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What is One of Your Favorite Things To Do?

It’s hard to name just one, however I would say mine is to dream.

Dream TimeDreaming allows your heart to open and as your heart opens all possibilities are possible. Dreaming allows the illusion to dissipate and for potential to glimmer like an all knowing winking eye. As you gaze at the clouds or a piece of grass or clover, dreaming shows you a part of yourself that yearns to be free. In the still, the quiet dreaming occurs. On the plane, train or automobile, dreaming sets the imagination ablaze.

Limitations don’t exist when one is dreaming and all that you desire is accomplished. All you wish is magically before you.

There is only one caveat to dreaming, when you rouse from the dream, don’t cry that it’s not a present circumstance. Don’t fret that you’ve wasted time. Don’t be startled that what your eyes see is a ruse and what your heart feels is real.

All creation begins with a dream and is thwarted by disbelief. Limits are a ceiling we’ve allowed to exist in our mind. This ceiling is the knowledge we’ve collected over our life has pounded its way to cover our heart. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I encourage you, be a dreamer. Have the soft heart of innocence believing in your own fairy tale.

What is born from a dream? The heart knowledge that one’s life is to create what is true to its own essence. Simply, purely, realistically, beautifully. How? By not getting caught up in the details, by holding the possibilities in an open palm and by walking one step forward at a time. Patience, with a sprinkling of loving your current situation is a huge key that opens the door for your dream to be fulfilled.

Dream, dream, dream while recognizing the heart knows all things and sometimes our mind muddles things up with details.  Let go of the details. Don’t neglect your duties, the ability to provide your daily sustenance, shelter and care for the young or infirmed, yet all the while dream.

As we dream and use our infinite imagination, we also spread hope, potential and high vibes to the world around us. We are not in this alone, we are in it together.

Remember my friend, life is for the living. Live it to the fullest, no matter what! Much love to you, Julia….dream on


Julia Parsell is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor with an emphasis on the intersection of science and the sacred.  She writes from experiences and transformative understandings that have led her to an authentic and peaceful life. She goes by these names: mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, and friend. As home educator of her three children, she also developed/ran cafes, and maintained various leadership roles within her community.  Her greatest desire is to encourage others to live life fully.  Her passions are family, art creation, writing, and trail blazing. She loves her life in Western North Carolina.   




Why Your Teen Should Replace Screen Time With Green Time

Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about how Instagram was affecting teen mental health. In particular, some internal studies at Facebook (which owns Instagram) appeared to confirm that when teen girls used the site, they suffered poorer body image and were at increased risk for depression and eating disorders.

But is social media use itself at fault for making teen mental health worse? While some studies suggest it is, others paint a more nuanced picture, finding it difficult to pinpoint problems with screen time itself versus other factors sometimes associated with social media use that may reduce teen well-being—like cyberbullying or social isolation. Plus, current conclusions are often based on data from a single point in time, which makes it hard to prove that extended screen time actually causes poorer mental health.

Now, findings from an international study on teens add more to this debate and point toward potential guidelines for screen use. Focusing on over 577,000 adolescents from 42 countries across Europe and North America, the study’s results suggest that we might not have to worry about screen time in smaller doses until it reaches a certain harmful level, and that exercise can play a protective role no matter how much time a teen spends on screens.

For the study, researchers used large-scale surveys four years apart (in 2006, 2010, and 2014). Teens between 11 and 15 years old reported on how much of their free time they spent regularly on screens, watching TV or YouTube videos, gaming, checking social media, chatting or emailing with friends, and surfing the internet. They also reported how many days a week they exercised, how satisfied they were with their lives, and about their mental health, noting how frequently they felt emotionally down, irritable, angry, or nervous, and how often they had difficulties falling asleep, dizziness, headaches, stomachaches, and backaches (physical symptoms associated with poor mental health).

Analyses showed that lower amounts of screen time had no effect on teen well-being. Girls who spent less than an hour on screens and boys who spent less than 90 minutes on screens were not negatively impacted by it. But at higher amounts of screen time, their life satisfaction dropped significantly—they were less happy with their lives, and it got worse the more time they spent. If screen time went above 105 minutes per day for boys or 75 minutes per day for girls, their mental health also got worse.

According to the lead author, Asaduzzaman Khan of the University of Queensland, Australia, these findings support the earlier guidelines issued by the American Pediatric Society, which suggests that teens do not spend more than two hours on screens per day.

“If screen time goes beyond about two hours per day, there’s a detrimental relationship with mental health,” he says.

On the other hand, he adds, his study also found that teens who got more regular exercise had greater life satisfaction and fewer physical complaints about both genders. Not only that, the effects were largely unrelated to how much time a teen spent on screens so that if teens exercised more, it could potentially undo the damage to their well-being that went along with even six or eight hours of screen time.

Khan says that this suggests a two-pronged approach to improving teen well-being.
“If we want to improve kids’ mental health, we need to target both behaviors—to minimize screen time and maximize physical activity,” says Khan. “If we are targeting just one behavior, then it might be a missed opportunity.”

In the study, the greatest life satisfaction was reported by boys who had one to two hours of screen time a day and were active seven days per week, while girls who exercised every day and had less than an hour of screen time fared best—in line with Khan’s suggested fix.

But Khan warns parents and others not to be overly concerned by his results…yet. There are limitations to the study, including uncertainty about the effects of different types of screen time on mental well-being. For example, it may be that scrolling through social media has a very different impact on well-being than playing video games, or that girls do better with one type of digital entertainment than boys. Some of his more current research (not yet published) supports this idea, he says, though clearly much more needs to be done before we can know all of the nuances of this.

Still, it does suggest that parents might want to encourage their teens to lessen screen time in favor of more exercise if they can. He suggests parents consider employing online tools that can alert teens (or anyone) when they’ve reached a reasonable limit on their screen time—such as after they’ve watched an hour of YouTube videos. Or it’s a good idea, he says, to take planned breaks from all screens from time to time—a sort of “digital detox.”

While it makes sense to promote this idea to teens, it may be easier said than done to change a teen’s use of digital media—especially now, when COVID-19 has forced many teens online more than ever. Khan also notes that it’s hard to impose restrictions on teens unless parents are role-modeling good behavior themselves.

“If I’m watching Netflix for five hours, it’s nonsense to assume that my teen is going to go outside and do activities there,” he says. “Parents and kids need to work together on this and figure out how to replace some of their screen time with ‘green time.’”

Schools can also help improve adolescent well-being, he says. Too often, schools rely heavily on digital tools to teach or communicate with students, while not providing enough access to outdoor physical activities. Programs that encourage more exercise—like organizing bike riding commutes to school—could be a plus.

In the meantime, he and his colleagues hope to publish their next study, which may help provide more finely tuned recommendations on screen time, helping pediatricians and parents alike to make smart choices around children’s well-being.

“We are very close to the time when we can make more precise guidelines that consider not only how overall time on screens impacts mental health, but how exposure to different types of screens affects it in different ways,” he says. ”That will help practitioners, parents, and kids understand what limits to set.”

About the Author
  • Jill Suttie

    Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good’s former book review editor and now serves as a staff writer and contributing editor for the magazine. She received her doctorate of psychology from the University of San Francisco in 1998 and was a psychologist in private practice before coming to Greater Good.




How To Keep Your Toddler Entertained

We all know that a toddler is an energetic little bundle of fun. And they always keep you on your toes. Toddlers are always on the go, so it is important to have some fun activities that are appropriate for their age. If you are not careful, your toddler might get bored with one activity very quickly thereby making it impossible for you to distract it from its boredom.

Toddlers are constantly developing their skills and need to use their imaginations in order to stay entertained. The best way to ensure that your little one is entertained is by using toys and activities that they like while also giving them an opportunity for creativity. But you could also consider playdates, preschool and other events with people. This can be great as well as activities.

To help you work out what is best, we’re now going to look at some ideas.

How To Keep Kids Entertained While You’re Busy

Children spend a lot of time with their parents, but you can’t always give them your undivided attention. This is why it is important to keep them entertained. However, we often tend to focus on television and video games as ways to entertain kids. Whereas there could be other things you can do to keep them entertained and motivated while you’re busy.

Playful and creative ways to engage your children can help you connect with your kids more. You can make activities like drawing, playing board games, or coloring an enjoyable experience. These activities help children develop creativity and express their emotions but also keep them entertained if you have chores to do, and so on.

Activities To Keep Your Toddler Entertained

Toddlers are difficult to entertain because they can be very difficult to keep busy. They can get bored easily and want to always be on the go. So you’ll want to try and shake up the activities you do with them so keep them happy.

It could be that you play pretend games with them, like giving them an imaginary job or making up characters. You can also read stories out loud, sing songs, or make up your own words for the story. Finally, you could also make art together with crayons and paints or different crafts.

What Do Kids Need To Stay Entertained

There is so much content available on the Internet these days, so it’s easy for parents to feel worried about what kind of content their children are exposed to. A lot of companies offer entertainment services for children. Some of these services include short video clips, interactive games, and learning apps.

With all the technology available in the market, there are plenty of hacks that can be employed to make your child’s life easier. Think about the different educational shows on Netflix or YouTube you can lean towards, different apps, and as well educational games too. It’s okay to embrace technology to your advantage.

Creative Ways To Stimulate Your Toddler

There are many ways to find creative ways to stimulate your child. You can choose different activities, ask for assistance from others, or even have your child try out different activities on their own. Reading, storytelling, and painting or drawing all help your children gain an appreciation for what’s going on in the world around them while keeping them engaged.




Acknowledging Ourselves as Our Own Sacred Source

I’d like to start out by saying that I absolutely love people and I adore relationships of all kinds…romantic, friendship, family, work, etc. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy relating to other people, am I right? I’ve come to learn, though that even the feisty, difficult, “Oh my freaking God I wanna rip my hair out” kind of relationships hold something dear to be cherished. The lessons we learn from our most trying times provided by our relationships, are what stretch and bend us, set our healthy limits and personal boundaries and no, that’s not a bad thing at all.

When we are being authentic in our personal boundaries, we treat ourselves in such a way that sets the standard for the rest of the world as well. So, there’s simply no room for “Joe Schmoe” to come prancing into your life treating you like a pail of garbage, because you simply don’t allow it into your field of existence. It’s saying something is better or worse than, it’s merely a recognition of a certain desired frequency, and they simply do not match up.

And this leads us to expectations which I’ve written about before and gotten a lot of great feedback for, so I’d like to give it another go, but with a twist. This time, let’s focus more on what we expect from OURSELVES rather than those around us.

In a previous article, What To Expect From You Everyday Expectations, I went into all of the various ways that we put our energy out across the realms of existence that we might not even be aware of. First off, you need to know that there are multiple realms and while interconnected they all “move” and “act” on their own accord; with their own style and uniqueness.

The different realms are physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and etheric and I highly suggest reading that article before continuing on, but even without knowledge of the realms, I bet you’ll find a useful tip or two in the words beyond…

Most often our relationship is bouts of giving and take and usually roles are clearly defined. But if those roles are ever challenged by one party or if something tremendous shifts, etc. then relationships as a whole can be entirely redefined or sadly even end at a whim’s notice. But alas, every relationship serves its purpose, and even those we expect to last until our dying days often fizzle and fade, and in the end, it’s really up to each individual to determine the final destination of where that relationship status lands in their heart once the usual connection is broken.

If two conscious individuals unite in a relationship, chances are much better than if and when the union ends, the departure will not be quite as dramatic as the typical relationship, because with awareness comes an understanding always of a purpose higher than ourselves and our emotional responses to any given moment in time. It also comes with the understanding of desires, motivations, the Ego, the self with a little s .vs a big S, etc., and if you’re lucky a knowing that each person is THEIR OWN SOURCE! Therefore just as the union came together in love, so can each person allow such a respectful and honest, unattached letting goes if and when the time comes to do so.

Sadly, so many relationships begin in a dazed and confused stupor of puppy love infatuation of what we want people to be. We refuse to foresee the flaws we know will eventually show themselves and temporarily convince ourselves these people are unwavering perfection, and we delight in the fact they think the same of us! Oh, what a high! 🙂 But when we instead really see people from the get-go for what they are and not what we want them to be nor what we can tell they’re trying to be, we will understand better that everyone is a mere traveler here, that everyone is still learning and growing and that while technically we all are perfect because we are of Divine Creation, we are here to experience the illusion of imperfection, so that we can expand in third-dimensional reality and live as conscious creators ourselves. So, it’s wise when falling in love to simply not fall with blinders on.

For most of us, though in the dust-storm high of new love, we start to dump our expectations on this new person to fulfill desires and wants in our lives, and if they do we stay the path, but if and when they don’t, especially if they were at first, then we twist our version of who we thought we knew and loved and withdraw, don’t we? And the games begin…

How about we try something new? How about we stop using one another as our source of happiness and realize it’s always been US?

If we teach our children to go within for strength, courage, and ultimately to love themselves enough to trust their instincts, to set healthy boundaries, etc. then perhaps we can raise the next generation to not look to MTV to see what is acceptable to wear or how they should talk. How about we instead raise independent, beautiful, kind-hearted kids that not only love themselves but love each other and bring this into adulthood? Then we will be granted a new generation that knows to go within to find their confidence; to BE their own Source. Remember, they don’t call it SELF-worth for nothing!

That sounds like a great plan right there, humanity…let’s get on it! 🙂 So. Much. Love. <3

 

tamaraTamara Rant is a Co-Editor/Writer for CLN as well as a Licensed Reiki Master, heart-centered Graphic Designer, and a Conservative voice in social media activism & awareness. She is an avid lover of all things Quantum Physics and Spirituality. Connect with Tamara by visiting Prana Paws/Healing Hearts Reiki or go to RantDesignMedia.com

Tamara posts new original articles to CLN every Saturday.

This article was originally created and published by Conscious Life News and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Tamara Rant and ConsciousLifeNews.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this Copyright/Creative Commons statement.




The Key to Unlocking Change: Be What You Want to See

Image result for be the changeI felt compelled to write about ‘being the change’ this week after all of the negative news going on in the world lately. I won’t get into it, as I’m sure most of you are aware of what’s been going on but I just wanted to take the time to remind everyone that it all starts with each and every one of us. We all matter and we all mean something. Somewhere along the line, it became acceptable; almost required to teach us that we are insignificant and we began to lost our luster, our soul shine…and that is the greatest lie ever taught. We are all significant, we are divine, we are love. Don’t ever forget that because once you remember, the world will reflect a place that won’t need changing. 

In any situation, if there are opposing forces, which we all know is not uncommon in our 3-D world, then there are also likely to be some expectations of giving and take, of push and pull, and of certain roles you play. There are masks you get to choose from, but from the moment you are born, you must wear one. Your parents usually choose them for you until you are around the age of 18, and usually, the ones they’ve chosen tend to have an influence on the ones we later choose in life, and sadly most of us never learn to question why we’re wearing one at all or even attempt to remove it.

In this world of duality, in this modern society, there are certain ways to think, act and feel. And those of us born with different ways of perceiving, sensing, and feeling the world tend to not fit into the molds and therefore are more easily capable of seeing where the chaos is occurring in the collective and how it can be most effectively addressed.

I say this most astutely, because of time after time, experiment after experiment, measurement after measurement, it always comes back to heart resonance. If you do ANYTHING from the heart, it will have a positive, beneficial effect on the matter, being, or species at hand. I’m not talking about mere good intentions or what we might think is good for another person, but actually feeling into our hearts and connecting to that knowing space that allows us to resonate with the truth of existence.

Some would say this goes beyond the boundaries that you simply do not cross. Some would say that our society is best to not cross them. Or not…

There is a wave of us (yes I do include myself in this group although I try to avoid labels), that was never ingrained with such filters and like Van Gogh’s bleeding ear, I find it as weird and fascinating as much as I can appreciate the act itself as beautiful, alchemical art. And some might think that is just fucking unheard of. I guess you could say I strive to embody what I would imagine it means to truly be a ‘spiritual gangster’. LOL We have all seen Deepak Chopra sporting those chakra-tactical Ts, right?

So what the that mean exactly? It means to not only fall into the trap of every thought must be positive, every move must be toward the light, every day must be full of sunshine and smiles, but to also have the awareness that it’s all about the balance and that includes the Darkside, my fellow Jedis! We are gonna have to face those shadows and feel uncomfortable at times to truly “walk the path”. The New Age Movement has become a dangerous arena. It can be a great resource to learn ancient meditation, yoga, pranic breathing techniques and offer insights into spiritual development that can help lead you to the cave of your inner world, but anyone telling you that you need them to take you inside and show you the way is lying to you.

It is you who must be your own guide, your own light because it is you who is also the darkness you will overcome. And you will do this by facing all that is within you that is reflecting back from others. All that we immediately want to judge, blame, hate or be jealous of. It is all within us waiting for us to just take a damn look. And not a look of condemnation or judgment, but of simple acknowledgment and acceptance; like that poor kid always left by himself on the playground who never gets picked for kickball. Just let him know he matters, that his existence actually means something. This can make someone’s entire world. You really never know the difference you make, until you care enough to actually make it.

 

Tamara posts new original articles to CLN every Saturday.

This article was originally created and published by Conscious Life News and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Tamara Rant and ConsciousLifeNews.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this Copyright/Creative Commons statement.




36 Questions That Can Help Kids Make Friends

The young teen years are a ripe time for forming friendships. It’s an age when kids are particularly focused on peer relationships and social status, developing their sense of identity and social skills.

Having friendships (or even just feeling a sense of belonging) at school has many benefits. Kids who have friends may adjust to school better and be somewhat protected from peer victimization. Those who make friends in early adolescence tend to have better health and well-being in adulthood, making it critical to a child’s development.

But, while research on teen friendships has confirmed their importance, very few studies have looked into how to foster friendship at these early ages. Even fewer studies have considered how to encourage friendships across ethnic differences—which is of growing importance in an increasingly diverse society.

Now, a new study conducted by Leslie Echols of Missouri State University and Jerreed Ivanich of the University of Colorado has found that the famous “36 questions” that can help people feel close or even fall in love could help prompt friendships in young teens. Not only does this exercise appear to help kids feel closer, but it also seems to work equally well for middle school boys and girls and across ethnic differences.

“There’s a need for a program that’s direct and intentional for building friendships and providing opportunities for more social acceptance,” says Echols. “This one seems promising.”

Using questions to build closeness

The 36 questions activity, also known as Fast Friends, involves pairing people together and having them take turns answering questions that become increasingly more personal and require more vulnerability. It has been shown to reduce prejudice and anxiety when people from different cultures are paired up, but it has never been used as a classroom-wide activity in middle school. That’s what Echols wanted to try.

For her study, 301 young teens at a public Midwestern middle school rated how well they knew other students of the same gender in their class. The researchers used this information to pair them with a student they didn’t know well or consider a friend—either from the same ethnic group or a different ethnic group. Because the school had mostly white and Hispanic students, kids from other ethnic groups (Black, Native American, mixed ethnicity, etc.) were grouped together.

For the first two sessions, the partners spent time asking and answering personal questions, while the third session involved them building a tower structure together in competition with other pairs in their class. For the questions, researchers drew from both the original 36 questions procedure and The Kids’ Book of Questions to find ones that were age-appropriate. Sample questions included less personal ones like, “What foreign country would you like to live in and why?” and “Do you think boys or girls have it easier?” and more revealing ones like, “How would you describe a true friend?” and “Describe your biggest failure.”

Before and after these sessions, students rated how close they felt to their partner and how much they considered their partner a friend. Two weeks after the activity was over, all the students reported again on how well they knew and felt friendly toward other students in their class. Researchers then analyzed how friendships had grown or changed.

The results were clear. Students felt closer to their Fast Friends partner and considered them more of a friend afterward than they did a random student they hadn’t participated in the activity with. This suggests that sharing meaningful things about their lives helped bridge the gap between strangers and friends for these middle school kids.

“It’s amazing how much the students opened up to each other,” says Echols. “There’s a lot of power in the question-and-answer activity.”

Perhaps more surprising, the Fast Friends activity seemed to work well no matter the students’ gender and whether or not they were paired with someone of the same ethnicity.

“The fact that it worked so well for the cross-ethnic pair was so exciting to me,” she says. “It really speaks to the idea that giving students a chance to talk about the things that are important to them, what they have in common, and what supersedes the social boundaries we tend to operate from can build real, authentic friendships.”

Why connections matter

Of course, her results don’t necessarily mean that all kids who try the Fast Friends activity will end up becoming actual friends. Still, it does increase the likelihood of that happening, she says. If we get to know a bit about someone we didn’t know before and spend time with them, we are more apt to reach out to them later on.

“Just the fact that the students were able to identify some shared interests and activities may provide a good enough foundation for them to go ahead and start doing those things together,” says Echols.

Besides, even if the connections don’t result in real friendship, there are benefits to increasing a sense of connection to other kids in a classroom, says Echols. Her past research on peer victimization and social adjustment reinforces the importance of empathy-building among this age group and making sure that everyone, especially kids from minority ethnic groups, feels welcome at school.

“Particularly in middle school, where peer victimization rates are so high, if we can encourage kids to understand someone as a human being—know some of their hopes and dreams, what they struggle with—it might help them treat each other a little more humanely,” she says.

Though Echols didn’t measure how the activity affected the overall social-emotional climate in the classroom, teachers told her that it made a positive difference. Students also expressed how much the exercise helped them, something that meant a lot to Echols.

“A couple of girls came to me after one of the sessions and said, ‘Miss, I just found my soulmate,’” she says. “It was heartwarming to see their genuine excitement at having found a friend they really connected with.”

Though the study was done in a small school, Echols hopes to expand her research to see how Fast Friends might work in other settings, including large urban middle schools. She currently has a National Science Foundation grant to study interventions aimed at fighting peer victimization, and the Fast Friends exercise will be one component of it.

She also thinks that it could be effective for teachers to use the Fast Friends exercise at the beginning of middle school—at a time when kids are just arriving from different feeder schools, may not know many other students, and might be more open to exploring cross-group friendships. By getting to know someone of different ethnicity, students could find the transition to middle school less difficult and more enjoyable—which would likely serve them well in school and in life.

“Even if lasting friendships aren’t created, it could at least build some bridges between individual students and between racial groups,” she says. “It’s exciting that there’s something out there that might make middle school better for kids.”

About the Author

Jill Suttie

Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good’s former book review editor and now serves as a staff writer and contributing editor for the magazine. She received her doctorate of psychology from the University of San Francisco in 1998 and was a psychologist in private practice before coming to Greater Good.




Teens with Secure Family Relationships ‘Pay It Forward’ with Empathy for Friends

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Teens with more secure family relationships get a head start on developing empathy, according to my colleagues’ and my new study tracking adolescents into adulthood.

In contrast to popular myths about self-obsessed teens, existing research shows that adolescence is a key stage of development for the growth of empathy: the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes, to understand and resonate with their emotions and to care about their well-being. Empathy is a skill that develops over time, and it has major consequences for teens’ social interactions, friendships and adult relationships.

So how do teens learn this critical skill?

Our team’s new findings, published on July 15, 2021, in the journal Child Development, suggest that teens who have secure, supportive family relationships provide more empathetic support to their friends.

Imagine yourself as a teenager with someone in your life who understands your struggles, offers help and makes you feel supported and connected – that’s what empathetic support is all about.

Our study, led by professor of psychology Joseph P. Allen, followed 184 adolescents from their early teens into adulthood. When teens were 14 years old, we interviewed them about their family experiences and their relationships with their parents.

The interviews were designed to measure attachment security – teens’ confidence that they can explore and build autonomy while trusting others to provide connection, safety and support when they need it. Past research shows that experiences of receiving sensitive care from adult caregivers, especially in times of stress, build secure attachment. In each interview, we rated teens as secure if they expressed that they valued their family relationships and described them in a balanced, clear way.

Then we videotaped the teens at ages 16, 17 and 18, while they helped their closest friend talk through problems they were facing. From these videos, we quantified how much support friends sought from the teens we interviewed – for example, by asking for their opinion on a situation. To measure how much empathetic support the teens provided, we looked for four types of behaviors: showing understanding, helping friends solve their problems, providing emotional validation and actively engaging in conversations.

We found that teens who were more secure in their family relationships at age 14 provided more empathetic support to their friends in early adolescence and showed consistently high empathy over time. Teens who were less secure showed lower levels of empathy at first but improved this skill over time and nearly caught up to more secure teens by age 18.

This finding suggests that teens naturally gain empathetic skills as they get older, but those with more secure family relationships may get there faster.

What is especially interesting is that teens’ friends were more likely to seek out support from secure teens, and friends who sought more help were more likely to receive it. Thus, friendships provide a key context for adolescents to practice giving and receiving empathetic support.

Why it matters

Teens who are more empathetic are less aggressive, exhibit less prejudice and are less likely to bully others.

Our research suggests that empathy starts with feeling safe and connected. Building secure relationships, characterized by trust, emotional safety and responsiveness, can give teens a firsthand experience of empathy. With this foundation in place, they can then share that empathy with others.

What’s next

There’s still plenty we don’t know about teens’ empathy. For instance, what equips teens to empathize with individuals from marginalized groups, with new peers or dating partners, or with their own future children?

Learning how to nurture empathy in adolescence is vital for building a more compassionate society.The Conversation

Author

Jessica Stern, Postdoctoral Research Fellow of Psychology, University of Virginia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.




How to Reset Your Family’s Screen Time After the Pandemic

By Maryam Abdullah | Greater Good Magazine

According to a survey in the United States in March 2020, over 80% of parents lost child care due to the pandemic’s closures of schools and child care centers—and around two-thirds of them were parents who continued working during the pandemic.

At the same time, a recent study highlights that this child care pressure coincided with a dramatic spike in children’s media streaming across the country. Because parents were without support, and many were experiencing stress and poor mental health, using screens might have been their last resort. In these circumstances, “warning parents about screen time may not produce much beyond parental guilt,” explain study authors Joshua K. Hartshorne, professor of psychology at Boston College, and his colleagues.

Another recent study, of parents in California’s Central Valley, also highlighted the conflict that parents were experiencing around their children’s screen use during the pandemic. “I would say it’s been negative for us just all the way across the board,” said one mother. Another mother explained, “Well, I would honestly not like that much [screen] time but then I say, well, what else can they do?”

While parents also recognized the potential benefits of screens, like helping kids stay connected with friends and learn about technology, they voiced concerns about how much time their children were on screens, its “addictive” nature, and how it reduced their children’s physical activity.

Screen time has also been an issue for adults during the pandemic. With limited coping options, adults turned to screens during stay-at-home orders, with a sharp rise in watching TV and using social media. But people who changed their habits during COVID—by watching more TV shows and movies and using more social media like Facebook and Instagram—tended to be less happy.

Now that U.S. cities have opened back up again and schools will likely welcome students in person in the fall, you may wonder whether now is the time to help your family recalibrate how screens fit into your life. But it can feel overwhelming to begin to nurture new habits. If you want to change your family’s screen use patterns, consider these strategies to take small steps forward.

Self-reflect

Parents who spend more time on screens tend to have children who do the same. While your first reflex may be to want to help your children, gently ask yourself: How are you feeling about your own screen use?

Even prior to the pandemic, research showed that moms and dads turn to their smartphones for different reasons during stressful parenting moments. Many parents say that they use their phone for a virtual escape—to mentally and emotionally get away from a hard time with their child. For example, “He was crying and yelling and so I went to my room and shut the door and got on my phone to distract myself from the situation I was in,” describes one parent. Parents who take virtual escapes tend to have greater parenting stress, be more distracted by their phones, feel guiltier using their phones, and have a harder time co-parenting.

But parents also use their phones for real-time social support, like asking another person for help on how to handle a situation with their child. Parents who sought out social support with their phones tended to have better co-parenting and less guilt when they used their phones. However, this shouldn’t be the take always, and engage your child in a social group or club can also be one way to release stress and see your child develops social skills and proper connections with everyone. By visiting MetroQueens.org, you will learn more about building your child’s confidence and good character.

And when parents need in-the-moment tips, some use their phones to search for topics like how to communicate with their toddler or activities to do with their child. Sometimes parents use their phones for “checking themselves”—to calm down so they don’t cause harm. One mother explained, “My child was throwing a god awful fit and I was trying to calm down so I wouldn’t scream at him.” In addition, parents engage in parallel media use when they’re using their phone at the same time their child is on screens, like checking emails while kids are watching YouTube.

These findings highlight that not all screen time is harmful, of course. Understanding your own patterns and deciding where you might want to change are good first steps.

Try self-compassion

Perfection is an unattainable ideal when it comes to parenting at any time, but it’s a particularly destructive aspiration during a pandemic. If your inner critic is being vocal about your children’s screen use, then reply back with self-compassion.

Self-compassion can be a healthier way of dealing with stress, both in general and more specifically around screen use. First, rather than berating yourself when you feel overwhelmed, try to be tender and warm, just as a dear friend would be toward you. Then, remember that you’re not alone in experiencing hardships as a parent—in fact, most parents have been under tremendous strain this past year. Finally, practice mindfulness by noticing your thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the present moment with openness and curiosity rather than criticism.

Not only does practicing self-compassion alleviate parenting guilt and shame, it also boosts parents’ resilience and hope during hard times.

Take a balanced view

“People use language to make sense of themselves and the world around them,” explains researchers Rebekah Willett and Nathan Wheeler from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In a recent study, they interviewed parents and analyzed the way they talk about their children’s screen use in their daily lives. For example, one parent talked about “policing” her children’s screen use and “picking her battles.” Willett and Wheeler found that all of the parents in their study repeated: “negative scripts about media which incite parents to tightly control their children’s media consumption, as well as contradictions about the effects of media on children.”

In their recent book, Parenting for a Digital Future: How Hopes and Fears about Technology Shape Children’s Lives, researchers Sonia Livingstone and Alicia Blum-Ross warn against exaggerating the problems around screen use, being an adversary to your children over it, and hyper-focusing solely on how much time children are on screens. Instead, they share a more holistic way of understanding children’s screen use across three dimensions: content—what they are watching on their screens; contexts—where, how, when, and with what they are using screens; and connections—how screen use is nurturing or undermining their relationships.

In Livingstone and Blum-Ross’s recommendations to parents, they offer these reflection questions to evaluate whether your child’s screen use is really a problem:

  • Is my child physically healthy and sleeping enough?
  • Is my child connecting socially with family and friends (in any form)?
  • Is my child engaged with and achieving in school?
  • Is my child pursuing interests and hobbies (in any form)?
  • Is my child having fun and learning in their use of digital media?

If the answer to the above questions is more or less ‘yes,’ then it may be that parents could consider whether their fears over digital media use are well-founded. If the answer to these questions is more or less ‘no,’ then these particular parents and children may need to put in place regulations and restrictions in order to address problematic use.

Collaborate with kids on-screen use goals

Researchers Meghan Owenz and Blaine Fowers recently developed a framework to help families improve their screen use by setting goals that promote meaning- and growth-oriented well-being.

First, they suggest, set “approach” goals that focus on good outcomes that you want to reach. Approach goals are different from “avoidance” goals, which have to do with refraining from doing something negative. For example, rather than setting a goal to limit screen time (avoidance), set a goal for outdoor play (approach), which would naturally take the place of time spent using screens. Approach goals nurture positive feelings and thoughts, are more effective and easier to stick to, and cultivate well-being. Some areas that parents might want to set goals around include social activities, play, outdoor activities, independent work, and literacy.

Next, instead of pursuing goals alone, work on them together as a family. Parents often limit screens by setting a rule, without involving their children in the decision. One problem with individual goals like this is that they can lead to conflict between parents and kids. A shared goal, in contrast, could be doing art together or even doing parallel activities, like working on chores. Shared goals bring parents and children together because they build teamwork.

Finally, aim for goals where the process of achieving the goal is beneficial in and of itself. A goal of reducing screen time by making kids agree to screen contracts may teach kids to follow rules, but not much else. One alternative is to choose goals where the steps toward the goal build your child’s capacities and help them realize their potential. For example, you can develop family reading goals that include storytime as a shared parent-child activity or listening to audiobooks as an independent activity. Reading together as a family and having conversations about books is not only a path to reducing screen time but may also foster a love of reading and improve children’s “theory of mind”—the ability to understand others’ thoughts and feelings.

As we try to shift our everyday screen habits, parents can use a balanced approach for their kids and themselves. “Recommendations about children’s technology use are about best practices, and in reality, it is not feasible for all families and educators to follow them all the time,” explain Brenda Hassinger-Das, professor of psychology at Pace University, and her colleagues in a recent in-depth research review of children and screens. Because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for screen use, tackling screen challenges will require a generous dose of creativity, patience, and family teamwork.

About the Author
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Maryam Abdullah

UC Berkeley

Maryam Abdullah, Ph.D., is the Parenting Program Director of the Greater Good Science Center. She is a developmental psychologist with expertise in parent-child relationships and children’s development of prosocial behaviors.




How Generosity Shows Up in the Nervous System

By Maryam Abdullah | Greater Good Magazine

Generosity not only feels good—to the giver and receiver—it has a host of other benefits for children, including promoting healthy friendships. But what makes kids generous, and can we as parents help encourage them?

A recent study explored how different factors contribute to young children’s development of generosity. Researcher Jonas Miller and his colleagues studied children—who were mostly white and from middle- to upper-middle-income families—first when they were four years old and again when they were six.

At both times, children played different activities to earn tokens that they could later exchange for a prize. Once the children earned all their tokens, the researchers explained to the children that they could donate some, none, or all of their tokens (if they wanted) to other children who were sick and in the hospital or having a hard time.

Using an electrocardiogram, researchers took multiple measurements of children’s respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA)—the way our heart rate changes when we breathe in (getting faster) and breathe out (getting slower). RSA is related to emotion regulation and social engagement. Decreases in RSA suggest a physiological capacity to respond to a challenge, while increases in RSA suggest perception of safety. An RSA that changes flexibly indicates that our nervous system adapts well to the changing circumstances of life.

The researchers calculated changes in children’s RSA across different parts of the study visits: when researchers were giving them instructions when children were deciding whether to donate their tokens and at the end of the visit.

The children’s mothers also completed a questionnaire about their own propensity for compassionate love, by rating statements such as “I tend to feel compassion for people, even though I do not know them” and “I often have tender feelings toward my child when she/he seems to be in need.”

The findings?

On average, children donated 25% of their tokens when they were four years old and 20% of their tokens when they were six years old. Although individual children varied quite a bit in how generous they were, the researchers found that each child’s generosity tended to be somewhat stable from preschool to kindergarten. In other words, children who were more generous at four years old tended to also be more generous when they were six years old.

When it came to physiological patterns, children tended to show a decrease in RSA between receiving instructions and deciding on donating and an increase in RSA between deciding on donating and ending the study visit. Those who had a greater decrease in RSA when deciding about donating were, on average, more generous.

This offers some evidence that flexibility in children’s parasympathetic nervous system could support generosity.

After they decided to donate, more generous kids had a greater increase in RSA—a return back to baseline—through the end of the study visit. This recovery suggests that children experience a physical sense of soothing after they give, a benefit that can “serve as a physiological reinforcement of helping others,” Miller and his colleagues explain.

What’s more, among six-year-olds who had a greater decrease in RSA when deciding about donating, those with more compassionate mothers were even more generous. Miller and his colleagues explain, “Compassionate parenting and RSA reactivity may serve as external and internal supports for prosociality [kind and helpful behavior] that build on each other.”

All this suggests that young children can show a predisposition toward acts of generosity, and their corresponding physiological patterns.

What can you do to nurture your child’s compassionate instinct? Be generous in showing them compassion when they’re struggling—their experience receiving your warmth and tenderness will prepare them to extend care to others, in turn.

About the Author
{author}

Maryam Abdullah

UC Berkeley

Maryam Abdullah, Ph.D., is the Parenting Program Director of the Greater Good Science Center. She is a developmental psychologist with expertise in parent-child relationships and children’s development of prosocial behaviors.




What Greek Epics Taught Me About the Special Relationship Between Fathers and Sons

Father’s Day inspires mixed emotions for many of us. Looking at advertisements of happy families could recall difficult memories and broken relationships for some. But for others, the day could invite unbidden nostalgic thoughts of parents who have long since died.

As a scholar of ancient Greek poetry, I find myself reflecting on two of the most powerful paternal moments in Greek literature. At the end of Homer’s classic poem, “The Iliad,” Priam, the king of Troy, begs his son’s killer, Achilles, to return the body of Hektor, the city’s greatest warrior, for burial. Once Achilles puts aside his famous rage and agrees, the two weep together before sharing a meal, Priam lamenting the loss of his son while Achilles contemplates that he will never see his own father again.

The final book of another Greek classic, “The Odyssey,” brings together a father and son as well. After 10 years of war and as many traveling at sea, Odysseus returns home and goes through a series of reunions, ending with his father, Laertes. When Odysseus meets his father, however, he doesn’t greet him right away. Instead, he pretends to be someone who met Odysseus and lies about his location.

When Laertes weeps over his son’s continued absence, Odysseus loses control of his emotions too, shouting his name to his father only to be disbelieved. He reveals a scar he received as a child and Laertes still doubts him. But then Odysseus points to the trees in their orchards and begins to recount their numbers and names, the stories Laertes told him when he was young.

Since the time of Aristotle, interpreters have questioned “The Odyssey”’s final book. Some have wondered why Odysseus is cruel to his father, while others have asked why reuniting with him even matters. Why spend precious narrative time talking about trees when the audience is waiting to hear if Odysseus will suffer at the hands of the families whose sons he has killed?

I lingered in such confusion myself until I lost my own father, John, too young at 61. Reading and teaching “The Odyssey” in the same two-year period that I lost him and welcomed two children to the world changed the way I understood the father-son relationship in these poems. I realized then in the final scene, what Odysseus needed from his father was something more important: the comfort of being a son.

Fathers and sons

Fathers occupy an outsized place in Greek myth. They are kings and models and too often challenges to be overcome. In Greek epic, fathers are markers of absence and dislocation. When Achilles learns his lover and friend, Patroklos, has died in “The Iliad,” he weeps and says that he always imagined his best friend returning home and introducing Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus, to Achilles’s father, Peleus.

The Trojan Prince Hektor’s most humanizing moment is when he laughs at his son’s startled cry at seeing his father’s bloodied armor. Priam’s grief for Hektor’s loss stands in for the grief of all parents bereft of children taken too soon. When he hears of the death of his son, he lies prostrate on the earth, covering his head with ash and weeping. The sweetness of Hektor’s laugh foreshadows the bitter agony of his father’s pain.

I don’t think I had a grasp of either before I became a father and lost one.

How stories bring us home

Odysseus’ reunion with his father is crucial to the completion of his story, of his return home. In Greek the word “nostos,” or homecoming, is more than about a mere return to a place: It is a restoration of the self, a kind of reentry to the world of the living. For Odysseus, as I explore in my recent book “The Many-Minded Man: The Odyssey, Modern Psychology, and the Therapy of Epic,” this means returning to who he was before the war, trying to reconcile his identities as a king, a suffering veteran, a man with a wife and a father, as well as a son himself.

Odysseus achieves his “nostos” by telling and listening to stories. As psychologists who specialize in narrative therapy explain, our identity comprises the stories we tell and believe about ourselves.

The stories we tell about ourselves condition how we act in the world. Psychological studies have shown how losing a sense of agency, the belief that we can shape what happens to us can keep us trapped in cycles of inaction and make us more prone to depression and addiction.

And the pain of losing a loved one can make anyone feel helpless. In recent years, researchers have investigated how unresolved or complicated grief – an ongoing, heightened state of mourning – upends lives and changes the way someone sees oneself in the world. And more pain comes from other people not knowing our stories, from not truly knowing who we are. Psychologists have shown that when people do not acknowledge their mental or emotional states, they experience “emotional invalidation” that can have negative mental and physical consequences from depression to chronic pain.

Odysseus does not recognize the landscape of his home island of Ithaca when he first arrives; he needs to go through a process of reunions and observation first. But when Odysseus tells his father the stories of the trees they tended together, he reminds them both of their shared story, of the relationship and the place that brings them together.

Family trees

“The Odyssey” teaches us that home is not just a physical place, it is where memories live – it is a reminder of the stories that have shaped us.

When I was in third grade, my father bought several acres in the middle of the woods in southern Maine. He spent the rest of his life clearing those acres, shaping gardens, planting trees. By the time I was in high school, it took several hours to mow the lawn. He and I repaired old stone walls, dug beds for phlox, and planted rhododendron bushes and a maple tree.

My father was not an uncomplicated man. I probably remember the work we did on that property so well because our relationship was otherwise distant. He was almost completely deaf from birth, and this shaped the way he engaged with the world and the kinds of experiences he shared with his family. My mother tells me he was worried about having children because he wouldn’t be able to hear them cry.

He died in the winter of 2011, and I returned home in the summer to honor his wishes and spread his ashes on a mountain in central Maine with my brother. I had not lived in Maine for over a decade before his passing. The pine trees I used to climb were unrecognizable; the trees and bushes I had planted with my father were in the same place, but they had changed: they were larger, grown wilder, identifiable only because of where they were planted in relation to one another.

That was when I was no longer confused about the walk Odysseus took through the trees with his father, Laertes. I cannot help but imagine what it would be like to walk that land with my father again, to joke about the absurdity of turning pine forests into lawns.

“The Odyssey” ends with Laertes and Odysseus standing together with the third generation, the young Telemachus. In a way, Odysseus gets the fantasy ending Achilles couldn’t even imagine for himself: He stands together in his home with his father and his son.

In my father’s last year, I introduced him to his first grandchild, my daughter. Ten years later, as I try to ignore another painful reminder of his absence, I can only imagine how the birth of my third, another daughter, would have lit up his face.

“The Odyssey,” I believe, teaches us that we are shaped by the people who recognize us and the stories we share together. When we lose our loved ones, we can fear that there are no new stories to be told. But then we find the stories that we can tell our children.

This year, as I celebrate the 10th Father’s Day as a father and without one, I keep this close to heart: Telling these stories to my children creates a new home and makes that impossible return less painful.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Joel Christensen, Professor of Classical Studies, Brandeis University under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Joel Christensen does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.



The Perfect Paradox: Letting Go Is The Key That Opens The Door to Fulfillment

Fourty-one years ago today at 12:34 am I came cruising down the cosmic highway of incarnation in Phoenix, Arizona and was birthed into this world.  I imagine before this lifetime, in my ethereal form, I was super stoked to embark on my next adventure, and knowing myself I had most likely stocked my spiritual stockpile with as many consciousness cliff-notes that I could to best prepare me on my journey.  I picture myself in the Great Hall of Records mapping out my next blueprint filled with a good deal of beautiful moments will that take my breath away, mixed in with some heart-wrenching pain I might not be sure I can handle; and some moments of laughter, confusion, solitude, anxiety to top it off. The scope of experience containing all the ingredients that I felt were best suited to help my growth, expand me out and bring me even closer to love…to Source.

So, there I was…ready to go…”Let’s do this!” I can even envision doing some anti-gravity soul stretches in space, just before I shoot down the rabbit hole of incarnation; destination: Planet Earth. All is well, I’m floating, and it’s warm now. I am aware of new sensations again, the one thing that 3-D can offer that no other place in the Universe can…sensory perception in a material world. I start to focus more and more on these “feelings” and my surroundings…”Wait…what was I doing here again?” And then BAM! …the proverbial “pop of amnesia” that we all experience at birth which forces us to forget who we truly are. It blinds us to our full magnificence and pulls a veil over our newborn eyes. All clear details of the goals and the plans we had made beforehand fade away and we find ourselves literally helpless; now contained to this tiny fragile container that requires constant care and attention. And our vast expanse of consciousness is now so limited and we literally lose our sense of Self.

Welcome to life as a human BE-ing.

For the next 6 years or so, we will pretty much act as sponges soaking up the world around us. What we are told by our environment and the people around us about ourselves, we will subconsciously record and believe for the rest of our lives. And this fact is the underlying cause for most of our “issues” in life; most of what causes us discomfort or unhappiness with ourselves, others or our lives in general. And this is often why it is so hard to identify the root cause of these issues, because it stems from beliefs we did not initially agree to abide by. We simply recorded it as a factual truth, during a growth phase where our physiology can do nothing but take in information about the world around us. And it is scientifically proven that we really do not have a choice at that young of an age. If we are told we are unworthy at 4 years old, we will subconsciously believe it when we are 50, unless we have previously identified it as not being our own belief and have addressed and corrected the issue. However, unless we work extensively with a therapist, or even have the insight to take that route, we may lack the awareness that this has ever even happened to us, nor understand that it still can have such an impact in our lives so many years later.

This simple fact is one of the most empowering things a person can learn about themselves if they are facing continuous struggles in one or more areas of their life, and simply cannot seem to find the solution. Why? Because when we have the awareness of an existing belief that doesn’t actually belong to us, we are free to LET IT GO.

Unless we have super-conscious parents, that had super-conscious parents, that had super-conscious parents…then most likely there is a chain of insecurities, beliefs, false-realities (the stories we tell ourselves), perhaps even prejudices  that have been passed down from generation to generation. And until the chain is broken, until awareness is raised to a level where there is no more instilling of non-serving beliefs into the next generation (either consciously or subconsciously), then this cycle continues.

But the power to question where our beliefs truly come from is within each and every one of us and I find that the more I question my own beliefs, the stronger I become in knowing where the line is actually drawn; between beliefs I’ve formed from the own depth of my heart and those that stem from old recycled beliefs from others. This has helped me tremendously in my own personal growth and is something I often recommend to my Reiki clients.

If you have taken a serious look at a reoccurring issue and have really sat with it, giving yourself time to think it through to find an applicable solution, and yet still nothing comes, then chances are that it stems from a foreign belief. And either way, once we identify the source, we give ourselves the freedom to no longer suffer from its unrelenting grip.

Certain beliefs might lead us to hold so tightly to things that we push it away. In the energy of a need to control, others can feel repelled, not attracted. There is a great lesson here of the difference between coming from fear .vs coming from love in situations like that when dealing with a significant other, child, friend or even money or that new job you want. If we come at things with an unforgiving Kung-Fu grip, the Universe responds to your fear of losing it or not getting it, and most likely you will lose it or not get what you want. You must come from a place of love, from appreciation as if you already have what you want and are not separate from it. Then, you emanate the vibration that will call it into your reality with ease and grace.

“When you believe something is hard, the Universe demonstrates the difficulty. When you believe something is easy, the Universe demonstrates the ease.” – Abraham-Hicks

We may hold so tightly to a particular belief because it’s all we know, it’s familiar and it’s comforting. Yet, what this does is prevent us from seeing what the river of life has in store for you, which you’ve simply “dammed up” with your more stubborn beliefs. For instance, for years (20 to be exact) I thought that smoking cigarettes was “my vice”; my way to relax, the friend I always hung out with after dinner and right before I went to sleep. The friend I shared a glass of wine with, or always had to run to when I was nervous, sad, had to think something through or simply just had to 5 minutes to kill. I always found a way to justify the act because my beliefs allowed me to.

Now comes the fun part! I quit smoking today. And with that “release” I realized something great about why I had so much trouble ”letting it go” sooner in my life. I would tell myself stories like I simply enjoyed it and I deserved joy, dammit (how did I see joy in doing such harm to myself?), it relaxed me (even though I was and still am an avid meditator), and I wouldn’t be doing it forever (someday, I’ll stop…which translates into “someday I’ll love myself enough”). But I was a hypocrite and I knew it this whole time. And while I do forgive myself, and I have felt through and released the rollercoaster of emotions coming up through this process as well…I know that all we ever have is NOW, this moment. I am a Reiki Master; I help others heal and yet I couldn’t give myself the same love and attention? No more of that nonsense. I deserve better. Only this time…I actually BELIEVE IT!

In just the past few months, I’ve had a tremendous amount of insight into my life, my path and my own light. I’ve let go of SO much and with that have opened doors within myself where Self-Love has literally FLOODED my insides! This has caused a domino effect over the past few weeks where I’ve taken inner leaps and bounds that normally would’ve scared the crap out of me. And perhaps committing to quitting smoking cigarettes was the biggest leap of them all. But I finally jumped and what I landed on was a big fat pile of empowered freedom!

Let’s circle back and see how this how relates to our “proverbial amnesia pop“, upon our incarnation. One must consider that with all that planning our soul bodies do beforehand, it is not all in vain. It remains within us, hidden deep inside and comes out in waves through our creativity, intuition, talents and insight. But what is the reason we forget at all? Why go through all that trouble of making a game plan if we all must go in blind and “wing it”? I think the answer to life itself lies in that question. I have always felt in my heart, that we forget ONLY so we can live each day with a chance to remember who we are. Each day truly is another chance to awaken your greatness, to outgrow and shed these illusions; these beliefs attached to you since childhood. But it is only the brave; those willing to stop looking outside of themselves and instead turn inward that will ever catch a glimpse of their full magnificence (that which sparks our cosmic memory)…because that is the only place it resides. At least, that is where we must see it first, before we can ever see it in our outer world.

I’ve always understood the concept of “letting go of what no longer serves us”, but when you actually begin to apply it in your own life, magical things begin to happen. It causes a ripple effect in your actions where one is fed from another. You conquer one mountain and the adrenaline rush flows onto the next area of your life. Another part where fear lingers and you know you are again onto something else that needs to be looked at and healed. And when you actually SEE what needs to be let go of, and face that fear of stepping out of your comfort zone, you also see it is just a fear of being left feeling empty inside. But the perfect paradox is that when you finally do let go, keys turn, doors swing wide open and suddenly the Universe’s “abundance hose” you had all twisted up unwinds itself and begins to flow as it was meant to. You regain a connection to your true Self and all it knows and always knew before “the pop”. You begin to remember who you really are and why you are here. You once again know your magnificence and you are fulfilled.

 

TamaraRantTamara Rant is a Co-Editor of CLN as well as a Licensed Reiki Master, heart-centered Graphic Designer and a progressive voice in social media activism & awareness. Connect with Tamara on Facebook by visiting Prana Paws/Healing Hearts Reiki or go to RantDesignMedia.com

Tamara posts new original articles to CLN every Saturday.




Should Pediatricians Prescribe Kindness?

By Jill Suttie | Greater Good Magazine

When parents take their children to a pediatrician for a wellness check, they expect to get reports on their children’s healthy development—if they’re growing properly, eating and sleeping well, or in need of vaccines.

They probably don’t expect to get a prescription for kindness.

But at Senders Pediatrics, a private practice in Cleveland, Ohio, and one of the Greater Good Science Center’s 16 Parenting Initiative grantees, this is exactly what parents are getting. The clinic’s parent education coordinator, Joan Morgenstern, has developed a program to produce events, lessons, and tools promoting kindness. Based on evidence that practicing kindness and purpose benefits children, the program helps kids care for others and flourish themselves.

While the program is in its infancy, it’s a model that is popular with parents and kids and has helped the staff at Senders Pediatrics—particularly during this difficult time of COVID. Shelly Senders, the clinic’s founding pediatrician, hopes their focus on kindness and developing the “whole child” is a model that can be replicated more widely.

“My goal in all of this is to get the American Academy of Pediatrics to endorse the concept of teaching kindness in every pediatric practice,” he says.

How and why to encourage kids to help others

There are many reasons to encourage kids to be kind. For one, it helps build positive relationships, which are important for developmental growth and success in life. More broadly, kindness is a moral virtue that can lead to more trusting, cooperative societies. And picking up kindness as a value from a young age can have positive effects later in life.

When kids are kind, they are happier and less likely to have social or behavioral problems. Kids who do nice things for others may have a greater sense of agency and purpose, too—meaning, they see that their actions can have a positive impact in the world and feel more capable of changing things for the better.

Given the benefits to mental health, it’s not too surprising that kids who practice kindness could be physically healthier, too. At least one study found that adolescents randomly assigned to volunteer had significantly better cardiovascular function than those waiting to volunteer.

To launch Senders Pediatrics’s kindness program, Morgenstern organized a Community Kindness Day in 2019 that gathered hundreds of families at a local community center. Researcher Stephen Post presented data showing that kindness improves physical and mental health, and booths were set up where kids could showcase their philanthropic work in the community and inspire other kids to get involved and find purpose by doing good.

“We really focused on our Cleveland community that had already taken the initiative to get involved in community activism, social service, and serving others,” she said. “The fact that we were having kids lead was probably one of the most impactful parts of the program.”

According to Maurice Elias, a Rutgers University researcher who has been an advisor to Morgenstern and her program, the event was a success on multiple levels. It gave parents a reason to want to instill kindness in kids, legitimized the importance of social-emotional skills, and allowed kids to take charge.

“When kids engage in these kinds of public acts, it builds their skills, self-esteem, and confidence; it gives them an incentive to learn how to communicate better,” he says.

The many ways Senders Pediatrics encourages kindness

Morgenstern comes from an education background, where the virtues of encouraging children’s social and emotional growth have been understood for years. But to see this idea promoted in a pediatric clinic was novel for her.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be remarkable if doctors were spouting this message about social and emotional learning?’ Because doctors exude a sense of authority (for some people, at least), that means people will pay more attention to the message,” she says.

Her overall concept was to create opportunities for kids to acquire a habit of kindness that could be integrated into their lives, while also stressing the importance of health. After Kindness Day, she developed worksheets, activity cards, kits, monthly newsletters, and more—all aimed at promoting these important values while not stressing the busy pediatric staff.

Senders were particularly enthused about Morgenstern’s kindness cards, which had ideas for practicing kindness at nearly any age and could be handed out at good checks.

“You can start at age three, four, or five, and integrate kindness into your regular well-child care visit,” he says.

Unfortunately, some of Morgenstern’s ideas had to be jettisoned when COVID hit, including the second annual Kindness Day. But she got creative and sent out card-making materials around Valentine’s Day, encouraging kids to send valentines to people in the community who could use a boost—like first responders or elderly folks in nursing homes. In December, she asked kids to perform a good deed for someone else, providing kids with a “kindness kit” with more ideas of how to be kind.

According to Elias, these types of activities are successful because they expand a kid’s idea of how kindness matters more broadly in the world and introduce kids to the intrinsic rewards of being kind.

“Kids begin to understand that many people need kindness,” he says. “Once they start to think about these folks, and they do something kind and get a reply, that is incredibly reinforcing.”

Morgenstern wasn’t just interested in helping children, though. She also wanted to consider how parents were struggling during the pandemic. Many of them were having a hard time getting their kids to wear masks; so, Morgenstern began writing children’s books, such as one called The Task of the Mask, which made salient to kids the reasons why mask-wearing was an act of kindness.

“Something like this is of tremendous value to parents, because it deals with the issues that parents are experiencing,” says Elias. “It’s something that’s feasible that’s not going to take much time but is engaging to kids.”

Why Senders may be on to something

While it’s unclear how much Senders’ program can change the culture of a whole community, it has been well-received by parents whose kids have participated.

Garett shows off the kindness books for his Kindness Corner.

Garett shows off the kindness books for his Kindness Corner.

After attending Kindness Day, a seven-year-old patient at Senders Pediatrics, Garett, was encouraged to apply for a “B.E.E. Kind” grant the clinic designed, which paid for the creation of a “Kindness Corner” at his school. He and his mom, Shelly Hyland, purchased books on kindness, put Post-it notes in the school library where kids could leave kindness messages for each other, and created a snack cart for those who couldn’t afford school snacks.

“I was able to teach my son about writing grants to get money and materials needed to support ideas and causes that he is passionate about,” says Hyland. “He learned that he could make a difference with a simple idea even though he was only seven years old!”

Has it made a difference in her son’s life? Hyland thinks so.

“I believe focusing on kindness has allowed my child to read others’ emotions and have empathy,” she says. “His idea and execution of the Kindness Corner drew support from the school and community, all of which had a positive impact on others.”

Another parent, Chrishawndra Matthews, found that her son Derrick’s interest in building literacy among boys in his community was encouraged by participating in Kindness Day, where he staffed a booth. Not only was his work honored, but he was also able to get his message across to others. “He was talking about the importance of reading and sharing with children how they can become stronger readers,” says Matthews.

Derrick poses with Dr. Senders and his friend Tyshon

Derrick poses with Dr. Senders and his friend Tyshon

Matthews was particularly happy that Senders Pediatrics drew participants from the low-income neighborhood where she and her son live, recognizing that they are the experts in how to best help their community. And, she adds, it’s important for kindness initiatives to empower people who may feel disenfranchised.

“I loved that, with the Kindness Day, it wasn’t just about suburban folks; other communities were invited, and there was diversity,” says Matthews, founder of Literacy in the Hood, which provides books for underserved communities.

These individual stories are not only heartening but reflect how kindness can be contagious and good for all. Senders hope that their program will be studied by researchers to validate what they are seeing anecdotally.

Matthew Lee, a Harvard researcher who co-authored a study on the physical health benefits of being a volunteer (in adults) and directs research at the Human Flourishing Program, is interested in doing just that. He appreciates the Senders Pediatrics approach to whole-child wellness.

“When a child goes to see the doctor, it shouldn’t just be about taking your vital signs in a narrow, biophysical sense,” he says. “Doctors should talk about how kindness relates to overall health, which includes physical well-being, sure, but also your mental well-being and your full flourishing.”

Senders believe that their kindness initiative not only helps children develop moral character, it also makes them less afraid to go to the doctor—something that makes the staff’s job easier. Before COVID hit, the clinic had a jungle gym set up in their waiting room available for kids to play on, which created a happy, welcoming environment for children. Now, they have a kindness program, which does much the same thing.

“It started out as something small, but it has become an integral part of how we operate in our office,” says Senders. “It really has changed how we practice medicine.”

About the Author
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Jill Suttie

Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good’s former book review editor and now serves as a staff writer and contributing editor for the magazine. She received her doctorate of psychology from the University of San Francisco in 1998 and was a psychologist in private practice before coming to Greater Good.




How Parents of Children With Autism Can Strengthen Their Relationship

By Maryam Abdullah | Greater Good Magazine

Parents, in general, are under a significant amount of pressure during the coronavirus pandemic. Those who have been able to switch to long-term remote work arrangements are simultaneously helping their children stay engaged with online learning while schools remain closed, and some are also caring for aging parents or children with special needs.

For parents of children with autism, a new study finds that they’re facing a high degree of stress because of the isolation, disruption of children’s therapy services and respite care, and worry about finances and the risk of illness for their children and themselves.

What can parents do to alleviate stress during a time when public health guidance requires physical distancing? Research suggests that co-parenting—when two or more adults (parents, grandparents, family members, friends) work together to share caregiving responsibilities—can be an important source of support for parents of children with autism. This is true in “normal” times, but particularly now when many families are hunkered down at home with only each other to lean on.

In a 2015 study, over 150 mothers and fathers of children with autism in Australia completed questionnaires about several aspects of their parenting experience. They rated their co-parenting—how well they communicated and worked as a team, and how much they respected their partner’s caregiving commitment and judgment. Parents also answered questions about their stress and their confidence in their parenting role.

The findings? Parents who had better co-parenting relationships also tended to have less parenting stress. “The most important source of parenting support for many parents is the support they receive from their parenting partnership,” explains researcher Chris May and his colleagues. Parents of children with autism may feel more isolated from friends and family, which makes co-parenting support from partners even more significant.

In a 2017 study, May and his colleagues explored why a sense of confidence and competence in your co-parenting might be helpful. To capture a range of perspectives, they interviewed 11 cohabiting couples—mothers and fathers—who reported experiencing either relatively low or high stress.

The researchers explored how parents adapted as they started to understand that their child had autism, how they experienced a sense of partnership in their parenting, and how they expected their partnership would influence their child’s development. For example, they asked parents questions like “How important is your parenting relationship with [your partner] likely to be in determining [your child’s] progress?” “How do you keep your parenting relationship working?,” and “Has anybody ever talked to you about parenting teamwork in relation
to parenting a child with [autism]?”

The study found that parents who felt greater confidence in their co-parenting tended to be better able to cope with the learning of their child’s diagnosis, have a stronger motivation to do what they could for their child, and have greater hope for their child’s development.

“A sense of solidarity was experienced by parents when they felt they were on a ‘shared journey that involved appreciation, camaraderie, and compromise,” explain May and his colleagues. “This sense of both trying to head in the same direction was an important factor in . . . linking a sense of purpose and shared directly to their ability to keep their relationship working.”

How to strengthen your co-parenting

How can parents of children with autism strengthen their co-parenting relationship? Psychologist Linda Raffaele Mendez and her colleagues designed a co-parenting training program that aimed to promote resilience in families of children with autism. In a recent study, they evaluated their four-week Together We Are Stronger group program with seven couples in the United States. According to their preliminary findings, parents who participated in the program had more cohesion in their relationship, better co-parenting, and more hope at the end of the program compared to the start.

Here are some recommendations from the program to help parents be stronger together.

1. Reflect on your family history and values. Co-parents can work together to think about what exactly your family values are and how they are tied to your personal and family history. Once you’ve identified your shared values, you can become better aware of what you want to instill in your children and how you will work together to do that. This reflection can consider your children’s special needs so you can adapt your approach for your children to best embrace these values.

For example, for families who value experiencing shared joy and laughter, you may reflect on what delights each family member and how you savor, mark, and remember these moments together. For families who value love, you can reflect on how receiving love at different times, in different ways, and from different people has sustained you. You can also think together about how each of your different expressions of love grows in widening circles—for self, family, pets, friends, teachers, therapists, neighbors, community, humanity, and nature.

You can also create a family time capsule with mementos and symbols of your most cherished values that will maintain the connection between you and your future family members. With a clear understanding of these values, co-parents can write a family mission statement as a way of summarizing this reflection and discussion.

2. Talk it out. Co-parents can practice active listening for better communication and teamwork. You can look for opportunities to use confirmation communication, which can help your co-parent feel more valued. This includes saying something accepting or positive to your co-parent, like “That was really brave of you,” or asking for more information so that you can understand their thoughts, feelings, or behavior better.

You can also try to avoid disconfirmation communication, which can make your co-parent feel devalued. For example, replying to them by dismissing, interrupting, ignoring, or saying something irrelevant or tangential can communicate rejection.

Co-parents can practice using “I” statements to communicate their personal needs. “I” statements are a tool to help make clear that you are expressing your perspective rather than blaming your partner. “You” statements like “You don’t help me take care of stuff around the house” can lead to defensiveness. In comparison, “I” statements like “I feel frustrated when I can’t get my work done because I’m taking care of all these household chores” can help show that you’re owning your feelings and set the stage for collaborative problem-solving.

Practice planning for and having uninterrupted “check-in” times, which last 10–20 minutes every day. Prepare an activity for your children during that time to minimize distractions.

3. Be there for each other. Recognize that working together as a team can reduce your overall stress. Share with each other what increases your stress levels, talk about what you need from one another, and make a plan to help reduce each other’s stress. For example, write down something that your co-parent could help you with and put it on the refrigerator. Simply doing one thing your partner needs can go a long way in helping them manage stress.

4. Use optimism and humor. Notice the tone of your thoughts on a weekly basis. Do they tend to be more optimistic or pessimistic? During your check-in times, talk to each other about how you might shift your perspectives if they tend to be more pessimistic. Invite your co-parent to help you find ways to do that. Also, recognize how humor can help relieve stress. When was the last time you laughed together or made light of a difficult situation?

Of course, parenting children with autism comes with many gifts in addition to these challenges. Parents can have many positive experiences related to caregiving, like growth in their appreciation for family and family closeness, appreciation for new opportunities and knowledge-building, and understanding about differences, abilities, diversity, and community. It’s not surprising that parents of children with autism who feel less stress tend to have more positive parenting experiences.

When parents practice strengthening their co-parenting relationship, the positive effects can cascade over to all members of the family, including their children.

About the Author
{author}

Maryam Abdullah

UC Berkeley

Maryam Abdullah, Ph.D., is the Parenting Program Director of the Greater Good Science Center. She is a developmental psychologist with expertise in parent-child relationships and children’s development of prosocial behaviors.




Now You See Me, Now You Don’t – Why We All Wear Masks to Hide Our True Selves

We might think we know who we are as individuals. We might use words ranging from “organized” to “over-thinker” and while these words can come from a myriad of seemingly reliable and convincing places; past traumas, our parents, teachers, friends, society in general, and even our very own track-record of habits, these words do not make us. Nor do the experiences or sources from which they came.

We can name off all of our favorite things, all of the things that might get on our nerves and everything in between, but do our likes and dislikes really define us? How about all of the material possessions we’ve worked so hard to accumulate over the years? Where does “out there” (as in the world around us) end and “in here” (as within ourselves) begin?

Well, I guess that would all depend on who you’re asking as even the answer to that question is based on perception and one’s own level of conscious awareness. But regardless of where you are with that, what remains true is we are NOT what happens to us, we are NOT our opinions or beliefs (and especially NOT the opinions or beliefs of others). Lastly, we are most certainly NOT our possessions.

If anything, these are all mere extensions of an identity we’ve established for ourselves to maintain the facade of safety the ego requires for its survival. And no matter how real it might appear to be, all is illusory except that which cannot be taken from you. One can spend hours pondering exactly what “this” is, but it’s actually quite simple. What remains when we remove all of that “stuff” is your pure, divine, Conscious Awareness…because THAT, my friend…is who YOU really are.

What we’re talking about here is not the self with a little “s”, but the Self with a big “S” or what some might even call the Higher Self. It is your direct link to Source Consciousness, The Universe, God, whatever term you prefer to use. It has no agenda other than to exist as itself and just BE. This could also be considered your intuition or gut feelings; that inner voice that somehow always seems to save your ass at the last minute…if you happen to be so brave to actually listen to it.

Unfortunately, we are not taught this in school. And for most of us, the truth of who we really are begins to be buried under layers and layers of conditioning, the day we are born. We are stamped with a name, nationality, religion, etc. and all of the accompanying assumptions that go along with being either male or female. If we end up growing up to challenge these labels, we are most often considered a rebel or told it’s wrong and we need to conform, be quiet and simply accept “who we are”.

But as we’ve come to learn, these are all masks that hide our true identity. Upon arrival into this world we are literally nameless; without identity, even if our parents have named us months before. When you remove anything “other than”, we are pure, Divine perfection. We are the union of spirit and skin manifest as dual divine light, to learn of and heal what we might even call our very own darkness. I prefer to say it’s those parts of ourselves we simply forgot to love.

Who doesn’t want to be loved and accepted for who they are? But how many of us actually give this give of acceptance to others? Let us start with ourselves by removing the masks (figuratively AND literally), uncovering the layers, and letting the truth of who we are reveal itself and come to the surface. If we can all learn to create a safe space such as this for not only ourselves, but others as well…just imagine what the world could be like.

We’d have less motivation to be offended, and thus less likely to offend others. Sometimes it’s not always about what you’re saying or doing, but who you are saying or doing it to, rather than with. When we create a space for our authentic selves, then we call our authentic audience which is the audience that actually HEARS you (your true intentions).

If we raised children to be confident in self-expression, to always feel loved, and that their opinions, questions and curiosities matter, then we will help to create adults who are confident, more loving, and more capable of seeing love in others. This, I believe, is ultimately how we change the world…by first letting it change us, back into who we were all along.

Tamara posts new original articles to CLN every Saturday.

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This article was originally created and published by Conscious Life News and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Tamara Rant and ConsciousLifeNews.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this Copyright/Creative Commons statement.




Want to Celebrate Life? Here Are 10 Big Ideas from Brian Johnson

Source: OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson provides an 80/20 Look at the Powerful Practice of Appreciating What’s Awesome. It’s easy to get so fired up about the whole Optimizing game that we forget the fact that we’re ALREADY WINNING. Science says: Gratitude is super important. In fact, it’s the key that unlocks a ton of joy. Therefore, it’s time to make it a fundamental. (When? TODAY!) Here are 10 Big Ideas on ways you can Celebrate YOUR Life.