Making Amends and Apologizing to Your Child

I often find myself apologizing to our daughter.

I truly believe the majority of parents do the best they can each day, based on the information they have, and the situations they find themselves in. This includes me, and yet I still often find myself apologizing to our daughter. It’s not that I’m an awful parent, it’s just that I’m human, and I make mistakes.

When my husband and I were expecting, I thought I’d be a pretty good parent — I mean, I was an experienced child and family social worker, I went to all our antenatal classes, and I had lots of support around me. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

Our daughter was the most beautiful baby ever born, but right from the beginning she was also strong-willed, full of energy, and she 100 percent believed that “sleep was for losers.”

It took a long time for me to really accept our daughter for exactly who she is, and to learn to parent her in the ways that she needs.

All of this means that despite my best intentions, I don’t always get it right, and sometimes I get it really wrong. The thing is, although it might seem counterintuitive, all of this has actually made me a better parent, and also a better social worker.

By not conforming to my expectations, our daughter has taught me so many lessons, but most of all she has taught me humility — I don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay. My willingness to now accept that I don’t have all the answers, and that I make mistakes along the way, means that I’m learning every day, and our daughter is also learning from me.

Some of the life lessons our daughter has been exposed to so far include:

  • Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect
  • There’s always a lot to learn
  • Even parents make mistakes
  • Sometimes we hurt other people, and
  • Making amends can be hard, but it’s the right thing to do.

My husband and I have many of the same hopes and dreams as other parents, for example, that our daughter will be happy, that she’ll do well in school, and that she’ll meet someone special and share her life with them. However, we also hope that she’ll learn to appreciate beauty and kindness, that she’ll care for and be compassionate towards others, and that she’ll be both resilient and humble when necessary.

I’m acutely aware of our influence as parents, and in particular that our daughter learns far more from what we do, than from what we say. With this in mind, I’ve made an effort over the years to share my mistakes and learnings with her (where appropriate), and to model the process of making amends.

So how does a parent go about making amends with a child?

Basically, like much of parenting, it’s about placing yourself in your child’s shoes and treating them similarly to how you would like to be treated, and often that begins with an apology.

There are many ways to apologize, but here’s how I usually do it (and I’ve had a fair bit of practice):

  1. Get down to your child’s level and look them in the eye (if that’s okay with them)
  2. Tell them you’re sorry, and specifically what it is you’re sorry for
  3. Resist the urge to defend your actions by adding a “but” into the apology (see below)
  4. Commit to changing your behaviour in the future, and
  5. Consider asking for forgiveness.

Here’s an example of how I once apologized to our daughter:

“I’m really sorry I shouted at you before, it must’ve been scary. I was feeling angry, but it’s not okay for me to be like that. I’m going to try to stop shouting, and start taking some breaths when I feel myself getting angry. Can you forgive me for shouting at you today?”

I don’t think all of the steps above are necessary all of the time, sometimes a short apology is enough, for example:

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to step on your foot, are you okay?”

In terms of my own parenting, the biggest change I’ve made in this area, compared with how I was parented, is the conscious decision to not add a “but” into the apology. For example:

“I’m sorry I got so mad with you, BUT, if you would just stop fighting with your brother …”

Apologies are about taking responsibility for your actions, not placing the blame on to someone else. In the case of children, if they contributed to the situation, then their behavior can be talked about later on — but let your apology stand alone as example of what to do when you’ve behaved poorly and you want to make amends.

A good apology can do wonders for a relationship, is an effect way to begin making amends, and it’s also great role modeling for our children. Wouldn’t it be lovely if it was just normal practice for everyone to apologize and try to make amends when they hurt someone … that’s the kind of future we want our daughter to be part of.

Original Article

Get Ready for Kindergarten Now

Imagine this scenario: Your partner tells you that you are going to a new place where you will have fun and meet new friends. Sounds good, right? The day comes and you are taken to a building you’ve never seen before and escorted to a room bustling with activity. You are introduced to the person in charge and told you can go be with the others. Then your partner disappears.

You don’t know anyone there. You don’t know what is expected of you, and you don’t understand the activities and routines. You don’t know where your trusted partner went and when, or even if, he or she will be back.

Daunting, huh. Yet this is what happens to many 5 year olds on their first day of kindergarten. Overwhelmed by all the newness and maybe feeling abandoned by a parent, they cry or tantrum or withdraw to the corner. Their parent is told that the child will adjust. Maybe. But is the distress really necessary?

Fortunately, the transition to kindergarten doesn’t have to be so stressful for either child or parent. If you have a child headed for kindergarten this fall, and especially if your child has had limited experience being left with a sitter or at daycare, you can take steps now to make the transition a happy (or at least not traumatic) one.

I met with Dr. Elizabeth Perkins, retired Education Director of the University of Massachusetts. Amherst Childcare Centers. For 23 years, she supported hundreds of families in making this important transition from home and neighborhood to the world of elementary school, Dr. Perkins offers this advice for preparing you and your child:

Consider your child’s temperament and age. Is he shy? Is she rambunctious? In preschool or daycare, it’s often possible for staff to accommodate different children’s personalities and energy levels. The larger class sizes of kindergarten and the pressure to complete a curriculum make it difficult for elementary school teachers to do the same. Dr. Perkins reminds us that there are lots of excellent children’s books available that can help you talk to your child about how to deal with shyness or the wiggles. Keep it positive. Don’t shame the child. Focus on what the child can do when feeling overwhelmed or like she just can’t sit still another minute.

In the case of a child whose birthday is close to the cut-off date for entry, do consider whether waiting a year is wise. “For some children”, Dr. Perkins notes, “academics and social interactions may be more successful if they are the oldest in the class, not the youngest.”

Visit the school and classroom if possible. The goal is to help your child become familiar with an unfamiliar place. At least walk around the building. Show your child what door she’ll be going in. Play on the playground. Children who are oriented in this way are often less anxious on the first day.

Arrange for your child to meet the teacher before the first day of school if you can. Many schools have teacher preparation days the week or so before opening day. See if you can arrange for at least a hello and a handshake. Don’t overstay. This isn’t the time for a parent teacher conference. The teacher has a great deal to do and will appreciate it if you keep the visit brief.

Get together with other kindergarteners: If you know other families with a kindergartener, arrange a play date. Meet at a park or the school playground. When a child sees at least one other child she or he knows that first day, it may take the anxiety level down quite a bit.

Practice school activities: You know there will probably be a circle time, a rest time, a reading time, a lunch time, etc. Set up the stuffed animals for circle time. Give your child practice with sitting still while you read a story aloud. Make lunch time predictable at home so your child gets into the rhythm of a more routine day.

Set up morning routines now. “The morning routine at home,” says Dr. Perkins, “often sets the tone for the whole day.” You’ll have less stress and a happier send off if you start practicing a few weeks before school starts. Set an alarm for when you will all need to get up. Practice getting kids dressed and having breakfast before letting them turn on a TV or use a device. Better yet, to avoid a struggle about getting through the morning routine and out the door, don’t permit screen use before school at all. Help everyone understand what needs to happen for everyone to leave home on time and happy.

Before the school year begins: If you know that a first day meltdown is probable, alert the teacher ahead of time and confer about the best way to handle it. Most teachers appreciate it when parents are pro-active. If you know your child will have problems with settling into school routines, make an appointment to meet early in the year to discuss ways to manage it.

On the first day: Do understand that your child is one of maybe 2 dozen the teacher is responsible for. The teacher doesn’t have the time to immediately respond to your concerns in the hubbub of the beginning and end of the school day. Just introduce yourself to staff and focus on helping your child get comfortable.

In the event of a first day meltdown: Stay for a while to help your child adjust. Usually if you are appropriate, teachers are only grateful. Connect the child with an activity and with other children. Tell your child when you’ll be back. Dr. Perkins explained that kindergarteners are often just developing a sense of time. She advises that you give your child something on which to anchor your return time like: “After lunch, there will be playground time and a rest time and then I’ll be back“.

Do provide contact information: On the first, day, hand the teacher a card with all your contact information on it in case the teacher has a concern or question about your child. Yes, the office probably has the information but it makes it easier for a teacher to give you a call if she doesn’t have to first go find your information.

Be open-minded. Teachers do have a reputation in the community. Sometimes a negative rep isn’t deserved or reflects an unusual situation with one child. Be attentive but give the teacher a chance.

Problems: If something happens at school that concerns you, talk to the teacher when children aren’t there. Dr. Perkins reminds us that it is best to frame those concerns as a question, not a statement or, worse, an accusation. Don’t lead with “Why on earth did you say that?” Or “Why didn’t you do. . .?” Instead, say, “Can you help me understand why you did this or that?”

The most important take-away

Dr. Perkins and I talked about the reality that not every parent can do all of this. Time and circumstances are different for every parent. “But”, says Dr. Perkins, “every child is likely to manage the transition to kindergarten better if a parent does everything she or he can to partner with the teacher to make it a happy one”.

From the time your child enters kindergarten, he or she will likely be spending more time each school day with the teacher and peers than with the family. A collaborative and friendly relationship with your child’s teachers will do much to ensure that your child will feel secure and will be successful”.

Original Article

Is Falling in Love a Choice?

We have all heard the saying, “the heart wants what the heart wants” implying that we have no choice about falling in love. It’s just this uncontrollable, sweeping emotion that takes a hold and overwhelms us. But is that really true, or do we have a choice about falling in love?

That depends a bit upon your of definition choice. We make connections with people all the time — people that we find interesting, attractive, and with whom we have a lot in common. Yet we don’t fall in love with all of them. But, occasionally there is a person that you are more drawn to than anyone else. So what’s the difference between that person and all the others?

The answer to that is most likely you. There are undoubtedly specific attributes that person possesses that makes them more appealing to you than others are. It is also true, however, that when falling in love you are in a unique position within your own life to allow this to happen. The combination of timing, compatibility, attraction and your choice to be open to love makes this all possible. Being in that position is a choice you make, even if it is an unconscious one.

To get to know someone and allow them to get to know you well enough to establish a “love” connection you have to be in the right frame of mind. You have to be open and vulnerable enough for those feelings to initiate and grow. If you aren’t, then the passing attraction you feel is likely to fade or be forgotten.

Consider newly married couples. They are at the start of what they hope will be a life-long commitment. As human beings they are able to see others around them and recognize attraction, common interests, and enjoyment of people other than their spouse. Because of their frame of mind, however, they are not in mentally or emotionally open to establishing a “falling in love” kind of connection with others. They made a choice to be with the person they married and find happiness and satisfaction with them. No matter how intriguing another person is, they are not likely to fall in love with them.

There is also a difference between falling in love and staying in love. Falling is the easy part. Assuming you have allowed yourself to be open to the idea, the attraction to and enjoyment of someone with whom you connect doesn’t take much effort. Eventually, however, that new relationship high wears off though and now you have to make the choice to keep the love alive.

People in successful, long-term relationships recognize that choice and make the effort to reinforce their connection to each other and the feelings of love and appreciation that are needed to keep their relationship strong. When that choice is not actively made, and it feels like the love is gone, then they become vulnerable to developing feelings for someone else. Remember, choosing not to make a choice is a choice in and of itself. At some point in a relationship you have to choose to do the work to make things work.

So is falling in love a choice? Yes. And staying in love is as well. Although portions of the love experience feel mysterious and out of our control, on some level you make a choice at each stage. Whether you have chosen to be emotionally available for a connection to someone else, or you have chosen to maintain the love you created, in the end you have made a choice.

Original Article

Good Therapy Fosters Success in Marriage

Good therapy has helped countless women succeed in marriage. Often a women (or man) can get in her own way without knowing it. Ambivalence about marrying can cause her to stay involved with someone who won’t commit or reject one who will. For various reasons, she may become involved with a man or series of men who lack qualities essential for her happiness. After such a relationship or marriage, she may become stuck in bitterness and cynicism about committing.

Lana used to pine after men who weren’t interested in marriage and reject those who were. She was conflicted about marrying because she’d never recovered from the shock of her parents’ divorce when she was thirteen. Her mother’s words echoed through Lana’s teen years: “I gave him the best years of my life and he left me for another woman.”

Reversing a Pattern

Lana eventually recognized her pattern. Still longing for marriage, she was finally ready to get therapy. Had she not made that commitment, Jules — a shy, kind, marriage minded man — would have been beneath her radar.

When she complained to her therapist about Jules’ faults, he said, “There you go again.” Lana came to realize that her criticisms weren’t deal breakers; they were more about her own insecurities. She feared that, as her mother had been, she too would be tragically disappointed if she married.

Therapy helped Lana transform her fear of failing into confidence that she would succeed. She and Jules have now been happily married for over thirty years. If you truly want to marry and something’s been holding you back, getting therapy to help you grow personally and create the kind of relationship and life that you truly want.

How to Choose a Therapist

Do you view therapists as larger-than-life experts who know what’s best for you? The good ones help you to discover this for yourself. If you are considering psychotherapy, think about what qualities you value in a therapist. Do you think you’ll be better helped by a man or a women? Someone from a similar cultural, religious, or spiritual background to your own?

Lana, in the above example, hoped to marry someone who, like her, was Jewish and wanted children. This is how she found her therapist: She collected names of some recommended professionals. Of the five male and female therapists she’d interviewed by phone, she met with two of the men in person.

Lana knew that her parents’ divorce and its aftermath was causing her to reject marriage minded men. She sensed that a Jewish male therapist who was still married to his original wife and had successfully raised children to adulthood would be best for her. She wanted a good therapist who was also a trustworthy husband and father, not someone like her father who’d left a wife and children. One of the therapists she met with matched her criteria. He was kind, insightful, and a good listener. She chose him to be her therapist. She continued to see him for a while after marrying and becoming a mother.

You’re Worth It

If you are interested in therapy, first make sure that the therapist you’re considering seeing is professionally qualified and licensed. Think about what kind of person you believe will be a good fit for you. If at all possible, don’t let money get in your way. The main thing is to find a professional who matches your needs. Good therapy could well be the best investment in yourself you’ll ever make.

Original Article

4 Top Risk Factors Associated with Dementia

By studying data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), researchers from Boston University School of Medicine identified combinations of factors that were linked to an increased risk of dementia in older age. The findings were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on May 8th.

The researchers stated they wanted to focus on modifiable risk factors which could help people plan the right interventions to effectively reduce their chances of developing this neurological disease.

The top four prominent life-related risk factors are listed below:

1. Age.

Not surprisingly, age is considered the most significant risk factors for this disease, which rarely affects those under the age of 60. According to estimations by the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three senior Americans dies with some form of dementia. There exists many forms of dementia, with Alzheimers being at the top.

On a related note, a 2018 study from the Yale School of Public Health found that attitudes toward aging may also play an important role. After analyzing a cohort of 4,765 older Americans, the research found that those with positive age beliefs were 49.8 percent less likely to develop dementia than those with negative age beliefs.

2. BMI

Conflicting results have emerged from studies that examined body mass index (BMI) as a possible risk factor for dementia. While some suggest that lower BMI is the culprit, others have rejected this and found that a high BMI is what seems to be linked to an increased risk. A 2017 review concluded that a majority of literature has provided evidence that obesity in mid-life was linked to a higher risk of dementia, while the association of the disease with being underweight remained inconsistent at best.

It has been noted that excess body weight in mid-life could contribute to neurodegenerative damage, which may increase the chances of dementia. While there are currently no sure-fire ways to prevent dementia, current best evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy weight, including a reduction of inflammation associated with visceral fat around the waist is a key way to keep our brains healthy.

3. Marital Status

The new study also found that the marital status of “widowed” was strongly associated with dementia. Previously, research has provided similar findings on older adults who are single or have lost a spouse. Psychiatrists have come to the general consensus that the lower risk was not a direct effect of wearing a wedding ring. They referred to something known as “a possible protective effect”, which is linked to various lifestyle factors that may accompany marriage, such as lower chances of loneliness, a generally healthier lifestyle, having more social stimulation, etc.

4. Sleep

Those who experienced less sleep at mid-life may also be more likely to develop dementia. A study from 2017 found that people who took longer than 90 minutes to enter REM (the fifth stage of sleep) were at high risk for developing dementia. Though it is known that poor sleep can contribute to cognitive decline, the mechanisms underlying this association have not been firmly established. What is clear is that treating sleep disorders, establishing a routine, and learning to prioritize good quality of sleep hygiene is highly recommended earlier in life to avoid short-term and long-term health problems.

After combing through these risk factors, you might be surprised to learn that of the four listed, over half of them are well within our control like sleep, BMI, to some degree, and our perceptions of the aging process. It’s important not to discount the quality of sleep that we should be getting on a consistent basis, our overall BMI, and our general outlook/attitude in life. Being overweight can eventually tip the scale towards obesity, and researchers are concluding that high blood sugar (diabetes) can indirectly lead to Alzheimer’s, and others forms of dementia, a condition that doctors and researchers alike are calling Diabesity (diabetes & obesity). It turns out that certain aspects/factors of dementia are environmental, and we can be more in control of them than we initially thought — a somewhat comforting thought in light of this heartbreaking disease.

Original Article