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Cultivating Empathy in Your Little One

momreadingoptimizedEmpathy is the skill to understand the world from another person’s point of view and then to act based on that understanding.   It may be hard to believe but empathy starts young.  After experiencing a particularly trying day, tears ran down my cheeks.  It did not take more than a minute for my 3-year old daughter to grab a towel and begin to wipe them away.  This was her way of showing empathy for me, her mother.  I was touched by her actions and hoped she would keep this sweet quality forever.  

As parents we can assist our children in developing and fostering empathy.  Below are six creative ways where you and your child can begin to take the risk together.

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Tips to Start the School Year out Right – Take Action!

BulliedKid

When Hurt Turns to Anger, Turns to Shame, Turns to Fear: Tips to Start the School Year out Right

It seems to me that every new school year my kids (and yours) face more and more adversity. I often find myself (as a parent) wishing I was better at preparing my children to face bulling, rejection, shameful feelings, and self-confidence issues.  My girls and foster children have struggled with these issues.  In my research and personal experience, I have found not one thing works on all children, but if I can do my best at consistently being receptive to my children’s emotions, teach empathy, validate feelings, and come up with a way to solve a problem—that works! But first I have to consistently rid myself of my own fears and mirror disappointments and fear in a healthy way. To live well, we must grieve well.

When we are shamed with anger and rage, our underlined emotion or reaction is fear. One fear I will discuss is that of rejection. There is no greater shameful pain of loss than that of rejection. Fear of rejection can result in great loss for anyone. Rejection for someone may mean that they are unlovable or unwanted. When going through a battle of feelings of rejection or loss we (especially children) need social support, feelings of mirrored affection, time, self-talk, and emotional coaching.  I will admit, rejection is a hard pill to swallow for me. There is no way to escape rejection or loss in this human life. The important thing is how we deal with it. Here are some tips for getting the ball rolling for success with coaching your child about fear of rejection and bulling.

Fear of rejection is the center of bulling in my eyes. When shame cries out—fear of rejection and hurt screams—and we become a bully, even to ourselves. Many of my foster children bullied and were bullied. Kids and adults sometimes wanted to shame them for their actions and could render no empathy when they were being bullied. Once again, fear of rejection, being left out, being unloved is the root of this pain! Shame or fear does not help children to feel like a worthy person, but understanding and love does. Teach the feeling behind the fear and then strive to help that person change their negative views of themselves.

Comfort

Validation is number one! First and forth right. This takes TIME.  Validate your child’s feelings and concerns. As a teacher, parent, friend, or peer, children need to feel heard and understood, don’t we all. This is a universal concept, but do we really do it? Or are we good at it? I know it takes practice for sure. I have not always been validated in my life and I have had to learn how to do this with my children. In addition, remember to teach your children to validate themselves. People (and the world) are not always going to validate them. So the next thing to teach is self-talk and how to trust and love themselves first so they do not need to bully their self-concept or others.

Self-talk

Stand tall, look confident, tell yourself you are worth it—is sometimes hard to do. Why is that? Are we taught that we should just know that we have worth?   It is hard sometimes for an adult to overcome fears and self-talk ourselves to a happier tomorrow, let alone a child. But I also think children now days are very resilient because of parents and caregivers like you that have taught them to stick up for themselves, try a little harder, and be proud of who they are. But some kids just plain and simple have a harder time with self-talk. Research shows children that suffer from ADHD and autism lack skills in self-talk. Yet, I believe like many things, it takes practice. Through therapeutic techniques, these can be taught and improved.  Here some ideas. I have used visual aids to help remind kids to rid those bad thoughts that creep in. You can even use a small item (ex. small smooth rock, string, necklace) that they can take to school that remind them that they are special and to self-talk themselves every time they touch it. You can repeat or chant words to yourself while doing an activity like-

“No matter what others say or do, I am still a worthy person.”

“The more I like myself, the more others like themselves.”

“I ______like myself and I am a lovable person.”

“I am special because______.”

Emotional Coaching

Another way to make sure your child’s underlining fear or anger is understood is by teaching skills of recognizing their own feelings. If a child can not recognize what is going on with their body or heart, then they will not be able to regulate themselves. One of my most favorite books is Raising an Emotional Intelligent Child by John Gottman, Phd. Emotional coaching is key in helping your child be more aware of how they are feeling and how safe they feel about their feelings—thus they can self-regulate better. According to Gottman’s research, emotion-coaching parents had children that later went on to be “emotionally intelligent” people. They simply could regulate their own emotions and could calm their heart rate down faster. They had fewer infectious illnesses, better attention, and they could socially relate to others, thus better friendships.  When a parent or caregiver help a child cope with negative feelings, such as anger, sadness, and fear it builds bridges of loyalty and worth. Bridges, in my opinion, that will become a foundation of utmost importance for their understanding of their own self-concept.

When hurt, fear or shame turns into rejection of self or others, give your child the tools to combat the bully of the mind or on the playground by giving them comfort, self-talk, and emotional coaching.

- Caryl Ward, CMHC Intern, CFLE

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When a Loved One Experiences a Faith Crisis

When a Loved One Experiences a Faith Crisis

Religion is a part of our culture and our identity, both individually and as a society. Sometimes, however, a person experiences a faith crisis (sometimes referred to as a faith transition) and chooses a different path. Studies show that 28% of Americans change their religious preference at least once in their lives, and the number continues to grow. This is an issue that hits the hearts and homes of many in our community, and can unfortunately be a source of great pain, confusion, and potential conflict in families. Here are some strategies to handle a faith transition of a loved one:

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Daring Greatly: Worth the Risk

shutterstock_1516681I’ll admit, I am a little bit contrarian by nature. If something is popular, trendy, and “hyped up,” I usually resist it. This may be why I don’t have a Facebook account, I refuse to love sushi, I haven’t read the Harry Potter series, I don’t watch American Idol or The Voice, (and I may or may not watch the Bachelor on occasion with my wife).

So, naturally, when all of my colleagues were raving about Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability, I was just, plain, not interested: “Mike, you need to read her book.” “Mike, you need to watch her Ted Talk on Shame and Vulnerability.” It was like being told I need to try sushi for the millionth time. “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I Am!”

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This Week at WFT 6/30/14

ThisweekatWFT

K.I.D.S Social Skills Group

Monday, June 30th, 4 – 5:30 pm

WFT and Mad Science are teaming up for an exciting Kids Group.  Designed for school-aged children, this group will provide opportunities to learn how to navigate of social situations and understand what it means to be a friend. Through exciting science activities and skill building, group members will practice building healthy relationships.

Friday, July 4th

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend!

 

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“What Should I Say?”: Julie Hanks Answer 3 Tough Relationship Qs

Relationships can bring great job and fulfillment to our lives. However, at some point we all find ourselves in uncomfortable scenarios where it may be difficult to find the right words to communicate to a family member or close friend. The following are reader-submitted questions about common relationship problems, along with tactful strategies to handle them.

1) My younger sister has been giving me the silent treatment for over a year. Apparently, she is holding a grudge, although I have no idea what it’s about. She told me once that our mom told her not to talk to me about it. What should I do?

The first thing to know is that the involvement of a third party (your mother, in this case) rarely if ever does any good and only serves to unnecessarily complicate things. Don’t be afraid to politely insist that the matter stay between you and your sister.

This is a particularly difficult relationship problem, as you have to be the one to make the first move even though she is the individual who has felt wronged. You must now embrace that things are going to be uncomfortable and “go toward the awkward.” Go directly to your sister and begin the conversation with a phrase like “Obviously, I have done something to hurt you.” You don’t need to be overly defensive, but if you honestly have no inclination of why she is upset, you need to first try to understand where she is coming from.

Hopefully, your sister reciprocates the honesty and informs you of what is going on. From there, you can take steps to repair the relationship. Know that it is possible that you are partially responsible for the rift. However, she might be unwilling to talk about it or work toward constructive solutions. In this case, you have done all you could and need to let it be. Relationships are always a two-way street; you do the best you can to communicate, but the other person needs to take responsibility as well.

2) My Friend’s Husband is Emotionally Abusive.
Should I talk to her about it, and if so, how?

“Emotional abuse” is a term we use a lot. There are of course legitimate instances of a person being abusive emotionally, but there may be times when we perceive something as worse than it is because our own emotional history and experiences causes us to be hypersensitive to certain behaviors or words.

That being said, never discount your feelings of concern for a friend who may be experiencing this type of abuse at the hands of a spouse. The best thing (really the only thing) to do at this point is to go to your friend and talk about it! Be sure to stay on your side of the court by expressing how you see things from your perspective Phrase your language by saying things like, “from what I have observed,” there could be a problem or “I love you and have concerns about some of the things I have seen and heard.”  It’s important that you don’t vilify the husband. Make sure to acknowledge that you know he loves her and means well. This will assure your friend that you aren’t insulting or attacking him.

You need to be ready for the possibility that your friend will not like what she is hearing. If she’s unwilling or not (yet) wanting to deal with what’s happening, she very well may pull back from the relationship. But if you truly care about your friend, you will value her well-being more than your comfort level, or even more than the friendship you two share. But your insight into how her husband treats her may be just what she needs to see things more clearly.

3) My sister-in-law continually insults me. I know she probably doesn’t mean it, but it’s very hurtful. I try to avoid her, but I can’t stop going to family events completely. What should I do?

In situations like this, the person who is the scariest emotionally (in your case, your sister-in-law) has the most power. She is insulting and insensitive, while you are the one tiptoeing around and having to go out of your way to avoid her. But you must reclaim your power in order to effectively deal with what’s going on.

When you have the uncomfortable interactions with this woman, you need to “go toward the awkward” and not run away. For example, if she insults your outfit or your parenting style, say something like, “I’m not sure how to take that; what do you mean?” Understand that by asking such a direct question, silence may linger, and that’s ok. But by using this technique, you are essentially holding up a mirror to the person who is being rude and insensitive and requiring her to clarify. It may sound daunting, but being open and honest can tremendously improve the relationship.

Unfortunately, sometimes people are intentionally mean or manipulative. But other times, someone may just be clumsy with words or oblivious to the message he/she is sending. You are good to give her the benefit of the doubt by assuming that your sister-in-law doesn’t mean to be hurtful. Many people who make rude and insensitive comments are speaking from a place of unresolved issues, insecurities, and pain. However, resist the temptation to ignore the situation, as it is clearly (and understandably!) bothering you. Being clear and communicative is how to effectively handle this type of relationship problem.

Have a relationship question?  Contact Julie here, and be sure to include “Studio 5 Ask Julie” in the subject line.

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Help Your 9th grader Succeed Next Fall: Advice from a School Psychologist

Wasatch Family Therapy FamiliesSummer is finally here ! Hopefully you and your student(s) are enjoying the break from homework, studying, and worries about school. And isn’t that exactly what summer is for? However, as we psychologists and counselors wrap things up for this year and discuss preparations for the fall, some of our discussions involve how to better support our incoming 8th grade students. This particular jump, 8th grade into high school, has been considered particularly difficult for most adolescents given the age at which it occurs and the importance that the 14 -15 year old mind places on peers and acceptance. In the world today, however, many would argue it’s become even more difficult. Shifting academic demands placed on students contribute to this situation. The shadow of common core and the expectations on our students appears to be ever increasing. How can we, as parents, help our 8th grade students make a transition into 9th grade that is reasonable?

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This Week at WFT 6/23/14

ThisweekatWFT

K.I.D.S Social Skills Group

Monday, June 23rd, 4 – 5:30 pm

WFT and Mad Science are teaming up for an exciting Kids Group.  Designed for school-aged children, this group will provide opportunities to learn how to navigate of social situations and understand what it means to be a friend. Through exciting science activities and skill building, group members will practice building healthy relationships.

Julie Hanks on KSL Studio 5

Wednesday, June 25th, 11:00 am

Julie will be appearing on KSL Studio 5 for “ASK JULIE” to answer viewer questions.  Tune in!

 

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Turning Your Child’s Aggression into Healthy Expressions

MAD BOYFrustration and anger often marks itself as shoving, hitting, and other aggressive behaviors in children. Teaching children how to handle their feelings reduces aggressive behaviors by giving them alternative openings. Children who display aggressive behaviors need support and direction to help them manage their behaviors and responses in different situations and environments. Although many children have occasional outbursts of anger and aggression, the children who have the support of parents who moderate and channel their children’s aggression towards healthy development will be able to operate with the skills to express their emotions and behaviors in a healthy way.

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This Week at WFT 6/16/14

ThisweekatWFT

K.I.D.S Social Skills Group

Monday, June 16th, 4 – 5:30 pm

WFT and Mad Science are teaming up for an exciting Kids Group.  Designed for school-aged children, this group will provide opportunities to learn how to navigate of social situations and understand what it means to be a friend. Through exciting science activities and skill building, group members will practice building healthy relationships.

Julie Hanks Presents at American Express

Wednesday, June 18th, 7:00 pm

Julie will be presenting at the American Express Women’s Networking Event.  This is a private event for members only.

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