Category Archives: Social & Emotional

Top 5 Traveling Tips

Traveling with our tiny friends can seem daunting –but proper preparation will make for a smooth ride! Whether it’s a long road trip, a train ride, or even a flight –these tricks and tips have you covered!

  1. Limit Screens

I know it is so much easier to keep your little one occupied with a tablet or device. However, screens really do promote self-direction and hyper-focused attention. That is, your child may direct all of his/her attention onto the tablet and forget that the rest of the world exists. We often also see a change in behavior following a significant amount of screen time. It is suggested that for children 2-5 years of age screen time should be limited to a maximum of 1 hour per day. (Okay, PSA on screen time complete!)

  1. Pack The Right Entertainment

I am all about packing smart, speechy activities to keep your tiny friend endlessly entertained! First, the Melissa and Doug Memory Travel Game comes with an easy to hold flip board and 7 game cards to switch out –it is also interactive if you are travelling with 2 or more friends. Next, I love the Crayola Travel Kit –coloring is a calming and grounding experience. You can make it interactive and play Pictionary or send letters back and forth to each other. Lastly, there are tons of Reusable Sticker Books that are great for travel since you can’t ruin the stickers and you can play over and over again. You’ll want to pack games without pieces that may get lost, quiet options since repetitive noises are the pits, and most importantly activities that motivate your little one.
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The importance of “being there”

Amidst all the chaos and our frantic day to day, it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important things in early childhood development: being there. From numerous studies, we understand that in order to have a healthy brain development in babies and toddlers, they need a stable, responsive and supportive relationship with a parent or caregiver.

As a parent who’s fully devoted to their child’s well-being and development, you’re acting as a buffer for any potential stressful situation at all times. If a child is subjected to massive amounts of stress or unreliable, absent adult relationships, his or her developing brain architecture may be disrupted, and, with it, the subsequent physical, mental and emotional health may also be affected. We’ve put together a few of the most important aspects and questions out there about the concept of “being there”.

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Mindfulness 101

As parents, we are always looking for the best for our children; we want them to be happy and develop their full potential. But what happens when we do not live in the best way possible? By being stressed, worried, hurried in our daily life, we ​​set this example to our children. Kids are like sponges, and they can perceive emotions even from within the mother’s womb. This means they’re much more capable of absorbing and perceiving things after they are born. So, how can we be better with ourselves and transmit the best to them? Continue reading to learn more…

Have you ever gotten home and don’t remember what you saw on the road? Left home for work and don’t remember if you locked the door on your way out?

We live with routines both at home and at work where we do things on autopilot without really paying attention to what we are doing. We call it “lunchtime”, but is it if we are thinking about the pending errands we have to run or we are answering mails or texts on the phone?

As human beings we have the ability to think about the past, present and future. Which is a true blessing, but we often let our minds wander to the meeting board of last week, we think about what we’ll do over the holidays or what you have to get from the store. Usually the most recurrent thoughts in our minds come from obsessing about the past or worrying about the future. So, what happens to the present?
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Your baby’s emotional world: The appearance of your little one’s emotions

The development and appearance of your baby’s emotions follow an orderly process that goes from simple emotions, all the way to the complex ones we all know too well.

According to Michael Lewis, PhD, when your baby is first born he is able to demonstrate three basic emotions: interest, distress and satisfaction. Your newborn will show these emotions due to internal processes, physiological changes or as a response to sensory stimuli. As your little one continues to grow so do his emotional responses. Over the next 6 months these primary responses will evolve into happiness, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger and fear. These emotions, such as the ones stated above, develop in conjunction to the neurological and cognitive maturity of babies.

Once your baby is around 9-10 months of age he will go through a new set of cerebral development that will allow him to be pretty good at expressing a wide array of emotions. You might see your little one go from frustration to anger or sadness to happiness in a manner of seconds. This is completely normal and expected, so don’t stress out about it; you’re are doing a great job. When dealing with these intense moments remember to breathe and try to be the “container” that helps your kid regulate his emotions.

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Tantrum Survival Guide

Tantrums are extremely common in toddlers and preschoolers. They’re how young children deal with difficult feelings. It’s important to tune in to your child’s emotions to avoid situations that trigger those tantrums.

You don’t need to have a child to know the word tantrum. It is so notorious that everyone has either seen one or experienced it first-hand.

Tantrums are completely normal and expected in toddlers and preschoolers ages 1-3. They are an outlet for children to deal with big or difficult feelings. During this stage of development, toddlers are beginning to develop their independence but are still dependent on adults. They also don’t have the adequate skills or brain development to self-regulate just yet. To make matters even worse, children this age don’t have the appropriate language yet to voice their emotions, so expressing themselves via physical actions is their way to cope.

Tantrums can vary in type and intensity. They might involve crying, screaming, kicking, headbanging, back arching, falling to the floor or even breath holding. People making a tantrum are of the said to have ‘lost it’, and this situation is not exclusive for toddlers; older children and even adults can experience a tantrum when they feel overwhelmed by their emotions and can’t manage or don’t have the adequate skills to self-regulate.

What are the possible causes of a tantrum:

  • Temperament: Your child’s tolerance for frustration can influence his or her reaction. A kid who gets easily upset may be quicker to react and have more tantrums
  • Hunger, tiredness and overstimulation: These sensations are difficult to decipher for children. Ever heard the phrase hangry? Body needs have a great impact on our behavior and not noticing them can be triggers for tantrums.
  • Frustration and loss of control: If a toddler wants to complete a task above his or her developmental level or is faced with the will power of an older child or sibling, he or she might cope with a tantrum.
  • Big emotions: Emotions such as anger, shame and worry can be overwhelming for children.

 

Dealing with my child’s tantrums:

It is important to note that tantrums are a normal part of growing up, but there are things you can do as a parent to make them less likely to occur.

  • Have a routine: If you make sure your little one is fed and rested you can reduce tantrums due to physical needs.
  • Tune in: Become aware of your child’s feelings. Put yourself in your little one’s shoes and try to imagine what it must be like for him or her. Also, help your little one manage by naming the feeling and redirecting his or her attention to something else that he or she likes.
  • Know your little one’s triggers: If your little one always has a tantrum during an outing try to plan ahead with appropriate toys, make sure he or she is fed and rested, and try to choose environments that prevent tantrums.
  • Teach emotional literacy: Even if your little one does not speak yet he or she is always paying attention. If he or she has a fit and throws a toy instead of immediately reprimanding him or her, name the action and emotion that goes along with it. For example, “You threw the toy because you got frustrated. I understand it is hard, let me help you out so you don’t have to feel that way”.
  • Provide adequate toys and activities: Create a play-friendly space with toys that engage your toddler but are not way above his or her level of development because trying to complete them only causes frustration.

 

We know it is tough to watch your little one deal with a whirlwind of emotions. Be sure to care for yourself too. Here are some tips that can help you deal with these difficult situations:

  • Remember that your child’s brain is still developing and the prefrontal lobe responsible for self-regulation is not mature yet.
  • Take a moment to breathe, stay present and remain calm. Creating space between your child’s reaction and yours can help you regulate your response.
  • Acknowledge your child’s difficult feelings and your own too. Compassion and self-compassion are key!
  • Don’t try to reason or correct your child during the tantrum, let him or her blow off steam and intervene immediately and calmly if he or she is at risk of getting hurt or hurting someone else. It is important that your child understands that big feelings are not to be feared.
  • Be firm, kind and consistent. If you need to hold a limit don’t budge, empathize with your child, be unconditionally accepting and hear him or her out, but don’t give in if the limit is important to his or her wellbeing. Being consistent helps your child feel safe and learn the limits.
  • Finally, be sure to model self-regulation but ask for help too. If we ‘lose it’ too, we model this behavior to our children. But since we are only human, it is important that we also take a break, ask for help and repair when we make mistakes.

 

Teaching your child appropriate ways of behavior is essential to his or her development, but be sure to connect before you correct. Positive parenting experts agree that a strong connection between parent and child is the best way to teach and guide children towards the best versions of themselves.

For more information, be sure to check out:

Feel the love with your little one

“Imagine if the hugs, lullabies and smiles from parents could inoculate babies against heartbreak, adolescent angst, and even help them pass their exams decades later.” (Winston & Chicot, 2016).

During the first three years of life, your baby will develop 90% of his or her adult brain size. This rapid growth accounts for 700–1000 synapse connections being formed each second. The experiences your baby is subjected to, whether positive or negative, are crucial to this early wiring and pruning that enables millions and millions of new connections to be formed. The importance of connecting with your baby can go a long way in ensuring his or her secure attachment to others, resilience, self-esteem, building of relationships and overall development.

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Building my toddler’s social skills when going to the movies or to a show

Your toddler has been insisting on seeing the latest movie that just came out, and even though you know how much your kid loves those characters, you wonder if he or she is old enough to sit through an entire movie at the cinema. Maybe you’re wondering if attending a theatrical play or a live show will be simply too much and too soon. Our in-house experts share some insight about this decision.

Most child psychologists and parents agree that somewhere between 2 and 4 years old is a good time to introduce your little one to the cinema or the theater, accorded that the film or show in question is age-appropriate for your child. Nonetheless, how cinema-ready a kid might be will ultimately depend on his or her individual characteristics at the time. So as always, it’s important to neither rush, nor pressure your kid into it just because you’ve heard of other 2-years old that actually look forward to staying put in a seat for 120 minutes. It might hold true for some kids, and not so much for others.

To help you weight discern, here are some aspects to take into consideration:

  • Your son or daughter’s capacity to sit still for longer than 30 min at a time and be happy about it.
  • Your kid’s usual attention span.
  • Your kid’s tolerance for noise, dark places or loud sounds- it can be an overwhelming experience for some kids that aren’t used to or aren’t interested in such activities.
  • According to Brenda Nixon in The Birth to Five Book: “Any noise that registers 90 decibels or higher can hurt a child’s hearing”, and some movies can measure up to 130 decibels.

How to make it a good experience for everyone (not only for you and your kid, but for other kids and adults sharing the space):

  • Always choose child-friendly shows. There’s a better chance a matinee or kid’s show will be a positive experience than a weekend-night opera or ballet-presentation. Your child and the rest of the audience will be far happier if you arrange for a sitter while you go ahead and watch that drama movie with your partner.
  • Knowledge is power. Even if the movie or show’s intended audience is children, make sure to know the content of it beforehand, so you can have an idea of what to expect (flashy lights, action scenes, loud music, etc.) and compare those features with what you know your kid can tolerate and enjoy.
  • Communicate that cinemas and theaters are quiet places. This might be a tricky concept for some toddlers, but the key here is being both understanding and disciplined about it with your kid. It’s important to help him or her understand that there are places where you can have lots of fun if you listen and watch, and that they can of course laugh and ask you things but using a quiet voice so that other people can still hear the show.
  • Try to find a sitting place near the exit, and not too close to the screen. This way, it will be less complicated to exit suddenly or to make an unexpected restroom break with your kid.

Every child is inevitably going to go through a learning curve regarding sharing social spaces with other people. Activities like going out for a movie or play are good and fun opportunities to help your kid work at being increasingly more masterful of his or her impulses, delaying gratification, and thinking about what other others might be feeling. Although it might appear like a small feat, conquering small outings like this can help your little one develop his or her socio-affective abilities!

Sharing is caring!

Having difficulties for sharing is part of every kid’s developmental process. In fact, the word “mine” is one of the firsts words to come out of a toddler’s mouth. During your kid’s second and third year, he will experience going from oneness to separateness, so you’ll start noticing comments like “This is mine!”, “I can do it myself”, etc. This is due to his growing awareness. So, don’t worry, there are a lot of ways you can help your child understand the concept of sharing. Keep reading to learn more!

Sharing is caring?

Sharing is a fundamental skill; it is how we keep our friendships, play and work well with others. This action teaches about compromise, fairness and, most importantly, gratitude. “Thank you for sharing your truck with me. Do you want to play with my teddy bear?”. Sharing teaches children that gratitude reciprocates. If we give to others, we will receive in return. Gratitude is the best policy. Sharing also teaches us about negotiation and coping with disappointment, two vital skills in life. Continue reading

Oops, I Reinforced it Again

We all do it on a daily basis –we accidentally reinforce behaviors that we don’t like. The good news is that it is not too late to do something about it! With our little ones, especially those under 5 years of age, actions really do speak louder than words. Your child will respond to what you do 1000 times more than what you say (*see graphic above). So yes, you may say “we don’t throw”, but those words mean nothing if your actions don’t correspond. If your child’s unwanted behavior was effective in getting his or her needs met, then it will continue. So, in the example above, instead of throwing the bowl to get more food, he or she should pass you the bowl, say “more” or point to the wanted food, for example. We should not refill the bowl, until the child imitates the new, positive behavior that we model.

Let’s take a look at some real-life examples. Continue reading

Using my child’s tantrums as a learning experience

Because your preschooler’s brain is still developing, it’s normal for your daughter to get very excited, frustrated, sad or angry about something and react accordingly. Since she has limited verbal skills, when she has a tantrum, she is actually communicating that she is struggling with an intense feeling and can’t solve a problem that seems unsurmountable. Yet, although tantrums are normal between 2 and 4 years of age, many of them are avoidable. Since, more than one are bound to happen anyway, use them as a way to better understand your child and let her know that you understand and are trying to help.

• Be a calm and reassuring model of how to handle emotions.
• Think ahead. Most kids are tantrum-prone if they become very tired or hungry. Having clear feeding schedules, rests and quiet times, you can avoid the feared release of the Hangry-Child.
• Give your child some minutes of warning before you end or change an activity since many children are prone to tantrums when play-time is over.
• Acknowledge emotions as they appear, and put them into words to avoid them escalating into actions.
• Psychologists from the extension Department of Human Development and Family Studies from Iowa State University recommend to “distract, remove, ignore, and hold”.
• Try to understand the reason behind the meltdown: when, what, where, who…
• Let your daughter assert her selfhood when it doesn’t compromise anyone’s safety or health.
• Hold your ground but stay calm and reassuring. Create a safe space where your child can explore relationships and emotions while resting assured you still love her.
• When she has calmed down, tell the story of what happened during the tantrum. Emphasize on the emotion that arose and why, and remind her of the fact that you stayed there. When she’s ready give her a big hug and ask her if she feels better.

You can read more practical tips by family therapists from Iowa State University by following this link: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1529J.pdf