Parenting

Teen Brain Growth Surges Can Help Explain Adolescent Behavior

Wondering why your teen is so emotional and risk-taking?
Your teenager is neither crazy nor stupid. No matter how emotional they are; No matter how much they seem to be making poor choices, there is a very good reason why teens are the way they are. It is not their fault or yours. It’s biology. Adolescence brings about a surge in brain growth. But the dilemma is that different brain areas grow at different rates. The novelty and fear region (Amygdala) and the reward region (Nucleus Accumbens), in the adolescent brain, mature earlier than the region involved in calming and self-control (Prefrontal cortex). Eventually, the Prefrontal Cortex does come on board, but it is a slowly occurring process that continues on into your child’s 20’s.

Teens can get really anxious as a result of their overactive amygdala
It is perfectly normal when in a new situation to have a bit of a fear response. That’s because the Amygdala gives a spurt of adrenaline when we are in unfamiliar circumstances; such as meeting a group of new people or going to a new place. Read More

Family Meals Promote Healthy Child Development

Parents and kids are super busy these days, making it particularly hard to have the time to eat meals together. However, evidence now shows that it is really worth putting in the effort to have more family meals. According to researchers at the University of Montreal, children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term benefits, physically, emotionally and socially. The family meal serves as a relationship-based learning environment for children. This research supports Reflective Parenting’s emphasis on the importance of the parent-child relationship.

I am very enthusiastic about family meals. However, I want to reassure you. Family meals are good. But family meals are not a should.  Reflective Parenting always emphasizes that there is never just one right way.  So, if family meals are simply not possible for you and your children, don’t panic. Read More

Teens, Cellphones and ADHD

Is your teen glued to their cellphone? A recent piece by NPR journalist Rhitu Chatterjee should boost your confidence to set limits on cell phone use. She discussed a new research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing an association between the development of ADHD symptoms and high cell phone use in teens.

What’s a parent to do?
KEEP THE RELATIONSHIP STRONG:
In my previous blog post, I talked about the association between too much cell phone use and symptoms of depression and anxiety in teens (July 22, 2018) and the fact that simply reducing cell phone use, does not fully protect kids from developing problems. That’s because it is life’s current dangers that are troubling teens more than anything else. Fortunately, your relationship can be a buffer against their fears and worries.  Read More

Cellphones: Cause or Symptom of Teen Anxiety? What You Can Do About It.

We know there is a rise in teen anxiety and suicide. Many blame an addiction to cell phone use as the cause. They cite that too much exposure to social media can cause a teen to feel envious, and inadequate; to feel rejected and left out, and even to suffer from cyber-bullying. While apps are now available that can help reduce cell phone use, this will not fully solve teen’s vulnerability to anxiety. That is because the reason teens are so anxious these days is that their lives are filled with fear and uncertainty. The excellent article by Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary is a good resource for any parent of a teenager. Another good resource is The film Eight Grade written and directed by Bo Burnham. It illustrates what being a reflective parent of a teenager can look like. In the film, the father gives his daughter just the kind of relationship backup that every child needs. Read More

It is Normal and Healthy for Siblings to Fight

Finally, someone is emphasizing that it is normal and healthy for siblings to fight! This article should be a relief for all those parents who think something is wrong whenever their kids don’t get along. It turns out that sibling fighting gives your child a leg up on dealing with the realities of life. For one thing, it teaches your child that they are not the center of the universe and that not everyone will always love everything about them. While your role as a parent is to treat your child in the most loving caring way possible, to keep your hostile feelings well contained, and to build a sense of safety and trust for your child- a sibling’s role is different. Siblings are the perfect people to teach each other ‘the ropes’, so to speak when it comes to having successful social relationships outside the family. Let’s face it not everyone is going to treat your child as kindly as you do. Read More

Children Can Delay Gratification More Than We Think

The ability to delay gratification in childhood is associated with better developmental outcomes. Today’s parents tend to think they were better at delaying gratification as children than their own kids are. According to this article, research indicates just the opposite. Today’s young children are better at it than were their parents and their grandparents. This should help with two things.
One, it should help parents feel more positive toward their kids. Being positive towards a child is associated with better developmental outcomes. Two, it suggests that preschool has long-term benefits. Preschools emphasize such things as sharing, not interrupting, and waiting your turn. Improvements in delaying gratification may be the result of more kids going to preschool these days than did their parents and grandparents.
Caveat: As the article points out, the research was done only with white children from more affluent and educated families. We have to also do these studies on a more diverse population.
Written by Regina Pally, Co-Director, CRC

Cell Phones and the Dangers of Distracted Parenting

When it comes to children’s development, parents should worry less about kids’ screen time—and more about their own.

It is never easy for a parent to balance their own needs, and desires, with those of their child. Fortunately, children do not always need or even want their parent’s full attention. They just need it ‘reliably enough’. In fact, some degree of separateness is necessary and healthy for development. This article makes the case that our modern preoccupation with smart phones, however, has tipped the balance in an unhealthy direction. Parents these days, despite spending lots of time in the physical presence of their child, are frequently distracted by their cell phone and thus are frequently inattentive totheir child.

This is disrupting the normal healthy pattern of parent-child communication that Read More

How to Talk with Children about Mass Shootings

Sadly, this is a topic that keeps rearing its ugly head.

As parents and people who work with children many of us have the understandable instinct to shield our children from this latest national tragedy. But how can we shield our children from the atrocity when screens and media are everywhere? We can’t.

What we can do, however, is support our children’s healthy coping with a frightening news story by calmly providing them with filtered, developmentally appropriate information about the event.

First and foremost, we need to let our children know that they are loved and safe, and that such events, while very scary, are rare and unusual.  Read More

Clinical Perspectives on Reflective Parenting: Keeping the Child’s Mind in Mind

A dad says he has to remind his daughter over and over every night to feed the dog. One mom put it like this, “It’s such a chore to get my kids to do chores.” Another mother says she wishes her kids wanted to help out- since she and her husband worked so hard for them. In one way or another each of these parents asked me “Isn’t there a way to make it easier and less unpleasant to get my kids to do their chores or help me out with household tasks?”

Chores, responsibilities, tasks
Chores are daily responsibilities that a child is required to do on a regular basis, such as feeding the dog or setting the table. There are  household tasks we expect of kids.  Read More

The Meanness of pranking children

Melissa Jacobs of CRC’s Leadership team wrote her thoughts on a Washington Post article about Jimmy Kimmel’s Halloween pranks on children. See her thoughts and the original article below…

Imagine you are six-years old. It is the morning after Halloween, a day you had looked forward to for weeks. After considerable deliberation you chose your costume. Maybe you and one of your parents helped you make the costume over many nights. Perhaps you braved the super spooky Halloween decorations at your neighborhood party store. Maybe you got to wear only some of your costume to school because masks and accessories aren’t allowed. You waited a near eternity for night to fall. Finally, night falls and you are hard at work, ringing the doorbell of every neighbor whose front porch light is on, carefully picking your favorite candies from the proffered bowl. “One-per-customer” at the house on the corner; “Take what you want” next door, score!. Your bag grew heavy, your legs grew heavy. When you got home you examined your loot and ate more than your parents wanted you to. You fell asleep thinking how to make your candy last til January, or maybe you would eat it all by Friday. 
Now imagine you wander into the kitchen the next morning, looking for your stash. 
“Mommy, where’s my candy?” 
“I ate it.”
Imagine how you would feel. 
Then she says: “Only joking.”  
Now imagine how you would feel.  
A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post by child psychiatrist Meg van Achterberg invites parents to consider the meanness of this very prank, a prank late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel has encouraged his adult audience members to play on their kids the morning after Halloween for the past six years. Jimmy Kimmel has become an admirable spokesperson for the need for health-care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, something he has become sensitized to having recently had a child who has a preexisting condition. Perhaps, as his child comes to savor Halloween, Kimmel will come to imagine how his own child might experience such a prank and maybe even find it to be a little less funny.