphones, however, can also be misused, and in some situations can make children vulnerable. Because smartphones are personal devices, we don’t often know what our children do on them, or how they use them.
If you’re considering giving your child a smartphone, it helps to have some clearly outlined guidelines in place beforehand, so everyone is on the same page. If your child already has a smartphone, it’s not too late to review the family rules. Demonstrate to them that having a smartphone is a big responsibility.
Implement smartphone rules with your child. Making sure your kids involve you on their phone activities with help keep them safe.
There are many precautions you can take to implement phone safety:
That being said, streaming content has shot up in popularity, and there are more TV shows and movies available at our fingertips than ever before, much of it not particularly appropriate for kids.
There are, however, some great benefits of streaming services. Many feature great, educational children’s programming and documentaries. Most don’t show any ads, meaning that your kids won’t be bombarded with commercial messaging from all sides like they are when they watch regular TV. You can open up an entire world for your children with streaming content – the key is how you use it.
Most of the big streaming content providers have parental controls, some more robust than others. Netflix allows you to set up separate profiles for you and for your children.
Using these tools, you can ensure that your kids only have access to age-appropriate content. Because Netflix’s children’s menu features a different color scheme than the regular menu, you can easily see whether your kids access the content permitted to them or not. However, this doesn’t stop kids from moving over to your profile, so you still have to be vigilant.
iTunes and Apple TV allows parents to set rating levels for the content their children watch. By contrast, Amazon Prime features no parental controls, so the only thing to do is to logout of your account and not share the password.
All of these tools, however, do not replace having frequent conversations with your children about what they watch.
Monitor TV time by limiting the number of hours they watch per day, incorporating parental settings, talking to your child about the content they watch, and spending TV time as a family.
3. Gaming consoles and online gamesAccording to the NPD group, 91% of American children aged two to 17 play video games. Gaming consoles have long been a focus of fear and concern for many parents. With so many games featuring violent or sexual content, it is important to be careful about the kinds of games your children play.
In addition, console games that have a multiplayer component, or games that are entirely based online, are open to abuse from other players. Many games allow players from all over the world to chat with one another, potentially exposing kids to harassment and cyberbullying. Kids may also form relationships with other players and may give away their personal information.
Games are also a great way for kids to develop a variety of skills. They help children develop problem-solving skills, learn how to commit to long-term goals, and how to work as part of a team. They can also be a great opportunity for family bonding. Luckily, most gaming consoles provide robust parental controls, so parents can monitor their children’s gameplay.
Encourage your children to discuss the games they play. Make sure your child profile is set to private. Consider keeping the gaming console in a shared, social space. Study the age rating of the games. Use parental controls to set up profiles. Limit the type of people your child can speak to online.
4. Social mediaWhile the format has changed, parents have worried about their kids’ TV shows and video games for years. Social media, on the other hand, is a new worry to add to your plate.
Social media usage is now ubiquitous amongst US teens; 71% use more than one social platform. Children nowadays also spend an enormous amount of time on social media. A survey by the non-profit group Common Sense Media showed that 8 to 12 year-olds were online six hours per day, much of it on social platforms, and 13 to 18 year-olds a whopping nine hours!
According to a recent Harvard study, even though most social media platforms require users to be 13 years of age to sign up, 68% of parents surveyed had helped younger children set up an account.
Social media can be particularly addictive for tweens and teens. It also opens the door to a variety of different issues, like cyberbullying, inappropriate sharing, and talking to strangers (more on those below).
Access to social media is also central to teens’ developing social identity. It’s the way that they connect to their friends, and it can be a healthy way to hang out. The key is to figure out some boundaries so that it remains a positive experience.
Enforce a safe environment. Do not let your kids on social media until they’re old enough. Keep the computer in a public location. Limit the amount of time spent on social media. Block location access to all apps. Adjust the privacy settings. Monitor your child’s online activity.
5. CyberbullyingOur children’s lives have moved online. Unfortunately, their bullies have moved online too.
Cyberbullying is frequently in the news, with reports of teen suicides due to online harassment.
Cyberbullying occurs across all of the platforms we have outlined above, and it comes in many forms: spreading rumors and sending threatening messages via social media, texting, or email, pretending to be another child and posting embarrassing material under their name, forwarding private photos without consent, and generally posting online about another child with the intent to humiliate or degrade them.
Cyberbullying is particularly harmful because it is so public. In the past, if a kid was bullied on the playground, perhaps a few of his peers saw. Now, a child’s most private information can be splashed across the internet and is there permanently unless reported and taken down.
Cyberbullying can negatively affect the online reputation not only of the victim, but also of the perpetrator, and have a deep impact on that child’s future, including college admissions and employment.
It is also extremely persistent. If a child is the target of traditional bullying, his or her home is more often than not a place of refuge. Because digital platforms are constantly available, victims of cyberbullying struggle to find any relief.
It’s often very difficult to tell if your child is being bullied online. It happens online, so parents and teachers are less likely to overhear or notice it. Fewer than half of children bullied online tell their parents or another adult what they are going through, according to internet safety organization i-SAFE. In fact, according to a US government survey, 21% of children aged 12 to 18 have experienced bullying, and an estimated 16% were bullied online.
The best way to prevent cyberbullying or to stop it in its tracks is to be aware of your child’s behavior. A number of warning signs may present themselves.
A child who is bullied may shut down their social media account and open a new one. He or she may begin to avoid social situations, even if they enjoyed being social in the past. Victims (and perpetrators) of cyberbullying often hide their screen or device when other people come into their vicinity and become cagey about what they do online. They may become emotionally distressed or withdrawn.
Talk to your child about cyberbullying.
6. Privacy and information securityAs parents, we are most concerned about the effect of the online world on our children’s emotional and physical wellbeing. Children are susceptible to information security threats that can cause financial harm. These are the exact same threats that adults face: malware and viruses, phishing scams, and identity theft.
The issue is children are far less experienced and are generally far more trusting than us cynical adults. To kids, sharing their personal details, like their full name or where they live, may not seem like such a big deal. They may even be tricked by a malicious third party into sharing your credit card details.
There are a number of ways that hackers and thieves can get information out of children. Free downloadable games, movies, or even ringtones that market themselves to children can place viruses onto your computer and steal your information.
Hackers posing as legitimate companies like Google send emails purporting to ask for your child’s password. Or, they may pose as one of your children’s friends.
What should you communicate to your child?
It’s not easy, but eventually, you will need to have a conversation with your children about what they might see online. Many children don’t go to their parents when they see something they perhaps shouldn’t have seen, for fear that their parents will be angry at them, and take away their devices or internet access.
If your child comes to you with this type of issue, the best thing to do is to respond calmly and be open to discussion. If the content under discussion is sexual, your child will likely be embarrassed already, particularly when talking to their parents about these kinds of issues. Let them know you are there for them and are ready to answer any questions without judgment.
Young people may see sexual content online for all kinds of reasons. They may have seen it by mistake, a friend might have sent it to them, or they may have sought it out themselves out of natural curiosity.
It helps a great deal to talk to your kids honestly and frankly about sex, and a discussion about online pornography is a crucial part. A lot of research has shown that pornography can have a detrimental effect on young people, giving them distorted and unhealthy notions about sex. Pornography can also lead people to think of others as objects, rather than people with thoughts and feelings. At the same time, it’s totally normal to be curious about sex and relationships. This conversation is a great opportunity to direct your kids to positive resources about sexuality.
There are also a number of steps you can take to try to prevent your kids from being exposed to content they’re not ready for, like setting up parental controls on your internet connection. Remember, though, that technical fixes can’t replace open communication with your child.
Communicate with your child:
Predators engage in a practice called “grooming”. In other words, they attempt to form a relationship with a child with the intention of latter abusing them.
The internet has made life a lot easier for child predators. Predators target their victims through any and all online mediums: social media, email, text messages, and more. By far the most common method, however, is via an online chatroom: 76% of online encounters with sexual predators begin in a chat room.
Predators often create multiple online identities, posing as children to trick kids into talking to them. They discover as much as they can about the children they are targeting by researching those children through their social media profiles, and what they have posted on chatrooms.
They may contact a number of children at once but tend to concentrate their efforts on the most vulnerable. These predators aren’t satisfied with merely chatting with children online. They frequently trick or coerce their victims into online sexual activity, via webcam or by sending sexual images. They may also attempt to meet and abuse their victims in person.
It’s not always easy to tell if a child is being groomed, particularly because most keep it a secret from their parents. There are a number of warning signs: children who are being groomed by predators may become very secretive because the predator often threatens the child not to share information with their parents or friends. Children can also become sad and withdrawn, distracted, and have sudden mood swings. It is absolutely crucial to let your child know that you are there for them and that they can talk to you about anything.
What should you communicate to your child?
As we’ve repeated over and over in this guide, the key isn’t mastering a set of complicated technical tools. (In fact, most are very easy to set up, so don’t let a lack of technical ability hold you back). It also doesn’t mean you have to master the latest internet fad every time one pops up – believe us, you will never keep up!
The far more important, but also far more difficult task, is to have frequent, open and honest discussions with your children about their lives. Remember, internet companies, social media networks, gaming providers, and everyone else in the online space may be able to help you set content limits, but they don’t necessarily have your child’s best interests at heart.
The very best person to keep your child safe online is you. Talking about how to stay safe on the internet is an excellent conduit to build a trusting and positive relationship with your child.
Internet safety needs to be a priority for every parent and caregiver. If you have found this guide useful, consider sharing it with friends and family via Facebook and Twitter.
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After infidelity is uncovered in your relationship, one of your biggest questions, if you have children, is likely to be, “What do we tell the kids?” No matter how ashamed or defiant or betrayed or aggrieved you feel, you need to think about the impact that cheating and potentially talking about it might have on your kids.
For many parents, the initial reaction is, “We’re not telling the kids anything about this. They’re not involved, and they don’t need to know.” For other parents, especially rightfully angry betrayed partners, the initial thinking might be, “Heck, yes, we’re telling the kids. I want them to know exactly what a horrible SOB you are.”
Neither reaction is especially healthy.
When something is amiss in the home, kids sense it. And because children are naturally self-centric, they assume that somehow the problem (whatever it is) is their fault. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with infidelity or financial problems or addiction or any other adult life issue, your kids will pick up on the stress and emotional pain, and they will know that something is wrong. And unless you make it clear that yes, something is wrong but it’s not their fault, they will blame themselves.
So letting your kids know at least a little bit about what’s happening is not optional; it’s a necessity of good parenting. The question isn’t whether you should tell them, it’s how to best go about it.
What to Say (and Not Say)
First and foremost, your kids don’t need (or want) to know specifics about your sex life, especially if it’s gone awry in some way. Usually, a general statement that one of you crossed a relationship boundary and the other is upset about it is more than sufficient.
NOTE: Anything you say to your kids cannot be unsaid. If you let something fly in the heat of the moment, you might regret that for the rest of your life.
In terms of what to say, I generally offer a slightly amended version of guidelines provided by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. (They’re amended because infidelity and alcoholism are very different issues.) Basically, you need to let your kids know that, yes, something is wrong between mom and dad, and that:
In all cases, I suggest that you agree in advance on what you will tell your children and the language you will use, and that you stick to that script as closely as possible. If you are struggling to agree on what to say and how to say it, seek advice from an experienced couple’s therapist. I also recommend that you speak to your kids together. No matter how angry you are, you need to put your kids first, and presenting a united front in terms of the current situation not being their fault and not being their problem to fix is a must.
No matter what, the information you share with your kids should be age appropriate. If your kids are more than a few years apart in age, you may need to have multiple conversations. If your children are very young, your disclosure might stop with a basic statement that mommy and daddy are mad at each other right now because of something one of them did. Then you can let them know that it’s not their fault, they can’t fix it or control it, and it’s OK for them to talk about their feelings. If you are actively working to heal from this issue, you can tell them that as well.
Older kids may ask questions about the specific nature of the situation and the possibility of divorce. If so, I suggest general but honest responses. If your kids have inadvertently found sexts or porn on the cheater’s laptop or phone, heard rumors about the infidelity at school, or walked in on the cheater in the act, you may need to confirm that, yes, there was infidelity. If so, do not get into specifics, and make sure you use age-appropriate language.
I write articles based on my experience as a therapist or a training or conference attendee. Many of these articles are written by others who are experts in their field and I share their information as resources for others.