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Parenting in the Twenty First Century

Parenting in the Twenty First Century

Growing up in America has taken on a new dimension in the recent decades. Children are exposed to many more “truths” than they were in the baby boomer generation. Our generation hid the adult issues, talking in whispers when the children were around or sending them out to play when adults needed to talk. The old adage: Children need to be seen and not heard, was largely touted as the way to raise children. The advent of the 24 hour news cycle and the internet, however, opened up a world of wonder, knowledge and violence for everyone, including children. Exposure to this information came with a price for the American family.

When there is a spotlight placed on American Children, it is often directed at the disrespectful children or the disruptive, dis-regulated youth. Many say that bad parenting is responsible for the increase in juvenile delinquency, gangs and the general disrespect among our young children. Although it is never a bad idea to reflect on our parenting, the changes in society and the increase in technology play an important role as well. This is not a judgment, but an observation.

We now know, due to a new body of research, that children respond to their parent’s emotions at a younger age than we ever thought possible. We also now know that social emotional development is central to positive outcomes and learning. When children are exposed to information they can’t process due to their developmental level,( or delay), but are aware of their parent’s stress, they respond by either withdrawing or reacting. Social emotional development, especially empathy is as a crucial a learning skill as is problem solving. John Gottman author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child reminds us to create an “empathy reflex”: “Your fist response to any emotional situation.” Gottman further states that you should employ two simple steps,” Describe the emotional changes you think you see, and make a guess as to where these emotional changes came from.” Instead of reacting to the emotional situation, allow yourself time to reflect on it, and respond to what you think is happening. If you do this out loud your child will understand that you are aware of their emotions and that you want to help. By stating the emotion, you are “coaching” the child to handle these types of emotions independently later on. It is important to remember, however, that Children with delay or disability may need repetitive coaching as they begin to understand and register emotions.

Technology can’t foster social emotional growth. That skill needs to be taught through experience and through face to face expressions. John Gottman reminds us of 2 very important relationship principles: “All feelings are permissible; not all behavior is permissible, and the parent/ child relationship is not a democracy; it is the parent who determines what behavior is permissible.” You set the standard for what is appropriate by how you handle what isn’t.

Children are exposed to countless violence and insensitivity on many platforms, and on many screens starting at a very early age. What they see on those screens can’t be left to stand alone, with no response or counter view. Twenty First Century parents have a daunting job to balance the need for technology with the need for positive emotional development in their children. Finding your empathy reflex and using it often as a model to your children, will go a long way to enhancing the social emotional development of your children: America’s future.

For more information and guidance on screen time check out:

Toddler Scary Separations

Scary Separations
How to Cope When Your Child Screams and Clings and Won’t Let GO!

As your child grows and develops, the need for independence and self -identity becomes strong. But along with the very strong need to pull away from the protective cocoon (the family), is the need to stay safe. You provide that safe feeling whether your child is with you or not. Providing structure, unconditional love and a safe environment in your home gives your child what he needs to attempt new routines and connect to new caregivers and ultimately separate from you. Remember, a child’s need for independence often shows itself in negative behavior, but how you handle those moments shapes how long that negativity lasts! T. Barry Brazelton says, “When you understand that the pain of separation, is first, a parental issue, you can learn to handle it.”

Tips to Help with Separation:

  • Relax (take a deep breath), this is a normal part of the conflict of the developing self: wanting independence vs. their need for parental safety net.

  • Be confident in your decision. Your child responds to your emotions. If you are stressed, behaviors will increase; if you are calm your child will respond better.

  • Be a prepared parent: Help your child understand what is about to happen.
  • If possible take pictures of the situation: the teacher, the child care or Grandma’s. Look at the pictures together and remind your toddler that everything will be OK even though right now he is feeling scared. You might even try creating a book with the pictures to help (social story).

  • At the very least remind him with clear, simple and positive words of what is happening, where he is going. Follow up with a fun thing that will happen there: focusing on positive thoughts.
  • Accept the strong response like crying, clinging or a tantrum. It may happen. Be consistent and calm and repeat a calming phrase like, “I am sorry you are sad now, but I know you will have fun.” Do not get upset or start to bribe or offer alternatives; this changes the focus. Remember your child will be able to do this on his own soon.

  • Whenever possible give your child choices: “Do you want to bring bear or book?” Or, “do you want to march or jump in… I will do what you do!”

  • When you leave, make sure you give you child a transition item to keep.
  • This could be something of yours personally or something from home.

  • Then say something like, “I love you and know you will have fun with… Jenny or grandma, Mommy ( Daddy ) will pick you up after work.” Then leave! ( easier said than done).

  • When you return say, “I bet you are so proud of yourself! You stayed here all day …. You did it!”

  • Find out what the child did that day that was a happy time, and remind him/ her of this tomorrow when he needs to go back.
  • Remember as a parent you are your child’s secure object; you are their rock; letting go can be scary for your child and for you!

The pain of this initial separation will be balanced by her and your awareness that she needs to separate. The attraction of other children and group activities balances the pain of leaving the safe coziness of home” T Berry Brazleton

KTS 2016

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