How to talk to our children after a mass school shooting

I can’t believe we are talking about this again. Another mass school shooting, this time taking the lives of 17 people in a Florida high school. When are school shootings going to stop? My heart breaks for all those affected by these senseless acts. Enough is enough.

After these horrific shootings, as parents we are left wondering: What should I tell my kids? Should I address this with them? How should I talk to them about these senseless and clueless acts?

1. Some children don’t need to hear about a school mass shooting. I don’t believe we should bring it up with toddlers, preschoolers or even young elementary school children, unless we think they are going to hear about it on their own, from teachers, classmates, playground friends, religious leaders, older siblings…

Remember that children sometimes need to ask the same question over and over and over again to process and absorb tough or difficult information like this. Be patient and ready to answer the same questions many times.

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2. Bring it up to your older children. They are going to hear about it anyway, and you want to make sure their questions are answered and any fears are addressed.

The first step would be to ask them what they’ve heard about it, ask them questions and invite them to ask you questions. It is perfectly ok to tell our kids that we don’t know why people decide to do these horrible things. Some people do awful, senseless, painful, irreversible and unexplainable things.

Thankfully, there are many more good people than bad people in the world. Remind them what Mr. Rogers always said “look for the helpers.” Make sure they see how people come together after these types of events, show them the first responders, policemen, emergency workers, ambulance crews, blood donors, anonymous heroes that protect their fellow citizens, people who raise money to support the victims, etc. It is amazing to see how kindness and love always rise up after these heartbreaking shootings, and our kids need to understand how resilient human beings are, and that love always wins.

3. Validate your children’s fears. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing their fears, you want them to open up with you, so you can help them cope. If you respond with a “you’re going to be fine,” or “don’t worry about it”, we risk them shutting down.

Instead, we can say something like “It’s OK to be scared and sad, I feel that way too sometimes when things like this happen.” We should speak honestly about our feelings about school shootings, so our children understand that they are not alone in feeling those big feelings.

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4. Reassure your children that they grown ups around them and their school have plans in place to do everything they can to keep them safe.

Discuss with them the safety procedures that are in place in their school. You can remind them that all the school doors are locked at all times, security cameras are located all around the school, and that all visitors need to sign in the front office before entering the building. It is also good to remind them how their school has drills to teach them how to react in case something goes wrong.

Even though, numbers are not in my favor, and in less than 2 months, there had already been 19 school shootings in the US; I truly hope we will never have to use this, and mass school shootings are a thing of the past. I hope our representatives take action and find the best way to end this senseless masacres once and for all.

Stay safe! Much love, Diana-

 

 

3 bulletproof ways to connect with your child

February is the month of love. The best way to make our children feel loved is to improve our connection and bond with them. As I mentioned in a previous post, every child’s love language is different. However these are three things we can do that will improve our connection with our child, regardless of what love language they prefer:

1) Talk and listen to them: ask them questions about their lives, get to know them, discover what makes them feel loved, figure out what you could improve as a parent, and take interest in their interests. Listen with the intent of getting to know them better and creating a connection.

Avoid jumping into immediate judgement or problem solving mode. As parents we tend to offer our advice even before our kids finish telling us their stories. That’s very disempowering for them, let’s learn to listen to them and sit with whatever they’re telling us.

I once read that when we are trying to improve our communication with our kids, we should consider ourselves to be on a “word budget”, and try to use as few words as possible. Listen more than you talk.

You will be amazed what a huge difference these simple changes in the way you communicate with your child, will make in your ability to connect with your child.

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2) Have special one on one time with each child: even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, make sure you connect individually with each one of your children. Of course, it would be fantastic if you can take more than 10 minutes a day, and if you can incorporate longer periods of time at least once a week.

This special one on one time doesn’t have to be a whole production. You can play together, read together, cook together, go for a walk, go for dinner, lay in bed before the lights go off at night… let them choose how they want to use those 10 minutes that they have you all for themselves. During those, imply BE with them, look at them, set aside the electronics, and dive right into your child’s world. You will be surprise how just 10 minutes of undivided attention can change your whole relationship with your child.

3) Find them doing good: make sure you point out when you see your child doing something good, so they feel appreciated and loved. I am going to give you an example, one of my daughters has been going through a phase of pushing boundaries for the past few weeks. We were trying everything we know, but were still not getting through to her.

A few days ago, I remember this positive principle ‘catch them doing good.’ So, that’s what I did, I started focusing on everything she was doing right, and making sure I told her, and it has made a huge difference. She feels better about herself, and she’s starting to do good things on her own without being asked, and taking the time to make the rest of us feel loved and appreciated.

On Valentine’s Day, when I came out of the shower I found my bed already made and two teddy bears on the bed, with a mom and dad hearts. I went downstairs and I learn that my daughter – who actually hates making beds by the way – had made our bed, bought Valentines for us, and placed them on the bed. It melted my heart!

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When we are going through rough patches, we sometimes forget that our children actually want to do good, and when we acknowledge all the good things they actually do, they just want to do more. When interacting with your children, remember the 5 to 1 ratio, for every criticism, correction or negative comment, we should give them 5 positive ones.

Let me know if you try following these tips, and how it goes!

Much love, Diana-

Nightmares and Night Terrors

Children spend more time dreaming than adults do, so they have more dreams—both good and bad. What is the difference between a nightmare and a night terror? Additionally, what should you do in each situation?

Nightmares are bad dreams that happen during rapid eye movement (REM) or dream sleep. Your child may be afraid to fall back asleep, and he’ll probably remember that he had a bad dream. A baby or child who had a nightmare is likely to have a clear idea of what scared him, although he probably will not be able to vocalize his fright until he’s about 2 years old.

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The best responses to a nightmare are:

  • Be there and offer comfort.
  • Stay with your child until she feels relaxed and ready to sleep.
  • Stay calm and convey to your child that what’s happening is normal and that all is well.
  • Reassure your child that she’s safe and that it’s OK to go back to sleep.
  • If your child wakes with a nightmare, stay with her until she feels relaxed and ready to go to sleep.

The best way to prevent future nightmares is to help your child confront and overcome his fears of the dark, such as leaving a nightlight on or having a special stuffed toy to sleep with.

Night terrors occur in at least 5% of young children and can start as early as 9 months. These mysterious disturbances happen during deep, non-dreaming sleep. When a child is having a night terror, they will cry, whimper, flail, and even bolt out of bed.

Although his eyes may be wide open, he’s not awake and isn’t aware of your presence. Night terrors can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, or more. Once it is over, your child will return to a sound sleep, and he will have no memory of the incident in the morning.

The best responses to night terrors are:

  • Give him a gentle pat, along with comforting words or “shhh” sounds.
  • Make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.
  • Don’t speak to him, ask him questions, or try to hold or soothe him.
  • Don’t try to shake or startle him awake or physically restrain him—all of which could lead to more frantic behavior.

If it’s a night terror, in 15 to 20 minutes, your child should calm down, curl up, and fall into a deep sleep again. If it’s a nightmare, he might need a little more time to calm down and go back to sleep. To prevent night terrors, make sure that he is getting enough sleep, since children who go to bed overtired are more likely to experience these types of sleep disturbances.

I hope this was helpful!

Much love, Diana-

 

What am I doing wrong?

Today I’ve been thinking a lot about my own parenting. Over the past few year and a half there’s been a lot of emotional and physical challenges, and many changes in my personal and family life, which have inevitably affected my daughters, my relationship with them and our family dynamics. Unfortunately, in some areas we need to course correct.

Recently, I’ve been having issues with some of my daughters’ behaviors, nothing major, but some things that I would’ve never expected from them. I’ve been wondering at times, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ ‘What am I missing?’ I know the answers are within me, so today I’ve decided to ponder on this guiding principle, so I can figure out what I should improve within myself, so I can better guide them to improve their behavior shortcomings.

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Much love, Diana-

Your children are watching you

Sometimes we forget that what our children learn comes more from our behaviors than from our words. They are always watching us.

I believe that just being aware of this would help us be better parents. They notice our disposition when we wake up in the morning. They see how we live. They see whether we face the day with a smile and a great attitude, or whether we are despising getting out of bed and starting our day.

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They see how we talk to and treat our spouse. They see how we show love to each other, how we have conversations, how we disagree and grow from our mistakes, how we apologize, how we appreciate each other, how we forgive and we respect each other.

They see how we treat their siblings, how we address little mistakes, how we listen to their stories and worries, how we have fun with them, how we share little moments with them, and how we respect them as human beings.

They watch us and learn. When they grow up they will emulate what they’ve lived in their home. If we want them to be good citizens, kind people, respectful and loving spouses, present and caring parents… we need to be that ourselves.

What are your kids watching?

Much love, Diana-

Parenting is the hardest job

“The more people have studied different methods of bringing up children, the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is the best after all.”

– Benjamin Spock, MD

Before we become parents, we see ourselves avoiding the mistakes we identified in other parents, balancing our professional and family lives, keeping our smiles and joy, being fantastic role models to our children, and knowing how to overcome all the challenges that might arise.

Once we become parents, we realize that there is a reason why people say that parenting is the hardest “job” out there (if done well!). We sometimes find ourselves at our wits’ end, not knowing what to do next. Others, we just go through the motions and see the days and weeks go by before our eyes.

Parenting should not be as hard as we think or we make it to be. Parenting should be smooth, full of heartwarming moments, and enjoyable. I’m not saying that it should always be fun, that it should come without challenges, and that it should be easy; I’m not saying that! Some days I feel like a total failure and I want to pull my hair out! What I’m saying is that we all can be the great parents we want to be, and that we can all have the Smooth Parenting Experience that we had always envisioned.

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Sometimes, we need to…

  • Take a step back and appreciate what we have.
  • Acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers.
  • Be aware and mindful of how our own actions, feelings, expectations, and emotional baggage are influencing our children.
  • Let go of the dream that there’s such a thing as a super mom or super dad, who always gets it right from the very first try..
  • Analyze what we are doing and improve it.
  • Take the back seat and let our children teach us how they need to be parented and what it is that really need from us.
  • Get support to solve the more challenging situations.

In any of these situations, we are taking action, and that is the first step to become the parent you want to be and have that smooth parenting experience. You can be the parent you want to be! Yes, you can! We can! … Maybe not all the time, and not every day, but we can be a better version of ourselves every day.

Much love, Diana-

 

February Parenting Resolution: Love and Connection

Cupid knocks on our doors in February, so what better month to focus on love and connection? The goal of this month is to figure out each of our children’s preferred love language and love on them the way they want to be loved.

Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the book ‘The five love languages of children’ argues that knowing each of our children’s love language makes all of the difference in our relationship with them, and in our connection. I couldn’t agree more, my three daughters couldn’t be more different and they each have a different language of love, they each feel love in a different and unique way. These are the main 5 love languages for children:

1. WORDS OF AFFIRMATION –

Compliments and praise. One of my daughters for example, thrives on positive reinforcement. The more I take the time to let her know all the good things about her and all the great things she’s working on, the better she feels and the more loved she feels. Even something as simple as singing ‘You are my sunshine’ to her every night makes a huge difference, because I make sure to let her know that she really is my sunshine.

2. PHYSICAL TOUCH –

Sometimes, something as simple as holding our children’s hand on our way to school, a morning hug as soon as they wake up, a kiss on the chick as they leave out the door or a cuddle as you watch a movie, are more significant and meaningful to them than a thousand ‘I love you.’

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3. QUALITY TIME – 

Having undivided attention might be the best way to show our children how much we love them. Some children need this more than any other thing. The activity doesn’t really matter, as long as they have our full attention and presence. One of my daughters speaks this love language, and she gets her love tank filled by sitting with me coloring with her as we chat, by being my only companion on my grocery trip, or by sitting on the coach and watching her dance and twirl and jump.

4. GIFTS – Giving and receiving gifts can be a powerful expression of love for some children. Some children really acknowledge the love and effort that is put behind each gift, which makes them feel valued and loved.

One of my daughters values gifts tremendously when she receives them, and shows her love for others by giving them gifts. By gifts I don’t mean a huge, super expensive toy, and I am not talking about constant gifting of things. She really loves receiving love notes with her lunch box, she loves it when I send her a little chocolate in her coat pocket, she loves it when I go to the grocery store and I remember to buy the specific apples she loves, she loves it when a friend gives her a post it with appreciation words… she really treasures all this ‘gifts.’ In the same way, she loves giving special gifts and surprises to her loved ones, and her heart fills when she does that for others.

5.  ACTS OF SERVICE –

These are things like helping our child putting away his coat when he gets home, carrying his backpack on the way to school, taking her to dance class, cooking their favorite meal, teaching them something… For some children, this is their primary love language, as it happens to be one of my daughters’. She thrives when my husband or myself take time to sit with her to build a Lego, or to program her robots. This simple act of service doesn’t go unnoticed, and fills her love tank to the rim.

 

It took me a while to identify how each of them felt loved the most. In parenting, as in life in general, one size doesn’t fit all. Identifying my daughters love languages have made a world of difference.

What are your children’s love languages? Have you figure it out? Let me know!

Much love, Diana-