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What’s Working For Me: A Game To Help Stressed Kids Feel Better

Children often have feelings and thoughts of which they are not mindfully aware. Those thoughts and feelings about life experiences or specific situations can cause feelings of unease that increases anxiety.

At the heart of it, the cognitive side of anxiety (because there can be quite a strong biological side as well) is about the perception that one does not possess the necessary skills to cope with or manage specific task demands in daily life. As an example, a child might be stressed about a vocabulary test if the words are difficult for the child to read, remember and retrieve. A child might be anxious about going to lunch when he feels he might not have the skills to seek out a table mate and feel less alone while eating lunch.

So we have an activity in our book of 70 Play Activities called What’s Working For Me that helps children think about what might be working and what might not be working about a specific life circumstance. The children are then empowered to find new thoughts, words and actions to cope in a new way with the situation. You can use it for a variety of circumstances, let your creativity guide the way.

Let’s look at the lunch example. We would say this….quietly, one on one with the child.

“Joey, I see that you are hesitant to go to lunch each day. I’d like to know more about what that is like for you. Are you open to playing a thinking game with me about lunchtime?”

“Let’s write down a few things that are working for you when you go to lunch. Then we can fill out our What’s Working for Me planning sheet and develop a plan to make lunch time better for you.”

What’s Working For Me

T: Let’s think about what you like about lunch.

J: “Well, I’m usually hungry, so it’s good to eat.”

J: “I like the days when they serve grilled cheese.”

J: “When Sam is at school, I usually sit with him.”

T: “Great! let’s write that in the green box, What’s Working For Me.”

T: Now, what don’t you like about lunchtime?

J: “I hate sitting alone.”

J: “Sam is sick a lot so then I have to sit alone.”

J: “No one asks me to sit with them.”

J: “It’s embarrassing.”

T: “Thanks for sharing that with me, I can see how it could feel sad to eat lunch alone.”

T: “We have a third box on our What’s Working For Me planning sheet. Let’s brainstorm how lunch could look differently so you can feel better about going to lunch.”

T: “If lunch were better for you, what would that look like?”

J: “Well, I’d have a friend to sit with all the time.”

T: “Who else besides Sam, might you like to sit with?”

J: “Jessica but she sits with her friends.”

T: What if you asked Jessica, “Hey Jessica when Sam’s not here, may I sit with you guys at lunch?”

J: “She’d probably say, ‘No.’

T: “What might be a good time to ask her? Would the best time be right before lunch, or might you ask her in class one day to plan ahead for the situation?”

J: “I could try to ask her in the morning before school.”

T: Okay let’s write that down and maybe even practice the words you will use.

T: “Then we can even write a few more ideas, about other things you can do to make lunchtime a happier time for you.”

As teachers, clinicians and parents, you know that conversations with children might be really straight-forward or you might need to help them along in the conversation. Be patient, ask reflective questions or ask the child to tell you a bit more, “Help me understand that better.”

Just letting stressed children know that they can solve a difficult situation by looking at what is working and what they’d like to see be different is empowering and can lead to better daily experiences.

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70-play-hi-res-150x197Written for teachers, educators, and clinicians whose work involves playing, talking or teaching children who would benefit from better executive function and social-emotional learning skills, 70 Play Activities incorporates over 100 research studies into printable worksheets, handouts, and guided scripts with step-by-step directions, to empower children to learn and behave better. “With 70 Play Activities we aim to improve the trajectory of children’s learning by integrating the newest neuroscience with activities children love!” With over 70 activities designed to improve thinking, self-regulation, learning and behavior, your tool-kit will be full and your creative brain will be inspired to craft your own meaningful exercises. 70 Play Activities is available at amazon.com

 

6 Ways Kids Can Use Technology to Improve Their Grades

With schools back in session, I thought I’d use this opportunity to show how kids can use technology to improve their grades. As someone who taught at the college level for more than 10 years, I often made these same recommendations to my students. Remarkably, many of them tell me that they were completely unaware of these resources.

1. Using Boolean Operators in Search Engines

Search engines use algorithms based on both logic and popularity, which is why Wikipedia is often at the top of the results from most search engines. Since most people rarely go through more than one or two pages of results, it’s important that the results are as helpful as possible. Boolean operators will help accomplish that for you.

For example, when searching for information on Alexander Hamilton, you will get different results based on what is typed into the search engine:

  • Alexander Hamilton will return pages that contain either word.
  • “Alexander Hamilton” will return pages that contain an exact match.
  • “Alexander Hamilton” and “Maria Reynolds” will return pages that contain both exact matches, likely related to their affair and the subsequent blackmail by her husband, James.

There are plenty more Boolean operators available and the results will definitely be better for the student.

2. Google Scholar

As popular as Google is, it is subject to results based on popularity. Google Scholar, on the other hand, will provide research quality results and have better search criteria tools, including dates, patents, authors, and more. Those kinds of results rarely show up using traditional search engines.

Not that Google doesn’t have those features, but Google Scholar puts them front and center so that the student is more likely to use them. That’s not to say that the popular version of Google isn’t sometimes a better option, as it would miss out on many reliable sources because they don’t fit academic standards, such as news sources and trade journals.

3. Khan Academy

Parents of younger children may already be aware of Khan Academy. Our daughter was using it at an early age after using it in grade school. For those that haven’t used it, Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that provides free lessons and educational videos for students of all ages.

4. Wikipedia

My students were always surprised when I told them that they could actually use Wikipedia to help write their papers for my classes. They were never allowed to cite Wikipedia, as it could very well be providing false information, but it is often right – probably even right more often than it’s wrong. The trick is to take advantage of the work done by the people who wrote the pages by looking down at the bottom of the page at their references. Many of them include links to other sources and if those sources are reliable, then Wikipedia was helpful even if it wasn’t listed as a source itself.

5. Microsoft Word References

I found that one of the best kept secrets that my students didn’t know about was how much Microsoft Word can help students by making sure that their papers are written to academic standards, including APA and MLA requirements. Almost all my students were in at least their sophomore or junior years, but many knew nothing about how Word can take out most of the “grunt work” when it comes to writing a paper to APA or MLA standards. This is especially true when it comes to listing all of their sources.

Students should always check with their teacher/professor about which optional information should be included as well. For example, I always required that students include the URL link to any online sources even though it’s not an MLA requirement. Using Word’s Reference features will make their papers much easier to do and help ensure that they meet the technical requirements of the assignment.

6. But What about ChatGPT?

My students always liked that I never gave tests. I never considered them to be realistic, as no boss ever told me to clear off my desk and take a test. They gave me assignments and I had to complete them. That’s what artificial intelligence platforms like ChatGPT can do, but at the expense of having the students learn, which is the real reason the students are in school. Additionally, these sites are not infallible, especially if the request isn’t written in the proper way. That means that students still need to qualify the results provided by them. So, like Wikipedia, it may provide some benefit, but it should never be accepted at face value or used as provided by the platform.

And even if ChatGPT is accurate, students still run the risk of being discovered as not having done the work themselves. Faculty have access to a host of AI checkers – here is just one example. Additionally, what comes out of an AI will not be written in the student’s “voice” and will be easy to identify as such.

In one of my first semesters as an adjunct professor, I had a student submit a paper that clearly wasn’t written by her. The grammar and tone were more like a doctoral thesis. With a quick search, I found three sites that were selling the exact same paper for less than $10. All of them had disclaimers that they were meant as a guide but should not be used in place of a student’s work. As a result, she failed the assignment.

Where AI platforms like ChatGPT can help students is by helping them brainstorm ideas, a critical part of most assignments, especially in the early stages of the work. For example, when I entered, “give me a list of 5 topics related to global warming for a high school report” into the platform, I was provided with five solid ideas that I could use to write a paper or create a presentation. It all depends on how you phrase your query and students should be prepared to try variations on their original query to see how it affects the results.

The Bottom Line

The benefits that technology can provide to students are very real. On top of that, most of what’s shown here uses technology that is already familiar to most students. By using any of these resources, students can generate better quality work in less time than they would otherwise.

Sync with Your Spouse on Discipline Style

Is your wife a strict disciplinarian, while you prefer to let things slide? Is your husband a yeller, while you are an “inside voice” kind of mom? When you have different parenting styles, it can often feel like you’re at odds with your spouse. Here are strategies from Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block (Bantam), for navigating this common parenting conundrum.

Don’t sweep your differences under the rug. To raise happy, well-behaved children, it’s crucial to try to find common ground. Otherwise, kids get mixed messages and quickly learn which parent will let them get away with more. Once a month, hold a “parents only” meeting to discuss your discipline differences. This is your chance to be honest about your concerns. “Write down two or three things each,” says Dr. Karp. “You and he get a turn without interruption. The only ground rule is you both have to listen with respect and speak with respect.” Your goal isn’t to sway each other, but to ultimately come up with some rules that you both feel comfortable enforcing.

Don’t disagree in front of your kids. “Kids look at us as a loving and safe force in their lives,” Dr. Karp says. “Seeing parents arguing, especially about them, shakes them to their foundation.” Kids might get angry or frightened and feel like they’re the “cause” of the parents’ problems – which lowers their confidence and self-esteem. So if you object to the way your spouse is handling a situation resist the urge to say anything until you are alone.

Find creative ways to compromise. Let’s say it drives you crazy that your husband yells at your child when she exhibits normal toddler behavior, like sticking her hand in the cat’s food bowl or pulling away from you while walking on the sidewalk. It drives your husband nuts that you’re lax about situations that could put your child at risk for physical harm. Try to decide together that it’s OK for him to raise his voice when Katie’s darting toward traffic or engaging in other dangerous behavior, but for mild, age-appropriate infractions, he needs to try distraction before yelling or scolding.

Keep family members out of it. “Don’t bring up each other’s family,” says Dr. Karp. For instance, avoid making remarks like, “Of course you yell and scream; you’re just like your father.” Besides being disrespectful, this behavior forces your partner into a defensive mode, making it harder to move forward and find the best solution.

Embrace a little bit of difference. “It’s crazy to expect all the adults in a child’s world to react in exactly the same way,” says Dr. Karp. In fact, by maintaining a dash of your individuality – even when it comes to discipline – “you’re teaching your child emotional intelligence. They learn what they can expect from one adult versus another. And that’s a good thing.”

Do You Praise Your Kid Too Much?? There’s a Better Way…

All parents want their kids to feel like they can take on the world. So you may naturally gush over her every scribble, tied shoelace and successful trip to the potty. But is that the best strategy to build competence today and success in the future?

“Confidence is not something you can bestow like a gift,” says Vickie Holland, a parenting coach in Santa Monica, Calif., and the author of the forthcoming book Parenting That Works. “You have to give kids a roadmap for finding confidence from within. It’s the difference between giving someone a fish and teaching them to fish: They need the tools to succeed, without your help.”

Here’s Holland’s advice for providing your child with opportunities every day to say, “I’m strong! I can do this!”

  • Put him to work. Give age-appropriate jobs to your child, such as watering plants, feeding the fish, pairing his socks or making his bed. Completing a task provides a sense of accomplishment and fosters pride in his abilities.
  • Let her solve her own problems. Resist the urge to rescue! Giving her a chance to troubleshoot the spilled box of blocks or the cup she can’t reach empowers her to think for herself, learn new skills and tackle new challenges with confidence.
  • Give him choices. Crayons or chalk? Cereal or muffin? The opportunity to make simple everyday decisions gives him a sense of control over his life and instills the belief that his opinions are valued.
  • Cultivate his inner approval system. A big “Wow!” from you can turn a simple watercolor into a masterpiece, but it also pins his self-worth on your reaction. Instead, help him find approval from within by asking what he likes about his creation. When you do give feedback, be specific (e.g., “I like how you made the sun’s rays come up from behind the mountains”).
  • Emphasize effort over talents. Whether she aces a task or comes up short, praise her effort over natural talent or smarts, because effort is something she can control. When you praise her efforts, it reinforces the idea that her actions make a difference.
  • Take her seriously. Spend time with your kid on her terms — playing with LEGOs on the floor or trying on silly hats — and truly hear and consider her ideas (no matter how zany). Giving her your time and attention validates her sense of self. It sends the message, “You’re important.”

Praise may provide a temporary boost in confidence, but allowing your child to develop skills on his own helps him to believe in his capabilities. And that’s a gift that lasts a lifetime.

How Your Kids Can Use Social Media to Create Future Success

Everything that we do online leaves an impression and it’s known as our Digital Footprint. Every post, every picture, even every “like”, says something about the person who’s created it. And not only about them: every friend or colleague “tagged” in that online picture or a post now has information added to their digital footprint linking them to that content as well – and all that information is now available to anyone looking to learn more about them.

So, who is looking and who should care? While I could sit here and tell you everyone should care about who’s monitoring their online presence, one group in particular should pay close attention. TEENS need to care and take every opportunity to improve their Digital Footprint. Why? Consider this: when asked why he robbed banks, notorious outlaw Willie Sutton simply explained, “Because that’s where the money is.” College admissions officers and potential employers take that same approach to finding out more about the candidates they’re considering. They go where the “gold” is – where they can learn the “real story” about who your child is, who their friends are, what they value, etc. These are the people whose decisions can seriously impact your child’s future – and they are looking at your child’s digital footprint to guide that choice. In fact, the majority of colleges and employers now look for an applicant’s footprint before making a decision on acceptance or even granting an interview. What they find can make or break your child’s chances of getting into a better school or getting their dream job.

This is especially true at the more competitive schools/companies. It’s not enough to minimize potential negative aspects. If what they’re going to find can help or hurt our kid’s chances of success, it’s up to us to make sure that it’s as helpful as possible. We need to maximize the potential positive aspects and it’s simpler than people think. Maybe not easy, but simpler.

Improving Their Digital Footprint

There are several ways that we can all improve our Digital Footprint. It goes without saying that we should all be mindful of any negative comments we say online. But how many teens actually use the Internet to improve their footprint? It’s actually pretty simple, if they follow some basic steps:

Start a blog or personal website that focuses the teen’s future. For example, writers should get to know Wattpad, which provides free hosting for their stories. Publishers and literary agents look there for new talent. There are plenty of companies that provide free website hosting. Improved services are available for a free, naturally, but even so, they’re a good place to start.

It takes time to build an online reputation and unfortunately, not that long to destroy it when something bad happens. Teens should create social media accounts to help build their brand (yes, that’s exactly what they are in this case). LinkedIn is available once they reach 16 years of age and the sooner they start, the better. This site can also let them interact with alumni from potential schools or engage with people in their future field of endeavor. They an also use it to learn more about the schools and companies that they want to associate with after high school.

Engagement is a huge part of improving their Digital Footprint. They need to comment, share, etc. to start networking. Hopefully, this will encourage others to do the same with their original content. Making well-reasoned comments on posts helps create relationships that can easily lead to great opportunities. If you want to learn more about how that works, read likeable social media, by Dave Kerpen.

Takeaways

Building a strong reputation and becoming a person of influence can take a long time. The sooner your teens get started on it, the sooner they will reap the rewards. If done well, it will eventually provide momentum that will begin to provide results with less effort on their part.

Too many people and companies give up on social media because they don’t see instantaneous results. Social media doesn’t work that way. Nothing that is worth doing works that quickly. If it did, everyone would do it. To quote Tom Hanks in A League of their Own:

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Once their Footprint is more likely to help than hurt them, it’s time to share it, especially when applying to schools and companies. They should provide the other party with links to their accounts, blogs, articles where they were interviewed, etc. It all adds up to making them the standout among a potentially large group of candidates. Many email systems include an “autograph” feature where they can include links to their content/profiles that they want included in all correspondence. They can then include links to specific content to make sure that the other person sees the most helpful parts of their Footprint.

If you want to see some examples of how a person’s footprint can affect them, search for #OnlineMeetsOffline in a search engine or on a social media platform. Some of the stories that come up will amuse you, while others may shock you to your core.

If your child takes the actions that I’ve described here, they can become a person of influence via social media that will provide significant long term benefits to them. In today’s hi-tech world, our Digital Footprint may be the most valuable thing that we own and we need to protect it!

When “Going Viral” is a Bad Thing: What Parents Need To Know

We’ve all heard the term, “going viral” and we all know what it means. What we may not realize is just how quickly it can happen.

It’s fine when it’s a cute video, but what about when it’s a picture or video of someone in a way that they wouldn’t want themselves seen? Or a story that paints a person (true or false), maybe your child, in a bad way.

That’s when it can get even worse. It’s bad enough that someone has to see the post about themselves, but knowing that people are talking about them behind their back makes the pain increase exponentially. The comments will likely not remain “just online”, either. Too often, the targets of the bad behavior are attacked offline as well.

When I’m presenting to students or parents, I always use the example of Six Degrees of Separation, which states that that everyone is six relationships (or less) away from any other person in the world. The scary part is just how quickly this can happen!

Making this as conservative as possible, we’re going to pretend that each person who sees a picture shares it with just one other person in each round, but in reality, it could be sent out to dozens of people in seconds. Maybe hundreds. Here’s how it works:

  1. One person takes a pic and sends it to a friend. Two people have now seen the pic.
  2. Both of them decide to share the pic to just one person. Now, four people have seen the pic.
  3. Each of them repeats the process. Now, eight people have seen it.
  4. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 16 people have seen it.
  5. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 32 people have seen it.
  6. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 64 people have seen it.
  7. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 128 people have seen it.
  8. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 256 people have seen it.
  9. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 512 people have seen it.
  10. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 1,024 people have seen it.

In only ten rounds, over a thousand people have seen the picture. In another 10 rounds, it will be over a million people. And this entire process may take only a few minutes!

 

Why This Matters

What we do and say, as well as what other people say about us, can affect us offline. It can affect us as soon as it happens or years later, when we’ve long forgotten about it.

From schools looking for new admissions to employers looking for potential new hires to people curious about who they may be about to go on a date with, people need to realize that the #OnlineMeetsOffline lesson can cause real problems or open new opportunities for them. What they find largely falls upon us.

Social media sites, especially Twitter, are very easy to search if you know how to do it. Human Resources employees and Admissions Officers are well versed in how to do it.

What’s the Solution?

To be perfectly honest, there really isn’t one. At least, not a full proof one. With today’s graphics software, it’s very easy to manipulate an image that can be very convincing to most people. That said, a good start is to minimize your child’s pictures online.

We all want to show our kids off, but we may be doing them more harm than good. In France, parents can actually be arrested or sued for posting pics of their children online – it’s considered an invasion of their privacy if it’s done without their consent.

Make sure that your kids avoid posting images that can be taken the wrong way. – Yes, that’s almost impossible. They can start by never sending any inappropriate pictures of themselves with anyone – ever! I recently watched “Do Revenge” on Netflix. It’s a new release and the problems all start when a senior girl sends a topless video to her boyfriend, only for it to be seen by every kid in the school. That’s when the problems start for the girl, and she becomes a pariah bent on revenge.

The best advice that I can give on this topic is that an ounce of prevention is not worth a pound of cure – it’s worth an immeasurable amount of cure!

We all need to realize that what we do online can have long-term consequences. If we realize that what we say online may be read in open-court one day, we may choose not to do some of the things that we might do otherwise. It may take some of the fun away from using social media, but it can prevent a lot of problems down the line!

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