By GoodTherapy Staff
In a time when novelty and variety may be especially fashionable, it’s not surprising many people could view the idea of sticking to a routine as passé. However, consistently performing healthy behaviors might be the key not only to a calmer morning, but to improved mental health throughout your day.
Multiple studies have shown that establishing routines filled with healthy habits is a great way to move more efficiently through your day while expending less mental energy and even willpower in the process. A 2015 study on the psychology of habits demonstrated that people may rely more heavily on habits when stressed, suggesting that forming healthy routines could help people maintain physical, emotional, and mental health during stressful times.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE IN THE MORNING?
When building your morning routine, it’s important to consider how much time you have. Even if you only have 20 minutes to spare each morning, you can use that time to promote good mental health.
If you have a very limited amount of time in the morning, try identifying your biggest pain points or stressors as you move through your morning rather than seeking to cram a variety of activities and tasks into a small window of time. Then consider how forming a habit could help you mitigate those pain points. For instance, someone who routinely doesn’t have time for breakfast might plan and prepare their meals ahead of time so that a healthy option is always available to grab on their way out the door.
Having somewhere to be first thing in the morning doesn’t have to mean limited time for a morning routine. If you are a morning person or prefer to rise at an earlier hour than most, you may have more time to dedicate to a morning routine.
Those who have close to an hour or longer to dedicate to a morning routine might take a different route when choosing which habits will best support their well-being throughout the rest of the day. Someone might decide to dedicate more time to a physical activity and go for a walk or run, take an exercise class, or practice yoga. Spending more time on meditation, planning the rest of the day, or preparing a healthful meal might also be easier to accommodate with this schedule.
11 BUILDING BLOCKS OF A MORNING ROUTINE FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Morning routines can vary depending on individual needs. What works for one person may be burdensome for another. Explore the building blocks of mental health friendly morning routines below and start thinking about what elements you could incorporate into your morning to enhance your well-being throughout the day.
1. Prepare: You’ve likely heard it before, but a successful morning routine is only as strong as the bedtime routine that came before it. Which aspects of your bedtime routine should you use to ensure the success of your morning routine? Try preparing what you’ll need, such as coffee, meals, or an outfit, the night before. Making sure your keys, bag, and other essentials are near the door, especially if you need to leave home first thing in the morning, can also help reduce stress and chaos.
A solid bedtime strategy often comes together with good sleep hygiene, and good sleep hygiene can help you get a more refreshing night of rest. Quality sleep, meanwhile, can help minimize symptoms of mental health issues like anxiety and even psychosis (while lack of sleep may exacerbate these symptoms), so your morning routine may only support your mental health to the extent that you slept well that night.
2. Let light in: Exposure to bright light first thing in the morning increases feelings of wakefulness. To clear away morning grogginess, try turning on a lamp or your bedroom lights, or take in some sunlight within the first 5 to 10 minutes of waking up in the morning.
Those who live in higher latitudes (father away from the equator) will experience more seasonal darkness. Individuals who live farther away from the equator have been shown to experience higher rates of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and sleep issues have been identified as a key factor in SAD. A morning routine may help individuals who experience more hours of darkness continue to feel awake each morning, even if the sun has not yet risen.
For those who routinely wake up before the sun has risen, blue light has been proven to help people feel awake in the morning. Using the right kind of light first thing in the morning could help decrease morning drowsiness and increase alertness more quickly.
3. Make your bed: It takes minutes to make a bed, but bed making is still a task which many people neglect. If aren’t currently in the habit of tidying up your bed each morning, you might want to reconsider. Surveys by Hunch.com and Sleepopolis have shown that the habit of making one’s bed are positively correlated with better sleep and an overall happier mood.
Now are people who are already happier and get better sleep also more likely to make their bed in the morning? Perhaps. But some experts argue that making one’s bed first thing in the morning is an effective way to boost your self-esteem. By completing a task first thing, you’ve boosted your own confidence in your ability to set things in order and may be more likely to continue that trend throughout the day.
4. Hydrate: According to a study published in Nutrition Reviews, dehydration can negatively impact cognitive function. As most of us wake up a little dehydrated after a night’s sleep, rehydrating first thing in the morning can help improve cognition. Dehydration has also been linked to fatigue as well as symptoms of low mood, including irritability and confusion.
While adequate hydration alone probably won’t cure mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, chronic dehydration also isn’t likely to make those conditions any easier to handle. Drinking water is a good way to hand yourself the energy to deal with the symptoms that come with many mental health issues.
5. Nourish: When asked what might be one of the best things someone could do for their mental health first thing in the morning, licensed mental health counselor Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM recommends getting something to eat. “Eating something within an hour or so of rising brings your blood sugar level up and prevents crankiness. You’ve been fasting all night. Eating something, especially something with complex carbs, fat and protein, will not only improve your mood, but will give you an energy boost to carry you through your morning activities,” she explains. “Never underestimate the power of a balanced blood sugar level throughout the day to help manage your mood.”
Many studies back this claim. A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that those who ate breakfast daily were less depressed than the control group who did not eat breakfast every day. Those who ate breakfast also reported lower levels of stress. Another study found a link between the regular consumption of breakfast cereal and lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
Research also continues to tell us that while breakfast is an important meal, what’s more important may be what it’s made of. Boost the benefits of eating breakfast by incorporating some protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Nuts, yogurt, and eggs have been shown to support mental health in those who experience anxiety, for example.
6. Write down what you’re grateful for: Research shows that gratitude can increase an individual’s happiness, improve relationships, and enhance one’s sense of well-being. A study described in the University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine demonstrated that even dedicating a short amount of time to gratitude each day can help improve symptoms for those who experience mental health issues.
To start your day off with a grateful mindset, try writing down three things you’re grateful for, and keep them present in your mind as you start your day. Even when you keep your list private, studies suggest you’re very likely to benefit from the practice of fostering gratitude.
7. Motivate: Motivation plays a science-backed role in reducing sleepiness and promoting wakefulness. When motivation is hard to come by, getting out of bed can be difficult. If you routinely struggle with the will to get out of bed first thing in the morning (and you’re already getting adequate sleep), consider adding something to your routine that adds a spark of joy and motivation—something that helps pull you out of bed and boost your mood. This could be anything from an activity you enjoy, such as walking a dog, to a new type of coffee you’re excited to try.
Some individuals with depression may experience diurnal mood variation, also known as morning depression. This depression symptom can, in many cases, make it incredibly difficult to get out of bed in the morning. If you think depression may be preventing you from summoning the motivation to get out of bed in the morning, it may be time to talk to a mental health professional.
8. Avoid technology: While technology can be used strategically to enhance a person’s mood and mental health, smartphone use in particular can easily become a compulsive behavior that erodes rather than fortifies mental well-being. Research has found that problematic smartphone use is linked to increased anxiety and depression.
Consider avoiding or cutting down on the time you spend looking at a smartphone screen first thing in the morning. Doing so may help increase your mental clarity and sense of purpose for the day while shielding you from information about news stories, politics, or social media drama, which can often contribute to a low mood.
9. Meditate: Morning meditation can help you center yourself for the rest of the day and has many proven mental health benefits. Even 15 minutes of daily meditation can produce the same stress-relieving effects in the body as taking a vacation. Meditation has also been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and even pain.
If you have time, try a 5 to 15-minute meditation as one of your first morning activities. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. Set a timer for the time you have to meditate that day. Then meditate. One popular way to meditate is to close your eyes and focus on the present and on your breaths. Many people also use guided meditations to get started.
10. Make a list: Writing a to-do list at the beginning of your day can help you plan what you need to get done and more effectively organize and execute the tasks on your list. Often, we have so much to do that we can’t hold it in our minds all at once, and the idea of forgetting an obligation can be anxiety-inducing. Take a couple minutes to jot down your goals for the day, and you won’t need to worry about forgetting to do anything on the list!
List-writing works by reducing chaos and lending structure to your day, as well as support for your memory. To write an effective list, start with your top objectives for the day. Keep it small, realistic, and focused–monitor negative talk and watch out for tasks that aren’t necessary or contribute to distraction. Organize yourself around your values and goals and seek to channel your best “you.”
11. Physical activity: For those with busy schedules, getting moving first thing in the morning is one good way to make sure they get exercise that day. As exercise is proven to have a positive effect on mood and can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, it’s something to consider prioritizing. While your physical activity can include a morning run, it doesn’t have to. If you’re short on time, even stretching and some jumping-jacks can give you a chance to get your blood flowing.
Exercise releases endorphins, which can help reduce stress and anxiety; in the morning, this can contribute to a sense of calm that helps guide the first part of your day.
Whether you have 5 spare minutes or multiple hours each morning, a routine can help individuals set themselves up for better mental health throughout the day. Choose morning activities that allow you to work with rather than against yourself. And if you find you’re struggling with mental health symptoms that interfere with your well-being and daily activities, reach out to a licensed and compassionate mental health professional.
© Copyright 2019 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
Original Article: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/11-tips-for-a-morning-routine-that-supports-mental-health-1022197
When the days get shorter, the sun shines lower in the sky, and the weather gets colder, people often experience a drop in mood. For some, the change is serious: They have difficulty getting up in the morning and feel lethargic much of the day. They crave sunlight and certain foods, and have to fight the urge to burrow under the covers until spring comes.
These are all symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is seasonal mood disorder that usually erupts in October and November, when the days become shorter, and typically remits when spring approaches. SAD can look and feel much like depression, but it has a seasonal pattern—usually beginning and ending with fall and spring, and tending to happen similarly in consecutive years.
Here are 10 common symptoms of SAD:
1. Try light therapy.
SAD is fundamentally about a lack of light (and not the lower temperature). You should prioritize getting outside on sunny days as much as you can. But aside from that, light boxes, lamps, and visors can provide up to 10,000 LUX of light, functioning as a "sun replacement." Light therapy has been shown to be very effective for treating SAD. Be sure to get your device from a reputable company and to follow the "dosing" guidelines.
2. Maintain a steady sleep schedule.
Since SAD often induces sleep disturbances and disturbances in circadian rhythms, it is important to maintain a relatively strict sleeping schedule.
3. Spend time outdoors.
SAD can make you want to hibernate and lock yourself indoors until spring. Spending time outdoors and in nature combats this desire and restores mood and energy levels.
4. Go on vacation (as therapy).
Winter vacations to sunny climates can be an important way to alleviate the symptoms of SAD and break up the long winter. (Plus, it’s easier to justify a vacation if it counts as therapy, too.)
5. Eat a balanced diet.
Craving carbs can make you gain weight, which itself can contribute to a bad mood and negative outlook. Try to find a balance between indulging your craving for carbs and eating sufficient amounts of protein and vegetables, while not going over your normal caloric intake. It is natural to gain a few pounds over the winter but the only way to make sure it doesn’t become more than that is to be mindful of your food intake.
Many people who suffer from SAD take antidepressants seasonally, starting in the fall and then weaning off of them in the spring. If you think you could benefit from antidepressants, make an appointment with a psychiatrist or your primary-care physician.
By Fabiana Franco, PhD
Posttraumatic stress (PTSD) and complex posttraumatic stress (C-PTSD) are related but distinct from each other. C-PTSD is thought to be an enhanced version of PTSD. C-PTSD is, in turn, related to borderline personality (BPD).
ONGOING INTERPERSONAL TRAUMA AND C-PTSDPTSD is usually caused by a single traumatic event (or a series of traumatic events) that result in a real or imagined threat to one’s life or bodily integrity. Events that could cause PTSD include exposure to war, a terrorist attack, physical or sexual assault, or even the threat of such attacks. C-PTSD is different in that it’s typically caused by ongoing trauma which is often interpersonal in nature. C-PTSD tends to be associated with continued trauma that occurs at a young age. Children who grow up in neglectful or abusive environments may go on to develop C-PTSD (Giourou et al., 2018).
BORDERLINE PERSONALITY AND ONGOING INTERPERSONAL TRAUMABorderline personality is also connected to ongoing interpersonal trauma during childhood. Researchers have linked exposure to chronic fear and stress as a child, as well as suffering from physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse as a child, to the development of BPD. Growing up with a parent who had a serious mental health issue is also a risk factor for the development of BPD.
BPD and C-PTSD share an association with maltreatment in childhood, and up to 71% of individuals who experience BPD report severe abuse in childhood.
BPD is a serious issue characterized by a constellation of emotional, social, cognitive, and behavioral dysregulation. The most notable features of BPD are difficulty managing emotions, impulsivity, identity problems, and dysfunctional interpersonal relationships (Hecht, Cicchetti, Rogosch, & Crick, 2014).
COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF C-PTSD AND BPDBPD and C-PTSD share an association with maltreatment in childhood, and up to 71% of individuals who experience BPD report severe abuse in childhood. BPD and C-PTSD also share symptoms. Overlapping symptoms relate to the areas of emotion processing and regulation, security in relationships, and self-concept (Ford & Courtois, 2014).
Some common symptoms of BPD and C-PTSD include:
Emotion processing and regulation difficultiesPeople with BPD and C-PTSD are known to have difficulties managing and regulating emotions. When experiencing uncomfortable emotions such as anger, fear, or sadness, the person may have difficulty controlling the intensity and duration of the emotion. It can be very hard to “let things go” and return to a neutral or uplifted mood once they’ve been thrown off balance.
Relationship issuesThose with BPD and C-PTSD often have relationship issues. Relationships may be unstable, insecure, and can often be traumatic or stressful for one or both partners. We start learning how relationships work in childhood. If our caregivers in childhood were neglectful or abusive, we tend to carry these learned perceptions of ourselves, such as “I’m bad, worthless, or not worthy of support,” into our adult relationships, as well as lessons about relationships, such as “They are unpredictable, unreliable, and sometimes dangerous.”
Individuals with BPD may have an especially difficult time trusting and relating to others. It is thought that because they may not have experienced empathy from their primary caregivers during childhood, they have developed limited abilities to see past their own emotional responses and understand how others may be feeling.
Adults with C-PTSD may also have difficulty with empathy and relationships, although it depends on the nature of the trauma and whether they had access to at least one caring adult during their childhood. We are all unique, and how we develop and respond to early trauma is variable and can depend on many different factors within the environment and the individual.
Self-conceptBPD and C-PTSD are both associated with impulsive behaviors and dissociation. People may behave in ways that are self-destructive and reckless. Unsafe sex, abuse of drugs and alcohol, and disregard for one’s own safety can occur.
Dissociation is highly prevalent in BPD, and it’s known to occur in PTSD as well (Krause-Utz & Elzinga, 2018). Dissociation can result in a feeling of being disconnected from oneself and the world. Especially during times where stress levels are high, dissociation can act as a defense mechanism where the sufferer feels detached from themselves and what’s happening around them. In certain cases, amnesia may result, as well as a feeling of “lost time.” Identity confusion can also occur, and the person may feel as though they don’t have a strong sense of self or that their identity seems to shift depending on the circumstances and the environment they find themselves in.
High levels of worry, sadness, and shameBorderline personality and C-PTSD are associated with high levels of general distress. Many feel isolated and empty, as a significant portion of their symptoms can affect their relationships and connection with others. They may have high levels of shame and sometimes experience a feeling that they have been permanently damaged. This can lead to the desire to withdraw from others, as relationships are often a source of stress, insecurity, and/or conflict.
WHAT IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS OF BOTH C-PTSD AND BPD?Complex posttraumatic stress and BPD require treatment and support. If you are experiencing symptoms of C-PTSD and BPD, it can help to first receive an accurate assessment and diagnosis. It is important to understand that nobody is permanently damaged, and there are treatment approaches that have demonstrated effectiveness for both C-PTSD and BPD.
Therapy can help you develop strategies and techniques that allow you to better cope with stress and manage difficult emotions. Ongoing support from a therapist who understands what you are experiencing and where your feelings and symptoms are coming from can be enormously helpful for your healing journey. Find a therapist near me.
If you are struggling, it is important to reach out and take advantage of the support and options available. With treatment, you can not only feel better, but also avoid the negative consequences of behavioral and emotional symptoms. Feeling better and coping with stress can improve other areas of your life as well, such as how you function in professional and personal relationships.
© Copyright 2019 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Fabiana Franco, PhD, therapist in New York City, New York
By Tori S. July 20, 2017
For the longest time, I wasn’t sure why I did certain things. Even while writing this, I came to huge realizations about how much my feelings, beliefs and actions are tied to my past.
Here are the things I do because I experienced emotional abuse as a child:
1. I don’t guess.
If someone asks me a question and I am not 99 to 100 percent sure I know the answer, I won’t guess the answer. I will freeze and panic.
2. I am terrified of being wrong.
Being wrong feels like a character flaw, like something is seriously wrong with me. I feel humiliated, embarrassed and mortified even if it was just something minor. This makes participating in classes nearly impossible and laces so many of my conversations with anxiety and panic.
3. I feel toxic.
I constantly worry I am hurting people. I push people away just to protect them from my toxicity.
4. I am afraid to share my feelings.
This is for so many reasons… I’m scared I shouldn’t feel a certain way. I’m scared I will be ridiculed or criticized for feeling that way. I’m afraid of being told to “Just get over it” or “Grow up and move on.” I’m afraid of being vulnerable. I’m afraid of being shot down and rejected.
5. I am constantly aware of all of my feelings and reactions.
Part of this is a way I cope with my borderline personality disorder (BPD). But another part of it is that I worry my feelings are overreactions or not justified or are just not OK to have. My family often told me I was overreacting or that I couldn’t take a joke. So I began to worry and apply this to all relationships in my life. As a child, my feelings were neglected and shoved aside. They were made to feel “less than” and unimportant. They were made to seem like burdens. If I felt something different from what the rest of my family was feeling, I would be told I was wrong or needed to just move on and forgive like everybody else had.
6. I feel people out on certain subjects before straight away saying things.
If I am going to be vulnerable and tell someone something personal, I will sort of “test the waters,” if you will. I will try my best to make sure they won’t freak out at me. This also applies to if I’m going to ask someone to hang out. I try to get a sense of if they’re going to be free or say, “yes” before I ask because it is a sort of buffer on what would feel like rejection if they said no.
7. I’m terrified of abandonment, and I think everyone will abandon me.
This stems from the abandonment that actually did happen when I was a child, as well as all the threats of abandonment from my father. I still remember the time when he threatened to take the house away when he was drunk and the time he said he’d leave us because we were better off without him. There were so many more instances, but those two have really stuck with me.
8. I feel unworthy.
My parents never told me they were proud of me when I was younger. It felt like all my friends’ parents told them how proud they were for their good grades and whatnot… but my parents never did. It was merely expected of me. I was never as good as my brother. I never felt worthy of their love or praise, and I never really got their love or praise.
9. I’m afraid of calling it abuse.
All of my feelings were minimized. Even when my father was verbally abusing me, my mother told me I needed to just forgive him because she did and my brother did. They had moved on. I always felt like I was overreacting because I was always told to just calm down, to breathe, to “take a chill pill” — basically, anything to just shove my feelings and reactions away like they wanted me to.
So, for me to call it abuse was a huge step for me because I felt so minimized and was so scared someone would think I was just making a bigger deal out of what happened. Also, I had only heard of physical or sexual abuse being called abuse at that point. I hadn’t heard anybody speak about emotional abuse or verbal abuse or psychological abuse — all of which, once I learned of them, fit my childhood perfectly.
10. I perceive rejection even when I am being validated and accepted.
I am more open to being criticized and rejected because I was criticized and rejected for most of my childhood. I was never validated or accepted growing up, so to receive that now is both wonderful and entirely foreign to me. I also am very sensitive to everything a person says or does — so if they are validating me, but use a specific word or their tone changes even slightly or they glance to the left, I will feel like they are rejecting me or something of the like.
11. I’m sensitive to change.
I hate change. Even small things like someone I see often wearing a short sleeved shirt now that spring is here instead of the long-sleeved shirts they were wearing before. That triggers me to feel unsafe.
12. I feel emotionally unsafe a lot.
I am constantly terrified of being hurt. I always try to prepare myself for the worst… for everybody leaving me or hating me or needing space. I am hyper-aware of all of these things. I don’t feel safe emotionally with people or with myself.
13. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere.
I spent so many years at home and during family vacations thinking to myself, I just don’t belong. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong with my family. I don’t belong anywhere. I just don’t belong.
It’s hard to feel like I belong when I always felt like the outcast in my family. I was different. I was more emotionally sensitive. I felt things to an even higher intensity. I was more attuned to emotions (both my own and the emotions of others). I didn’t like the same things. I didn’t make the same crude jokes. I was always made to feel like the odd person out. Like the reject. The “screw up.” And being verbally abused made me feel like I didn’t belong as well.
14. I feel like something is seriously wrong with me.
Whenever I expressed a feeling or a thought that was different from the rest of my family’s, I was berated. I was called out on that. I was cursed at or laughed at or humiliated. I was told to change to be like the rest of them because they were the “normal” ones. And for me to feel and think all that I did and do seemed to make me defective, was really hard on me.
15. I have flashbacks.
When a situation in the present too closely resembles something that happened in my past, I will have flashbacks. When I smell something that reminds me of a place or a person, I’ll be transported back to that place. When an abandonment happens in the present that resembles the abandonments in my past, I’ll start spiraling backward. When someone is mean or yelling or cursing or too loud, I will flash back to instances when this happened. When I smell alcohol, I will flash back to instances when my father was drunk and verbally abusive. Sometimes, I won’t even know what triggered a flashback. And other times, I won’t know what memory I am flashing back to — sometimes, I flash back to feelings I know are associated with memories and places, but I can’t quite place the memory.
I am hypersensitive to triggers when I am going through intense emotional stress in my present. So, I will often have flashback after flashback and just get lost in memories of abuse.
16. I “buffer” things I say.
For instance, I may ask someone something, but then make sure to say, “But it’s totally OK if you don’t want to or you can’t or anything like that! No worries at all!” Even if it doesn’t feel OK and it does matter, I’ll still say that to protect myself.
17. I worry I’m being manipulative.
My mother, father and brother took it upon themselves to talk about how manipulative I am… how everything I did was merely my antics. My family basically told me I am a manipulative person who will do anything to get what she wants. So now, I am hyper-aware and think about everything I feel, think and do to make sure it isn’t me manipulating. And when I don’t trust myself, I’ll check in with a couple of people to see if they believe a certain action or thought is manipulative.
There are days when I fear everything I’m doing is manipulative. And, if I end up “getting what I want,” I will worry that it was only because I manipulated the other person into giving it to me — even if that isn’t the case. It’s exhausting, but I’m finally realizing why I worry about this so much.
18. I worry people actually hate me, even if they say they don’t.
My family had these “secret” email chats behind my back… they’d email all about the problems of Tori. The frustrations Tori caused. The issues Tori caused. Their reactions to me. Their judgments. Their criticisms.
Being a curious kid, I managed to stumble across some of those emails, and in them, I was called a “monster,” “manipulative,” “fat,” “self-centered” and “only thinking about herself.” They warned each other to not give in to or fall for my antics. Basically, nothing I was feeling or doing or saying was real or valid to them. I was only seeking attention in their eyes. This made me want to hide even more to avoid their family email conversations about me. They warned each other to not become like me. So, I worry people will talk about me behind my back, that they secretively hate me or are secretively judging me… and I am so insecure.
19. I don’t trust myself, my thoughts, my feelings or my memories.
My family often had different interpretations of events. They also perceived things differently than me. I was in my prime developmental age when my world fell apart. So I reacted very differently than the rest of my family. The verbal, emotional and psychological abuse were interwoven into my brain as I was developing. My family invalidated my feelings, my thoughts, my beliefs.
20. I need constant validation.
But I worry asking for this validation will push people away, so I only ask for it if I’ve gotten to know someone for many many years and even then, I am cautious.
21. I feel the need to justify my feelings with an explanation.
This probably comes from needing to defend myself against the onslaught of hurt that would come when I voiced a feeling that differed from the majority consensus of my family.
22. I apologize and feel guilty a lot.
I apologize even when I’ve done nothing wrong. I apologize for the actions of other people. I apologize when I feel like I’ve done something to hurt somebody else. I apologize, and I don’t always know why I am apologizing, but I know I truly do mean my apology. I actually feel incredibly sorry and remorseful and guilty.
I feel guilty even if I haven’t done anything. I even feel guilty if someone else I’ve never met hurt this other person I’ve never met — I still feel guilty. I was always blamed as a child. Things were always my fault. But I am also extremely empathetic and feel other people’s pain as though it is my own.
These are just some of the things I’ve realized I do because of my childhood emotional abuse. I find I blame myself less for doing these things because I now know they aren’t my fault — and they aren’t flaws. They are there for a reason, and if I am aware of that reason, then I can work on them. I am learning to be more aware of them and to have more control over them, but they will always be part of me and affect me because of the emotional abuse I experienced as a child.
If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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by Tiffany Schupanitz, LMHC
Have you ever done something that causes guilt? What do you do about that feeling?
Guilt is a normal human emotion. It motivates us to apologize and change behavior for the future. But what happens when that guilt is misplaced or inappropriate for the situation. Often we can feel guilty for situations in which we have no control. This guilt can quickly turn to shame. Shame begins to shift the focus on the self, thus leading to feelings of self-loathing and helplessness.
When shame is present, thoughts shift to thinking of the self as inherently bad instead of thinking the behavior as bad. If we view the behavior as bad, then we can take responsibility and change the behavior. If we think of the self as bad, then we begin to blame others or hide our shameful parts. This impedes healing and growth.
Therapy can help do sift through feelings of shame versus guilt to gain a more healthy and appropriate perspective. It is possible to shift the thinking from “I am bad” to “I am good, regardless.” Through Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, you can work with a therapist to reprocess memories that feed in to feelings of shame to fully heal and connect to a more fitting and true message. Consider taking the first step towards healing today.
What Makes a Child Shy? What research tells us about the biology (and parenting) of shy kids. Vanessa LoBue, Ph.D
social anxiety when I’m around new people or when I’m in large professional settings, like academic conferences, where meeting new people is the whole point. My 3-year-old son could not be more different. He is outgoing, loves new people, and seems to make new friends every time we go to the park or even out to eat. The first thing he does when we sit down at a restaurant is scope out the people around us, saying hello and smiling his inviting smile at each one of them.
What makes a person shy or outgoing? Is shyness something that we’re born with, or is it something we develop based on our experiences with other people?
Source: Kristoffer Abildgaard/FlickrA long history of research suggests that temperament—or a person’s own style of emotional responding to the environment—can be first identified in infants as young as 4 months of age. It is measured by showing infants some simple toys, like a mobile with several hanging animals, and studying how they react. This simple test at 4 months has shown quite consistently that babies who become overwhelmed or emotionally distressed in response to a hanging mobile are the ones most likely to become shy as they get older (Kagan, 1997). These babies are particularly sensitive to any type of change in the environment and may get easily upset by even the most routine of activities, like a doorbell ringing or a diaper change. In contrast, babies that react positively to these changes, or don’t react at all, are the ones most likely to become very social as preschool-aged children.
Amazingly, this relationship goes beyond early childhood, and babies’ responses to the mobile at 4 months of age predict how shy or social they will be into adolescence (Kagan, Snidman, Kahn, Towsley, Steinberg, and Fox, 2007). Differences between shy and outgoing preschool children can even be seen in their biology and in the brain (Barker, Reeb-Sutherland, and Fox, 2014; Fox et al., 1995), suggesting that shyness has a strong biological basis and might be part of an individual’s personality from very early in life.
Does this mean that the environment plays no role in producing shyness? And is shyness anything to be concerned about in the first place?
Just because temperament has a biological basis doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone. A child’s temperament can change, and babies’ negative reactions to new people, objects, and situations can become less extreme over time. On top of that, there’s nothing wrong with being a little shy. Many children have a temperament described as “slow to warm up,” and just need some time to adjust to their surroundings before they are ready to jump in and join the fun (Thomas, Chess, and Birch, 1970). It is, however, worth noting that there is a subset of infants, about 10-15%, who are sensitive in the extreme. These are the ones most at risk for the development of shyness, and a portion of them (about 40%) might even go on to develop social anxiety later in life (Fox and Helfinstein, 2013).
So if you have an extremely sensitive child who doesn’t warm up to even familiar people and places after some time, there are interventions available to help prevent them from developing social anxiety problems. On top of that, a supportive parenting style can really help. For example, research has shown that a baby’s risk for becoming shy decreases significantly when they have mothers that are sensitive and respond appropriately to the child’s needs. So even for babies who get easily upset when presented with new or challenging situations, having a parent that is responsive to the baby’s needs can act as a buffer against the development of shyness or social anxiety (Panela, Henderson, Hane, Ghera, and Fox, 2012).
Similarly, parenting can play a role in how shy versus outgoing children develop a sense of morality or conscience during childhood. For example, children who are shy, or apt to feeling anxious are likely to become upset easily when they are reprimanded for breaking the rules. As a result, they really only need (and respond well to) gentle forms of discipline, since they are easily made to feel guilty for their transgressions. Children who are much more outgoing or fearless don’t always respond to gentle discipline and require a bit more attention when they break the rules since they don’t easily feel anxious on their own (Kochanska, 1997).
Altogether, this research suggests that the seeds that grow a shy or outgoing personality are planted early in life, and have a strong biological basis. But, anatomy isn’t destiny, and if you have a baby that is really sensitive to any type of change in the environment, equally sensitive parenting that allows the child to adjust to new things at their own pace might help them from developing later fear or anxiety in social situations. And although shyness does have a strong biological basis, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have two children who have exactly the same temperament. You might very well have a shy, anxious child, followed by a rambunctious, fearless one. If that’s the case, it’s important to remember that adjusting your parenting style to fit a child’s needs is important, and what works for one temperament might not work as well for the next.
September 18, 2019 • By Cedar Barstow, MEd, CHT
Just process your mistakes into learning: it sounds simple and obvious. Why would we not want to learn from our mistakes? But as easy as it is to say, resistance can come from some interesting places, and we may not always be aware of it.
For example, when feeling ashamed, you might become convinced there is something irreparably bad about you and lose your ability to connect with others. When that happens, it makes sense that you might try your best to keep a mistake secret and hidden.
When you want very much to be helpful and kind to others, you may make yourself less prone to noticing a mistake, a misunderstanding, or even unintentional harm. When you’re not feeling self-confident or empowered, you may react defensively to criticism or challenging feedback. Generally, when people feel like a mistake is a bad reflection on them, they won’t admit it.
Our very human feeling is that we don’t want to cause harm, and we are afraid of making mistakes. We imagine that we lose power, control, and respect if we do unintentionally cause harm.
Our very human feeling is that we don’t want to cause harm, and we are afraid of making mistakes. We imagine that we lose power, control, and respect if we do unintentionally cause harm.
LEARNING TO MAKE MISTAKES:
In my early thirties, I got a job as a carpenter. In the beginning, I was the “go-fer,” wearing new baby blue overalls and eating from a lunchbox from the television show The Waltons. Barney, the company owner, enjoyed teaching carpentry skills and hired minority workers. I was a minority individual as a woman in the 80s. I loved the job and stayed on, but I had to go through quite a learning process that was slowed down by my fear of making mistakes.
I would measure for lumber cuts four and five times before making the cut and would ask Barney for instructions several times. I would measure the distance between nails before hammering them in. You get the idea. I was slow.
One day, Barney said, “You know, the sign of a good carpenter is not one who never makes mistakes, but one who knows how to fix them.” It took months to learn that lesson. Here’s what I noticed: As I let go of fear, I became more skillful. The electric saw became an extension of my hand rather than a difficult, loud tool. As I relaxed, I worked more quickly and easily, and I even made mistakes.
Because I had learned that I could fix mistakes, I could cut another piece of wood and use the one that was too short for something else. Drywall mud can cover imperfect looking cuts. I discovered that fixing a mistake can be quite creative and even produce something better.
PROCESS MISTAKES INTO LEARNING:
Later, as a psychotherapist, I had to apply the same lesson. One sign of a good psychotherapist is not one who never makes mistakes, but one who knows how to track for relationship trouble and then resolve and repair it. Over time and through experience, I relaxed my terror of unintentionally causing harm and developed confidence in my ability to see or feel that my impact was different than my intention. This allowed me to be able to pause, get curious, check in with my client, attend to repair, and in the end, learn something that I could use in the future.
For a simple example, I suggested at the very end of one session that a new client do a little journal writing about the issue she brought up. In this case, I wasn’t aware of a problem until her next session, when she walked in very mad at me saying that I was just like all the other therapists, with an automatic order for journal writing to solve every problem. I paused, acknowledged her anger, and then thanked her for letting me know something about her—that she hates journaling.
I agreed never to suggest that she journal again. I could have gotten defensively caught in trying to explain that I had never ordered journaling, just suggested it, but that would not have restored our connection. My takeaway learning was a reminder that my influence (suggestion heard as an order) in my role as a therapist is stronger than if I were a friend.
You have probably practiced this in your own life in small ways without realizing it. In a romantic relationship, you may have learned that when someone is upset, you ask if what’s needed is sympathy or help with a solution. Maybe you have learned that it is better to ask for something to change instead of talking about what isn’t working. Starting with small situations that might have less of a shame reaction or big impact on your life could help you create a consistent practice. Even small actions in a relationship can have big results.
TIPS FOR TURNING MISTAKES INTO LEARNING EXPERIENCES:
Here are several pointers for processing mistakes into learning:
Try this power-positive activity:
A. Think back over a mistake you made—either a big one or a little one—that you still feel bad about.
Then follow these steps privately:
Practice sharing your vulnerability; this can help solidify your learning as well as create a habit of embracing the learning process. Your friend may also be able to bring up other curiosities or observations that help you move away from shame. We are often better at seeing each other’s strengths than our own and can tend to be kinder to each other than to ourselves.
C. Ask someone with whom you have a lingering regret to meet with you.
© Copyright 2019 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
Original Article: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/so-youve-made-a-mistake-where-do-you-go-from-here-0918194
What should you be doing that you aren’t?
Most of us are raised with an internal “code of ethics” or “emotional barometer” that reminds us that we live up to our promises and complete our tasks on time. We all seem to live on a very tight schedule, so when we are spending time doing what we’d “rather,” guilt creeps in and reminds us that we’re not doing what we “should.” Sometimes the “shoulds” are things that other people are telling us we should be doing, or even things that we just imagine that other people are thinking. We can create a lot of inner turmoil all by ourselves, without even realizing that only we know what we, ourselves, “should” be doing.
Let Go of Nagging Self-Doubts
When we spin our wheels or go in circles wondering about what we “should” be doing, we are clearly not making any progress moving forward in our lives.
When it comes down to it, no one is inside your head, but you. No one is living your life, but you. There’s no reason to give away ownership of your decisions to what “anonymous others” think you should be doing with your life
You Really Don’t Have to “Do It All” and “Do It Well”
Many of us think we have to do it all. It’s really our culture, today, to make us think that we’re not doing everything we should be doing, from 24/7 news cycles to email to text to social media such as constantly rolling Twitter feeds and Facebook and Instagram “life boasting” feeds.
One big problem is FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. When we see the awesomely fulfilling or exciting or heartwarming activities of others everywhere we look, it’s easy to feel that our own lives are somehow lacking; although we actually may be staying super busy and accomplishing a lot of the normal, routine things that actually bring us satisfaction and joy.
What is most important in quelling the “shoulds” that play in your own head is taking a little bit of time to reflect on what is truly important to you, personally, in your life. Make a list of all the things that you feel have personal and intrinsic value to you. Maybe it’s a clean home, maybe it’s a hot meal on the table every night, maybe it’s annual vacations to amusement parks with the kids, maybe it’s keeping up with your favorite TV show, maybe it’s a weekly night out with your friends or a date night with your significant other. Once you make a list of what you truly value, then you’ve created the only list of “should” that should ever really matter.
Tips for Giving Up Shoulds
Maybe I “should have been a lawyer,” but going to law school just wasn’t a priority.
Maybe I “should keep my house cleaner,” but spending time with my kids is my priority.
Maybe I “should make my own holiday gifts, but my priority is making time to do the things that I value most and holidays are about spending time with people I love.”
How Do We Defuse the Shoulds that Play Through Our Heads?
Remember, you do not have to seek approval from absolutely everyone who knows you for your life choices; when we constantly try to please other people and do what they think we should do, we are taking away our own power to do what we know is right for us.
Have confidence in yourself and give yourself time to reflect on what you value—lifestyle, goals, accomplishments, experiences. The things that make you happy, that allow you to live the life you want, and to have your world filled with the people (family, friends, etc.) and things you value are the things that you want on your priority list. Life is short and there are so many choices out there and so many examples of how people might live, don’t let trying to live someone else’s life get in the way of living the life that brings you satisfaction and contentment.
Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., is a licensed counselor and professor at Northern Illinois University.
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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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.