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Nurturing Strong Emotional Skills in Children: Why and How

Humans grow and develop quickly, both physically and emotionally, throughout childhood and adolescence. In addition to physical changes, children are also developing at a rapid pace emotionally, intellectually, and socially. Helping your child develop their emotional intelligence can provide them with skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.  Magination Press book, A Box of Butterflies, by Jo Rooks, explores emotions and the situations that may cause them. Psychologist Elizabeth McCallum, PhD, provides a Note to Parents and Caregivers in the book, exploring the whys and hows of supporting emotional development. Why support emotional skill development? Research on emotional development has shown a correlation between certain skills and positive outcomes such as strong relationships, high-self esteem, and overall happiness. Some of these skills are self-regulation, emotional self-awareness, and the ability to identify emotions in others. Self-Regulation: the ability to monitor and manage one’s own emotional state and behavior.  Emotional Self-awareness: the ability to understand one’s own emotions and how they impact one’s behavior. This knowledge allows people to reliably predict how they will respond to certain environmental circumstances. Identifying Emotions in Others: this skill has been linked to success in social relationships, academics, and the workforce. Individuals with this ability tend to be more empathetic. How to support emotional skill development Each child develops their emotional skills differently. Some may have strong emotional skills fairly young and others make take longer to develop. Other factors like individual temperament and cultural differences can also impact development. Regardless of the developmental level of a child’s emotional skills, parents and caregivers can support a child’s emotional skill development using these evidence-based strategies. Learn to Recognize Your Child’s Emotional Responses Some of your child’s emotions may be easier to recognize than others. Joy or anger may be more obvious than shame, guilt, or embarrassment. Particularly when your child’s emotions are hidden, it is especially important to pay attention to their words, body language, and behavior as they may provide clues as to how your child is feeling. Help Your Child Learn to Identify Their Own Emotional Responses When your child  seems to be feeling a particular emotion, help them label that emotion and discuss the possible events that may have contributed to that feeling. This will help them learn to predict the types of situations and events that are linked to certain emotional reactions in themselves.  Help Your Child Develop Empathy You can promote empathy by talking to your child about how others in distress (in real life, in books, on TV, etc.) may be feeling. Another way to encourage empathy is to help children see what they have in common with others. Meeting and learning about people from diverse backgrounds has been shown to increase empathy and overall emotional skills. Model Appropriate Emotional Skills Demonstrate appropriate emotional skills and discuss how you manage your emotions even when it is difficult. For example, when someone cuts in front of you and your child in line at the grocery store, take a moment

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Nurturing Strong Emotional Skills in Children: Why and How 2020-01-07T22:57:01-05:00

Loving-kindness Meditation: Five Pointers to Help Kids Get Started

Thinking good thoughts about themselves and others can help kids be happier and healthier. Loving-kindness meditation toward themselves and others can comfort and strengthen young hearts. Loving-kindness is a kind of heart meditation that consists of sending of sending love, kindness, and compassion by directing positive thoughts, good intentions, or well wishes toward ourselves and others. When people practice loving-kindness meditation on a regular basis, they feel a sense of goodness about themselves and others. It produces a reaction in the brain similar to when one engages in acts of kindness, producing positive feelings which can lead to positive behaviors. Practicing loving-kindness meditation has been shown to: Decrease stress and anxiety Increase feelings of hope Reduce feelings of anger  Increase empathy Increase feelings of self-esteem and decrease self-criticism In Magination Press book, Bee Heartful: Spread Loving-Kindness by Frank J. Sileo, PhD, Bentley Bee sends loving-kindness thoughts to himself and others, and can feel his heart growing. This excerpt from the “Note to Adult Beekeepers” describes how to practice loving-kindness meditation with children. Loving-kindness meditation is great for kids because it is more concrete and structured than other forms of meditation. The child recites specific phases and brings up images in their minds of the people they are sending loving-kindness to.  It’s important that children understand that when they send loving-kindness thoughts to others, it may not change the other person or how that person feels about them. Loving-kindness does not work like magic or serve as some type of spell on another person. The meditation is more focused on the meditator developing loving-kindness toward others. Getting Started Mediation is a quiet activity, so you want to choose a place for your child that is free from distractions. It can be a room in your home, someplace outside like a garden or patio, or any place without interruptions.  They can sit on the floor, a mat, a pillow or in a chair, or lie down. They can close their eyes or cast their eyes downward and a few feet in front of them. This will help avoid any visual distractions. Your child can place one or both hands on their heart and take three deep breaths. Ask your child to repeat these phrases silently in their head a few times. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be safe. May I be peaceful. After your child sends loving-kindness intentions toward themselves, they can use the same intention toward other people. Keep it short at first Sitting still and focusing can be challenging for children and adults alike. Keeping meditation short in the beginning can be helpful in maintaining young children’s interest, attention, and focus. For young children, 3-5 minutes is a good starting point. You can gradually increase the time as children mature and their practice grows. Mix up the loving-kindness intentions Your child can vary the practice of loving-kindness meditation by varying who they pick to send intentions to. A common approach is to send loving-kindness

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Loving-kindness Meditation: Five Pointers to Help Kids Get Started 2019-12-16T14:27:42-05:00

Help Your Child Tame Worry Thoughts with Mindful Breathing

Worry, or anxiety, is a normal reaction to something dangerous in our environment. In fact, anxiety helps us avoid something that is likely to cause us harm. However, children may be prone to excessive worry and worry about events that are unlikely to happen. When such anxiety negatively impacts a child’s everyday life, a mental health professional my diagnose an anxiety disorder. At the root of anxiety-related disorders are worry thoughts. This excerpt from the Note to Parents and Caregivers by Ara J. Schmitt, PhD, in Magination Press’s book, Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree, by Gail Silver, helps parents understand worry thoughts and provides a strategy for parents to help their children cope with them. Understanding Worry Thoughts Psychologists refer to worry thoughts as “cognitive distortions.” In Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree, Bea experiences at least five kinds of worry thoughts. Her first worry thought is: Must or should thinking: thinking that things must or should be a certain way. For example, Bea thinks her birthday party must be perfect. This often can lead a second distortion, such as black-or white thinking. Black-or-white thinking: an all-or-nothing way of thinking, allowing for no middle ground. Bea appears to believe that her party will either be perfect and everyone will have fun, or the party will be disastrous with unhappy guests. In her mind, it does not seem possible to have a disappointing hiccup along the way, but still a great party overall. The series of worry thoughts continues, when, as a result of these unreasonable thoughts, Bea appears to jump to conclusions. Jump to conclusions: to form negative conclusions based on little or no evidence. Bea’s series of worry thoughts leads her to jump to the conclusion that her friends will call her names or not want to stay at her party if it’s not flawless. The worry thought that Bea appears to have most often is called catastrophizing. Castastrophizing: expecting negative events to happen. Bea asks “what if?” repeatedly: “what if there isn’t enough cake?” “what if no one comes?”. This isn’t likely to happen, but Bea worries about every possible negative outcome. She’s able to do this because she is filtering. Filtering: filtering out all positive thoughts and evidence in favor of negative thoughts. Bea filters out thoughts and evidence that her party will go well, like her experience at previous parties and her mother’s preparation for the current party, in favor of negative thoughts. How Parents Can Help Parents can explain that the body and mind are connected, and calming the body can help calm the mind. The worries can still be there for now, but the child can use their breath to help their body feel better. During the tense moments of worry thoughts, parents can lead their child through this simple relaxation exercise: In a calm, reassuring voice, prompt your child to put a pause on their worry thoughts. It can help to give them a  concrete suggestion, such as telling their worries

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Help Your Child Tame Worry Thoughts with Mindful Breathing 2019-11-19T17:44:12-05:00