— Helene Goldnadel Classes

Help Your Child Develop a Healthy Sense of Self

Research indicates that unprecedented numbers of children are experiencing record high rates of depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders even with the advantages of a solid education, financial stability and parental involvement. Parents often feel helpless, out of touch or, many times, unaware that there is even a problem. Developing a “healthy sense of self” can give a child the resilience necessary to avoid such pitfalls. A positive sense of one’s self is also critical to the development of a young person’s emotional health. Here are steps discussed by Helene Goldnadel you can take to begin to make a difference


1) Expose your children to and let them learn to manage complex challenges. Do not solve problems for them, rather, allows your child to learn from their mistakes. If parents constantly step in and solve problems for their children, they interfere with the development of the child’s ability to self-regulate. This is a key component of learning to handle difficult obstacles and emotions from within rather than turning to more harmful coping mechanisms (i.e., drugs, destructive relationships…). It can be hard to watch your child struggle with a problem or a disappointment but that which is gained from learning to manage such challenges is far greater than what is learned if parents are constantly trying to shield their children. Tolerate their resentment, anger, and disappointment when they do not get what they want. If they ultimately handle it constructively and on their own, let them know you value their effort. Stress to your children the value of internal resources over external as a safety net when they are struggling,


2) Encourage motivation to come from within. “My parents will kill me if I don’t get good grades” is an example of a child who may be more motivated by angst than by his or her own internal desire to succeed. This stress can occasionally keep grades up but the resulting anxiety can lead to many other issues. Avoid criticism and rejection. If you need to correct your child, make it informational rather than personal. For example, “I am disappointed in the way you handled that” goes a lot further than “You are such a disappointment.” Let them know you value, in order, their: individuality, effort, grades. Another way to help children develop internal motivation is to allow them time for quiet exploration. It is not only okay but is actually beneficial to do “nothing” once in a while. This is often the time children find their inner compass, a comfortable home base – that sense of knowing what to do in a given situation. Daydreaming, thinking about one’s self and future or just “chilling” are critical processes in self- development. Saying “I need to think it over” is a good sign. Not all play needs to be structured and organized. Games without set rules, and fantasy play are important contributors to a child’s confidence, self reliance, and problem solving abilities. Time to explore without scrutiny and evaluation can help our children become more flexible and creative thinkers.


3) Support versus intrusion - understand and appreciate the difference between the two. Support is about the needs of the child. Intrusion is about the needs of the parent. Despite good intentions, intrusion can do more harm than good. Controlling or overly involved parents, (popularly referred to as “helicopter parents”) can leave kids feeling angry or alienated. It is important to show more concern with who our children are rather than how they do. Studies show that two of the biggest risk factors to a child’s emotional well-being are: academic pressure and disconnection from parents! Decrease pressure to excel. High expectations and pressure are two different things. High expectations, support and encouragement have been shown to promote achievement and competency. Pressure typically promotes stress. When love is experienced as conditional on achievement, problems will arise.


4) Be in control rather than controlling - Firm limits are essential to healthy development. The majority of child psychologists report a lack of limit setting at home among many of their troubled patients. Parents sometimes avoid setting limits for fear of making their children angry or upset. Regardless of what kids may say, this is not what they want! It is essential that children believe their parents have the ability to impose limits and to prevail if there is a conflict. This enables them to feel safe as they venture forth in the world. It is natural to test and resist limits but without them the resulting feelings of confusion and fear can lead to risky behaviors. Limits are best set however, by being in control vs. controlling. Avoid using psychological control or manipulation (“you did this to me”) or imposing feelings of guilt and shame (“I can’t believe you handled it like that.”) Open a dialogue instead: (“How do you think you could have handled that better?”) Truly listen to what your child feels he or she needs. You don’t have to agree but children at least want to know they are being heard. Modeling your own self control, valuing who your child is, paying attention to their strengths and idiosyncrasies as well as tolerating their disappointment and anger when things don’t go their way will help them not only respect but appreciate the limits you set.


5) EAT DINNER TOGETHER! Yes it can be hard but according to adolescent psychiatrist, Madeleine Levine: “Families who eat together five times or more a week have kids who are significantly less likely to use drugs, have higher GPA’s, less depression and fewer suicide attempts than families who eat together two or less times a week.” Finding ways to build emotional closeness like family dinners, family meetings or family outings mean a lot to children even if they don’t admit it.


6) Avoid depending on rewards or bribes. Defaulting to materialism when problems arise make meaningful connection with your children difficult. Offering our children nice things does not necessarily contribute to emotional problems. It is a risk factor however, when they believe from our behavior or values that these luxuries are the things that matter most. Avoid teaching that external rewards equal happiness. There is a fine line between thinking material goods will solve problems and thinking drugs or sex will. Children need to learn to change their behavior for themselves not for “stuff.” Money can be a powerful motivator to get a child to do something we want and most parents are guilty of using rewards to some degree. Share enthusiasm with them for things that make you feel good and productive rather than material things. Above all remember that status, money, possessions and achievement while nice, are not factors that lead to a healthy sense of self.


Remember to seek help and guidance if things feel overwhelming or if an issue seems too heavy to handle alone. Sometimes our own childhood experiences make it difficult to implement what we know is right or to be the kind of parent we hope to be. With baby steps, fresh perspective and guidance, anything is possible!


If you want to learn more, visit here: http://helenegoldnadel.strikingly.com/

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