“I hate my life!”

"I hate my life!"

Q: In a store recently my three-year-old child was unhappy and she expressed her unhappiness by repeatedly saying, “I hate my life!” At first I was embarrassed, but then I began to worry- Does she really hate her life? Is she mentally unhealthy? This is the first time she has ever done or said anything like this. I may be over reacting. Do you think I need to get her some professional help?

A: It is true children can develop all of the same mental illnesses that adults can, although often times the signs are more difficult to recognize. It is not unheard of for a three year old to exhibit signs of a mental illness, …Continue reading

but if the outcry in the store was an isolated incident, then it is more likely that your child has overheard someone else use the exact expression. Adults sometimes say things off the cuff and children adopt the expression as their own. “I hate my life!” is probably a phrase your daughter overheard and not a true expression of her feelings.

If the outcry happens again it might be helpful to say to your daughter, “Wow, you sound frustrated. What is causing you to be so frustrated and upset?” This should provide the opportunity for her to express her displeasure and you the opportunity to explain how to handle the frustration. If necessary, leave the store and chat in the car or another safe location (unless of course the root of the outcry is because your child wants to leave the store).

If, however, the outcry in the store incident is in addition to several other red flags or if your instincts tell you there is something more going on, then you should seek the guidance of a healthcare professional. Start with your child’s doctor. It may be helpful to have a conversation with your child’s doctor without your child present. Make an appointment and share all the information you have observed relating to your child’s mental health.

It is most likely that “I hate my life!” can be translated to “I’m ready to leave this store” or something similar, but if your instincts tell you otherwise then you should consult your child’s healthcare professional.

flipped classroom

flipped classroom

Q: My son has changed high schools mid semester. It wasn’t ideal, but a family move made it necessary. We are all making the best of it and my son seems to be handling the change quite well. One part with which he is struggling, however, is that the new school uses a “flipped classroom” style of teaching. What does that even mean?

A: Educators are constantly trying to find new methods and techniques to better serve the needs of their students and encourage academic growth. A “flipped classroom” is a more recent educational technique.

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Flipped classrooms are emerging in high school and college settings as an instructional strategy that refocuses the responsibility of learning, creating a more student centered model of education.

In a flipped classroom the format is exactly what the name implies- flipped. The homework time is spent learning new information (and some review) and the class time is spent processing the information.

Here’s how it works (very over simplified):
Outside school (“homework”)– the students watch assigned instructional videos, listen to podcasts, read new material, etc .
The following day (“class time”)– the students engage in projects, activities, and discussions, which help them digest and process the information introduced the evening before and perhaps explore the topic on a deeper level.

A flipped classroom may be a great opportunity for self-motivated students with easy access to technology. Some studies are showing that this educational strategy is boosting students’ success rates.

Moving to a flipped classroom setting mid semester may take some getting used to, but with support and encouragement your son should be able to adapt and succeed.

makeup help

makeup help

Q: My tweenager wants to wear makeup. I get that it is a normal request, but when she puts on makeup she looks like she is ready to walk the streets or attend a Halloween party! I don’t want to crush her self-esteem, but don’t know how to help without sounding critical. Any ideas?

A: You are a wise mother to recognize that exploring makeup is a developmentally appropriate interest for your tweenage daughter. And you are an even wiser mother to understand that perceived critical comments could deflate your daughter’s self-esteem. (Not to mention damage your relationship.) I also understand you want to save your daughter the embarrassment of leaving the house looking like tweenage clown.

Sounds like you and your daughter need a Mother and Daughter Field Trip.

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Calmly explain to your daughter, “I see that you are interested in makeup. Cool. If you want to stat wearing it from time to time, let’s make sure you have the good stuff. It will be so much easier to use.” Then follow through.

Many department stores have makeup counters where product knowledgeable employees are happy to provide free or low cost mini makeovers for potential customers. (There are even stores that are ALL makeup and makeup counters.) Go scout them out- alone. When you find a store or counter or product line you feel comfortable with, talk with the employee. Explain how you want to support your daughter, offer her profession makeup guidance, and avoid the Halloween clown look! Odds are you are not the first mom to seek this kind of help. Schedule a time with the employee and then treat your daughter to a Mother Daughter Field Trip.

Make sure you are clear with your daughter that you may not be able to purchase every product. The makeup employee can help you know which one is the most impacting purchase and maybe just start with that one. Of course you are not obliged to purchase anything at all, but you should at the least compensate the employee for her time.

Your daughter may choose to continue exploring makeup on her own, but then again she might decide to incorporate some of the advice from the professional. (Like less is more!) Either way it is a great opportunity for the two of you to spend some time together and one more way you can show you are supportive of your daughter and her development.

family from drama

family from drama

A (true) story:

One of my preschool students told me some alarming information about her “home life”. The four year old girl, L, enlightened me that her uncle was no longer in jail. Her aunt had entered rehab. And Becky might have killed her twin sister.

What?!

Over my years of teaching I have taught children from a variety of backgrounds. I’ve heard just about everything, but this shocked me. This child was from a lovely and stable family, or at least so I thought.

I could not simply brush aside the child’s comments. If the child was in an unsafe environment I needed to act.

At a quickly scheduled conference with the child’s mother, I (in what I hope was a tactful approach) told her about the information her child shared.

The mother looked at me with a very confused look on her face. She cocked her head to the side and after a moment of pondering, a look a pure shock overtook her. What she proceeded to tell me was not at all what I expected.

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“Oh my goodness. That is what is happening on the soap opera I watch while I cook supper! I had no idea L was listening! She is not even in the same room!”

The lesson:

It turns out the child was not in an unsafe environment. (She didn’t even have an uncle to be neither in nor out of jail!) L heard the drama of the same characters every evening. They were part of her home. She accepted them as family. In the mind of a four year old this was logical, but not at all accurate

What an eye opener this was!

Children hear information and process it to the best of their abilities, even when we are unaware. As adults we may think that a conversation is “going over the child’s head”, but chances are they are picking up bits and pieces and putting the information together based on their experiences. This can lead to many unsettling issues.

Be mindful of things about which you think your child is unaware. They may, in fact, be taking it all in.

And if you want to watch a scandalous drama, maybe do so after your child is solidly asleep!

sleeping through the night

sleeping through the night

Q: My son will be two years old next month and he is still not sleeping through the night! My husband and I are exhausted! We’ve been told to “let him cry it out”, but that seems cruel. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Each child is different, but most children should be sleeping through the night by age two. So, yes it is indeed time to take action, but you should not feel pressured to do something that you think is cruel.

It is your job as a parent to provide the appropriate atmosphere, opportunity, and support to help your child learn to sleep through the night. Your child needs solid sleep and you do too!

There are many parents and healthcare professionals who think that “letting him cry it out” is the best and perhaps only method to help your child sleep, but this doesn’t feel authentic to everyone’s parenting style. As an alternative to the “crying it out method” consider the following:

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Atmosphere: Make sure your child has a comfortable and safe place to sleep. This should be their designated sleeping space- not the car or where ever they happen to crash. By designating a sleeping area your child will begin to associate the space with sleeping. “I sleep in this space, so I should be sleeping.” Establishing a bedtime ritual will also strengthen the connection to sleep. “This happens, then this, then I sleep.”

Opportunity: There is no point expecting a child to sleep at night if they have been sleeping all day! As children grow they need less nap time and certainly a late afternoon nap can reek havoc on a good night’s sleep. Provide the opportunity for your child to be tired when it is bedtime. And going to bed at the same time each night helps the body’s internal clock working favorably.

Support: If your child has not been sleeping through the night then it may take some practice to achieve a night’s sleep. While you may think it is cruel to let your child “cry it out”, it may be equally cruel to not help your child learn to comfort himself. If your child cries in the night, give him the chance to put himself back to sleep (this may involve a bit of crying). Make sure he has comfort and support, but help him remain in his sleeping area. “Here is your binky. Now it is time to go back to sleep. It is time for everyone to be asleep. I am going to sleep too.”

There may be a few wakeful nights, but if you provide the appropriate atmosphere, opportunity, and support, your child will learn to sleep through the night. And that will be a good thing for everyone!

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