Great for All Ages, School Advice, Stress Management, The Happy Student Podcast

#109 Stress-Tolerance

Stress. We’ve all got it. I’ve got it. You’ve got it. Your kids have it. Some stress is good for us – it can help motivate us to do stuff and it activates our brain so that we really pay attention to what we are doing. But too much stress and those benefits go away. Too much stress and your brain starts worrying and stops working. You actually lose IQ points when you have too much stress. This is a problem. We’ve got 7 tips for building your stress-tolerance!

CHECK OUT THE EPISODE BELOW: 

[smart_podcast_player]

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg researches resilience, which requires a lot of stress-tolerance, and he’s got seven tips to help us manage our stress. 

1. Make problems manageable. The more you do this, the more it will become a habit every time something stressful pops up.

  • “Summit one mountain. When fully done, look up then” he says.
  • Have a plan of how you’re going to achieve your goal. It’s much scarier before you have that plan because the obstacle seems so much larger and impossible to overcome.
  • Help your child figure out what the problem is and how to overcome it, step by step, focusing just on one at a time.

2. Actively avoid stress-triggers.

  • Talk with your child about what or who triggers their stress and think about ways they might be able to avoid some of those triggers to make their school days better.

3. Exercise.

  • Anxiety is a bunch of extra energy coursing through your body, so Ginsburg says “we use up anxiety when we exercise.” And that will leave you feeling less anxious when you are done. 

4. Meditate.

  • Breathing, in particular, calms your entire system. And meditating helps to calm your mind. When you are calm, you are much more effective at overcoming obstacles.
  • When I’m stressed, I try to act quickly to relieve the stress. But I don’t always do a great job and then the stress returns. If I can calm myself down, I can go slowly and smoothly – do a good job, and be done faster. 

5. Sleep.

  • We all do better with sleep. We are happier and less stressed. 
  • We often think of sleep as nice to have, but really, it’s an absolute necessity. 

6. Take vacations.

  • Give yourself breaks and make them truly rejuvenating, like practice yoga or go for a walk. Scrolling through an app on your phone is not rejuvenating. 

7. Contribute to the world.

  • It makes you feel good to have something bigger than yourself that you’re working on. This can help protect you from stress that pops up when you are working on achieving it. Or, even when you’re not. 
  • And just because kids are young doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to the world. There are lots of things they can do, like be a bully buster or volunteer. 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Great for All Ages, Parent Tips, Stress Management, The Happy Student Podcast

#102 How To Be Happy and Fulfilled So Your Kids Are Too

Our kids do as we do. And what we want for them is to be happy and fulfilled. So, if they’re going to be like us, we need to be happy and fulfilled so they can be. Easier said than done. Fireborn’s got 7 tips that intertwine so you can do multiple at a time for maximum happiness efficiency, so that your kids can learn how to be just like you.

CHECK OUT THE EPISODE BELOW: 

[smart_podcast_player]

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

  1. Give yourself some quiet time.
    1. Take time to meditate, to reflect on the day, and to daydream, and maybe to practice some yoga.
    2. You can specifically set aside time for quiet time in a specific place and your kids know they are not to bother you while you are there (or they can quietly join you in your quiet time).
      1. Put on some classical music that is a cue to your kids that it is your reflection time. If your kids interrupt or ask, definitely tell them what you are doing and why. They will start to interrupt you less and less and they may even start to join you.
  2. Put the phone and social media away.
    1. The real problem is “reverse FOMO”. You’re not missing out on anything online. But by always being online you’re missing out on life.
    2. So stop the scrolling and live in the real world more often.
    3. This gives more time for that quiet reflection.
  3. Spend more time having conversations with people (in person if possible).
    1. Use phones to make plans to hang out with people, but avoid using it to catch up. If you can’t meet up in person, a phone call is way better than texting.
    2. That personal connection is so much more powerful and healthy and joy-producing than seeing life updates on Instagram.
  4. Give and get a lot of hugs (with consent obviously).
    1. As Eric Barker puts it, “Hugs make you happier.”
  5. Make plans and do stuff together with your friends.
    1. Don’t just talk with your friends, do stuff together! Learn a new activity together!
    2. Eric says, “Someone else is not doing cooler things than you because they have “more time”. It’s because they have different priorities.”
  6. Have a hobby and make sure your leisure time is high quality.
    1. Hobbies are things we are passionate about. Things we like to do, skills we like to learn, and challenges we like to overcome.
  7. Remember to focus on your values.
    1. People are prioritizing doing cool stuff because that is what they value.
    2. We don’t even think about how to spend our free moments. Somehow it just happened that every time we have a second, we check our phone. So you have to figure out what you value and remind yourself of those values to get  motivated to not check and scroll forever and to do that cool stuff instead. You have to be intentional with your time.

Reference:

Barker, E. (2019) This is the most powerful way to make your life fantastic. Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Difficult Topics, Executive Functions Training, Great for All Ages, Stress Management, The Happy Student Podcast

#101 Emotional Control

It can be really difficult for kids to focus on school work when they’re having social troubles and yet sometimes we have to sit through class or study for a test even though we are going through tough times. We have to be able to control our emotions in order to get stuff done. Learning to control our emotions when it’s hard requires learning how to do that when our emotions aren’t out of control. Fireborn’s got 6 tips to help you help your kid control their emotions when times are easy so that they are easier to control when times are hard.

CHECK OUT THE EPISODE BELOW: 

[smart_podcast_player]

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

Peg Dawson and Richard Guare state that you have good emotional control if you agree with the following three statements:

1.     My emotions seldom get in the way when performing on the job.

2.     Little things do not affect me emotionally or distract me from the task at hand.

3.     I can defer my personal feelings until after the task has been completed.

It can be really difficult for kids to focus on school work when they’re having social troubles, maybe they just had a fight with their friend or maybe they didn’t do well on a test and they feel anxious about it. Those anxious or sad emotions can get in the way of focusing in the current class. It can be distressing to have to wait until recess to talk to your friend to repair the relationship. It’s okay to have those distressed, anxious, sad emotions. It’s normal. It’s natural.

So, emotional control is not about not feeling emotions. It’s about recognizing that you have that emotion, but not letting it get in the way of you doing what you need to do. We do not want our emotions to control us.

Your child is feeling sad because their friend hurt their feelings. But he/she can’t always mend the relationship right away. He/she has to be able to get stuff done even though he/she is dealing with a lot of emotions. So how do he/she do that?

We need to calm down – but I would NEVER recommend saying that to anyone. Saying “Calm down” to someone invalidates their feelings, making them feel like you don’t understand, and so they get further enraged. So instead of saying, “Calm down”, we work on techniques for calming down, like meditation.

  • Practicing 10 minutes of meditation a day when we are already calm helps us to realize when we are getting agitated and need to meditate in other situations.
  • Finding an app like Calm or a CD or activity book for meditation like Sitting Still Like a Frog can help teach your child to notice when their emotions are overwhelming them and can give them strategies to calm themselves down.

Another technique you can teach your kid for calming down is to teach them how to realize when they are flipping their lid. Flipping your lid is one way experts use to describe what’s happening in your brain when your emotions take charge.

  • To describe flipping your lid goes like this…
  • Use your hand closed as a fist to represent your brain. Your palm is the “downstairs” brain – the emotional part of your brain. The downstairs emotional part of your brain quickly determines threats and reacts.
  • The upstairs part of your brain are your fingers covering that palm when your hand is in a fist. The upstairs part of your brain is the logical, problem solving part of your brain. So it works with the downstairs brain to figure out if there is really a threat and what to do about it.
  • When you are calm, your upstairs and downstairs brain are working together nicely to sort through your emotions and problem solve anything that pops up.
  • But when we get overwhelmed, we “flip our lid” – when that happens the fingers rise up and your upstairs brain is no longer connected to your downstairs brain. Your downstairs brain, your emotions, have taken control. And you can no longer think clearly and problem solve.

Then you teach them the trick to getting back to that brain that looks like a fist where the downstairs and upstairs are working well together – and the trick is to BREATHE.

  • Breathing out slowly cools off your downstairs brain and allows your upstairs brain to come back and work with your emotions. So each time you flip your lid, count how many breaths you need to take until your lid has come back down.

Exercise is also always a good option for getting your emotions back in check. There is something about using up all that anxious or angry energy that helps us to re-center ourselves.

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg recommends that you “Blank it out” which means that you fill in the blank and write it out, dance it out, sing it out, draw it out, or whatever you want to blank it out.

Finally, to prepare for times when you know your emotions could get out of control, role play the scenario at home first.

  • Problem solve ahead of time so that when they get to the scary situation they are equipped with strategies to deal with their anxiety.

To summarize… to help your child develop emotional control:

1.     Meditate

2.     Teach your kids about flipping their lid

3.     Teach your kids the solution to flipping their lid: breathing

4.     Exercise

5.     Blank it out

6.     Role play

Resources:

Calm

Flipping Your Lid

Sitting Still Like a Frog

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Preparing Anxious Kids for Summer Travel
Stress Management

Preparing Anxious Kids for Summer Travel

Traveling, even for super fun summer trips, can be really stressful and anxiety-inducing for kids. Doing some quick exercises with your anxious child ahead of time can make what would have turned into an anxiety attack, a much calmer, happier child, family, trip.

1. Talk about the trip and potential anxiety ahead of time. Brainstorm solutions together and come up with a plan of action.

What makes your child anxious? Can the two of you prepare for that? Are they scared of flying? Would a cuddle buddy or distractions help with that?

Have a conversation with your child about what causes their anxiety. This can be a difficult conversation, so I love the idea of using what Daniel Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD, call “The Remote of Your Mind” in their book The Whole-Brain Child. To use this strategy, slowly have your child talk through what happens when you travel. “We pack our bags at home. We get in the car and drive to the airport. In the car to the airport, we sing songs…” When they start to get nervous, they can “fast forward” through the scary part and then finish the story, “Then we get to Disney World and we check into the hotel. We put our stuff away and go to the park to go on the rides!” Once they’ve reached the happy conclusion, “rewind” and help them talk through the scary part and what makes it so hard. This helps them realize that it’s not quite as scary as they thought.

Then, get your child involved in the planning and create a plan of action: When I get anxious, I will ___________________. Fill in that blank together with some ideas.

2. Practice a few breathing techniques ahead of time. A good place to start is some exercises from Sitting Still Like a Frog.

Breathing calms your brain and your anxiety down so you can think logically.

When you notice your child getting anxious at other times before you leave on your trip, ask them to take some deep breaths and think about where they feel that anxiety. Ask them to keep breathing deep breaths until that anxious feeling they feel has subsided.

3. Name feelings.

When we name our feelings, they lose some of their power. So practice naming feelings ahead of time, so that when that anxiety pops up during travel, you can “name it to tame it” as Daniel Siegel says.

4. Practice releasing emotions.

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg suggests reducing anxiety by releasing emotions and “blanking it out”. Blanking it out means dancing it out, writing it out, singing it out, and so on. Talk with your child about how they want to “blank it out” and use it as part of your plan in #1.

5. Pack some cognitive distractions.

When we are anxious, we get caught up in negative thought cycles. Break those thought cycles with a cognitive distraction. When your brain is working on solving a problem or is using it’s language centers to read, it’s harder for it to use those parts of the brain to think about how anxious it is. Some good cognitive distractions include: reading, Sudoku, MadLibs, and trivia.

With a little preparation, we can work to really reduce that travel anxiety and make summer trips that much more fun!

Difficult Topics, Stress Management

Forgiveness When We Fail

It’s Thursday evening. I’m finally sitting down to write this post – a day late. With everything that has been going on in my work life and my personal life,  I have not had a chance to go through my email since Monday. I have skimmed through it a bunch of times to make sure I haven’t missed anything important, but my phone currently tells me I have 153 unread emails. I usually like to keep that number at a max of 10. The laundry that my husband washed this past weekend is still waiting for me to fold it. I have not been on a treadmill and I have only meditated once the past 7 days.

Life has been hectic lately, with two wake-up calls before 5 am this week (normally, I wake up at 7 am). Finding time to do the things that make me happy and keep me sane has been difficult. I have failed this week in taking my own advice.

So, today I fixed that. I brought my laptop outside onto the patio, because it is like spring outside, and started to type. The neighbors saw me and stopped by to chat. I did not interrupt our conversation so that I could get back to this. Instead, I enjoyed the moment. I chatted with my neighbors. I watched the sky by the trees get darker. I breathed in the spring air. I watched my dog hunt for squirrels. And every time the thought that I “should get back to work” entered my head, I told myself I needed this break and that I needed to be present in this moment. When I was bored of taking in the scenery, I would turn back to my computer. If I was stuck on a thought, I would just breath in the warm air.

Even those of us that give advice sometimes forget to take it. So tonight I am reminding myself. I am giving myself permission to slow down and to take a real break. And I forgive myself for forgetting to take care of myself this week. Sometimes it can be so difficult to forgive ourselves that we continue on the wrong path and we get stuck in a rut.

So have a lovely night. Take care of yourself and then your children will learn to take care of themselves too.

Toxic Social Situations
Difficult Topics, Middle School, Self-Advocacy, Social Life, Stress Management

Toxic Social Situations

Middle school, as we all know, is an awkward time in kids’ lives, particularly with peers. And high school is not known for being a walk in the park socially either. Kids worry about being popular, being left out, saying the wrong thing, wearing the wrong outfit – the list goes on…

Imagine the following scenario:

You (well, middle school version of you) walks up to a couple of girls, who then turn their back on you. You maybe try to say hi, but then they walk away from you. So you walk away and try to be friendly again later, only for the same story to play out. Sound familiar?

As middle schoolers, we naturally internalize this behavior as indicating that something is wrong with us. And then we dwell on it and put ourselves down and enter this terrible feedback loop because we approach the next social situation with trepidation instead of confidence.

As parents of children who are going through this situation, and dealing with issues we did not have to (namely cyberbullying), we need to teach our children that it really “isn’t you (your child), it’s them (the bullies).”

That is hard when ‘everyone’ (in the eyes of your child) thinks this other person is amazing. But I suggest talking to your child about:

  • how this other student may be a bully,
  • how your child is wonderful (in specific and sincere ways, as usual),
  • how this other person behaved badly,
  • how upset you are that someone else made your wonderful child feel so bad,
  • how it was wrong of that person to behave in such a manner,
  • how your child should act in the future. 

And how should your child act in the future?

According to Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, one of the best ways to manage stress is “Active avoidance of triggers” (2015). In this situation, the other student(s) is the trigger of the bad feelings and social anxiety. Therefore, one of the best ways to deal with it is to avoid that person. Stop trying to hang out with her. Find other people who treat you well. When your friends want to hang out with that person, you can find something else to do (or give a second chance – just not too many second chances). 

Another strategy to try at the same time is to help your child find something he is really good at: a sport, school, a specific subject in school, playing an instrument, coding, drawing, building robots, volunteering, and so on… It is even better if you can help him pursue this skill with others. As Dr. Ginsburg explains, people feel better and less stressed when they contribute to the world, when they feel as though they have a sense of meaning, and when they are “surrounded with thank yous rather than condemnation” (2015). Helping your child find that sense of meaning through an after-school activity will help him find other friends and feel confident and maintain his self-esteem during those uncomfortable, and perhaps toxic, social situations.

My favorite activity is volunteering because it helps solidify a sense of self: I am a good person. Which can then help your child when confronted by “mean girls” because she can say to herself, “They just hurt my feelings by turning away from me. That is not something a good person does. I will go find other people like me to hang out with.” But all of the activities help your child define herself, can bolster self-esteem, and help your child deal with the hardships associated with growing up.


Resources:

Davis, P. (2016). Personal communication.

Ginsburg, K. (2015). Building resilience: Preparing children and adolescents to THRIVE. Learning and the Brain Conference: Boston.

Difficult Topics, Elementary School, Parent-Child Communication, Stress Management

A Child Who Refuses to Choose

It is Saturday afternoon. In 30 minutes you need to be out the door with a beautifully dressed family ready for a friend’s wedding. And yet your child is running around in a ballet outfit with a tiara, insisting on wearing that to the party. You, not new to this game, say, “We are going to our friends’ wedding and we have to get really dressed up for weddings! So, what you are wearing is not an option. Here are two great other options: This pretty purple dress or this cute sparkly pantsuit.”
A Child Who Refuses to Choose
Hopefully the battle is over at this juncture. However, sometimes our children “don’t like the choices you are choicing” them (Lerner, 2015) and then what?
  a
You make the choice. 
Then you, as calmly and gently (emotionally and physically) as you can, help your child out of the ballet costume and into the wedding attire you chose.
  a
Unhappiness is highly likely to follow. Help soothe your child by empathizing with her and validating her feelings. Provide her with distractions and ways to start self-soothing. You only have 5 minutes now before you should be out the door, but you can put your sad (potentially wailing) child in the car with a toy, a book, or a special treat, and play his favorite song that he just cannot resist singing along to. (My sister played Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” just about the entire ride from DC to New York for her sweet 1 year old.)
a
Give him time to self-soothe and work it out on his own. He may need you to ignore his screaming, even though you obviously want to try to help calm the tears as fast as possible.
  a
Miss the wedding ceremony if you must to give your child time to calm her emotions. It is better to miss the ceremony and make it for the reception than to have to leave mid-ceremony to take a screaming child home because you simply cannot take it anymore and the evening is ruined for you anyway. Both of you will be happy if you can stay for all the dancing and cake!
One morning in Pre-K, a typically happy, independent girl wanted her mom to stay at school with her. She cried for almost the entire hour of free play (the first hour of every day in Pre-K). My fellow teacher and I (and some of the other students!) worked to soothe and distract her. However, she ended up just crying on my lap (while I watched and had conversations with the other students) until she decided on her own that it would be way better to play with her friends than to cry about missing her mom. This is a large part of what being a 4 year old is about! Learning limits, how to make choices, and to self-soothe.

Reference: