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When the News is Scary

It might be easy to assume that young ones are not impacted by tragic events in other parts of the country, but children have a keen sense of radar and pick up on adults’ body language, conversations and news media stories. Our guest blogger, Malisa Rader, suggests parents be reassuring, monitor their TV viewing when children are present, and watch for signs of stress in their children.

All children are born with a unique temperament. Some will be more sensitive to scary news stories or worrisome about their safety and the safety of their loved ones.

Regardless, we need to be mindful of what we are watching and discussing when small ears are around, while also making sure we take time to listen and pick up on cues our child might be sending us. A change in behavior like clinginess or crying might be a signal that your child is anxious over recent disturbing events in the news.

Parents, teachers and child caregivers can help children who are feeling distressed about safety cope with their fears, we recommended the following actions:

Keep regular routines. Stick to your normal schedule and events. Children take comfort in predictable daily events like dinner at the kitchen table and bedtime rituals. Knowing what will happen provides a feeling of security.

Watch your emotions. People everywhere, parents included, likely had strong reactions to what happened over the weekend. Children who are sensitive to emotions can pick up on this and become concerned for their own safety or the safety of others. When adults maintain a calm and optimistic attitude, children will also.

Have conversations with your child. Find out what your child knows and what questions he or she would like answered. Young children might express themselves through drawing or in their play. Provide reassurance, clear up any misconceptions and point out to your child the many helpful people in emergency events like law enforcement and medical professionals. Talk with your child about what is happening to make him or her safe at home, at school or in the neighborhood.

Limit your TV viewing. Monitor what is watched on television and for how long. Young children may not understand that scenes repeating on news stations are all the same event. Choose a favorite video to maintain better control over what your children are viewing.

Find healthy ways to deal with feelings. Taking a walk together, reading a favorite book or playing a board game can be comforting to both you and your child.

Take action. If your child continues to show concern, he or she may be feeling a loss of control. Doing something such as sending a donation or writing a letter can help bring back a sense of power and help your child feel a part of the response.

Seek professional advice if needed. If your child shows symptoms of distress such as a change in appetite or sleep patterns, speak with your child’s physician or a mental health professional. You also can contact ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Concern hotline at 800-447-1985.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Routines Promote Healthy Emotional Development

I catch a glimpse of the calendar and know that school will begin shortly, and that means many families will get back into a routine that will include hustle and bustle to get family members to school, day care, work, and sporting events.

For children, settling into a routine that includes school, homework, sports, playtime and family meals is very important. Children and youth do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent. When we eat and sleep with regular consistency, our bodies adjust and we feel good! Conversely, when we avoid sleep and eat the wrong foods, we pay the price in how we feel!

A study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics reports that family routines support children and their emotional development. And it is the social / emotional health that enables children to thrive in the classroom.

Routines that include singing, bedtime snacks, storytelling and connection with family caregivers are helpful for a good night’s rest. The nurturing we do to help children adjust to “back to school” is proving to be helpful in long term adjustment in both school and home settings.

Talking about the upcoming school routine can help alleviate any anxiety your child may have. Keep communication lines open with your child so that they can feel comfortable discussing with you the fears or questions they may have about the new school year. As a family, your routines are making a difference!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Enjoy Summer Garden Bounty

It is summer time and I am thinking about foods that we find plentiful in the garden. Sweet corn here in Iowa is something to treasure. Our gardens are also bountiful with tomatoes; lettuce; squash; beets; potatoes and so much more! Harvesting each of these delicacies and finding delicious ways to prepare them, may be more challenging for us! Do your children find the foods I just mentioned, appealing? If not, it may be because they are foods that have not been on the dinner plate lately!

Introducing new vegetables, especially when in season, is one way to help children learn to enjoy and consume these healthy foods. I want to encourage you to take a peek at our Spend Smart Eat Smart website! This site is full of delicious recipes your family will want to try! In addition to recipes, this website features videos and information to help you when you are shopping, including unit pricing!

We have even launched an APP – for Spend Smart Eat Smart, so that you can access the site from your smart phone, while you are grocery shopping for your family. Happy eating to you and your family this summer!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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New Blogger, Mackenzie Johnson, shares research and reality

Hello hello! I’m Mackenzie, and I’m so excited to be joining the Science of Parenting blog team! A little about me – I have an infant daughter, I enjoy cooking from scratch, and I’m a total geek for research on the interaction of parents and children (even studied it in college)! These three facts about me actually all roll together into one of my biggest passions – learning about the phenomenon of how parents get the opportunity to help raise new adults “from scratch”!

In my education, I’ve learned a lot about parenting styles, stages of child development, strategies for guidance and discipline, etc. So when I thought about becoming a parent, I had big plans. Oh boy, I had all kinds of plans! I said things to myself like “I will do things this way” and “I would never do that” … Then I held my tiny infant in my arms, and suddenly everything changed. She came into the world with her own temperament, her own challenges, her own quirks. I found out that my plans weren’t panning out how I thought- no matter how much effort I put into them! “What now?”, I asked myself, “I know that research suggests this is the best way to do this, but my plans aren’t working!”

Over a few months, I’ve been able to get some clarity on what I like to refer to as “balancing research and reality”. The research suggested that _______ is the most successful strategy, but I had to balance that information with what my reality was. With certain things, the research-suggested strategy just wasn’t working for us… But Instead of feeling terribly guilty about it, I’ve come to find a level of acceptance. I realized that I wasn’t a failure, but rather a parent who made an educated decision about what was best for my family. In certain circumstances, it was better for my family to change the way we were doing things than to continue on a path that wasn’t working for us. And because I had learned about the research, I was able to make an INFORMED decision for MY FAMILY.

That’s the perspective I hope to bring with me to the blog: understanding that research is here to empower us to be able to make informed decisions about what is in the best interest of our families. So no parent-shaming here. No condescending words to belittle anyone’s parenting. No telling you that there is only one way to do it. Instead, we will work to give you access to information so that you can decide what is best for your family.

So yes, I’m truly excited to be joining the Science of Parenting team, because I just can’t think of a better parent-empowering movement to get behind.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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The Role of Parents in Mental Health and Trauma Therapy

 

This week we welcome guest blogger Erin Neill. Erin is a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University. She is also a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in Washington, DC. Erin is passionate about all things mental health.

 

 

Events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, abuse, and neglect are all examples of traumatic experiences that many children in our country and around the world experience on a daily basis. Experiencing a traumatic event leads to poor outcomes for children, including acting out, poor school performance, substance abuse, and mental health issues such as posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Fortunately, we know that there are effective treatments for childhood PTSD. One of those treatments is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. But what we don’t know is exactly how, or why, or for whom CBT works best. We need more information about this. For children we want to know, what is the role of parents?

There is some research that suggests that children and parents have a reciprocal relationship. That is, children and parents interact with each other to affect how CBT treatment is working. So far, however, there have been very few studies that show this type of relationship.

In my research, I looked at data for children who had experienced a traumatic event and developed PTSD as a result. These children, and only the children, attended 12 weeks of a CBT intervention. We also asked moms (who brought their children to treatment each week) to report on their child’s PTSD sympto
ms as well as their own maternal depression symptoms.

The most exciting finding was that even though the moms did not receive any treatment themselves, their depression symptoms decreased significantly over the course of their child’s treatment. But even more, they were part of the reason that their child got better over time. I found that it wasn’t just that child PTSD symptoms decreased over time, or because of the treatment, but at least part of the reason that kids’ PTSD symptoms decreased was because the moms’ depression decreased as well. I also found a reciprocal relationship; Part of the reason that moms’ depression symptoms decreased over time was because of their child’s PTSD symptom decrease.

This data provides evidence that moms and children really are affecting each other’s mental health. This is important to know, because if only one person can attend treatment, we know that therapy can affect the mental health of the dyad and of the family system.

This is just one step in learning how, and why, and for whom these treatments work. We continue to need more research in this area because children will continue to experience traumatic events, and they deserve effective treatments.

 

 

 

 

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is often measured in terms of how willing we are as individuals to decide between what we WANT today and what is best for us in the long run. Having the self-discipline to manage our resources; appropriate behavior; language and work ethic help to create a stable environment in which to live.  Parent’s too, who spend the time early in a child’s life to help them adjust their behavior so that they are well mannered in school; the neighborhood and at home, can take credit for creating a nurturing environment.

Natural consequences are all around us, youth and adult alike. If I work through lunch and the cafeteria is closed when I finally take a break to eat, I will have to have another plan for eating. If I choose to use “salty” language to my peers on the job, I may run the risk of being overlooked for leadership positions, because my language is a reflection of my lack of self-discipline in proper communication.

Everyday, we are challenged to work alongside others who may or may not have the same set of skills; our self-discipline is simply an expression of the character we have and our willingness to lead by example!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Natural and Logical Consequences

This week we welcome guest blogger and doctoral candidate Amber Kreischer.

Amber is a doctoral candidate in the department of Human Development and Family Studies. Homeschooling mother of two. Former preschool teacher. Passionate about early childhood development, gender, and books.

Children are in a continuous state of learning how to manage their emotions, their bodies, and their thoughts. Because of this, it is common for children to have outbursts, make mistakes, and test boundaries. The question is: What can we do to help them learn from these events and help them change their behavior for the better? Two options are to use “natural” and “logical” consequences.

No matter our age, we all face consequences for our actions. Often, people argue that children who grow up ‘without consequences’ will never learn how to behave in society. The implied message behind this statement is that adults need to plan or manipulate the consequences that children experience in order for them to have an effect. This is not always the case.

Many times, teaching children “natural consequences” is an effective behavior management technique. It requires no intervention at all on the part of the adult, other than thoughtful discussion with the child regarding what happened. As the name suggests, these types of consequences occur naturally and can be strong motivators for children to reflect on and change undesirable behavior. If a child throws a toy in anger and the toy breaks, the natural consequence is that the toy is now broken. Immediately replacing or repairing the toy would not allow the child to learn from what naturally resulted from their actions. Similarly, perhaps your child is one of many whose bedroom gets messier by the second. Upon stepping on an object on the floor, their pained foot and broken object are natural consequences of choosing to have a messy room.

What is particularly powerful about natural consequences is their lifelong relevance. These are aspects of life that people must manage on a regular basis. Discussing these naturally-occurring outcomes with children benefits them both during the immediate situation as well as in the long run.

A related technique involves the use of “logical consequences.” This technique requires caregivers to think of and employ consequences that logically connect to the given misbehavior. For example, at meal times children sometimes have a habit of bouncing around in their chairs. When a child spills their drink, it logically follows that they would be required to clean it up, rather than having an adult swoop in and clean it for them. My son had a habit of screaming in restaurants when he was a toddler. At first, we shushed him as much as we could, noting glares from other tables. Once I thought to use a logical consequence, his behavior quickly changed. In response to his loudness, we began to calmly remove him from the dining area while telling him that we could not scream in restaurants and we would return to our table when he was finished. It was evident that he learned that the behavior of screaming was not appropriate for restaurant environments, and after 2-3 times of receiving this logical consequence, he used an “inside voice” every time we went out to eat.

It can sometimes be difficult to think of natural and logical consequences in the moment. Consider some behaviors that your child exhibits often. What are some ways that you could allow them to learn from the logical and natural results of their actions?

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Discipline helps children learn

I recently had someone ask me, “Lori if you say I can’t punish my child aren’t you really telling me that they should be able to do whatever they want?”.   Thus started our conversation on the difference between punishment and discipline.

Earlier this month we defined both punishment and discipline. We found the definition of punishment to be: to deal with roughly or harshly, to inflict injury on. While the definition of discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects moral character.

In parenting, our goal should always be to mold and correct as opposed to inflict injury on. I understand where the question about punishment came from. Obviously, we don’t want to imply that inappropriate behaviors in children should have no consequences or that children shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. What we do want is children who trust that we have their best interests in mind as we guide and teach them appropriate ways to act and behave.

We know that guiding children takes time but it also takes a trusting relationship. Children learn to trust us through our consistency with them. They learn from us when we are consistent with our expectations of their behavior and when we take time to talk and model the behavior we want them to have instead. When we guide their appropriate choices we instill a sense of trust in them. They understand that even though we may not be letting them do what they want, they trust us because we have been loving and consistent.

My answer to the original question then was “Discipline is always about helping children learn the consequences of their actions. Punishment is about instilling fear”.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Discipline is different for everyone

We know this to be true. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of journey. Understanding that each child is unique becomes important even as we consider guidance and discipline. Guidance and discipline strategies will change as children grow and they will also be unique to each particular child. We won’t have just one strategy that we use from start to finish. We will, however, select strategies that grow as our child grows and that match their temperament and personality.

The first step then is selecting a discipline strategy that is appropriate for the age of the child. Appropriate toddler age strategies include redirecting and ignoring. Examples of appropriate strategies for preschoolers include natural consequences or time-in. Consider this more effective version of time-out called ‘time-in’ – essentially it is cuddle time or positive quiet time to get the child’s needs met and ensure emotional regulation for both parent and child.

The second step is then selecting the strategy that meets each child’s particular temperament and personality. Some children will respond quickly to a particular strategy while others may have a limited response. You may even need to select different strategies for siblings due to their different temperaments.

The third step can actually be considered ‘one size fits all’. Consistency. Consistently applying your strategy over and over, at home, at grandma’s and at the store is a huge piece to guidance and discipline success. This means that your strategy needs to be able to be implemented in all places. We don’t select one strategy for grandma’s house and a different one for the store. This is confusing to children and they may become unsure of exactly what your expectations are.

Guidance and discipline is a balance between being loving and kind while at the same time being firm and consistent.

Resources shared below have additional suggestions on age-appropriate strategies.

Disciplining Your Preschooler — Understanding Children

Disciplining Your Toddler — Understanding Children

Parenting Young Teens: Parenting in Stepfamilies

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Technology as an Ally

I just finished a conversation with a broadcast news reporter regarding our topic for the month. One comment of his really had an impact on me. “So what you’re saying, is that we need to see technology as an ally in our parenting instead of the enemy,”

He is absolutely correct. As our children begin to use more and more technology in their day to day life, it becomes important for us as parents to see how we can interact with them both. Both, meaning the child and the technology.

One of the things he and I talked about was utilizing technology outdoors to enhance our time exploring nature. Imagine going on a nature walk with your child. You find a peculiar looking bug. If you happen to have technology with you, in an instant you can look up what kind of bug you found. You can learn facts about its habitat, life expectancy and even its eating habits. With technology, you have just enhanced the nature walk right then and there with your child.

Technology and parenting doesn’t have to be an all or nothing battle between you and your child. Why not think of it as a way to enhance your relationship and explore the possibilities of learning together alongside technology. Find the balance between ‘no technology’ parent-child time and ‘focused use of the technology’ (as your ally) .

We would love to hear ways that you have used technology to enhance interactions with your child? Share with us!

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Children and Financial Literacy

As we continue to share about children and money, we would like to highlight this blog from fellow Human Sciences teammates in the Family Finance arena.

Maybe After A Million Words

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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How did Bobby’s parents manage?

This summer while on a trip back to my childhood community, I visited a cousin who is now 90+ and living in a care facility. Eloise and I took a walk through the hallways and I was surprised to run into Bobby who is also a resident.

Bobby is the brother of one of my high school classmates. His family lived on a farm near ours, went to the same church, and was just always a part of the usual activities in the community. So, why do I mention Bobby? Well, it’s because Bobby has special health and behavioral needs. As a child and teenager, I didn’t think too much about Bobby – he was just Bobby and everyone helped take care of him. But as an adult, I look back and think, “How did his parents manage? How did they take care of Bobby and his brothers as well as give time to their marriage and personal lives?”

My guess is that while Bobby’s parents had their ups and downs, they took care of themselves. Providing care for a child with special health and behavioral needs means that the parents/caregivers are in it for the long haul. The caregivers must take care of themselves first so that they can take of their child.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a program for caregivers of children with special health and behavioral needs. Caring for a child with special needs changes parents’ lives. In this program parents learn tools to manage self-care. Here’s an example of one tool – taking action with stress reducers.

Participants in the classes learn to identify their personal warning signs and sources of stress. Then they think about what they have done to successfully reduce stress. People share things like: walk, visit a friend, listen to music, read, not try to do everything, play a sport, etc. Stress reducers are personal and what suits one person may not suit another.

The important point is to find ways to reduce stress – something that is enjoyable and works for you. Even little things can make a big difference for parents. As I remember, Bobby’s parents found ways to reduce stress. They were a part of church activities, Bobby’s dad played horseshoes with the neighborhood men, and Bobby’s mom tended pretty flowers in their yard.

If you’re interested in learning more tools to help you thrive as a caregiver of a child with special health and behavioral needs, check out Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes in your area.

 

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Classroom Strategies to Support Special Needs Children

iStock_000005759838Small[1]Downs_1 copyThe beginning of the new school year can be an anxious time for parents of a child with special needs. Parents may worry about whether their child will be accepted into a new classroom. They may also worry about their child’s classmates and the teacher that is assigned. The school year is a long time, so every child deserves an environment that is suitable for learning and growing.
All children have the need for belonging, and yet, for children with special needs, they can often be left out by their classmates or left behind in their classroom studies. Having a learning disability doesn’t mean a child cannot learn, it simply means, the approach a teacher takes must be intentional so that the child CAN learn.

A few strategies that can make a big difference in the classroom include:

  • limiting distractions – teachers who are organized ahead of time, who can limit the number of interruptions or distractions can help a child stay focused on the learning.
  • breakdown instructions – teachers who will keep instructions short and who will repeat the instructions help students who need that reinforcement.
  • devise opportunities for students success. It may not seem important, but when students with special needs experience success in the classroom, it creates excitement that will reinforce their desire to try again! It is the support of the teacher, acknowledging student success that can make all the difference.

So parents, as school draws near, advocate for your child and watch your student succeed!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Choosing the Chores

As I started thinking about chores and my childhood I was struck by a memory. I remembered how my sister and I divided our chores as pre-teens. We would take mom’s list, write the chores on small slips of paper, put them in a stocking hat and shake shake shake the hat. We then took turns pulling out the slips of paper. Groaning or cheering soon commenced followed by contemplative silence.

It was in this silence that I believe our ‘true’ learning happened. Imagine us analyzing our list. Carefully calculating how long the tasks would take. Considering the impact the list was about to have on our play time. Silently we would also process each other’s list in our heads. Deciphering if it might be worth it to try to trade out tasks to fit our play time plans better.  Tasks, total time and overall effort became part of the chore equation.

I would like to say that our tasks always got done… but we were just kids after all. Sometimes we spent too much time on the processing, negotiating and trading.  Other times we called in the neighborhood friends to help us finish faster and it actually took much longer than expected. Its also possible that every once in awhile mom may have shown up before the stocking hat selection even got started.

Regardless, we learned. We learned how important we were to our family unit. We learned and were proud. Proud of our creative process, our innovative ideas and our ability to negotiate to meet our own individual desires and needs. Chores weren’t always fun, but they were always at least a bit interesting.  (I wonder where that stocking hat is?)

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Kindness is learned by feeling kindness

friendsAs I was reading about kindness I became fascinated by the brain research. I sat there thinking “Well of course, the brain is in charge of our feelings. Why wouldn’t it be the center of this conversation?”.

Our brains are in charge of our emotions and our actions. Our brains take the input we receive from others. Process the information. Tell us how to emotionally respond. And our actions become the response. Makes perfect sense. The brain is in charge of kindness.

And then I read this, “our brain learns best about kindness when it FEELS kindness”. There is was.

How should I teach my children about kindness?  Help them FEEL kindness.

Children learn kindness when they ‘feel’ what its like to make someone else smile. And their brain learns.

They learn about kindness when they share with others, when they comfort others, when they give to others. And their brain learns.

Suddenly writing this blog topic wasn’t rocket science, but is was brain science. It was simply thinking about all of the ways that children can be kind to others and understanding that while they do this – their brain learns.

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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