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Posts tagged happiness
Reminder: You can always leave an uncomfortable situation
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As a little boy or girl, were you ever at a sleepover, but something didn’t feel right, and you just wanted to leave? In high school, were you ever at a party and realized there was drugs alcohol, and no parents were home, and you just wanted to leave? Have you ever been on a date that was so uncomfortable, you just wanted to leave? In college, were you ever in a situation where someone was trying to get you to do something you didn’t want to, and you just wanted to leave? As an adult, have you ever been at a bar with some of your friends and someone else kept hitting on you and you just wanted to leave? The reality of it, is we have all been in an uncomfortable situation and forgot that we are allowed to just leave. The reason we stayed may have been because we were scared, we were embarrassed, or we wanted to please the people around us. This blog is a reminder to men and women of all ages that it is perfectly okay to leave a situation, regardless of what other people may think.

Erynn Brook shared her story through a twitter thread of the first time her mother taught her she was allowed to leave an uncomfortable situation and the many times after that she was reminded. Brook explains, “I was maybe 7, I think it was my first sleepover at someone else’s house… before I left Mum told me that if I was uncomfortable at any point, for any reason, even if it was the middle of the night, I could call her.” As Brook’s night continued, she was bullied by her friends and decided she wanted to leave. The girl’s mom tried to discourage her by saying “it was late, I could sleep on the couch, and that I was upsetting her daughter.” Brooks called her mom anyways. When her mom arrived in the middle of the night, the other girl’s mom apologized, Brook’s mom stopped her and said “don’t apologize for my daughter. I want her to know she’s allowed to leave, and I’ll be there for her at any time.”

As she grew up, there were many other uncomfortable situations Brook wanted to leave. Ranging from times her friends were bullying her to resigning from a job, she always remembered her mom’s advice. Brook explains that she is aware this is not a widespread idea. Most parents teach their kids to “just deal with it” or “don’t be a quitter,” but that’s not what this lesson is about. Leaving an uncomfortable situation is one of the hardest decisions. Leaving does not mean you are soft or weak, it means you are strong and brave.  

The most important lesson is that everyone is allowed to leave. There may be some situations, for some people where there is no way out. However, the important thing to remember, is that you’re ALLOWED to. You have the right and the ability to leave. A helpful part to remembering this, is having someone, like Brook had her mom, to always be there to remind you it is okay to leave and help you get out of the situation. Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable, regardless of your age or gender. YOU are in control of your life, YOU set your own boundaries, and YOU are allowed to leave an uncomfortable situation.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Marfice, Christina. “Powerful Thread Reminds Us We Can Always Leave Uncomfortable Situations.” Scary Mommy, Scary Mommy, 2 Oct. 2018, www.scarymommy.com/twitter-thread-uncomfortable-leave/

Emotions of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Emotions of children on the autism spectrum are often hard to comprehend. It is important to help children not only identify an emotion, but also connect that emotion to a specific event. According to Alice Kassotaki, speech language pathologist MSc, BSc, there are four steps to identifying emotions.

  • -Step 1: Definition of the child’s emotion: “Nick, you look scared”.
  • -Step 2: Connection of the emotion while it is being expressed: “Maybe you are scared because this is a new game”.  
  • -Step 3: Confirmation that it is normal to have such an emotion: “It makes sense to be scared when you try something new for the first time”.
  • -Step 4: Reassurance: “Let me help you. It will be easier and less scary if we do it together”.  

There are many simple games that can be played to help children identify emotions. Mirroring emotions and having children guess how you are feeling is a great way to have them practice recognizing emotions. One a child has accomplished this step, they will later learn how other people think, and then eventually be able to connect how their feeling in regard to what they are doing.

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Children on the autism spectrum may have difficulties displaying empathy. However, during the transition period from early childhood to preschool age, children are able to gain some skills. For example:

  • verbal and nom-verbal characterization of the emotional expressions
  • use of emotional language to describe personal emotional experiences and to clarify others’ emotional experiences
  • development of knowledge about the rules of emotional expression and how various emotions can occur at the same time
  • gradual understanding of social emotions such as guilt

It is an important first step to understand one’s own emotions. Once this is achieved, identifying, understanding, and reacting to others’ emotions is crucial to building strong social skills. Misunderstanding social ques, such as non-verbal signs, can lead to miscommunication. A child may unknowingly misbehave because of the lack of understanding. This can often be avoided by teaching children specific emotions and reactions in the clearest way possible.

At a young age, 4 to 6, most children are able to understand the main emotions: joy, sadness, anger, and fear (think of the Disney movie, Inside Out). More complex emotions, such as pride, guilt, and shame, must be learned through the main emotions. Here are 7 ways to help children understand the complex emotions:

1.     Attention approach: some children must be taught to pay attention to social information. When you notice a child feeling a certain emotion, such as anger, state their emotion and why they are feeling that way while continuing to show nonverbal signals, such as crossed arms and stern voice.

2.     Naming the emotions: As a child begins to pay attention to social information, teach them the names of the emotions, starting with the main emotions. Using pictures of familiar faces with obvious emotions can help the child relate the name to the understanding of the emotion.

3.     Designation emotions: Once a child is able to look at a frown and identify that that person is sad, teach them how to designate each emotion. Ask questions such as “How does he feel?” to be able to designate different emotions

4.     Actions based on emotions: Now that the child is able to understand and designate each emotion, help them react based on emotions. Rather than looking at pictures, show them real life examples of emotion.

5.     Role-playing: Give the child different scenarios of receiving ice cream and feeling happy or losing a toy and feeling sad, allowing them to role-play and further identification and expression of emotions.

6.     Modeling (filming): When watching a movie or television show, point out characters’ emotions that the child will be able to relate to.

7.     Games and books: Playing board games and reading books are also great ways to help the child learn about others’ emotions in different situations. This is a way to turn learning into an interactive activity.

While this information is geared towards individuals on the autism spectrum, this same information about identifying and understanding emotions can be used to all children. 

 Contact us for more information on children on the autism spectrum, learning and expressing emotions, or for help with children who are struggling.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Kassotaki, Alice. (2017). “Emotions of Children on the Autism Spectrum.” Upbility.

6 Things Parents Can Do About Catcalling

Catcalling and other forms of harassment happen everyday. Many grown women know the feeling of walking down the street and being whistled or yelled at, or heard small inappropriate statements about their bodies. According to the article "One in Ten Girls is Catcalled Before Her 11th Birthday. Here Are 6 Things Parents Can Do About It", one in ten American girls had been catcalled before her 11th birthday. In 2017, a report showed that more than one in six girls in elementary and secondary school have dealt with gender-based harassment.

First of all, this type of harassment at such a young age can affect the way girls feel about themselves, leading them into a downhill spiral of being concerned about how they look and even judging other girls based on their looks. Other studies have proven that females who have been objectified by members of the opposite sex perform worse on math tests. Finally, the more women are talked about in appropriate ways, the blurrier the boundary line gets. Males tend to forget that their little comments can go a long way. Although it is not all boys and men who participate in catcalling and harassment, it is happening and could be happening to your daughter.

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Here are six ways to help protect your daughter and fight back against this inappropriate behavior:

1. Point out pop-culture sexism 

Since catcalling is everywhere, especially in pop-culture, an easy way to bring awareness to your daughter is to talk about it when it is brought up. Whether it is on the television, on the radio, or even in person, talk to your daughter about why it is inappropriate and how serious it can be. Ask her questions about how she would feel if those comments were directed toward her or if it has ever happened to her. 

2. Get talking

Although this topic seems a little mature for elementary school, it is never too early to start talking about it. When young girls are harassed, only about 2 percent of them talk to their parents about it. Start around third or fourth grade to make your daughter comfortable and know she can talk to you if the situation occurs in the future. 

3. Let her know, its never ever her fault

It is important to emphasize that it is never her fault. She didn't "ask for it" because of her outfit choice and she wasn't "doing anything to deserve it" by walking around with a group of friends. Girls and women deserve to feel as comfortable and free as boys and men do. This type of attention is often unwanted, so make sure she knows to not feel ashamed if it does happen and that she can talk to you or any adult about it. 

4. Arm her with what to say or do

Reacting to a harasser can be confusing, especially when it seems they are "complimenting" you. Make it known that their behavior is the opposite of polite and it is not necessary to engage in conversation back to them. Sometimes it is better to ignore them and continue walking, while in other situations an assertive comment like "Please stop, that's not okay" may be appropriate. Remind her that if she feels uncomfortable in any situation, it is best to remove herself from the situation and talk to you or an adult she trusts. If this inappropriate behavior is coming from one of her classmates or other individuals she would feel comfortable talking to, encourage her to tell him he is acting inappropriately and he needs to stop. 

5.Talk to boys and young men in your life

If you have a son or other young men in your life, speak to them as well. Making them aware of the inappropriate behaviors at a young age can help prevent it from ever happening. Use pop-culture to show them what is inappropriate and explain to them how it can make others feel. Ask them why they think other men do this and give them ways to help stop it, such as standing up for girls or refusing to laugh at inappropriate jokes. Be sure that they know the phrase, "boys will be boys," is not an excuse to be inappropriate.

6. Take action

There are more ways to get involved than just talking to your daughter or son. Reach out to your community and plan meetings or assemblies to spread the word about catcalling and gender-based harassment. The more knowledgable people are, the less likely it will happen. 

Although catcalling and harassment won't end tomorrow, bringing awareness to the problem is a start. If you have questions about harassment and how it affects you or your child or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: “One in Ten Girls Is Catcalled Before Her 11th Birthday. Here Are 6 Things Parents Can Do About It.” Girl Scouts of the USA, Girl Scouts of the USA, 2017. 

The Five Love Languages of Children, Part 9: Acts of Service

Last week, I discussed the final love language of children, acts of service, based on the book “The Five Love Languages of Children” by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. In case you missed it, please follow the links below to read previous posts about the various love languages of children:

  1. Physical Touch (Part 1 and Part 2)
  2. Words of Affirmation (Part 1 and Part 2)
  3. Quality Time (Part 1 and Part 2)
  4. Gifts
  5. Acts of Service (Part 1)

Today, I will continue to discuss the final love language of children, acts of service, to provide some tips, tricks, and tidbits on how to incorporate acts of service into a parent-child relationship.

Love language

It is easy for parents to have hopes, wishes, and dreams for their children. A part of incorporating acts of service into a parent-child relationship is a parent’s acknowledgement that the child is not an extension of the parent, but rather an individual. This means that it is important for parents to allow their children to develop their own skills, abilities, and goals without the parents pushing their own unfulfilled wishes or desires upon their children. A parent’s goal is to help guide a child and give the child room to explore their own autonomy. This does not include giving a child a detailed map stating what the rest of the child’s life will look like.

For children whose primary love language is acts of service, requesting help from a parent is more about creating a connection then receiving the help. Because it is about connection for the child, a parent’s response may negatively impact the parent-child relationship.

For example, an adolescent approaches his mother while she is reading and asks, “Mom, will you cook me breakfast?” Without looking up, his mother snaps to him, “No you know how to cook it yourself.” In this instance, the son was not just asking for food, but to engage with his mother. This response may leave the son feeling defeated and upset. Parents do not need to jump at every request but should remain sensitive a child’s requests and recognize that it is motivated by a child’s need for connection.

Instead of snapping at her child in the above example, an alternative response may have looked more like this: “I’m sorry, I cannot cook right now. Would it be okay if you made something yourself and then we can do something together later?” In this way, the mother is still denying the request, however, she is also addressing her son’s need to connect.

As a parent, when providing acts of service for a child, it is important to help a child regardless of the child’s behavior. For example, some parents may feel that they can only help a child when the child behaves well and may choose not to help a child if a child is behaving poorly. This will ultimately teach a child that love is conditional and must be earned. This is not a message a parent should teach a child - love is unconditional, and therefore, a parent’s role is to support and help a child as needed, whether the child has had a good day or a bad day.

Below is a list of tips, tricks, and tidbits to help parents connect with a child whose love language is acts of service:

  • Children will notice a parent who does things for others out of love, not obligation, and will model this behavior
  • For younger children, have them help with chores or cooking. This will not only show the child skills for future independence, but will also allow parent and child to connect with one another
  • As children get older, engage in the community together such as through volunteering and/or walking for awareness or a cause
  • Respond to a child’s request - not react. If a parent refuses a child, pushes the child away, or responds to a child in a harsh or critical tone, it may impact the child’s emotional tank

And remember, a parent does not need to say “yes” to a child’s every request. However, a parent should try to remain sensitive to a child’s request, recognize it as a bid for connection, and respond in a gentle manner.

If you enjoyed reading about the five love languages of children and would like to learn how to incorporate these languages into your own relationship with your child, therapy can be a safe space to explore these connections. From individual therapy, to family therapy, to couples therapy, there are lots of ways to create connection and explore specific and unique patterns within a family. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us.