Few U.S. Students Repeat a Grade but That Could Change Due to COVID-19

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

By Pamela Davis-Kean, University of Michigan

With in-person instruction becoming the exception rather than the norm, 54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Initial projections from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which conducts research and creates commonly used standardized tests, suggest that these fears are well-grounded, especially for children from low-income families.

Based on the association’s findings and my own research regarding academic achievement and socioeconomic status, I believe it’s likely, based on these early projections, that the widespread and rapid switch to remote schooling will have negative long-term academic consequences.

One possibility is that the share of students who end up repeating at least one grade at some point could rise due to this unprecedented disruption.

According to government data collected in 2018, only about 6% of U.S. students had to repeat a grade before graduating from high school prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Any potential effort to make students repeat a grade when they can’t demonstrate they have learned enough to advance to the next one would build on some recent precedents.

Starting in 2001 with the No Child Left Behind Act, reading proficiency by third grade became one of the federal mandates for schools to receive designated streams of federal funding.

This federal legislation, combined with research indicating that children who couldn’t yet read fared better when they repeated a grade, brought about a wave of state-level legislation. So far, a total of 16 states have enacted laws that prevent students from moving on from third grade until they are considered proficient on standardized reading tests.

These state laws vary. Some states, like Florida, require students who aren’t reading well enough to repeat third grade altogether. Others, such as Minnesota, let children move onto fourth grade and provide them with supplemental reading assistance until they can read at what the state deems to be a third-grade level. In practice, students typically don’t repeat more than one grade.

I consider it likely that the academic consequences of the extended period of remote learning that began in March 2020 will be unequal. These consequences are bound to fall more heavily on students who are growing up facing persistent economic hardship.

The practice of making children who are struggling to learn how to read repeat third grade, however well-intentioned, can be risky. For example, students who repeat a grade can feel stigmatized and less motivated to learn.

Therefore, I believe parents, educators and policymakers will all need to try to address the inevitable gaps in learning bound to arise from widespread remote learning during the pandemic.

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Pamela Davis-Kean, Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan

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

Why Children Have Recently Lost Their Inspiration For Sports

Recent years have shown a change in the amount of children who are getting involved with sports and although it isn’t a huge drop, it is a change. Unfortunately, nowadays, children and their families are asked to do more and more at a younger age, especially when it comes to children who show special talent. Many of our most dedicated and talented athletes are overworked and leave the sport by the age of 20. Some don’t have any interest and during these times, sports is such a healthy activity. So what is pushing sports away?

Photo: Unsplash

They are afraid to make mistakes

Excellent athletes are created in environments where they are not afraid to make mistakes, where they are encouraged to try and fail and understand that failure is a necessary part of their development and progress. Coaches and parents who constantly comment, challenge every decision of athletes and shout at athletes who try to do the best they can and ultimately fail, create a fear that drives children away from the sport. Solution: Embrace the “failure” and take risks. All children should not feel bad about failure because it is subjective and really is just a learning curve to ensure that better decisions are made in the future.

Sport ceases to be fun and starts to be a ‘career’

In a study conducted for George Washington University in 2014, researcher Amanda Visik interviewed many young athletes and asked them why they are involved in sports. Nine out of ten answered that the main reason they do it is because they have fun. The kids listed 81 characteristics of fun and while trying to give your best and being treated well by coaches, parents and teammates was considered very important, winning, competing and coaching were not at all high on the list. If your young athletes are not having fun, they will gradually leave, no matter how talented they are and how good their coach or team is. Adults rarely do activities that they do not enjoy. Why do we think our children will? Coaches often put a lot of effort into finding new talent and when it is a sport such as football, only the best must be handpicked to play for the big leagues. Which is why it takes a lot of pressure and dedication to find out who can be sold.

Solutions to ensure the world of sport grows

Statistics show that 70% of children in the United States and the rest of the world drop out of sports by age 13, and at a time when 1/3 of American children are obese, sports should be holding the torch towards a healthier future. During Covid 19, we have seen that obses people have a bigger risk of becoming more unwell and so encouraging sports is vital.

Coaches, parents and all stakeholders have a responsibility to create an environment that serves the needs, values ​​and priorities of children, not just adults. We can make change by better communicating with our children, asking them what they want to gain from sports and making sure this experience belongs to them. We can achieve this by treating them with the respect they deserve and by allowing them to fail so that they can learn and evolve. The world of sport still has a lot to offer but perhaps with a few changes.

Factors to Consider When Searching for an Early Learning Online Program

Because of the worldwide pandemic, many parents feel reluctant to send their young kids back to school. Apart from that, regulations in certain countries still do not permit children to go out. With strict quarantine and social distancing measures in place, parents have no other recourse but to find an early learning online class for their kids.

Online learning has been around for years, and homeschooling is an option that some parents intentionally choose. Remember, your child’s formative years are the most crucial, so selecting the right education partner has a significant impact on your child’s growth and development.

As parents, you want to equip them with the right lessons to face the world. An early learning program is vital for your child, as it offers supplementary education through play, activities, and academic lessons. Though you are at home, you can continue to offer this collaborative support for your child through a reputable early learning class via an online platform. If you are looking for a distance-learning education program for your young child, here are some factors that can influence your decision.

Consider Your Child and Family 

Start your search for the best early learning online program by evaluating what you want the school to do for your child. Some children have special language or educational needs. As the parent, you know your son or daughter best, so you must keep his and her needs in mind. Does your child need a rigid class structure, or does he/she prefer the flexibility of choosing the lessons for the day?

Think about how your child likes to learn. Does he/she need a lot of videos, interactive games, or direct guidance from a teacher (via teleconferencing)? You must also examine if the rest of the family can support while your child is immersed in an online class. As a young child, there may be some technical issues along the way, so as the parent, you must be there to address any issues should something crop up.

Evaluate the School

Typically, when you are shopping around for your car or other gadgets, you take it upon yourself to research the internet for product reviews and testimonials. When you are investigating a prospective school for your child, too, you need to do your due diligence. It would help if you found other parents who enrolled in the platform to ask for their feedback.

Additionally, you must check the school accreditation. Assess the school’s learning approach and the curriculum they follow. Do they have a program that will address your young learner’s emotional well-being, social skills, and academic proficiency? What online materials are accessible to you? You want interactive online materials that your child will not grow bored of. It would be better if they can also send you tangible materials because a young child needs stimulation using real-life worksheets and objects.

Do a Trial Run

Touch base with the schools you are interested in and schedule an online consultation with the program head. If possible, you have to ask for a free trial run to take a few remote classes with your child. This will give you a realistic sense of how this online platform operates. Best of all, this is the only way you can truly assess if your kid will adapt to the online program.

It is vital to speak with key personnel, as they will provide you with more in-depth information about the school’s learning objectives and programs. You will also want an online meeting with the teachers in charge of your child. These people will be the other adults that will become the closest to your child. You must ascertain if they are prepared and dedicated in their chosen vocation. You want a qualified individual you can trust.

Final Word

Keep in mind that your child’s school can influence his or her whole personality and character. Of course, you want a school that will bring out the best in your kid. It is necessary to research different online learning programs to find the best one that can address your growing child’s needs. It is important to stimulate your child with the right online school platform as this can ignite his or her curiosity and creativity, which are important components of learning.

The Gift of Gratitude & Loving With No Regrets

Beautiful pet cat memorial print Rainbow Bridge Gift | EtsyThis week I wanted to write about something near and dear to my heart…gratitude. So many times we find ourselves taking things for granted, and while I don’t believe it’s intentional, life always has a way to remind us to appreciate everything we have, and to never assume something you care about is trivial.

It’s sounds cliche, but as the saying goes, “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” Unfortunately, I experience a heart-breaking reminder of this just two days ago when I had to say good-bye to one of my furbabies, Obi. 

I rescued Obi from a shelter in Chicago in 2015. It was immediately following my separation from my first husband, and after seeing Obi, I felt like the recent hole in my heart had a chance of being refilled.

I always said that Obi chose me that day, not the other way around. As I walked past the various cats (wanting to take them ALL home), Obi caught my attention because he was the only one with his little nose sticking out of the cage, and also the only one who welcomed me with a “meow” as I approached.

I stuck my finger in his cage and he immediately put his head down and butted the cage door as to say, “YOU human, I choose YOU.” It took 0.0003 seconds for me to fall completely in love with this little furball and although I already had my 15 lb. orange tabby, Lukas at home, I didn’t think twice to adopt him. Obi was going on 4 at the time, and I was blessed to have another 5 wonderful years with him.

A few months later I underwent surgery and that cat did not leave my side the entire two weeks of my recovery. He seemed to have a sense of when I was in pain and would always do his famous head-butt when he was attempting to not only get some pettings but also to let me know he could feel what I was feeling. And soon enough, that interchange of energy was mutual.

Later that same year, Lukas and Obi make the 2,000-plus miles trip from Chicago to Phoenix when I decided to relocate and get a fresh start. Immediately they loved their new environment as now they could lay outside in the warm sun any time of year. And that quickly became Obi all-time favorite spot. You never know you have a cat . . . | Rainbow Bridge | Pet grief ...

In Jan of this year, my husband and I were blessed to discover that were are expecting. We couldn’t be more excited and since finding out I always made a point to talk to my cats and let them know there would soon be a new addition to our small family. Lukas didn’t seem to care much, but Obi would sit there and listen to me intently talk about my son’s anticipated arrival later this year in September. 

Unfortunately in all the excitement and joy of planning for Aleric to join us in the world, Obi had somewhere along the way caught a pretty bad respiratory infection and while there were no immediate symptoms, he started to slowly lose weight and the luster in his normally shiny silver coat. He was still eating and drinking as well as snuggling like normal, but I could just feel something going on with him. A few weeks ago I noticed him sleep and taking really hard breaths. My vet said to keep an eye on him but as long as he’s eating and drinking that it should pass.

But it didn’t pass and on the 18th he began to hide in various areas of the house and was just not himself. I heard that cats will often do that when they know they’re going to pass over the rainbow bridge, so I called the vet immediately. We ended up taking him to an Emergency Vet and to our dismay and utter shock, they told us there was nothing they could do and that the humane thing would be to put him down.

The thought of my little friend struggling for breath broke my heart into a million piece and I knew it was the right thing to do…I had to let him go. As I write this with tears in my eyes and memories in my heart, I am still plagued with the regret I wish I could’ve done more, or seen how bad it was earlier on. Thinking that there must be something I could’ve done to save him.

The look in his gentle eyes as he passed on is something I will never forget. As I told my lil friend how much I loved him and thanked him for choosing me as his human, he looked at me in a way that has forever touched my soul and my heart. I could literally feel him saying thank you and that he loved me too.

I know it takes a certain audience to really understand the kind of effect losing a pet can have on a person, but especially since being pregnant, I realize that Obi WAS my kid. And the more I think about it, my pain is not only valid but reminds me of the fact that animals can often touch us in ways that not even another person can.

And as he left his physical body, Obi gave me a gift I will forever cherish, a sense of gratitude and a vital reminder that all we ever have is this moment and to never, ever waste even one on things that bring you down. His gentle soul will always be a part of me and I somehow even feel more confident as a soon-to-mother.

Obi was truly an angel in my life and I can only hope that everyone in the world gets to feel as loved as I did while being his human. The joy he brought to my heart is something that can never be replaced. So let this be a celebration of life when the rest of the world seems hellbent on destruction. I honor Obi for the teacher he was and for reminding me of the student I will always be – one who knows that there is never an end to our learning and growing.

To all of those out there who may be in mourning over a family member, friend, or in my case a beloved pet, I just want you to know to never stop loving as much as you can in this life…because all this ends. And there is nothing perhaps more painful than love unexpressed.


In remembrance of my dear friend, Obi: 8-28-11 to 6-18-20


tamaraTamara Rant is a Co-Editor/Writer for CLN as well as a Licensed Reiki Master, heart-centered Graphic Designer and a progressive 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.

Follow Tamara on FacebookTwitter and Google+

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.

Conscious Awareness and Human Experience – How to Know the Difference

Is Conscious Awareness a part of your marketing? | Social HubSiteWe all know how easy it is to get caught up in the moment, but what about staying calm in the moment? Why’s that so much more difficult to not just master, but simply pull off here and there when you really need it? Well, for starters it is because most of us are not taught the actual truth of who we really are as children. And it’s this “not knowing” that is the root cause of all fears and anxiety we experience in life. As they always say, once you face fears, they dissipate…

We are taught as children that we are merely this skin and these bones and these thoughts in our minds and perhaps even that when we die that we literally “end”. But science and spirituality are finally beginning to play nice, and when we allow their principles to work together, they now show us that like the energy we are, we never truly end, we merely transform.

No matter what we’re taught; chances are good that most of our parents were not aware of the Truth that we are this pure energy of conscious awareness; that we are ALL the awareness that is actually moving this skin and these bones and these thoughts. We are what is inside or rather behind these going’s on in our physicality and mental worlds. Yet we are not OF them. We are the Force.

I recently watched a video presented by the awesome Deepak Chopra and he explained where human consciousness resides in such a way that even if you are new to the topic, you can easily grasp the understanding. He explained it so beautifully, it was actually his words that inspired me to write about this very topic this week. He states that human experience comes and goes, while conscious awareness is unending; infinite…it is YOU.

Experiences, that is, everything occurring outside of yourself in our perceptual reality is the stuff that we think “happens to us”. And while we consider our experiences to be that which shape and mold us throughout our lives, if we zoom out a bit and see the entire picture (pun totally intended), we see that it is our perceptions of those experiences that have in fact done the shaping. How we’ve reacted and responded to life is ultimately what determined what life threw at us next. Well, isn’t that curious? 🙂

This brings up a vital reminder of how important it is to be directing your life rather than simply reacting to it. When we live on auto-pilot, sure life will continue to just “happen” and experiences will come and go, but we will not have consciously played a pro-active role in determining the shape our lives take; and I’m sorry, but that’s a huge waste of your gifts, talents, and abilities.

When the great sages, monks, and gurus speak of “going within”, this is why they repeat themselves into an eternal meditation with these words…because it’s literally the greatest advice you can offer another human being. It’s like opening the floodgates of Creational wisdom, pointing the way and letting them carve their own path; which one must always do to obtain that wisdom meant only for them.

When we go within and turn our awareness upon ourselves, a funny thing happens. You begin to tune into what I can only call the Divine Silence which is ever-present and eternal. It is here where you can find that inner peace the Zen Masters alike find Oneness within, by going through this Silence; and ultimately becoming this Silence, only to realize they were this Silence all along. Expand your conscious awareness - A message from Neptha El Ra ...

Which brings me back to Deepak and how he explained perhaps the simplest way I’ve ever heard to help someone detach from an emotionally heated reaction to an experience and to disown any baggage from it that is weighing you down. He asks you to imagine that experiences are fleeting, linear, they come and they go; they are temporary and reside in 3-D space-time reality. Consciousness, however, is infinite, eternal, timeless, unbound, no beginning, and no end and does not reside in time-space.

Therefore, he suggested that to help you stop responding to things so emotionally or from being so attached to things, you can start to make little changes like this…

Instead of saying, “I’m hungry…” say “I’m aware of the sensation of hunger…”

Instead of thinking, “This is really scary…” think “I’m aware of this fear…”

This will help you stay in your awareness, in the present moment (which is your power), without attachment to the experience itself! This gives you so much more freedom in how you choose to (or not to) respond/react to experiences in life. This can help you go from living on auto-pilot to being the conscious creator being you were meant to be!

tamaraTamara Rant is a Co-Editor/Writer for CLN as well as a Licensed Reiki Master, heart-centered Graphic Designer and a progressive 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.

Follow Tamara on Facebook and Twitter

6 Truths Every Young Adult Should Be Told

6 Truths for Young Adults

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”~Douglas Adams

I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been if I knew certain truths as a teenager.

I thought I knew it all back then (it’s a teenage virus). Here’s a list of things I wish I actually knew when I was a little know-it-all:

1. Thoughts Create Things

How cool would it have been to know, back then, that your thoughts are prerequisite to actually manifesting whatever you want in your life!?! I thought I was a victim of fate and ‘shit just happened’. It’s so great seeing young people of today actually using the Law of Attraction in their lives and seeing amazing results. A new generation is certainly emerging.

2. You Can Be Anything You Want to Be

I grew up in an era where you needed good grades to get a good job that pays a good salary. Yada, yada, yada. I got a certificate in Interior Design that took me 5 years to obtain and I’ve never used it to date.

My parents, God bless them, probably were only handing down precious information that they had learned from their parents. I was told to get a steady job that pays the bills, and that there was no money to be made in being an artist or playing the guitar — I, luckily, trusted my gut instinct and have been rather successful at the two.

The sky is the limit with your dreams — go for it, guns blazing into the setting sun shouting ‘Yeehaw!’.

3. Choices and Perspective

Life is all about choices — they are unavoidable and we make them constantly. Some are great, some not so great. The good news is, you never set yourself up with anything you can’t get yourself out of.

Always view things from a different perspective, a solution is just around the corner to any given problem if you are quiet enough to hear your innate wisdom.  Life doesn’t just randomly happen to you if you take responsibility for your choices.

4. Forgive and Let Go

Holding a grudge means extra baggage for you to slug around — it’s insanity.  This can even, in some cases, manifest as physical weight. Learn to let it go! And in doing so, you’ll be doing yourself a great service.

To forgive literally means ‘to release from a debt’. It doesn’t mean you forget what was done or that you have to have tea with the perpetrator every Sunday, it simply means you release it from your life and forgive the ACTION of the person (you never have to see them again if that is your choice).

Read related article: How Letting Go of Grudges and Practicing Forgiveness Will Make You Happier

5. Don’t Take Opinions Personally

You’re never going to have universal popularity, so just be yourself and balls to the rest. Those who like you will stick around and those who don’t will leave — it’s actually a great deal.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and their personal tastes — there is no ‘one size fits all’ out there. Read related article: 9 Truths About Letting Go of Opinions That Taint Us

I was told, in the younger years, not to ‘listen’ to people if they caused me pain but I didn’t truly get that when I felt insulted I was inadvertently agreeing with what was being said and I took it on as an agreement (please read ‘The Four Agreements ‘ by Don Miguel Ruiz).

Be cool with who you are. Which leads into the next point…

6. Conforming is For Woosies!

Don’t try to be who you are not — originals are what good people are after not carbon copies of everything else out there. Don’t be afraid to shine your weird little light and show the world your uniqueness in whatever way excites you.

The world totally want your kick-ass vooma more than it wants another ‘Ken’ or ‘Barbie’. Read related article: Why Being Weird is Unusually Cool!


CRDCherie Roe Dirksen is a self-empowerment author/columnist, multi-media artist and musicianfrom South Africa.

To date, she has published 3 self-help and motivational books and brings out weekly inspirational blogs at her site www.cherieroedirksen.com. Get stuck into finding your passion, purpose and joy by downloading some of those books gratis when you click HERE.

Her ambition is to help you to connect with your innate gift of creativity and living the life you came here to experience by taking responsibility for your thoughts, actions and becoming the co-creator of your reality. You can follow Cherie on Facebook (The Art of Empowerment — for article updates). She also has an official art Facebook page (Cherie Roe Dirksen – for new art updates) and her band’s Facebook page is Templeton Universe.

This article (6 Truths Every Child Should Be Toldwas originally written for and published by Conscious Life News and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author Cherie Roe Dirksen and ConsciousLifeNews.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this Copyright/Creative Commons

The Duality of Order: A Perspective on Forced Control vs Chosen Organization

You Love Collaboration. Do You Think It's a Substitute for ...The word “order” can often mean different things to different people. That meaning can also shift or be influenced, I am completely convinced, by how much “in control” one feels over themselves and their own life. That feeling in and of itself can also shift with our moods, and when things appear to just “happen to us” in life.

It is my understanding that the first 7 years of our lives are the most influential. During that time, our growing brains are literally sponges to the body of information around us. We may not fully grasp the concept of how our perceptions of the world may be completely different from another’s, but somehow I remember innately knowing that so many adults functioned in a state of fear and victimhood.

It did not take me long to lose the delusion that adults knew everything there was to know and that I was completely safe in the presence of adults, especially my family and teachers. With having come flying out the womb with a list of questions, I’ve never had a problem with voicing my opinion or asking questions to better understand things. It’s like something was left in me unsettled, like a wobbly chair, and I couldn’t regain a sense of inner peace or balance until I had received information that quashed my curiosities.

When I began asking questions that seemed to make adults very uncomfortable or even angry, I, unfortunately, began to understand that adults really are just “big kids” and that no matter HOW old you are, we are all doing the best we can from what we know. What I didn’t realize until much, much later in life was that ultimately, the level of our own ignorance is a personal choice.

After a certain point in life, you are forced to take responsibility for your choices, actions, and words and also the responsibility of dealing with the consequences of those choices, actions, and words. If we do not learn this vital trick to maintain balance in our lives, we miss out on a major life lesson that for me personally has acted as the foundation upon which I now build my closest personal relationships.

I remember being 14 and being told to clean up my room and thinking “why? I like my things everywhere and why are adults so stuck on complaining over such small things?” It wasn’t until I had to be the one to tell myself to clean up that I began to understand that it was never so much an intention to ruin joy or fun, but rather a request for a demonstration of what self-organization skills you have learned.

Being 41 and going on 23 weeks pregnant, I am constantly thinking about how I will reflect on this new life I am responsible for. I mean how do you teach “what works” if you’re still learning that yourself? I’ve since embraced the fact that I will never know it all, but that doesn’t mean I can’t offer guidance on those things I do know.

At one time in my teens, a closet full of dirty/clean clothes existing as a huge ball on the floor was empowering; a show of rebellion against the tyranny of parental demands LOL But now I actually honor and require organization in my home, my mind and ultimately in my life. It’s not that I sold out, but rather learn a new perspective that only certain experiences in life can offer.

Nowadays, I cringe if things are out of place or there’s clutter because the energy I get now is not empowering at all. In fact, it’s disruptive to my thought process and actually makes me feel disempowered. It’s not OCD or that I’m some control freak who will lose her shit if there’s a dish in the sink LOL It’s more like when things are clean and “orderly” and when I created that order, I get the same sense of personal power that I did by rebelling against the same thing as a teenager.

It’s really funny when you know that, and think about the many pointless arguments between people who merely have different perspectives on some things. When you step back and open up to accepting that in a third-dimensional world allows for an almost endless way to see or view something and just because you see a different side, doesn’t mean my side doesn’t exist or that your side is somehow wrong.

I am obsessed with the Laws of Nature and have always been fascinated by the Fibonacci Sequence and how math is literally the language of Nature. We all know math is in itself an order of numbers that cannot be broken. It maintains and expresses this constant in every corner of nature. You can disturb this order, but Nature ultimately will return to balance; there is no other way.

This understanding allows me to see that “control” is not always a bad thing. It’s the mixture of ill intentions and self-absorbed ego that makes it negative or an unpleasant experience. But control doesn’t need to feel negative. When expressed within a mutual understanding of all moving parts involved, it shifts from something that makes the individual feel less than to something that now shows the individual that it is a valid part of the whole and that when it the individual uses free will to take a position to maintain the order, then it becomes chosen organization.

How to Collaborate Better: The Case for a Team Help Desk

This is how small armies blessed with a hell of a lot of communication, respect, and heart can overpower the largest artillery if those act from a place of fear, a need to overpower and control, and ultimately create a vibe where the sense of communion or chosen organization is lost to a personal agenda. Basically, one respects all parts in being vital components for the success of the whole, while the other is merely using the majority of the parts merely to serve one or a select few of the other parts.


tamaraTamara Rant is a Co-Editor/Writer for CLN as well as a Licensed Reiki Master, a heart-centered Graphic Designer, and a progressive 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.

Follow Tamara on FacebookTwitter and Google+

How Parents Can Help Kids Thrive in an Uncertain Future

By Jill Suttie | Greater Good Magazine 

When psychologist Madeline Levine wrote The Price of Privilege 14 years ago, she wanted to persuade parents that pushing kids to succeed at any cost was making them suffer. But since then, the rates of anxiety and depression in kids have only increased, suggesting that life today maybe even harder for them.

“We’ve got fires, crazy politics, climate change, mass murders, all kinds of social uncertainty and fear. So, kids (and their parents, too) are incredibly anxious, and they don’t know how to be effective in a very uncertain environment,” she says.

Enter her new book, Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World. Meant as a guide for parents, the book offers information about the challenges kids face today and what parents can do to better support them. Too often parents take the wrong approach to encouraging their kids’ success, argues Levine, pushing unrealistic expectations onto them and over-managing their lives, denying them opportunities to grow and develop resilience. She hopes to show parents that by cultivating more positive social-emotional skills—like optimism, compassion, and humility—kids will be better prepared for the future they face, while protecting their mental health.

I spoke to her recently about her book and what parents can take away from it.

Jill Suttie: You take issue with the term “emerging adulthood” for late adolescence. How should parents help their kids negotiate this stage of development better?

Madeline Levine: The concept of emerging adulthood didn’t exist when I was training many decades ago. Now every major psychiatric institution has an emerging adult program. So, what are they and why are they different?

They’re programs for kids who in many ways have been protected from learning how to manage their feelings and their lives. They haven’t learned how to get on in the world—how to make a bed, how to talk with somebody who’s angry. The reason that these programs are so popular right now is that so many parents are willing to accommodate to their child in all the wrong ways.

If your kid says, “I don’t want to go to a sleepover, because I won’t know the kids there and I’ll have to sleep in a strange bed,” and you say, “OK, you don’t have to go,” or your kid tells you the dog across the street scares them because he barks loudly, and you say, “Well, we can walk the other way; we don’t have to pass the dog,” those kinds of accommodations get in the way of your kid building resilience and competence. How do kids build those if they don’t have a lot of practice in age-appropriate, small challenges?

I think we parents do this because we’re nervous ourselves, right? Plus, it’s much easier to give in, especially when a child is distressed. But it robs our kids of the opportunity to learn that they can manage. I see parents whose child isn’t invited to somebody else’s party say to their kid, “I’m going to make an even bigger party for you, so those other girls will come to your party and not hers.” That’s a very big mistake. Learning that you will be rejected at some point in life and can tolerate it, learn from it, and pick yourself up again is important for resilience. But too often those experiences are missing for kids whom we’re calling “emerging adults.”

JS: Your book mentions foundational skills that parents can teach their kids—like communication, empathy, collaboration, and humility. If these aren’t emphasized at school, what can parents do?

ML: Well, first parents have to believe that the skills aren’t just nice add-ons. They’re mandatory for being successful in life.

My husband’s cousin is the head of neuroimaging at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, so he hires a lot of scientists. I asked him if there is anything different that he is looking for in the young scientists he’s hiring now versus the scientists he hired 20 years ago. And he said, “Absolutely, content has gone to the bottom of the list.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to know your stuff. But his point was that whereas before being the smartest guy in the room was probably insurance for getting hired, it’s not anymore. What’s insurance now is the ability to work collaboratively, to have new ideas, to fail at something and pick yourself up again. You can find out a lot of the content that you may need on Google; but what to do with it, how to know if it’s legitimate information, how to work in a group, and how to come up with new ideas—that’s what’s needed now.

JS: So how can parents actually nurture those skills in their kids?

ML: They can stop being focused on performance and start being focused on process. Instead of asking your kid, “What grades did you get?,” you ask, “How was that test?” or “How was your day?” The emphasis on performance tells your kids that that’s the only thing that really matters.

Another thing we can do is listen better. No kid who’s been in my office has ever said to me, “You know, my parents listened too much.” We can model curiosity, so that becomes a value that is important to them. You can ask, “What did you learn today?” or “What are you struggling with?”

Also, instead of sitting every single weekend and watching your kids play soccer or lacrosse, you should be involved in your community. Do something that makes this a better world, and model that for your kids. Don’t talk about who has the new Tesla at the dinner table, but talk about what’s going on in the world—climate change, things like that. If we start modeling curiosity, independence, creativity, and the importance of working collaboratively in a group, those are the things your kid’s going to learn.

JS: You write that hope and optimism are “ultimate life skills.” How can parents help kids sustain hope and optimism when they’re struggling with anxiety and dread?

ML: I’m by nature a pessimist, but I found that it wasn’t doing me much good. And it wasn’t doing my kids much good, because pessimism can lead to hopelessness, and hopelessness leads to depression. Right now, in this moment in history, we need young people who feel they have agency, and optimists have a far greater sense of agency than people who are pessimists.

I’m concerned with how passive kids have become. Fifteen years ago, a kid would come to my office, take off their backpack and throw it on the floor, and say, “Get my parents off my back. They can’t tell me what to do!” Now, that’s sort of petered out in the last five to seven years, and kids tell me that there’s nothing they can do; it’s just the way it is. That’s really worrisome, because you don’t want teenagers to become passive and lose their sense of rebellion and of being able to change the world.

As a parent, your outlook on the world—optimistic or pessimistic, hopeful or not hopeful—really has an impact on your kids. My own kids pointed out to me that I was always asking them, “Is everything okay?” as if I was asking, “What went wrong today?” Our language needs to change. Instead of interrupting and telling kids how to do something, which parents often do reflexively, we need to change that to say something like, “I think you can handle this” or “You’ve got this”—something that instills confidence and optimism. We underestimate kids in terms of what they’re capable of learning and doing.

JS: Let’s say your teenager has stopped studying and is doing poorly in school. Do you recommend letting them struggle through it or stepping in?

ML: If your kid was an A student and suddenly he’s failing, that requires an intervention. Something’s going on. But if your kid goes from being an A student to a B student, that’s a different scenario. Sure, it may warrant some discussion, but don’t forget that damage can be done by interventions that are unnecessary. Look at the Varsity Blues Scandal—the parents paying huge amounts of money to get their kids into colleges. There’s no greater vote of no confidence than to give a school half a million dollars because you don’t think your kid will get in.

If you’re going to err on one side or the other, you err on the side of restraint. Hopefully you wait for a child to say, “I’m having trouble with this. I need some help.” You don’t rush in; you watch your kid to see what’s going on with them. If they’re the kind of kid that’s heading toward college, and suddenly he loses all interest in his studies, then something’s up with him—maybe his girlfriend rejected him or he’s doing substances or he’s no longer on the traveling lacrosse team. When you see that kind of dip, that’s when you intervene—not with the kid that’s gone from an A- to a B+. We often intervene because of our own anxiety, but really we just need a much bigger vision for our kids for what a successful life looks like.

JS: You write about children needing a well-developed moral compass. What are the points of that compass and how do parents help their children to learn those

ML: That idea came very specifically out of speaking with so many people in the tech world. I spent a day at Google with Peter Norvig, the head of research, and it was distressing to me. Yes, it was a privilege to spend time with him, but then I mentioned that some of the girls I treat [in psychotherapy] had gone on YouTube to learn how to more effectively cut their wrists. I asked him, “What’s your responsibility in this?” and he said, “It’s not my responsibility.”

I understand that he’s an engineer, not an ethicist, but I walked away from the whole process really concerned about the silo-ing of moral responsibility around things with potentially enormous consequences. And it’s not just at Google. We now know how to edit genes with CRISPR, but who’s going to get their genes edited so they don’t have a lifelong illness? Only the people who can afford to pay for it? Those are the kinds of questions our kids are going to have to grapple with.

So, what are the points of a moral compass? I think they are honesty, integrity, and a worldview that is larger than the individual. Too many of us are hunkered down in our families. We need a far broader view of the world. That guy at Google has a daughter, and I asked him if he’s concerned about her seeing this YouTube material online, and his answer was basically, “My daughter would never do that.” That just shows that he misunderstands the connection that we all have with each other. Sure, maybe he’s right and she wouldn’t do it, but the girl next door or down the block might, or maybe her best friend might. We can’t ignore that we’re all impacted by each other.

JS: What do you most hope parents will take away from your book?

ML: I would like parents to take away enthusiasm for confronting uncertainty. I understand that’s a huge ask, because people are so worried. But we’ve been through tough times in this country before, and we need to have the kind of enthusiasm we had for young kids when they were learning to walk: They fall down, you encourage them to get up again; they fall down, you clap your hands and say, “Come on baby, get up again.” We need the kind of enthusiasm for wobbly legs in a wobbly world—not really knowing how to do something yet, not being sure of how long something’s going to take to become competent, but knowing that our kids will end up walking.

The future is a wave that’s either going to crush us or that we can learn to ride. I would like parents to be optimistic and to pay attention to the little things they can do. Let kids sleep a little bit more, show concern about the world around you, understand that there are moral issues. Dinnertime conversations shouldn’t be about how everybody did on the test. Ask your kids what they think about politically. Or, if they’re young, ask them about the new kid in school and have a conversation about how hard that can be—maybe make some suggestions about what to say to the new kid.

My overarching message is that we’re on an expired parenting paradigm and it needs to change. Let’s get with the program and be enthusiastic about it, while we’re at it.

About the Author

Jill Suttie

Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good’s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine.

10 Common Lies Parents Need to Stop Telling Their Kids (To Keep Their Credibility)

By Dr. Magdalene Battles | Lifehack

As a parent, I totally understand sometimes we lie to protect our kids, we love them so much that we don’t want them to get hurt. However, I came to realize that lying actually does no good to our kids, it will only backfire and turn our kids into liars. That’s obviously not what we want so we need to stop doing that and be true to both ourselves and our kids.

Some of the Everyday Lies Parents Tell Unconsciously

Here are some examples of lies that parents will often tell their kids, along with better solutions. These are examples to help you brainstorm your own solutions to the little lies you may be telling your child on a regular basis.

1. “Santa Clause is watching you.”

Instead of threatening them with Santa not giving them gifts, take away something in the here and now so they know their behavior has immediate consequences. If they are fighting with their sister and you want the fighting to stop so you say Santa is watching (and eventually they will find out you are a big fat liar on this one) have a consequence for their behavior. Have a realistic punishment like taking away electrics for a few hours or giving them a time out period. The one asks parenting method works well for siblings fighting and is explained in this article: Effective Way of Talking with Children.

2. “I will never let anything bad happen to you.”

This may be your intention, but it may not be possible. You can’t protect your child 100% of the time. Instead, use the truth, but frame it so the child does feel protected, yet aware of real dangers. Saying something like “I will always try to protect you, but there are bad people out there so that’s why I don’t want you to wander away from me in a store, as there are kids that are taken from their Mommies and Daddies. I am here to protect you, but if you wander away, then I am not there and you could be putting yourself in danger”. It may be scary, but its also a truthful reality. You don’t want to cause them any undue anxiety, so choose your words carefully. Let them know although kidnappings are rare, it is still something all kids and parents should be aware of so that they are cautious of strangers when out in public.

3. “The park is closed.”

You know very well the park is open, but you don’t have time to take the kids to the park because you have errands to run. Instead of lying, be honest. “Mommy can’t take you to the park today because we have to get groceries for the week so we can have meals and I have some other important errands that have to be done today.” They may whine and complain, but that’s ok, they will learn the reality of life is that they can’t have everything that they want all the time. Telling the truth also helps make you an honest parent and not a liar, because eventually they will get old enough and realize you are lying about the park being closed.

4. “It won’t hurt, I promise”

They need to get a shot from the doctor, but they are screaming and you want the screaming to stop so they can get the shot. However, they are screaming because they know you are lying. You said it wouldn’t hurt the first time they got shots. They know better. They learned from the pain that you lied. Don’t lie. Let them know it will be a small poke, a little pain, but then it’s over and they get a sucker. Explain that they need the shot, for whatever health reason. Don’t be a liar. This one will quickly make you the bad guy because if you tell them it won’t hurt and hurts immensely you are the one to blame. The reality is that shots do hurt, but the pain does go away, so lead with that bit of truth and you will find them trusting you more, not less.

5. “You are the best artist, great job on your painting!”

Don’t bother praising your child when you aren’t sincere. Believe it or not, kids are not as gullible as you think. They can pick up on the tone of voice, body language, and know when you aren’t completely being truthful. Instead, you can praise their creativity or the ingenuity in their work. Praise them for something you believe is true about their work and abilities, not an end product that is just mediocre.

6. “Its bedtime!”

It’s only 7:30 and not really time for bed since you know their actual bedtime is 8:00. Simple solution: “its time to start getting ready for bed”. Words matter. You may have meant that its time to get ready for bed, but what you said was that “its bedtime”. Once they begin to tell time, you want to make sure you are saying what you mean and mean what you say. It’s all about maintaining the trust between you and your child. It may be a little white lie, but lies upon lies mount up to become bigger trust issues.

7. “I don’t know what happened to your artwork that was hanging on the fridge.”

You know what happened to it because you threw it away. You can’t keep every piece of artwork because you simply don’t have the space to keep all of it. The best solution is to explain this to your child. Show them the drawer or bin where you do keep the best or most meaningful pieces that they make. They can put things there if they want to make sure they are saved. If the bin gets full, then its time for them to help sort through and recycle the pieces that they no longer want to keep. This gives them responsibility for their artwork, and it also makes you an honest parent.


7 Simple Self-Care Tips for Busy Moms

The moment you meet your new baby, your whole world changes. Suddenly, your precious child becomes your primary focus. This shift in both mindset and attention is essential to your newborn’s health and happiness, but you still need a self-care routine.

It’s normal to feel guilty or nervous about taking time away from your little one, but self-care is anything but selfish. According to Verywell Health, moms who take the time to nourish their minds and bodies reduce their chances of developing depression or anxiety. When you choose to relax and unwind, you’ll also help yourself to avoid caregiver burnout and enjoy a better immune system. Each one of these advantages also benefits your baby.

As you adjust to your new life as a mom, take our big sister advice. Try a few of these self-care ideas. By creating a holistic plan for your wellness, you will stay energized and ready for the challenges of parenting. You may also find that you’re better equipped to juggle your family life with your career or caring for your other children.

1. Take Time to Unwind

During the first few months after birth, there is so much to do for your baby—and so little time for yourself. However, it’s important to carve out a few moments each day to take it easy. It doesn’t have to take long or be complicated, especially in the newborn stage.

Take a warm bath, hot shower or read for 30 minutes before bed. Other ideas include having a hot cup of tea, enjoying aromatherapy or watching your favorite television show.  If you find it difficult to take time for yourself during the work week, ask your partner or a family member to watch the baby on the weekend. Take an hour to get a massage, shop solo at the mall or take a nap.

2. Focus on Your Whole Health

When you meet with your OB-GYN for your follow-up appointments, they will give you a vaginal exam and discuss your physical health. You’ll also talk about exercising again. According to the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the time will vary depending on whether you had a vaginal birth or C-section. Some women will be able to resume a regular workout program six to eight weeks after they have their baby, but you should talk to your provider about your unique situation.

As you start a new workout plan, you’ll also want to care for your mental health. Watch out for the signs of postpartum depression and visit your doctor if you think you’re experiencing any symptoms. You can also unwind and de-stress by doing deep breathing exercises, taking walks in nature and meditating. Other ways you can focus on your mind and body include engaging in relaxing strength and cardio exercises such as Pilates, yoga and tai chi.

3. Save Time on Important Tasks

One of the best ways to save time and energy as a new mom is to shop online. Your little one will grow quickly, so purchase your baby clothes at your favorite online stores and boutiques. Many retailers offer free shipping and quick delivery. As an added bonus, you can find the cutest pajamas, booties and bodysuits while your newborn naps or sleeps.

Other ways to add time to your day include ordering grocery delivery and investing in a weekly meal subscription service. You can also consider hiring a maid service or babysitter for your other kids until your schedule becomes more predictable. Try to budget these extras while you’re pregnant. Knowing what to expect will help to keep stress and anxiety at a minimum. You’ll also have more time to focus on yourself.

4. Express Yourself

If you had a hobby before you had your baby, don’t stop now. The benefits of creative expression include enhanced physical well-being and the ability to manage difficult emotions. Be sure to paint, play your guitar or sing as often as possible. New moms who don’t have a favorite idea can try dancing to their favorite playlist, baking a cake or coloring in an adult activity book.

Journaling is an excellent way to communicate what’s on your mind and free yourself of negative thoughts. You can also use your notebook or digital diary as a gratitude journal. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, jot down a few reasons why you’re thankful for your life. A healthy baby, cozy home or a flexible job are all things to be grateful for. You can also go back and review your positive notes whenever you’re feeling tired or stressed.

5. Socialize with Adults

There’s nothing better than spending time with your baby, but you still need time to chat with a fellow adult. Ask your partner if you can talk about each other’s day when you’re winding down before bed. You can also schedule a weekly call with a parent or best friend.

It’s wonderful to receive support for your daily challenges. However, you should also make time to talk about fun topics, such as a favorite TV series or an upcoming family party. You may also choose to get your mind off your needs or anxieties by listening to a loved one talk about what’s going on in their life.

6. Date Your Partner

You and your partner are in love with your newborn, but you still need to make time for each other. A combination of fatigue and added responsibilities can take a toll on intimacy, which can affect your overall relationship. The team at WebMD says you can reconnect with your spouse after pregnancy by talking about your feelings, focusing on the reasons you fell in love and going out on dates. This can be anything from a little time out of the house to get ice cream or an overnight at a romantic bed and breakfast.

If you’re worried about leaving your baby with a loved one, start small. Take 30 minutes in the car with your spouse to chat and get a coffee. Once you feel comfortable, you can try having an hour-long lunch at your favorite restaurant or seeing a short movie. Eventually, you’ll be able to branch out and spend the afternoon together. The time away will be invaluable for your emotional health and wellness.

7. Accept Help

New mom guilt can make it difficult to accept help. However, experienced mothers will encourage you to take all the assistance you can get. A network of caring friends and family members will make the baby feel loved throughout his or her life. Since you can attend to your basic needs and unwind, you’ll also feel healthier inside and out.

Sometimes, your partner, neighbor or sibling may not know what you need. When you’re not receiving offers for support, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help. Communicate your request clearly, such as asking for an hour of babysitting to go to the grocery store or an extra hand in the kitchen during the holidays. Being honest about your limitations will allow you to find help faster so you can better juggle each of your responsibilities.

Self-Care Is Essential for New Moms

Engaging in self-care doesn’t make you a neglectful mother. It’s actually the opposite. Caring for your body and mind will allow you to give more to your child. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t started a self-care routine because every day is a great day to begin. Choose a few activities and then review how they make you feel. Adjust as necessary.

Your schedule and baby’s needs will change rapidly over their first year, which means your self-care goals are sure to change as well. As long as you keep a flexible and positive attitude, you can focus on your little one while keeping physical illness and stress at bay. The self-care skills you learn will help you stay well throughout your lifetime. You’ll even be able to share them with your baby once they get older.

How to Help Teens Shelter in Place

By  Christine Carter | Greater Good Magazine 

Last weekend, my kids began arriving home from their various schools. We invited our oldest daughter’s longtime best friend, Lena, over for a homecoming dinner. She’s like a member of our family, and we were excited to see her, too, despite closing schools and social-distancing recommendations. The kids are all healthy, we reasoned. We had Lena wash her hands when she came in; we resisted hugging her.

On Monday we got a government order to shelter in place and having had Lena over the night before suddenly seemed like a reckless mistake. But not all families in our neighborhood agree.

Parents all around me are reasoning that their high schoolers have been hanging out together anyway, so they’ve already “shared germs.” Lots of seemingly rational (but dangerously short-sighted and scientifically unvalidated) arguments for letting kids out of the house are circulating, including the belief that teens and college students won’t get seriously sick, and that they aren’t contributing to the spread of COVID-19 beyond their “friend groups.”

Teenagers, college students—and other families—can be difficult to control. When asked how she is holding up, a friend texted “2 of my kids are at home being good citizens and students doing homework. The other is at the beach with her friends being a part of the problem.”

Another worried mother of younger kids proclaimed: “Why, for the love of God, is it so hard to follow the guidelines and ISOLATE?”

It isn’t that we aren’t trying. Isolating teenagers and young adults are hard. Another friend is understandably coming unglued. “My kids keep skating around rules and being with friends every time I close my office door to work.” She has two teenagers and a big corporate job she’s got to keep doing. She’s trying to care for elderly in-laws, and her younger daughter needs medication that she’s having trouble securing. “I feel like I should be able to control them. I’m trying. But my anxiety is so heavy. I’m emotionally exhausted.”

Time is of the essence. Accounts from Italy make it clear that we need to get our young people—those who are carrying the coronavirus but not showing any symptoms—to stop spreading it. TODAY matters.  “It only takes a one-day difference in action to see a 40 percent reduction in cases—that’s enormous. It really conveys the urgency of the situation,” infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Britta Jewell explained to the New York Times.

Teenagers and college students have amplified innate, developmental motivations that make them hard to isolate at home. The hormonal changes that come with puberty conspire with adolescent social dynamics to make them highly attuned to social status and peer group. Friends feel like everything. Social isolation is hard for humans of all ages, but it is more profoundly distressing for adolescents—especially if they all think that their friends are all hanging out without them.

In addition, their hard-wired attunement to social status makes them super touchy about whether or not they are being treated like children. Their most central developmental job during adolescence is to individuate, to leave the nest and become independent from us, their parents. So, of course, they feel infantilized when ordered to shelter in place.

What can we do to encourage teens to comply with social-distancing measures? We need to work with their existing motivations. Teens are unlikely to be persuaded by (brilliant! logical! passionate!) arguments that conflict with their innate, developmental motives.

Let’s start with their high motivation to individuate, to be out from under our control. We can work with this existing motivation by treating them like competent young adults rather than little kids. We can do this by:

  • Expecting them to contribute to our household in meaningful ways. They can help with meal prep and household cleaning. We expect our kids to keep family spaces clear of their belongings, and also to help with actual cleaning by vacuuming and wiping down the counters. Being nice to their siblings—keeping conflict low amid tight quarters—is a meaningful contribution. Planning fun activities for the family to do together might be the most important contribution of all!
  • Allowing them to manage themselves, their own schoolwork, and their other responsibilities without nagging or cajoling. This does not mean that we won’t set expectations or establish the structure and support they need to function in this new reality. Nor does it mean that we won’t be engaged with them. It does mean that we give them space to operate freely within the limits we agree to as a family.
  • Asking them to help us with our work to the extent that they can. “My kids keep interrupting me on Zoom calls for stupid shit,” a friend texted me, frustrated to the brink. Most teens need us to be clear about how their constant interruptions affect us. Try using feeling words instead of criticizing them. For example, explain rather than accuse: “I feel embarrassed and stressed when I’m on a video call and you keep asking me questions” vs. “It is inconsiderate and selfish of you to keep interrupting my meetings.”
  • Using non-controlling, non-directive language. One good way to do this is to ask them questions instead of telling them what to do. For example: “Is there anything that I can do to help you get some exercise today?” My all-time favorite question is this one: “What’s your plan?” As in: “What’s your plan for getting your homework done?” This makes it clear that they are still in control of their own behavior, and it helps put them in touch with their own motivations and intentions. Often teens simply need to make a plan, and sometimes if they aren’t asked to articulate it, they won’t do it—especially those who are used to being nagged because they know their parents will eventually get frustrated and do their planning for them.
  • Acknowledge that all of this is so hard. Many students coming home from school are experiencing great losses right now. Their feelings of grief, anxiety, stress, and isolation are hard to cope with. And also: One of the great lessons of adulthood is that they can do hard things.

We can also tap into their high attunement to the social world by emphasizing their social value—how their lives have a purpose, meaning, and impact on other people. While Generation Z’s impact on this global pandemic might be obvious to us adults, it’s not too many of our kids. Here is what we said to our teen who was resisting isolation:

  • We know that you want to see your friends. We know that you are bored and lonely.
  • We hope you see clearly that you are not a passive actor here, along for the ride. Your actions are directly affecting the course of this crisis.
  • We are wondering: What do you truly care most about in this crisis?
  • Who can you help, and who are you concerned that you might harm? How can you use your skills to help the world right now?
  • Your grandchildren are going to ask you about the role you played during this pandemic. What will you tell them?

If they just aren’t getting it, try humor. This video is wildly inappropriate in many ways, which is why it could be hugely effective with teenagers. Not comfortable with that? Try asking them to demonstrate their understanding of this graph. Show them the videos coming out of Italy and hospitals here in the US pleading with folks to stay at home.

Help them see that this is not about what they want or expect from life. It’s about what life is expecting from them right now. We expect them to rise to the occasion; to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

The best outcome right now is that we get the virus under control before our hospitals are collapsing. If this happens quickly, my family will accuse me of being too aggressive. They may be angry with me for having unnecessarily ruined a few weeks of their lives. That is the outcome I am hoping for.

No matter what happens, there are incredible, urgent life lessons here. We are teaching our kids both directly and through our own example how to take responsibility—not just for ourselves and our immediate family, but for our local and global community, as well.

We are all being called to demonstrate our character and commitment to others and to the greater good. Our young people are being called, too. Let’s give them the opportunity to step up.

About the Author

Christine Carter

Christine Carter, Ph.D. is a Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center. She is the author of The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction (BenBella, 2020), The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less (Ballantine Books, 2015), and Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents (Random House, 2010). A former director of the GGSC, she served for many years as the author of its parenting blog, Raising Happiness. Find out more about Christine here.

Five Ways Parents Can Help Prevent Teen Depression

Young lady looking depressed-compressed

By Jill Suttie | Greater Good Magazine

Parents are understandably worried about their teens. Last year’s spate of teen suicides in Palo Alto, coupled with high rates of teen depression, makes parents wonder what they could be doing to better help their kids navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of their adolescent years.

Fortunately, scientists who study teen depression have some preliminary advice. By looking at new findings in neuroscience, as well as other psychological research and longitudinal data, scientists are zeroing in on a better understanding of what impacts teen depression and how to prevent it. Here are some of the suggestions coming out of science.

1. Provide continual warmth, caring, and support

Parents may think that they have little to offer teens, but recent studies suggest otherwise.

In one 2016 study of a large group of teenagers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, results showed that teens with high levels of parental support had lower depression symptoms and lower cortisol and C-reactive protein levels—two physiological markers associated with depression—than teens with less supportive relationships. Interestingly, peer support levels did not change these markers, suggesting that parental support may be key.

In another study, Eva Telzer and colleagues found that having a positive relationship with parents decreased activation of the ventral striatum, the reward center of the brain, during a risk-taking exercise performed in the lab. This suggests that parents can help reduce higher levels of teen risk-taking, which has been associated with depression.

So what does positive parental support actually look like? According to developmental neuroscientist Ron Dahl, the best way to help guide your teens is to provide appropriate supports without discounting their emotional lives. He suggests showing empathy, asking open-ended rather than pointed questions, seeking to understand rather than correct, being gentle when your teen’s words and actions don’t match and showing support for their growing autonomy. A combination of warmth and appropriate limits, as well as looking for the positive in your child, is the best way to help them avoid depression.

2. Teach and model strong social and emotional skills

Just like adults, teens often have to cope with difficult social and emotional situations—changing friendships, romantic relationships going sour, disappointments in their work, the stress of academics or college admissions procedures. Yet because brains are designed to heighten emotions during adolescence, coping with these challenges can be particularly difficult, making teens more prone to depression.

In one study, how parents responded to their teen’s distress during a stressful task impacted how the teens were able to handle anxiety in the real world. Teens were asked to make a speech while being evaluated, and those teens whose parents demonstrated low levels of anxiety during the speech were less reactive later on in emotionally charged interactions with their peers. This suggests that parents can help their kids face emotional challenges by modeling positive emotional responses.

Parents can also help their kids through emotional coaching, according to Christine Carter, starting with accepting their and their teen’s feelings. Some recent studies suggest that practicing mindfulness—nonjudgmental awareness of one’s present emotions, thoughts, and experiences—can help parents keep their cool when interacting with teens, which helps teens avoid depression, anxiety, and drug use (which has been itself linked to depression).

Similarly, a recent randomized control trial found that a nine-session mindfulness group program offered in schools significantly decreased depression symptoms in students immediately afterward and up to six months later in comparison to students in a control group. Other social-emotional programs in schools have had similar results, and have also helped teens do better academically.

3. Encourage positive peer relationships

All teens look to their peers for approval and status. But if these relationships are fraught, they may lead to depression.

In a 2005 study of 421 adolescents by Annette La Greca and Hannah Harrison, having positive friendships, being in a romantic relationship, and feeling a part of a social crowd were protective against developing social anxiety and depression. However, negativity—or worse, victimization and abuse—in friendships and romantic relationships predicted social anxiety and depression.

One recent study found that teens with at least one close friend were more psychologically resilient because friendship helped them to cope with emotional setbacks in healthier ways. Other studies have shown that high-quality friendships and being part of an accepting social crowd provide benefits down the road including not only less depression and anxiety, but also better-quality adult relationships and improved physical health. Longitudinal research on adolescent mental health suggests that we don’t want to discount our teens’ friendships or discourage normal group bonding.

So how can parents help? By not freaking out because our kids have “too many” or “not enough” friends, and by understanding that taking risks in relationships is part of growing up. Parents can find time to talk to their teens about what it means to be a caring friend and a thoughtful romantic partner, and how to protect oneself if a relationship goes sour. Being a role model yourself for how to negotiate differences in friendships can help your kids see that relationships don’t always have to be perfect to be nurturing and that close friendships can last a lifetime.

4. Encourage teens to seek purpose in life

As teens put lots of effort into excelling at schoolwork and after-school activities, it’s important that those activities have some personal meaning for them, rather than serving as padding for college applications.

Research shows that having a sense of purpose in life—or even searching for one—is beneficial for teens, especially as they get older. In one study by Kendall Bronk and colleagues, the purpose was associated with greater life satisfaction and hope in all age groups, including teens.

Bronk suggests that parents need to engage their teens by asking open-ended questions about what they care about and then listening carefully to their responses, in order to assess where their sense of purpose may lie. She also suggests practicing gratitude as a way of encouraging purpose, and other research has found that gratitude also provides direct psychological benefits for teens.

5. Work to change the school environment

We want what’s best for our kids; but some of that may involve things beyond the scope of our own family—systemic changes in schools, for example, that could lead to better psychological health for teens.

In light of research showing that teens who are sleep-deprived do worse in school and have a higher likelihood of developing depression, some parents are pressuring high schools to have later starting times. In addition, parents are insisting that schools provide healthy food to students, so they will get good nutrition needed to prevent mental health issues down the road.

As teen advocate Vicki Abeles argues in her book, Beyond Measure, petitioning schools to assign less homework to students over holidays and vacations, while providing more specialized tutoring for kids who may need the extra attention, may help kids find more balance in their lives. Restorative justice programs at schools that help teens take responsibility for problematic behaviors (like bullying) and make amends to those affected have shown promise in reducing absenteeism and improving social climates for all students.

Of course, the path to teen depression can be varied and complicated. We can’t simply apply a formula and expect everything to turn out fine. As my brother-in-law told me when my first son was born, “Children are not machines.” That means that we must treat them as individuals and recognize their unique skills and challenges while providing the kinds of supports they need to thrive, whatever challenges they face.

In that way, we not only help teens to avoid problems like depression, but we also help shape a positive future for them and for society.

About The Author

Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good‘s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine.

Read more great articles at Greater Good.

How to Raise Boys Who Are in Touch With Their Feelings

By Jill Suttie | Greater Good Magazine

After college, psychologist Michael Reichert worked as a counselor at the family court, helping make recommendations for the many teenage boys caught up in delinquent acts like stealing, fighting, and running away from home. When reading through police and school reports, he would often be struck by how many of these offenders had had extremely troubled, heartbreaking experiences of abuse and neglect.

“There was a common thread—an unspoken tragedy—at work . . . in my clients’ stories: their maleness,” he writes in his new book, How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men. “In each case, a confounded sense of self, some degree of numbness and cluelessness, disconnection and mental isolation, lay behind choices that ranged from self-defeating to self-destructive.”

The problem is one that’s rampant in American culture: Boys are raised to ignore their feelings or at least keep them bottled up inside. But this only prevents them from understanding themselves and connecting with others in deeper ways.

Reichert’s book argues that by pushing boys to reach some cultural ideal of a “real man”—devoid of feeling and never vulnerable—we are ignoring their social needs and making them sicker, sadder, angrier, and more volatile. He calls for us as parents and as a society to raise boys differently so they can grow in positive, healthy ways.

The cost of boys’ disconnection

Though much of the current cultural debate spotlights the suffering of girls and women in society—still a critical issue, of course—Reichert’s book shines a light on how disconnected males suffer, too. For example, boys generally enter school less prepared socially and behaviorally and adapt more slowly to the school environment, making learning more difficult for them than for girls. They also tend to receive harsher punishments for misbehavior in school than girls—especially boys of color—making them miss more school time, which puts them more at risk for later criminal behavior.

As they grow up, men who adhere to male stereotypes most strongly tend to suffer setbacks—they are more likely to be depressed and suicidal and to have relationship troubles. They often feel disconnected socially and carry distorted beliefs about sex and love—such as believing that their sexual urges are uncontrollable or they don’t need intimacy—that can lead to misunderstandings or, worse, sexual coercion or assault. And they tend to receive poorer health care and die younger than women.

“Disconnected males show up at the wrong end of gender gaps in education, employment, and civic participation,” writes Reichert.

What can be done to turn this around? It will probably not be easy, as accepted gender roles are hard to change overnight. As Reichert points out in his book, many parents still hold to the myth of the “mama’s boy”—spoiled or “made soft” by loving attention. As boys grow, they are called upon to fight and to distance themselves from their male friends, or risk being called “sissies” or considered “gay” when they are not.

“The historic model of boyhood, unchanging for generations, is woefully behind the times,” writes Reichert. The social pressures to conform are hard to ignore, but the damage they do is unmistakable.

How to raise a boy

Luckily, the news is not all grim. Reichert offers some important tips for parents who want to help the boys in their life grow into compassionate men. Much of his advice centers around developing closer relationships with boys, while helping them to grow in autonomy and keep their humanity at the forefront. Here are some of his recommendations.

Nurture boys with love. There is no reason to tear boys away from their mothers’ arms at a young age to somehow “toughen them up.” They will move toward autonomy when they are good and ready, and trying to keep love at bay is a mistake. As developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik writes in her book The Gardener and the Carpenter, kids need loving relationships to help their brains grow, and the warmth, safety, and security offered from a loving parent is necessary for healthy development. The more we deprive boys of this nurturing, the more difficulty they face in life.

Listen to boys and show interest. The pressures to conform to toxic forms of masculinity are very strong for boys, even from a young age. To help them stay strong in the face of these pressures, it’s important that parents and teachers help boys develop integrity—an alignment of their values, goals, and behavior.

An adult mentor—such as a parent, teacher, or coach—who truly listens and shows up with care and persistence can help boys to figure out who they really are and to follow their own course. “When caregivers muster the willingness to simply listen and observe, without offering judgments, it can make a world of difference to boys who are trying to develop confidence in their own judgment,” writes Reichert. Though sometimes hard to do, listening and expressing curiosity typically works better than offering advice.

Encourage emotional expression. Boys have feelings just as girls do; they are simply not encouraged to express them, or they feel unsafe doing so. Parents can remove those barriers by building trust and by checking their own reactions when boys share difficult emotions like angst, anger, or sadness.

While it might be difficult to not take a son’s anger personally or not be hijacked by your own worries, being receptive to a boy’s entire repertoire of emotions helps them to understand the value of these emotions and to recognize and manage them more easily. As Reichert writes, “Gaining insight into how feelings influence thinking and behavior is the defining skill in emotional intelligence.”

Promote autonomy, not independence. Too often boys receive the message that their goal for adulthood is independence—a Lone Ranger kind of ideal, where they act alone and in isolation. But what boys really need is autonomy: knowing how to advocate for their own needs and values in relation to others. It’s important to support boys as they learn this—but that doesn’t mean intervening in their relationships or preventing them from experiencing disappointment and loss, says Reichert. Instead, providing a safety net as they venture into new territory will help them grow in autonomy.

Autonomy needn’t be pushed; it emerges naturally in the course of relationships—such as when sons and parents disagree about family rules and expectations, and sons are encouraged to express independent thought rather than simply acquiesce. This ultimately allows for disagreement without antagonism. Reichert writes, “While compromise and negotiation are always necessary for any relationship, apparent conflicts often evaporate when respect, listening, and the release of tense feelings are encouraged.”

Advocate for boys. It helps if parents understand the pressures their boys face while growing into men. Too often, adults suffer from their own preconceived notions of what a boy is or should be, and they fail to see their boy’s underlying need for connection.

A good place to start is finding ways to see the good in him and reminding him how he delights you. Outside of that, you can also educate yourself about boys by reading developmental books that shine a light on their humanity and encourage empathy and compassion for their plight. And you can stand up for them when they are bruised by the insensitivity of others, letting them know you see them and love them for who they are—not for someone else’s vision of who they should be.

Reichert’s book is a convincing argument for all of us, as a society, to better support boys in their development. It’s up to us to make sure we don’t inadvertently pressure them to conform to some distorted view of manhood, but instead, help lift them up. That’s the only way to encourage them to fulfill their full potential as men…and as human beings.

About the Author


Why Do Children Born To Older Parents Have Fewer Behavior Problems

By Mae Chan | Prevent Disease

Researchers found that children of older parents tend to have fewer externalizing behavior problems than children of younger parents. They also found that parents’ age was unrelated to children’s internalizing behaviors.

Parents are generally happier caring for children than they are during other daily activities. But does a parent’s age affect the behavior of their children?

One study examined the diet and sperm quality of 80 healthy men between the age of 22 and 80 years, finding that men older than 44 who consumed a ‘healthy intake of micronutrients’ had less damage to the DNA of sperm than those who did not. This may translate to one biological process that affects the health of children. Are there other factors?

Since 1995, parents in many Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries and in the United States have been having their first babies at a later age. Amid this trend in delayed childbearing, a new Dutch study considered the behavior problems of children born to older parents. Specifically, researchers looked at externalizing behaviors (e.g., aggression) and internalizing behaviors (e.g., anxiety, depression) of children born to older parents when the youth were 10 to 12 years old.

The study was done by researchers at Utrecht University, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Erasmus Medical Center, and University Medical Center Groningen. It appears in the Child Development journal of the Society for Research in Child Development.

“Evidence points to an association between fathers’ age and autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia, so we wanted to know if there is an association in the general population between parents’ age and common behavior problems in children, beyond the clinical diagnoses,” says Marielle Zondervan-Zwijnenburg, a postdoctoral researcher in methodology and statistics at Utrecht University, who led the study. “With respect to common behavior problems, we found no reason for future parents to worry about the harmful effect of having a child at an older age.”

Researchers analyzed the problem behavior of 32,892 Dutch children when they were 10 to 12 years old. Problem behavior was rated by fathers, mothers, teachers, and the children themselves through a series of standardized instruments.

The children, all of whom were born after 1980, were part of four studies–Generation R, the Netherlands Twin Register, the Research on Adolescent Development and Relationships-Young Cohort (RADAR-Y), and the Tracking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey. The children represented the entire Dutch geographic region across all strata of society and a range of socioeconomic statuses.

In the Generation R study, mothers’ age at child’s birth ranged from 16 to 46 and fathers’ age at child’s birth ranged from 17 to 68. In the Netherlands Twin Register, mothers’ age at child’s birth ranged from 17 to 47 and fathers’ from 18 to 63. In the RADAR-Y study, mothers’ age at child’s birth ranged from 17 to 48 and fathers’ from 20 to 52. And in the Tracking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey, mothers’ age at child’s birth ranged from 16 to 44 and fathers’ from 18 to 52.

The study found that the children of older parents had fewer externalizing behavior problems, as reported by the parents. The findings of fewer externalizing behavior problems persisted as reported by parents and teachers even after considering the families’ socioeconomic status, so the researchers concluded that the favorable effect of parents’ age on children’s behavior was not solely due to their income level. The study also found that parents’ age appeared unrelated to children’s internalizing behavior problems.

The study’s authors note that they focused only on children’s externalizing and internalizing behavior problems, so the findings cannot be generalized to other behaviors–though they are extending their research to cognition and attention problems. In addition, the researchers assessed children’s behavior problems during early adolescence; they plan to extend their work to other points in development.

“It’s possible that some of the reason why older parents have children with fewer problems like aggression is that older parents have more resources and higher levels of education,” explains Dorret Boomsma, professor of biological psychology and behavior genetics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, who co-authored the study. “But it is important to note that the higher average educational level of older parents does not completely explain the decreased levels of externalizing problems in their children.”

Read more great articles at Prevent Disease.

What Happened to Family Dinners? Why We Should Bring Them Back

By Alex Morris | Lifehack

Do family dinners still exist? As a tradition, it’s certainly dying off. This is largely thanks to hectic modern lifestyles and an abundance of new technology. You’re far more likely to stuff a high fat, high-calorie takeaway into your system than sit down and catch up with your family over a carefully prepared dinner.

But today we’re championing the family dinner and why you should bring it back into your lives. There are some surprising reasons with room for an inspiring outcome.

Fighting for the Family Dinner Cause

It may seem like something not even worth considering, but sitting down to eat, talk, and the bond can have a far-reaching effect on your family.

I can look back and see when my typical, dysfunctional British family ditched eating together in favor of watching Frasier on VHS. That was around 2000 – it solved a few issues, but in the long-run did more damage than good.

Why? Well, strangely enough, there are science-backed reasons for taking up family dinners. And many of these benefits are particularly important for your kids.

At a young age, they’re impressionable and in a habit-forming phase. And modern technology isn’t helping – many young people struggle with anxiety and depression due to the likes of social media. And they’re addicted to their devices – in 2015, a Common Sense Media census found they spend at least a third of their day glued to their smartphone.[1]

In a Psycom piece about the issue, it concludes:[2]

“Connection is key when it comes to parenting teens in the modern world. The single best thing you can do for your teen is to make time for face-to-face connections and simply be present.”

Additionally, from 2014 there was another revealing study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In Who are the school truants?[3] it found youths who didn’t eat (i.e. bond) regularly with their parents were:

  • Far more likely to miss school.
  • More likely to suffer from obesity.
  • And suffer from alienation to a greater extent.

Benefits of Family Dinners

Okay, so I feel I’ve made a convincing argument in the name of family dinners. But it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the key benefits of eating together.

1. Improve development

Simply put, if you have young ones around, then sitting around at a meal having a discussion helps them to develop. They can improve their language skills, social interaction, and etiquette (i.e. not chewing with their mouth open – as a misophonia sufferer, that’s an all-important one!).

They’ll improve their manners, patience, and even cultural knowledge. For instance, sure you can use a traditional knife and fork. But you can also try out other dishes and get them skilled up with chopsticks. There’s a skill they can show off to their friends.

2. Better mental health

As mentioned above, with mental health issues growing amongst young people, one way to alleviate this is with family dinners. It may sound like an ineffective, if not an outright strange solution, but the scientific research backs up the claim.

A 2012 study from the Center On Addiction found that:[4]

So along with various other family bonding exercises, a family meal is an excellent way to engage with your children and help them develop.

3. Better physical health

The more control you have over your child’s diet, the better food they’ll eat. If you leave your kids to their own devices, the chances are they’ll head off and gorge on fast food, takeaways, unhealthy snacks, and fizzy drinks.

If you eat at home, you can make better food choices. You have total control over what’s going into your meals – even at restaurants, a healthy option may continue unexpectedly high amounts of sugar or salt.

But not only does it allow you to add more vegetables to your meals (the cornerstone of any healthy diet!), it also enables you to talk to your kids about eating healthily.

This is particularly important in an age where it’s bizarrely easy to consume a vast amount of unhealthy produce for little cost. Eating healthily takes a little more effort, but the dinner table is a great place to make this clear to your young ones.

4. Grow your family bond

This is an obvious one. But the more time you spend together, the more you’ll grow your family bond.

Don’t restrict this to family meals, of course. We recently ran the following piece that can add to a busy schedule of activities: 25 Super Fun Things to Do With Family to Strengthen Your Bond.

5. Cut costs

If you’ve fallen into a habit of hiring a takeaway more or less every day of the week, then you’re losing a lot of money.

Family dinners are often much more cost-effective. The Simple Dollar found:[5]

“The average American spends $232 per month eating meals prepared outside the home.”

From its research, it then found:

“The average American would save $36.75 per person per week by moving all of their meals from restaurants to home-prepared meals.”

Of course, eating out is also a great way to bond with the family. But when it’s costing a lot of money, then turn your attention back to family meals is a great way to save some cash, as well as improve your relationships.