Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Compassionate Parenting

It may seem like compassion and mindful awareness have become trendy buzzwords lately with all the attention from celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and others. Please don't let that stop you from learning more about these important topics, especially in relation to being the best parent you can be. I've found so many helpful resources online and have selected a few of my favorites to get you started. Enjoy!

The Power of Words to Teach Compassion to Your Children
by Jim Taylor, Ph.D., PsychologyToday.com
"We live in a world where compassion seems to be in short supply. Children are bullied and cyber bullied. Homeless people are beaten. The poor are blamed for their plight. You as parents can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Your words can convey callousness and indifference. Or your words can communicate caring and warmth. You can use words to help your children to appreciate and instill the value of compassion in their minds and lives. One way to use words is to develop catchphrases that capture the meaning of compassion in a compelling and memorable way.

The catchphrase that we use to encourage compassion in our daughters (ages nine and almost seven) is “sharing is caring.”" Read the entire article>>

Opening the Heart of a Child: Cultivating Compassion in Children and Teens
by Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D., PsychologyToday.com
"One wonders how could anyone be so cold-hearted, so without compassion, that they have no awareness of, or care about, how their actions effect others. The fact that 13 million children are affected by bullying in the U.S. each year is staggering and points to a desperate need to develop the skills of compassion...

In my experience, when kids appear cold-hearted, when they seem to not care about the suffering of others, and sometimes even inflict that suffering, they are often detached from feeling – for themselves as well as others. It’s as if their hearts are closed. So connecting with, and opening the heart is key and crucial in cultivation of both self-compassion and compassion for others." Read the entire article>>

Compassion - Outstanding - Making People happy - Adopt a friend - Sharing - Smile as you go - I always help - Others - No one left alone

Self-Compassionate Parents, Happier Teens
By Emily Nauman, GreaterGood.Berkeley.edu
"Researchers at Radboud University collected data from 901 Dutch families,  using questionnaires to measure adolescents’ depression and anxiety, as well as parents’ well-being and approach to parenting.

The results, published in the Journal of Child Family Studies, replicate past research suggesting that mindful parenting is associated with better well-being in parents. Mindful parenting involves integrating the principles of mindfulness into parenting: listening to the child with full attention, being emotionally aware of and non-judgmentally accepting of the self and the child’s feelings, and not being overly reactive to stressful situations." Read the entire article>>

An Exercise in Self-Compassionate Parenting
By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., PsychCentral.com
"When their kids have an outburst, many parents give them a “time-out.” Neff, however, suggests giving your kids a “time-in.” In her book she includes a helpful exercise based on Coleman’s MAP [Mindful Awareness Parenting] protocol. It aims to help your child process “big feelings,” such as a tantrum or crying.

When kids misbehave, sometimes it’s because they’re seeking support and connection, Neff explains. This exercise helps you connect to your child and teaches them to express their emotions healthfully.

According to Neff, this exercise “allows your child’s feelings to ‘be felt’ and accepted. It shows your child that you are willing to help him and that your love means you will be welcoming and accepting of his emotions – even difficult ones.” Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Books that Teach Kids Compassion

Lately it has become clear that helping children be kind to each other is one of many effective anti-bullying technique. Looking for ways to talk about compassion and kindness with your child? Reading a good book together is often an easy and fun way to start the conversation with specific examples.

Chapter Books (ages 8-12)
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Melody, unable to speak or move any part of her body except for her thumb, is determined to make everyone understand that she is so much more than her physical challenges from cerebral palsy.

Arlene on the Scene by Carol Liu
Arlene is a feisty nine-year-old girl who doesn't let anything-- including the physical challenges of having CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease)--stop her from working towards her dreams.

Rules by Cynthia Lord
Twelve-year-old Catherine struggles with the challenges of having a special needs brother. She's sometimes embarrassed by his behavior and tries to protect him by helping him fit in using specific rules.

Picture Books (ages 3-8)
Horace and Morris but Mostly Delores by James Howe
These three best friends decide to create their own inclusive clubhouse for both boys and girls after discovering that separate clubhouses are no fun for any of them. An excellent book about inclusion.

Yoko by Rosemary Wells
Despite the teacher's attempt to introduce the students to flavors from around the world, everyone makes fun of Yoko's sushi lunch and no one will try it. A great book about not judging something you don't understand.

Arnie and the New Kid by Nancy Carlson
Philip, the new kid, is in a wheelchair and, for some reason, Arnie cannot resist teasing him. Then Arnie falls and decides that being in a wheelchair would be much better than having to walk on crutches.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How Reading Harry Potter Increases Empathy

Recent studies have shown that reading fiction makes you more empathetic and compassionate. Are your kids (or you) fans of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling? Whether or not you like Harry Potter, it's nice to know that one of the most popular book series for kids in recent decades can show us so much about compassion, bullying, and the power of choices.

Bullying vs. Compassion:
Psychology Lessons from Harry Potter

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” - Professor Dumbledore
by Dr. Janina Scarlet, TheMarySue.com

(photo by Elia ©2007 via Flickr.com)
"Harry Potter, “the boy who lived,” is one of the most famous and influential fictional series, alongside classics like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. What’s especially striking about the Potter series is how accurately author J. K. Rowling illustrates the terrible struggles many of us face; among them, bullying and prejudice, which are arguably the main themes of the series...

Throughout the series, we find numerous examples of bullying, including the Dursleys, the Malfoys, Snape, Umbridge, and Voldemort. All go to different lengths and all have different origins, yet there is one thing they all have in common: the “Us vs. Them” attitude, which is referred to as in-group bias. In-group bias refers to favoring one’s own group and regarding it as superior and displaying aggression or prejudice toward the other group, which is seen as inferior. Having biases against other groups is related to self-esteem, where demonstrating the superiority of one’s group over another can lead to temporary increases in self-esteem. We see examples of this, specifically in trying to put down other group members, in all the bullies listed here. Reliance on putting down others in order to make oneself feel superior, however, is a dangerous game. It potentially sets those playing it up for failure, as self-esteem — when defined this way — is highly unstable, and can lead to major disappointment, depression, and violence...

While the series demonstrates different kinds of bullying, prejudice, and abuse, it serves a very important function: it makes us more compassionate. Compassion is defined as recognizing the suffering of another, being able to put oneself in “another person’s shoes” (empathy), and to want to help this person (or non-human animal)...

There have been several studies that demonstrate how reading the Harry Potter series reduces prejudice and increases empathy in the readers...The results of the study found that the children in the experimental group showed significantly less prejudice after the intervention compared to the children in the control group. These results suggest that these books increase empathy and promote acceptance of diversity. To further support this point, another study found that reading emotionally driven passages from Harry Potter increases the brain’s empathy response. Taken together, these studies suggest that learning about the suffering of another, connecting with another person, or even fictional characters, can help increase perspective taking, empathy, and compassion."

Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Self-Compassion: Being Your Own Best Friend

When talking of compassion and kindness, we often focus on how we behave towards strangers and family/friends. But, a large part of being compassionate towards others is knowing how to be kind to yourself. Self-compassion can boost your physical and emotional health, help you during setbacks and motivate you to reach your goals as well as strengthen your relationships. Here are a few resources to get you started on understanding the importance of self-compassion:

The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristin Neff at TEDxCentennialParkWomen
Kristin Neff, Ph.D., is an associate professor in human development at the University of Texas of Austin and the author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.
Watch the TedTalk video>>

5 Science-Backed Reasons It's Important To Love Yourself
by Lindsay Holmes, HuffingtonPost.com
"When it comes to close relationships, by now we've probably got this whole "best friend" thing down pat. We give them a confidence boost when they don't feel their best. We're supportive of them when they fail at something. We encourage them when they're unsure of taking on new challenges. We're an all-around uplifting influence in their lives.

These positive behaviors toward our friends are probably as natural as breathing. So why is it so hard to do this for ourselves?

We rarely give ourselves the credit we deserve -- despite the fact that a plethora of research shows that if we treat ourselves with the same kindness we use on others, we'd live healthier and happier lives. Isn't it about time we turn that around?"
Read the entire article>>

(photo by Kiran Foster ©2012 via Flickr.com)

5 Strategies for Self-Compassion
by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., PsychCentral.com
"It’s interesting that in other areas of our lives we understand that being harsh doesn’t work. Take the example of parenting. Decades ago, we thought that harsh punishment and criticism were effective in keeping kids in line and helping them do well, Neff said.

However, today, we know that being a supportive and encouraging parent is more beneficial. (When you’re told you’re a failure, the last thing you think you’re capable of is succeeding, or even trying.)

Self-compassion acts like a nurturing parent, she said. So even when you don’t do well, you’re still supportive and accepting of yourself. Like a kind parent, your support and love are unconditional, and you realize that it’s perfectly OK to be imperfect.

This doesn’t mean being complacent. Self-criticism tears us down; it presumes that “I am bad.” Self-compassion, however, focuses on changing the behavior that’s making you unhealthy or unhappy, Neff said."
Read the entire article>>