Just kidding, it’s not exciting.
But if you are interested, I have uploaded to this website my new, federally required, Notice of Privacy Practices policy, updated for 2013. You can read it here.
When people come to see me, it’s generally because they are seeking change. Something isn’t quite the way they want it to be: they want to grow, or help their child grow. That desired change?—it begins in the brain.
Scientists used to think that brains stopped growing after a certain age, but thankfully we now know better. Modern neuroscience has proven that the human brain is “plastic”—it can change and grow throughout life. This is great news, because it means that we can change and grow throughout life—we can change our habits, our beliefs, our expectations, our fears. Understanding and acquiring what the human brain needs in order to learn, change, and grow is a necessary step in the revolution you seek.
Dan Siegel, psychiatrist, researcher, and one of the founders of the Interpersonal Neurobiology movement, identifies 7 fundamentals that are necessary for brain growth.
- Sleep. Sleep is so important, and modern parents (and kids) just do not get enough. I myself often remind parents that sleep deprivation is listed in the Geneva Convention as a form of torture. It’s really important, so make sure your whole family is getting enough.
- Good nutrition. You already know this one—but eating more fruits, vegetables, avoiding highly processed foods, limiting sugar and sugary drinks are all ways to help the body—and therefore the mind—work better. Dr. Siegel also singled out getting enough of the nutrient Omega 3 as particularly important to the developing mind.
- Physical activity. Adults and children need daily exercise and activity, including both weight-bearing and aerobic activity. Exercise is proven to regulate mood and improve focus.
- Novelty. Our brains are quick and smart because they look for patterns—you don’t have to discover how a water faucet works every single time you visit a new bathroom, thank goodness. But the shortcuts our brain takes when it recognizes a pattern actually work against us when we want change. So, try to mix things up, introduce playfulness or humor, or change the scene somehow in order to bring a little novelty into the situation. It will make your brain sit up and take notice!
- Focus of attention. What are you paying attention to? Your focus drives energy and information through certain circuits of your brain. More energy and information=more growth.
- Safety. Without this, the brain doesn’t learn and grow well at all. It is absolutely essential.
- Mindful awareness. This is your mind’s ability to observe as opposed to reacting. I sometimes call this the opposite of the “Whack-a-mole” mode. Instinctual reactions are helpful when you are yanking someone out of the way of a speeding car, but in most parent-child conflicts, that’s not the part of the brain you want running the show. Brain growth is improved when we are able to pull ourselves out of our instincts.
If you want to foster change and growth, prioritize the items on this list. The more of the above 7 elements you can put in to place for yourself or for your children, the easier and longer-lasting growth can be.
I’m finishing up the final touches on Tuesday’s workshop “Your Parenting Toolkit.” I am soooo excited about this one–it is packed to the gills with great information–from understanding our strengths and weaknesses in parenting, to how and when to play (as discipline!) to myths about parenting, to emotional intelligence. It’s going to be great!
There are still a couple of spots left, so if you’re interested, I would LOVE to have you join us!
BTW, this workshop is going to eventually be a multi-part series, but since this is the first time I’m offering it, it’s bargain priced… just $25!
Note: I’m on leave for the summer. While I’m out, I’ll be reposting some of my more popular posts. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do. See you again in the Fall.
Good For Him! Tale from my grad school internship with the sex offenders. So many stories, this is one of my favorites.
Oh, Good Question! An unpleasant experience with a medical provider sparks a post on encouraging questions.
My Sock Drawer, Circa 2001. This post isn’t even particularly old, but I like the story enough to repost it anyway. ;^)
RJ Reynolds has started test-marketing a nicotine product called “Orbs” that looks like & is packaged like Tic Tacs.
Orbs, pellets made of finely ground tobacco with mint or cinnamon flavoring, are packed with nicotine and can poison children and lure young people to start using tobacco. The pellets dissolve in the mouth, like breath mints. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and to make it look like a piece of candy is recklessly playing with the health of children,” the lead researcher, Gregory N Connolly, a professor with the Harvard School of Public Health, said in an interview.”
The researchers also say that just 10 of those candies are enough to KILL an infant.
While this is a little off-topic from my usual, I found the product offensive enough to warrant a blog post. Please follow this link to Mamas on Call for all the details.
Update: Another good blog post on this topic can be found here/”On Parenting.” Apparently this one is going to make the rounds… as it should.
I hate to do it, because I LOVE hearing from real people (!) but the sp*m comments have gotten pretty overwhelming lately, so I’m going to turn off comments for the next few months. When I have a little more time to sort through this stuff (and hopefully improve the sp*m filtering!) I’ll turn them back on.
My apologies to any of my real, human readers, who might have liked to join in the conversation!
Austin-American Statesman writer Tara Trower adds to the conversation about talking with your children about Austin’s plane crash. Read her blog post here.
First & foremost, the best advice I can give you not only applies to this conversation, but many, many other difficult ones:
The most important thing for a parent to do in any difficult conversation is simply to BE & STAY open to communication. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you need to give your child a particular piece of information, or say a particular phrase. Parenting is never accomplished in one moment. Parenting is all about repeated experiences/events/conversations. Remember–it’s all about the RELATIONSHIP, and you want to have the kind of relationship where your children know that they can come to you to talk about difficult, awkward, or emotional topics. So: make this a “talkable moment,” be honest, calm, serious, supportive, loving, and listenlistenlisten.
That said, I know I’d want some concrete advice, too, so here goes:
Recommendations differ for different ages. The youngest children may not need any information–if they haven’t been exposed and you’re sure they won’t be, you may very well be able to avoid the topic of this event altogether. (read footnote #1)
Children typically do better when they hear difficult/emotional information from a trusted source first, so consider bringing the topic up yourself with an older child. They are likely to overhear something somewhere anyway. It’s important that they be able to get accurate, age-appropriate information from you to help them balance–or correct–what they’ve already heard.
Your child may not have a strong emotional reaction to the news–it is an abstract concept to many of them. Instead, they may be curious or confused. This is normal.
An older child/teenager may be able to understand the bigger picture and may indeed have an emotional reaction. Remember that there is a wide range of “normal” emotional responses, including anger, fear, sadness, confusion, and more.
Younger children sometimes ‘test out’ emotions, by reacting to this sort of information with stronger feeling than you might expect. This is typically a normal and healthy way for children to learn about emotion. Use your intuition with regard to whether it’s an ‘experimental’ emotional response or a sign that your child is having (too) hard of a time coping with this or other hidden problems.
It’s absolutely fine to share YOUR feelings with your child, as long as you are doing so (relatively) calmly, with role-modeling or teaching in mind. In other words, try to talk about your feelings, not demonstrate them.
Do you have to drive by the building? If your young child asks you what happened, you can say
“A plane crashed into that building today.”
With older, or more inquisitive children, you might add in more details, either intially, or as part of the conversation, including phrases like:
- A man flew a plane into that building.
- He did it on purpose.
- A man who worked there died, as did the pilot. Other people were injured.
- That building has many government workers in it, and the pilot blamed the government for his problems.
- It’s normal to feel angry, even very angry sometimes, but it’s not normal to act out feelings like that. He has hurt many, many people with his choices.
Tune in to what is ‘behind’ your child’s questions. What sounds like a request for more information may actually be your child’s indirect request for reassurance. They may need to hear that: they are safe; such acts are actually rare, that planes/buildings/Austin are all safe places for them, and that you will keep them safe.
Be prepared for questions to come up again later, even much later, and at odd times. As children develop, so to does their ability to understand the world. They may “re-process” this information in 6 or 12 or 24+ months, and need to talk about it with you again. Just be patient and loving and remember to focus on open communication. (footnote #2)
FYI, some of the signs of a child who is having serious problems adjusting can include: persistent somatic complaints, problems sleeping or eating, inability or disinterest in normal/previously enjoyable activites, depression/sadness most of the day more days than not, talk or hints of suicide or worthlessness. If you see these signs, please consult with a professional right away.
#1. But. Please don’t avoid talking about death in general, okay? It’s much easier for children to grasp the concept when they get to learn it abstractly, not while also processing a serious personal loss.
#2. Also, hold your precious babies close tonight. I’m doing that, and also sending a little loving light in the direction of the children and grandchildren of (all) the victims and the pilot’s 12 year old daughter, too.
Chris Heidel, owner of Libra Fitness, wrote a good post the other day about New Year’s Resolutions. While I do believe in the power of setting intention and having positive goals (which is really all that setting resolutions is), I’ve found that doing them once a year in early January isn’t for me. I’d like to share with you what we do in our house instead.
We get together for a special family date, with paper and pencil, and spend time remembering and recording all the things we accomplished in the previous year. We “brainstorm” the list–so everything that’s said gets written down. The list covers both personal, familial, and professional sucesses, and no success is too small. (We always include our vacations–those are the result of hard work!) We love remembering all the good things, it’s fun to review the year and see how far we’ve come. Remembering some successes reminds us of how things are better now than they were–a reassuring feeling. Some successes mark the culmination of lots of hard work, and other remind us of a time or two where we just got lucky. I save the lists, too, and when we’re done with the current year, we sometimes go back and look at previous ones.
So, what can you give yourself credit for in 2009? Did you tweak something in your parenting that has had a positive effect? Pay off the car? Go for a walk 3x a week? Lay on the beach for a week? Leave a comment with one of your successes, I’d love to congratulate you!