Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Helping Children With Monster Fear

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

This article can be found at: http://www.lucydanielscenter.org/page/helping-children-with-monster-fears

Young children frequently develop fears of monsters. Children don’t think about monsters in the same way that adults do. To a child, a monster is a real something, whether person or creature, that i

ntends to harm that child or other family members. Children as young as two years of age may develop monster fears. Parents are often baffled as to the origin of these monster fears as well as by the relative ineffectiveness of their reassurances that monsters are pretend and the child is safe. Why does child after child fear terrible creatures? And what do these monsters mean to children?

Why monsters?: Children create monsters because all children have personal experiences that convince them that people can behave destructively toward other people. There are two kinds of experiences that bring this lesson to young children. The first type, which only some children have, is the direct observation that people can be overtly hurtful. Perhaps a child witnesses or is the recipient of physical or hurtful verbal aggression. It is important to keep in mind that children may interpret parental aggression to mean that adults can be destructive even if the adults are not intentionally hurtful or cruel. For example, some children may experience corporal punishment to mean that their kind parents have the potential to turn into scary and dangerous people. (This is one reason that we recommend against using corporal punishment.) As another illustration, because children age five and under do not fully understand the distinction between pretend and reality, they may respond to dangerous villains in a video as if they were real. Young children’s successful emotional development will be supported – and monster fears minimized – if they are protected as much as possible from exposure to overt aggression or hurting.

The second type of experience, occurring for every child, takes place whenever a child observes angry feelings inside himself or herself. Sometimes a child’s anger can be quite intense – temper tantrums illustrate just how strong these feelings can become. All children experience angry feelings because anger and aggressive thoughts are a basic psychological response to any distress or painful situation such as disappointment, frustration, loneliness, boredom, physical pain, and anxiety.

Young children are often frightened by their anger. They are scared that they might lose control of that anger and hurt loved ones and/or get punished. Furthermore, because young children often believe that parents can read their minds, children worry about how their parents would react if they knew about their aggressive and angry thoughts.

These fears strongly motivate children to achieve control over their anger and corresponding aggression. One important way that children develop this self-control is through using the emotionally self-protective mechanism known as “externalization.” Externalization refers the remarkable and normal capacity of children (and adults) to create the illusion that their own unwanted feelings belong to something else rather than themselves.

Externalization of aggression helps children feel more comfortable with themselves, because they feel as if they are free of the aggression. The disadvantage of externalization is that the aggression does not really go away. Children become afraid of the aggression and destruction that now seems to lurk around them: There are suddenly monsters out there! Therefore, children’s fear of monsters is fueled by an entirely appropriate fear of their own aggression, and, in some cases, may be reinforced by scary life experiences.

Children’s externalization of aggression provides them with a respite during which they can develop the confidence and tools to control, channel, and tame their aggression. Children who develop such mastery of their aggression tend to feel the least like monsters, have the fewest fears, and are most able to channel their aggression to achieve constructive goals.

Here are some ways parents can help their child feel stronger than the monsters. The single most important way is for parents to demonstrate that they feel stronger than the monsters! A parent’s secure calmness and lovingness will convey more than specific words could ever convey. Parents should also communicate their belief that their child can also be stronger than the monsters. Parents can do this by encouraging their child to actively fight the monsters. A child’s active participation will support his or her mastery. Perhaps a parent can have an air spray that makes monsters disappear; children can use the monster spray at bedtime during a monster hunt. Other helpful strategies include:

·    Monster stop signs around the room made by a child;

·    Lights on (because monsters hate light!);

·    Mommy’s mean face at the monsters;

·    Practice during the day calling Mommy for help during the night if he or she becomes too afraid.

Why now? Although it is common for a child to develop fears of monsters, it may be helpful to understand why the fear has emerged at a particular point. If such an understanding can be achieved, parents may be able to change a situation or provide some specific support that will decrease the extent of children’s externalized anger and thereby decrease the strength of their fear of monsters. Children may benefit from such support because they are either experiencing greater anger or a diminished ability to cope with their anger. Children’s level of anger increases, as previously mentioned, in response to emotional or physical pain or distress. Such distressing events include the arrival of a new sibling, a move to a new house, a parent who is feeling blue, a parent who is away on a trip, a grandparent who is sick or dying, an increase in childcare hours beyond the child’s current capacity to tolerate comfortably, or a particularly frightening experience. Children’s ability to cope with anger may diminish when their resources are already being taxed for other reasons, such as because they are tired, ill, or confronting new challenges such as beginning school.

A parent’s understanding of the basis of their child’s fears, their provision of protection against the experience of excessive aggression, and their support of the child’s active mastery will assist their child to master aggression and to develop healthy self-esteem and self-reliance.

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Children Need Moms and Dads: The Involved Father

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

The Involved Father by Glenn Stanton

Fathers are just as essential to healthy child development as mothers. Psychology Today explained, “Fatherhood turns out to be a complex and unique phenomenon with huge consequences for the emotional and intellectual growth of children.”1

Erik Erikson, a pioneer in the world of child psychology, asserts that a father’s love and a mother’s love are qualitatively different. Fathers “love more dangerously” because their love is more “expectant, more instrumental” than a mother’s love.2 A father brings unique contributions to the job of parenting a child that no one else can replicate. Following are some of the most compelling ways that a father’s involvement makes a positive difference in a child’s life.

Fathers parent differently.

Fathering expert Dr. Kyle Pruett explains that fathers have a distinct style of communication and interaction with children. By eight weeks of age, infants can tell the difference between their mother’s and father’s interaction with them.

This diversity, in itself, provides children with a broader, richer experience of contrasting relational interactions. Whether they realize it or not, children are learning, by sheer experience, that men and women are different and have different ways of dealing with life, other adults and children. This understanding is critical for their development.

Fathers play differently.

Fathers tickle more, they wrestle, and they throw their children in the air (while mother says . . . “Not so high!”). Fathers chase their children, sometimes as playful, scary “monsters.”

Fathering expert John Snarey explains that children who roughhouse with their fathers learn that biting, kicking and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable.3 They learn self-control by being told when “enough is enough” and when to settle down. Girls and boys both learn a healthy balance between timidity and aggression.

Fathers build confidence.

Go to any playground and listen to the parents. Who is encouraging kids to swing or climb just a little higher, ride their bike just a little faster, throw just a little harder? Who is encouraging kids to be careful? Mothers protect and dads encourage kids to push the limits.

Either of these parenting styles by themselves can be unhealthy. One can tend toward encouraging risk without consideration of consequences. The other tends to avoid risk, which can fail to build independence and confidence. Together, they help children remain safe while expanding their experiences and increasing their confidence.

Fathers communicate differently.

A major study showed that when speaking to children, mothers and fathers are different. Mothers will simplify their words and speak on the child’s level. Men are not as inclined to modify their language for the child. The mother’s way facilitates immediate communication; the father’s way challenges the child to expand her vocabulary and linguistic skills — an important building block of academic success.

Fathers discipline differently.

Educational psychologist Carol Gilligan tells us that fathers stress justice, fairness and duty (based on rules), while mothers stress sympathy, care and help (based on relationships). Fathers tend to observe and enforce rules systematically and sternly, teaching children the consequences of right and wrong. Mothers tend toward grace and sympathy, providing a sense of hopefulness. Again, either of these disciplinary approaches by themselves is not good, but together, they create a healthy, proper balance.

Fathers prepare children for the real world.

Involved dads help children see that attitudes and behaviors have consequences. For instance, fathers are more likely than mothers to tell their children that if they are not nice to others, kids will not want to play with them. Or, if they don’t do well in school, they will not get into a good college or secure a desirable job. Fathers help children prepare for the reality and harshness of the world.

Fathers provide a look at the world of men.

Men and women are different. They eat differently. They dress differently. They cope with life differently. Girls and boys who grow up with a father are more familiar and secure with the curious world of men.

Girls with involved, married fathers are more likely to have healthier relationships with the opposite sex because they learn from their fathers how proper men act toward women. They know which behaviors are inappropriate.

They also have a healthy familiarity with the world of men — they don’t wonder how a man’s facial stubble feels or what it’s like to be hugged by strong arms. This knowledge builds emotional security and safety from the exploitation of predatory males.

Boys who grow up with dads are less likely to be violent. They have their masculinity affirmed and learn from their fathers how to channel their masculinity and strength in positive ways. Fathers help sons understand proper male sexuality, hygiene and behavior in age-appropriate ways. As noted sociologist David Popenoe explains, “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers — especially biological fathers — bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”4


Helping families thrive with the support of friends like you.


Copyright © 2004 Glenn T. Stanton. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

1“Shuttle Diplomacy,” Psychology Today, July/August 1993, p. 15.
2As cited in Kyle D. Pruett, The Nurturing Father, (New York: Warner Books, 1987), p. 49.
3John Snarey, How Fathers Care for the Next Generation: A Four Decade Study (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 35-36.
4David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: The Free Press, 1996), p. 163.

Posted by:

Rachel Talamantez, MA, LMFT, provides psychotherapy, parenting support and reflective practice in Santa Clara County, California where she sees children, couples and adults. She is endorsed in California as an Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist and a Reflective Practice Facilitator Mentor. She holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Visit Rachel’s website at www.nurturing-relationships.com

Why Good Enough Parenting Is Great for Our Kids

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Why Good Enough Parenting Is Great for Our Kids

Author: Erika Myers – Art & Practice of Psychotherapy 

It seems as if this past year has been a big one for parenting issues [1]. We’ve read about “tiger moms” and how to bring up bébé in French style.Time dedicated a magazine cover (May 21, 2012) to the battle over attachment parenting complete with controversial photo. We seem to have become polarized as a country about the “right” way to raise our kids. People are firmly committed, even entrenched, in their ideologies, certain that if they can do it correctly, somehow they will raise the perfect child.

What exactly, though, does the perfect child look like? What is perfect parenting? Are these concepts even achievable? Parenting is not fool-proof. You cannot create a simple recipe or step-by-step instruction booklet. Different strategies will work for different parents. Different strategies may be needed for different kids in the same family. For those who turn to books and experts seeking THE answer for how to be the BEST parents, they can be left with feelings of frustration and helplessness.

There are, however, some words of wisdom that I believe can help parents raise healthy, capable, well-adjusted kids. Primarily, let go of the idea that there is one perfect way to raise kids, and try to be “good enough” parents. Do the best you can and feel good about it. Figure out what works for you and your family [2], and know that what works may change as your family changes. Becoming the best parent you can be requires letting go of the myth of the perfect parent. In this lies the heart of good-enough parenting.

I believe it is essential for every parent to know, accept, and even embrace the fact mistakes will be made. You will not be perfect. Your kids will find something to complain about. You will fall short of their expectations, and your own, from time to time. This is natural. This is expected. This is inevitable. This is great! Hopefully, many of these mistakes will be on the smaller end of the spectrum (forgetting to pack dessert in a lunch box, for example), but some will be bigger.

What can be damaging to kids, parents, and their relationships is not the presence of mistakes, but our intolerance for making them. What shapes our character is not our success or failure, but how we respond to each. Are we gracious when we succeed? When we fail, do we accept responsibility? Do we take steps to fix what can be fixed? Do we find new solutions? Do we learn from our experiences? Do we forgive [3] ourselves and others?

Much of childhood and adolescence is spent testing things out. Kids try out behaviors; teens try out identities [4]. They test their assumptions about the world. If we hold ourselves to a standard of perfection that is unattainable, that sends a message to our kids that making mistakes is not OK. This can make childhood and adolescence an even more stressful and anxiety-filled time. When kids feel there is no room for error, the pressure they place on themselves can be paralyzing and can manifest as anxiety and depression.

When we model for our kids that we try, sometimes fall flat on our faces, and get up and move forward, we help teach them resiliency. When they see us struggle and persevere, we teach them that life may not be easy, but that we have the confidence in ourselves to keep going. When we forgive ourselves and others for falling short, we teach them generosity of spirit and acceptance. When we do all of these things, we teach them that they will be loved based on who they are, not what they achieve.

So often, our striving to be “perfect” parents comes from a desire to raise kids that are harm-proof. It is natural as parents to wish to protect our children [5] from difficulty and pain. But when we try to insulate them completely from the slings and arrows of their own outrageous fortunes, we deny them an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop the skills they need to navigate the world. By trying to protect them from pain, we unintentionally communicate to them that we don’t believe they can handle it. Eventually, they believe us. We effectively deny them the chance to develop confidence in their own abilities to handle whatever life dishes out and not only survive, but thrive in the face of adversity.

Our job as parents is not to shield them from every blow, but to be a soft place for them to land when they fall. We can teach them to strive to do their best, even when it feels really hard. We can teach them to be proud of their efforts. We can teach them to love themselves even when they fail. We can teach them that they are capable of persevering. We can teach them how to ask for help when they need it and offer it when it is needed. We can teach them self-acceptance and resiliency, but only if we practice it ourselves.


Article printed from GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog

URL to article: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/good-enough-parenting-overprotecting-1129124

URLs in this post:

[1] parenting issues: http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-parenting.html

[2] family: http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-family-problems.html

[3] forgive: http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-forgiveness.html

[4] identities: http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-identity-issues.html

[5] children: http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-children-teens.html

 

 

Posted by: Rachel Talamantez, MA, LMFT, provides psychotherapy, parenting support and reflective practice in Santa Clara County, California where she sees children, couples and adults. She is endorsed in California as an Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist and a Reflective Practice Facilitator Mentor. She holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Visit Rachel’s website at www.nurturing-relationships.com