Explaining The News To Our Kids

With another horrific school shooting in the news, here’s a resource that may be helpful for parents.  Dave

 

Common Sense Media

Dramatic, disturbing news events can leave parents speechless. These age-based tips on how to talk to kids about the news — and listen, too — can help.By Caroline Knorr 

If it bleeds, it leads. The old newsroom adage about milking stories for sensationalism seems truer than ever today. And with technology doing the heavy lifting — sending updates, tweets, posts, and breaking news alerts directly to our kids’ phones — we parents are often playing catch-up. Whether it’s wall-to-wall coverage of the latest natural disaster, a horrific mass shooting, a suicide broadcast on social media, or a violent political rally, it’s nearly impossible to keep the news at bay until you’re able to figure out what to say. The bottom line is that elementary school-aged kids and some middle schoolers have trouble fully understanding news events. And though older teens are better able to understand current events, even they face challenges when it comes to sifting fact from opinion — or misinformation.

No matter how old your kids are, threatening or upsetting news can affect them emotionally. Many can feel worried, frightened, angry, or even guilty. And these anxious feelings can last long after the news event is over. So what can you do as a parent to help your kids deal with all this information?

Addressing News and Current Events: Tips for all kids

Consider your own reactions. Your kids will look to the way you handle the news to determine their own approach. If you stay calm and rational, they will, too.

Take action. Depending on the issue and kids’ ages, families can find ways to help those affected by the news. Kids can write postcards to politicians expressing their opinions; families can attend meetings or protests; kids can help assemble care packages or donate a portion of their allowance to a rescue/humanitarian effort. Check out websites that help kids do good.

Tips for kids under 7

Keep the news away. Turn off the TV and radio news at the top of the hour and half hour. Read the newspaper out of range of young eyes that can be frightened by the pictures (kids may respond strongly to pictures of other kids in jeopardy). Preschool kids don’t need to see or hear about something that will only scare them silly, especially because they can easily confuse facts with fantasies or fears.

Stress that your family is safe. At this age, kids are most concerned with your safety and separation from you. Try not to minimize or discount their concerns and fears, but reassure them by explaining all the protective measures that exist to keep them safe. If the news event happened far away, you can use the distance to reassure kids. For kids who live in areas where crime and violence is a very real threat, any news account of violence may trigger extra fear. If that happens, share a few age-appropriate tips for staying and feeling safe (being with an adult, keeping away from any police activity).

Be together. Though it’s important to listen and not belittle their fears, distraction and physical comfort can go a long way. Snuggling up and watching something cheery or doing something fun together may be more effective than logical explanations about probabilities.

Tips for kids 8–12

Carefully consider your child’s maturity and temperament. Many kids can handle a discussion of threatening events, but if your kids tend toward the sensitive side, be sure to keep them away from the TV news; repetitive images and stories can make dangers appear greater, more prevalent, and closer to home.

Be available for questions and conversation. At this age, many kids will see the morality of events in stark black-and-white terms and are in the process of developing their moral beliefs. You may have to explain the basics of prejudice, bias, and civil and religious strife. But be careful about making generalizations, since kids will take what you say to the bank. This is a good time to ask them what they know, since they’ll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts.

Talk about — and filter — news coverage. You might explain that even news programs compete for viewers, which sometimes affects content decisions. If you let your kids use the Internet, go online with them. Some of the pictures posted are simply grisly. Monitor where your kids are going, and set your URLs to open to non-news-based portals.

Tips for teens

Check inSince, in many instances, teens will have absorbed the news independently of you, talking with them can offer great insights into their developing politics and their senses of justice and morality. It will also help you get a sense of what they already know or have learned about the situation from their own social networks. It will also give you the opportunity to throw your own insights into the mix (just don’t dismiss theirs, since that will shut down the conversation immediately).

Let teens express themselves. Many teens will feel passionately about events and may even personalize them if someone they know has been directly affected. They’ll also probably be aware that their own lives could be affected by violence. Try to address their concerns without dismissing or minimizing them. If you disagree with media portrayals, explain why so your teens can separate the mediums through which they absorb news from the messages conveyed.

Additional resources

For more information on how to talk to your kids about a recent tragedy, please visit the National Association of School Psychologists or the American Psychological Association. For more on how news can impact kids, check out News and America’s Kids: How Young People Perceive and Are Impacted by the News,

Marie-Louise Mares, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, contributed to this article.

Tether Yourself: The Enlightening Talk Parents Aren’t Having Can Keep Teens from a Damaging Drift

Hands Free Mama

“I’ll take your hand when thunder roars
And I’ll hold you close, I’ll stay the course
I promise you from up above
That we’ll take what comes, take what comes, l
ove.”
-Imagine Dragons, Walking the Wire

We bought my daughter a smartphone when we moved to a large metropolitan area three years ago. She was participating in a massive year-round swimming program where we knew no one. Her dad and I decided it would be best for her to have a phone to communicate with us.

Over the years, we’ve implemented all the recommended parental restrictions, safe-search settings, and online safety guidelines. We’ve had on-going talks about cyber dangers like online bullying, predators, pornography, sexting, and what to do in each situation. But despite these protections, I’ve felt an unexplainable uneasiness about teens and smartphone consumption. I’ve continued to read extensively on the subject, finding an increasing number of articles on teen suicide as they relate to online bullying and social media use.

But recently, the uneasiness I’ve been feeling came to an all-time high and spurred me into action – a preventative action I’d not taken before.

In one heartbreaking week, I was contacted by two friends from previous places our family has lived. Each family has a daughter in the same grade as mine. These vibrant young ladies with whom my daughter played Legos and shared towels during swim meets are now harming themselves, hating themselves, the light dimming from their spirits right in front of their parents’ eyes.

Right after learning of their struggles, I read a sobering article on Time.com about an outgoing young lady named Nina who shocked everyone with an attempted suicide. The particular details of her story gave me great pause:

“After her attempted suicide and during her stay at a rehabilitation facility, Nina and her therapist identified body image insecurity as the foundation of her woe. ‘I was spending a lot of time stalking models on Instagram, and I worried a lot about how I looked,’ says Nina, who is now 17. She’d stay up late in her bedroom, looking at social media on her phone, and poor sleep—coupled with an eating disorder—gradually snowballed until suicide felt like her only option. ‘I didn’t totally want to be gone,’ she says. ‘I just wanted help and didn’t know how else to get it.’

Nina’s mom, Christine Langton, has a degree in public health and works at a children’s hospital. Despite her professional background, she says she was ‘completely caught off guard’ by her daughter’s suicide attempt. ‘Nina was funny, athletic, smart, personable . . . depression was just not on my radar,’ she says.

In hindsight, Langton says she wishes she had done more to moderate her daughter’s smartphone use. ‘It didn’t occur to me not to let her have the phone in her room at night,’ she says. ‘I just wasn’t thinking about the impact of the phone on her self-esteem or self-image until after everything happened.’”

Nina sounded a lot like my highly driven, very lovable, athletically-gifted brown-eyed girl.

And for the first time in three years, I knew exactly what I needed to do about the uneasiness I’d been feeling about her smartphone consumption.

I walked straight out of my bedroom and into my fourteen-year-old daughter’s room. I felt my heart racing at the importance of the conversation we were about to have. I found her stretched out on her bed, homework splayed across the bed. She was scrolling Instagram, as teens often do.

I sat down and told her about the two mothers who’d reached out to me for help. My daughter’s face fell as I told her about her former playmate who discovered her looks had been rated on Instagram. The painful comments she read about herself caused her to harm herself until she bled. She expressed hating herself so much that she no longer wanted to live.

I then read aloud the eye-opening statistics from a study by Jean Twenge, author of iGen, found in the same article as Nina’s story:

“Using data collected between 2010 and 2015 from more than 500,000 adolescents nationwide, study found kids who spent three hours or more a day on smartphones or other electronic devices were 34% more likely to suffer at least one suicide-related outcome—including feeling hopeless or seriously considering suicide—than kids who used devices two hours a day or less. Among kids who used electronic devices five or more hours a day, 48% had at least one suicide-related outcome.”

“I am worried,” I told my daughter truthfully. “And it my job to protect you,” I added.

My daughter assured me she had good friends, a sensible head on her shoulders, and would come to me if anything was wrong.

At that point, it would have been easy and convenient to end the conversation, have faith everything would be ok, and walk out of the room. At that point, I could have decided to take back the phone her father and I let her borrow so she wouldn’t be exposed to damaging influences. Instead, I chose to enlighten her with information that will benefit her for the rest of her life, especially a prosperous, happy life.

This is what I said to my daughter in letter form. It is my hope that others will say these words to those they love. If our teens can learn to tether themselves, there is hope. Their lives are too valuable to let drift … their lives are too valuable to let fade away.

Tether Yourself: An Awareness Strategy to Keep You from Drifting from Your Best Life  

Dear one, it is natural to go through difficult periods where you don’t feel like yourself … when you question your worth … when your purpose is not clear. During those times, I want to use this information to give yourself an unfiltered view of your beautiful worth and your extraordinary potential.

First, you need to know what is happening to your brain while on your device. Social media is known for creating algorithms to capture and manipulate our consumption. The goal is to achieve the highest amount of engagement possible. (source) There is even a term for this in Silicon Valley: Brain Hacking. It is having a negative impact on our mental health – especially susceptible are teenagers. Here’s why:

The teen brain isn’t done forming and the part of the brain that manages impulse control, empathy, judgment, and the ability to plan ahead are not fully developed. This means you’re more likely to see disturbing online content or have troubling encounters; it means you’re more likely to become distracted from the important tasks at hand; it means you’re more likely to become addicted to your device than adults. When you are addicted, you will experience distraction, fatigue, or irritability when you’re not on your phone. Teens who excessively use their phone are more prone to disrupted sleep, restlessness, stress and fatigue.(source)

So let’s think about this in terms of your life:

Each time the phone notifies you, you stop what you are doing—whether it’s homework or a job you have to do. What might take you one hour to do, will take you several, and it won’t be completed as well. The inability to focus will reflect in your grades and impact the job opportunities you have as you grow. Spending quality time with friends and family will be impacted by the need to check the phone, making you believe what is most important is on your phone when it is really the person in front of you.

Each time you scroll, you are being influenced by what you see on the screen. Your thoughts and beliefs about what your body should look like or what your life should look like are being shaped. The hidden influence of the internet can create a poor self-image, unrealistic comparisons, and harmful judgements – and you won’t even know it is happening.

But here’s how you take back control:

Awareness … you see, awareness changes everything. Awareness is your weapon against the hidden influences and damaging behaviors. While you are online, your mind, your thoughts, your core values are drifting to wherever tech companies want you to go. The remedy is to limit the time you spend drifting in the online world and tether yourself to real life. 

Tether yourself
To real people, real conversations, and real scenery.

Tether yourself
To furry animals, interesting books, good music, the great outdoors.

Tether yourself
To spatulas, hammers, cameras, paintbrushes, and yoga mats.

When your worth is in question … when you feel lost and alone … when you feel sad and can’t explain why, tether yourself to real life. Tether yourself to real people. Tether yourself to real love. And I will help you set limits because I know teens feel pressure to be available 24/7. But you need and deserve time to be alone with your thoughts, doing things you enjoy, without constant pressure and interruptions from the outside world. 

As you practice these self-regulation skills that will benefit you for life, I vow to do the same. I am here to set an example of a well-rounded life and to help you navigate this challenging territory. You can always hold on to me.

I love you,

Mom

*****

Once the talk ended, I had a few suggestions that would help her create a healthy relationship with technology. Much to my surprise, there was no pushback from my daughter when I suggested we order a proper alarm clock rather than use her phone as her alarm clock. There was no pushback when we talked about limiting phone use to a little time after school and then a little after nightly swim team practice. There was no pushback when I asked her to start charging her phone in a separate area of the house until morning and letting her friends know not to expect text responses after 9pm.

Almost instantly, I saw a difference. I noticed she was more present in main areas of the house, accepting our invitations to participate in games, cooking, and conversation. Her disposition was cheerful, more relaxed and fun-loving. She began taking walks outside with her music, often inviting me to go along. She was getting homework and household chores completed more efficiently.

I wondered if this motivation to limit phone usage would wear off, but it’s stayed consistent.

In fact, six weeks after our talk, there was a rare snowstorm in our area.  As big, fluffy flakes began to accumulate on the ground, my daughter’s best friend came over and they built a snowman, a fort, and played outside for hours. After making a pizza and watching a movie, they went back out to play some more. In a rare moment of sisterly love, my older daughter invited her little sister and her friends to a snowy mound. On the count of three, she directed them to all throw snow up into the air.

I watched the joyful sight in awe, my eyes filling with tears.

The date, December 8, was not lost on me. It was my father-in-law’s birthday. Ben would have been 68. He always did go BIG on birthdays and celebrations.

I shook my head in disbelief at this record-breaking snowfall in the south and the way in which my teenager was taking it all in.

I knew Ben had something to do with the joyful sight before my eyes.

I knew he had something to do with the urgency in which I talked to my daughter two months ago.

I knew he had something to do with the two words that continually ground me in the current moment and provide a life-enhancing goal for 2018: Tether yourself.

Whenever I sat with my father-in-law on those final days, I’d always reached for his hand. He’d always squeeze it tightly.

Tether yourself in love, his action seemed to say.

And now I say it to her, my beautiful brown-eyed girl.

Tether yourself, I say.

So you don’t drift away too soon
So you don’t forget your worth
So you don’t miss the moments that make life worth living

And now I say it to you, my friends.

Tether yourself in love.

It’s what we must do for ourselves.
It’s what we must do for our children.
It’s what we must do for each other.

The thought of picking up a device that will negatively influence our thoughts, our choices, our actions, and our future happiness is quite sobering.

Awareness is everything.

When we release what controls us, we are free to choose what matters most.

I choose what matters most.

My daughter’s life depends on it.

It’s too valuable to let drift away.

***********************************************************

Dear friends of the Hands Free Revolution, if you are not living a well-rounded, purposeful life because you’re buried beneath the weight of distractions, perfection, pressure, and productivity and need help creating new habits, please read my first book, HANDS FREE MAMA, a New York Times bestseller. If you are looking for a more interactive and supported journey to a present, peaceful, and positive life, please consider my new online course SOUL SHIFT that begins in mid-January. Each week, I will be sharing a painful truth from my life through video and then offering a small habit shift I used to begin a new, life-changing practice in my life. There will be daily intentions and exercises to create positive habits in the areas of: presence, perfection, self-worth, authenticity, self-forgiveness, self-care, and finding your purpose. Enter your email address here to be notified when the course opens for registration on January 8 at a discounted price.

Visual reminders have been greatly helpful to me on my journey to choose love and presence for myself and my beloveds. The cuffs, reminder bands, and leather wristbands in the Hands Free Shop are meant for this purpose. The thin silver YOU ARE ENOUGH cuff was so loved that there is now a thin silver ONLY LOVE TODAY cuff! The I Choose Love wristbandwas restocked (also available in pink).

Thank you for being part of this supportive community. I appreciate your presence and support. 

75 Percent of Teen Girls Have Anxiety — What We Can Do About It

ParentMap

Author and researcher Rachel Simmons talks raising daughters in a toxic culture

PUBLISHED ON: JANUARY 17, 2018

 
anxious-teen-girl

Roughly three out of four teenage girls experience anxiety, according to the 2016 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey. Seventy-six percent of tenth grade girls have felt extremely nervous or anxious and 13 percent have attempted suicide.

What is going on and how can we as parents help? We turned to educator and researcher Rachel Simmons. Founder of Oakland-based outreach organization Girls Leadership and leadership development specialist at Smith College, Simmons believes there’s no one reason why so many young women feel anxious.

Still, there is one reason she often sees in her work: more pressure.

“We hope for girls to be smart and brave and interested in STEM fields, but we still expect them to be thin and sexually attractive and have a witty and appealing online presence,” she says. “No matter how many achievements they accrue, they feel that they are not enough as they are … We haven’t really upgraded our expectations, we’ve just added on to the old ones.”

She addresses this pressure and how parents can help their daughters thrive in her latest book, “Enough As She Is” (out Feb. 27).

It’s not a bad thing that we’re instilling more confidence in our girls, Simmons says. The problem is that we’re still raising them in a toxic culture that hasn’t caught up with those new expectations.

“That’s how girls wind up feeling something is wrong with themwhen in fact … something is deeply wrong with our culture,” she says. In the last decade alone, Simmons says she’s seen “the rise of social media, arrival of college admissions mania, and ever more ruthless pressure to be thin tighten the rules of success for girls in punishing ways.”

And that, she notes, undermines the development of their confident, authentic selves. But that doesn’t mean there’s no solution. We asked Simmons why our daughters are experiencing so much anxiety — and what parents can do to help.

WHY DOES MORE OPPORTUNITY LEAD TO INCREASED ANXIETY IN TEENAGE GIRLS?

Girls have too many roles to play and too many roles conflict with each other. Add this role overload to the fact that girls continue to need to please others first and be likable. Girls are still raised with a psychology that is trained to think about other people before themselves. This all is a real recipe for unhappiness.

My goal is to give parents tools to help girls carve out a life and a sense of self that feels authentic and important to them that isn’t fully shaped by what other people expect of them. It’s not that challenges are going to go away; it’s about how to manage these challenges. For example, I never tell girls that they are going to stop overthinking things. The question is: Do you know how to manage overthinking and how to understand it?

GOT ANY TIPS FOR HOW TO GET YOUR TEEN DAUGHTER TO ACTUALLY, YOU KNOW, TALK?

Teenagers are notorious for not wanting to talk when you want to talk. Annoyingly, they’re not interested in talking on your schedule and they want to talk when it’s not convenient for you. If they are deflecting your attempt to talk, ask yourself, ’Is this the right time for them to talk?’ Can you agree upon a different time to talk?

It’s also super important for parents to find that middle way between being authoritarian versus permissive. Kind but firm, gentle, curious and humble. Try saying, ‘There’s a lot I don’t know, and I would love to hear more about what I don’t know; here’s what I am thinking as your parent.’

Every teenager wants to have respect. I’m not talking about them getting to go out until 1 a.m. I’m talking about establishing trust in your teenager’s perspective. That’s being able to say, ‘Hey, listen. There are things you have to tell me’ while [also] standing firm with the fact that you’re the parent and the boss.

AND HOW SHOULD YOU RESPOND WHEN YOUR DAUGHTER DOES TELL YOU SOMETHING BIG?

When your child does open up and tell you something big, it’s so important to note that. You say to your kid in that situations, ‘Thank you so much for telling me that.’ Their job is not to serve you by telling you things — their job is to be secretive — so be grateful when they tell you things.

WHERE DOES THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA COME INTO THIS?

There’s a real trend of using fear and shame to teach about social media: ‘Your life will be ruined if you do the wrong thing online.’ But teaching through fear and shame isn’t effective for teens.

Social media in and of itself is not harmful — it’s the way in which it’s used that can be harmful. It’s important for parents to make an effort to understand why their kids love it, and to understand their kids are going to make mistakes … Parents need to be clear with their kids about parameters and expectations around use. I don’t think that means being a spy, but you must play a role in how your kids learn to be online through rules and expectations.

IN YOUR BOOK, YOU RECOMMEND CREATING A ‘FAILURE RESUME’ THAT LISTS WAYS YOU HAVE FAILED IN YOUR LIFE AND SHARING THAT WITH YOUR DAUGHTER. WHY?

If you create a failure resume and talk about it with your daughter, you’re desensitizing her to the power of failure. You’re talking about something that’s often taboo and lessening the shame around it. You’re also normalizing failure, making it fun and funny, which makes it less scary. To be comfortable with your setbacks is a muscle that you must flex again and again. It’s a skill.

A failure resume is an ingredient for the recipe [of how to deal with failure]. Essentially my whole book is about this recipe for building resilience. I talk about what is threatening girls and how to respond to it, how to be resilient. I’ve learned that what girls really need are the skills to lean inside as much as to lean in: to practice self-compassion, nourish their most important relations and seek support when needed.

These Are The Five Soft Skills Recruiters Want Most

 

Fastcompany

Things like time management and organization aren’t typically taught in school, but they are increasingly important in order to be competitive at work.

These Are The Five Soft Skills Recruiters Want Most
[Photo: yurii_zym/iStock]

While education, degrees, and certification are important for scoring an interview, a new study by the HR software provider iCIMS finds that recruiters place a higher value on soft skills. From an ability to communicate well to being organized, these intangible qualities can be tough to measure, but they affect everything from productivity to collaboration.

“Hard skills are what you do, and soft skills are how you do it,” says Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer for iCIMS. “Unfortunately, one in three recruiting professionals believe job candidates’ soft skills have gotten worse in the past five years.”

The good news for both candidates and employers is everyone possesses some soft skills, says Jodi Chavez, president of the staffing firm Randstad Professionals. “The challenge is determining which are strongest, and which are most in-demand for certain roles,” she says. “Companies can train employees in technical skills. Soft skills, on the other hand, are far harder to teach, which is why, in a low unemployment market, companies should be looking to hire for soft skills and train for technical skills.”

If you’re looking for a new job, these are the top-five soft skills recruiters are looking for:

1. PROBLEM SOLVING

The most important soft skill was the ability to solve problems, with 62% of recruiters seeking people who can find solutions, according to iCIMS. This soft skill was also the most important for the employee who wants to work in management.

“Problem solving isn’t practiced as much today as it once was,” says Vitale. “You can go to Google for answers, and we’re not challenged the way we used to be.”

2. ADAPTABILITY

The second most important soft skill is adaptability, with 49% of recruiters looking for this trait. This skill was ranked as very important for entry-level positions.

“Larger organizations value problem solving and adaptability the most,” says Vitale.

3. TIME MANAGEMENT

The third soft skill in demand is an ability to successfully manage time, with 48% of recruiters placing importance on this characteristic.

“Entry-level workers often come out of the gate being poor at time management, but they can learn strategies on how to run their day,” says Vitale. “It’s most important in smaller organizations, because you have to pivot and wear many hats.”

4. ORGANIZATION

Being organized is the fourth most sought-after soft skill, with 39% of recruiters ranking it as desirable. It’s often demonstrated in your behavior during the interview process. The most common mistakes, according to the study, include showing up late, forgetting to thank the interviewer, and forgetting the interviewer’s name.

5. ORAL COMMUNICATION

Finally, the ability to speak in public and communicate with others is the fifth most valued soft skill, with 38% of recruiters looking for this skill.

“Good communication skills are, of course, essential,” says Chavez. “Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and even slow down the workflow, preventing a company from moving forward.”

ROLE AND INDUSTRY

While soft skills are important in nearly every job, they can be role specific, says Chavez. “In a management position where the role requires one to lead a team, deliver on a project, or drive results, soft skills like emotional intelligence and teamwork are most important,” she says. “However, in roles where someone might work remotely from home, the key soft skills would be adaptability, communication and multitasking.”

The iCIMS study found that certain fields look for soft skills more than others, such as people who work in customer service, human resources, and sales/marketing. For technical jobs, they aren’t as vital. Nearly 1 in 5 of recruiters for IT jobs think soft skills are more important than hard skills, and 24% of recruiters weigh soft skills over hard skills for R&D jobs.

“I want my doctor to have hard skills first and soft skills next,” says Vitale. “But if they’re lacking in soft skills, I might not return.”

HOW TO CONVEY YOUR SOFT SKILLS

While we all have soft skills, demonstrating them during the job application process can be a challenge. “They don’t come across on a resume because there’s no certification,” says Vitale.

Be sure to highlight your strengths by using searchable keywords in your job description. “Whether a candidate lists their soft skills all together or breaks them out under the individual positions in which they honed them, it’s essential to include them somewhere,” says Chavez.

Recruiters will also use the screening processes to look for soft skills, so be prepared. Prior to an interview, come up with a short list of your strongest soft skills and be ready to share a few specific examples of when you showcased them in the workplace, Chavez suggests.

“For instance, talk about a time when your communication skills clarified a misunderstanding, or discuss how your leadership style came into play when they took charge of a negative situation and turned it into a positive one,” she says. “Candidates must also emphasize their ability to work well with others and should refrain from speaking poorly of a previous or current employer or company, as it will never reflect positively on them.”

Don’t be afraid to ask a recruiter which soft skills the organizations values most, adds Vitale. “Most employers fall down when it comes to transparency, and they aren’t saying out of the gate what they want,” she says. “Not all call them soft skills; sometimes they describe core competencies or workplace culture.”

In the end, candidates need to be cheerleaders for themselves, says Chavez. “Shift the conversation to highlight your soft skills even if an interviewer does not specifically ask,” she says.