Friday, May 27, 2016

Children: Anxiety

While some children are more inclined to worry than others, almost all children experience anxiety at one time or another. 

Anxiety can be a good thing. It can make us pay closer attention to what is going on, it can help us to be better prepared, and the right amount of anxiety is necessary for best performance.

However, anxiety becomes a problem when it keeps a child from enjoying everyday things, or when it is hiding a problem that needs to be addressed.

When children indicate that they do not want to do something they are communicating what for them is a real concern. It is important to know what is behind the words of worry:

Is the child not ready for the activity? Some children want to watch before they try and others just need more time before launching into something new.

Does the child need some reassurance? If you feel your child is ready for the activity, then confidently assure him that things will be okay and that you (or the teacher, or other trusted adult) will be available to help. A child’s confidence about trying new things can be greatly improved when he or she successfully accomplish something that caused worry.

Is there something else going on? If a child suddenly is anxious about a previously enjoyed activity then a good conversation is in order. Your child might not realize that an incident with another child, some confusion with an adult, or a startling event, is the real cause for worry. Children cannot always process this information. On occasion their brains will simply cause them to fear the entire situation. 

Is your child defiantly refusing to obey? It is easy to assume that defiance is about disobedience rather than anxiety. We assume that anxiety will show itself in timid behaviors. Some children show their anxiety in defiance. It is good to explore this possibility, especially if the behavior is unusual for your child or if typical consequences aren’t working to change the behavior. 

Is your child tired? Being physically tired or mentally overstimulated will cause many children to become anxious. For them, it is the best way to give the message that they have had enough. 

Helping children to identify and cope with stress is a great way to build resilience. Children need ways to calm themselves, to know when and how to seek help, and to learn to use anxiety to their advantage. Such children will be good problem solvers and will face difficulty with confidence.

One of the reasons that faith development also promotes resilience is that  our faith reminds us that God is in control of our lives, our situation, and our anxiety. A gentle reminder of God’s promise of love and care is a beautiful way to share your faith with your children when helping them with anxiety.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8

Friday, May 20, 2016

Parenting Technology

Technology has many benefits but it has its downside, too.  Our children do not know a world without apps and screens. Yet, their brains need other stimulation in order to improve their ability to learn. Playing a learning game on a tablet computer may teach a few skills. Whereas playing outside, building a fort, negotiation a game, or reading a book, will train the brain to be a better learning machine.

Child experts recommend parents limit screen time. However, child experts are not in our homes with us arguing with our children about why this is good for them.  Instead of stopping children when they have reached the end of their allotted time – require them to do other things first and then allow them all the time they want to play video games.

For example:

  • 30 minutes of reading 
  • 30 minutes of  house cleaning or yardwork 
  • 30 minutes of practice (music, sports, drawing, building, writing) 
  • 60 minutes of out-of-your-seat, and out-of-your-house play

(Be sure to adjust the list to accommodate different ages or different preferences in your family.)

There are several reasons why this system has a good chance of success. 

If/then  If /then plans are a form of negotiation. Such plans tell your child that you understand what they want and make it clear what you want. Allowing your children to renegotiate can be a good thing. Just stand firm on the amount of time and the issues you consider to be most important.

Delayed gratification  This is learning how to put off something you want to do while completing something you did not choose to do. As it turns out this skill influences both academic learning and life success. It teaches children how to focus and plan while learning to wait for a reward.

Self-entertainment When children spend less time complaining about not having anything to do they spend more time doing one of the activities assigned and suggested.  Now they are more likely to get hooked on a creative activity or a healthier activity such as outdoor play. Now we have a better chance of reducing their screen time.

When we parent we are rarely teaching one thing at a time. We teach in layers. Think about how you can add in faith teaching to this model with Bible study time, family devotions, Bible picture books, or perhaps journaling. Let your children know what is important by showing them what to put first in their daily schedule.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart ad with all your soul and with all your might.  Deuteronomy 6:5

Friday, May 13, 2016

Resources: For Sharing Your Faith All Year Long

Parents and children are busy – all year long. Even when the school year ends there are camps, sports, and family vacations.  The long lazy summers of my youth seem to be long gone. I can't believe I complained that I was bored!

In the midst of wonderful learning opportunities and family outings, I strongly encourage you to remember the blessings of what your church provides.  Your child’s faith grows because of the work of the Spirit. Look for ways to encourage that work. Here is how Faith Lutheran can help you.

Family devotions are a great way to help Bible learning to continue even when church attendance might be interrupted with travel and tournaments. A short devotion at the beginning of the trip or with mealtimes or bedtimes reminds our children that God goes with us. Here is a link to Concordia Publishing House and their easy resource of My Devotions. This is a subscription to an easy to read and understand daily devotion.  It even means some mail!

Family Summer Sunday School is a new program we are trying for this summer. Many other churches have moved toward this kind of Sunday school for these busy months and we pray it is a blessing for you. Come to Sunday School at the regular time and come as a family. You will receive a kit that has everything you need to share a Bible story, learn a Bible verse, pray together, and enjoy your choices of an activity such as a craft or game. The benefit is to learn some tools that will help you share your faith with your children. Please register before or after church.

Vacation Bible School is also trying something new this year. Because more families find it hard to attend every day for a week, we are scheduling VBS for two all-day events on Saturday.  The first is for young children and the second for school age children. If your child qualifies for both he/she is welcome to attend both. Vacation Bible School gives children a chance to see God’s word in a different setting. It is also a natural way to invite friends and neighborhood children. Please register before or after church.

Barnyard Roundup
Saturday, June 4
9:00am – 1:00pm
Children ages 3-8years

“Unique yet united”
Camp Luther Outdoor VBS
Saturday June 11
10:00am – 2:00pm
Children going into 1st through 6th grade

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Children: Emotional Competence

Emotional competence is a fancy term for getting a handle on strong emotions, learning how to evaluate emotional needs, and crafting an appropriate response.

It will come as no surprise when I tell you children are not born with this skill! While some children feel emotions with more or less intensity, all children need to learn emotional competence.

Children learn this skill in their environment, when situations are appropriate for their age, and when they see adults regulate emotions.

Children who successfully regulate emotions are better learners because learning is hampered by strong emotions such as anxiety, anger, and sadness. Children who regulate emotions are more successful with social skills and have better mental health.

Any age child can use some direct teaching when it comes to emotions and the lesson plans for this are not terribly hard. Parents can watch for appropriate times to do the following:

Name the emotion and the actions that go with it:

  • Your hands are in fists; are you angry?
  • You are standing close to me; are you worried?
  • You are not talking very much; are you sad?

Normalize the emotion:

  • You are angry about losing the soccer game. Your teammates are angry, too. Soon, you will feel better and then you can use your anger to practice harder.
  • You are very sad about losing your pet. You feel sad because you loved your pet very much. Right now it feels like you will never feel better, but you will feel a bit better every day.
  • You are very nervous about going to the dentist. Do you remember that you were nervous last year, too? You were brave and got through that with a little bit of help. What will help you this time?

Read books with emotions as part of the plot:
  • How does this boy feel about what has happened?
  • What will help this girl with her sadness?
  • Is it okay for this person to be angry?
Learn strategies for dealing with emotions:
  • How can you cool down?
  • How can you relax?
  • What can you do to feel better?

Praying is a good way to calm down, practice mindfulness, and to remember that control of our emotions is a blessing from God.

For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. I Corinthians 14:33