Posted in Family, Parenting

Raising Empathetic Kids

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back after a busy week at work. I’ve been working on my story, too, but it’s not going as fast as I hoped it would. Life keeps getting in the way. LOL.

But enough about that. Today I’d like to talk about empathy. Did you know that kids today are 40% less empathetic than they were thirty years ago? That is a scary statistic. On the positive side though, empathy can be taught.

Good parenting is more important than ever now. Our world has changed dramatically with the surge in technological advances. With our ability to create our image on social media regardless if it is true or not, and the way our politicians spin their stories to look the best to voters is an indication these changes aren’t always positive.

So, what can parents do to make sure they’re raising empathetic kids? The first step is to make sure parents provide a positive environment where kids feel secure. This creates an environment where they feel safe and is the foundation for a positive learning environment. So, let’s talk about empathy.

 There are two types of empathy. The first is affective empathy. This is something we’re born with, and whether we develop it further depends on our experiences and environment. So how do we flex our children’s empathic muscle?

 We must help kids develop self-regulating tools. Tools that help them regulate their own negative emotions. Once they know how to handle their own emotions, they’ll be able to identify those types of emotions in others. Studies have shown kids who know how to regulate their own negative emotions show greater empathetic concern for others.

This means we acknowledge negative emotions rather than dismissing them.  Become an emotion coach. Help your child understand their emotions by labeling and defining them, then give them ways to deal with them.

Another tip is for parents to understand how guilt and shame play a role in empathy. For example,  if a child feels guilty because he made a bad choice, and it resulted in a negative outcome for another,  he’ll more than likely feel empathy toward the other child. However, if a parent tries to shame that child into feeling empathy, he won’t. He’ll resist what his parents are attempting to teach him because he doesn’t like feeling ashamed and instead of being receptive, he’ll be defensive.

Another aspect of empathy is cognitive empathy. This is where your child looks at a situation from another person’s perspective. One good way to do this is to read a story and discuss the events from the perspective of different characters. Did you know that children who read are more empathetic? Studies have shown that children who read have brains that become sensitized to the fictional characters, and this spills over into the real world by teaching kids to see things from another perspective.

So, there you have it a few tips to help teach empathy to our kids. Let’s turn that statistic around. How about you? Do you have some tried and true tips to teaching empathy? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Other articles on empathy:

https://parentingscience.com/teaching-empathy-tips/

https://parentingscience.com/emotion-coaching/

Posted in Parenting, Personal

Are Your Kids Resilient?

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’ve had a busy week of working and running, but sadly not writing, but I hope to remedy that this weekend. But enough about that. Today, I’d like to blog about building resilience in our kids?

It seems like mass shootings are on the rise, suicides are on the rise, and our mental health is declining. These factors tell me that we need to build resilience in our kids. Life is hard and we need to help them handle the curveballs life throws at all of us.

So, how do we create resilience in our kids? I did a little research and I found there are seven key components to building resiliency.

  1. Competence.  Building competence goes beyond getting good grades. One of the best ways to build competence is to ask your child to complete a chore. Have him or her help around the house. Being able to cook and clean for themselves makes our children have confidence in their ability to take care of themselves which is also an important element of self-care.
  • Confidence. In order to build confidence, we as parents need to praise them on their efforts as opposed to their intelligence. Kids who have a high level of confidence will be able to bounce back from failing a task. They are more likely to say they’re tactic didn’t work as opposed to they don’t have the ability to do the task. This is an important distinction.

  • Connection is another key component. Our children need to feel connected to the people around them, their family and friends. Disconnection is an element in mass shootings and suicides. We can help our kids feel connected when they’re struggling to master a skill by sharing our own stories of when we struggled. Knowing that it’s normal to struggle when mastering a skill will help them to overcome their frustration and accomplish their goal.
  • Secure in their character. Studies show that children are born with an innate desire to do the right thing. We as parents can help foster that by encouraging empathic behavior and helping them develop an internal moral compass.
  • Contributors. To help kids feel like contributors, show them how their efforts made the family event a success. Have them help with dinner or with the task of cleaning up, then tell them how their efforts made the task go faster or made it easier for you. Show them their actions matter.
  • Cope. The ability to cope is another key factor in building resilience. Kids may appear confidence, but when things don’t go according to plan, they fall apart. The ability to manage difficult emotions when faced with adversity helps them view the challenge as a stumbling block. Something they can overcome as opposed to believing the task is beyond them.
  • Control. The last factor is control. When a child is raised with consistent caregivers and clear boundaries and connected to the adults in their lives, they feel less stress when challenges arise.

For more information on Building Resilience, click https://www.whitbyschool.org/passionforlearning/7-key-characteristics-of-resilient-children

So, there you have it. The seven key components to building resilience in your kids. How do you build resilience? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Holiday Posts, Parenting, Personal, social media

Be Present This Holiday Season

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a week of work and writing and Christmas shopping. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and this year, I’m hosting Christmas dinner for my extended family. I know it’s going to be a lot of work, but I do enjoy these family events, and the shopping! I love picking out gifts for my loved ones. But enough about that.

Christmas, Be Present This Holiday Season, Lisa Orchard
Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff on Visualhunt

Today, I’d like to talk about being present this holiday season. I’ve noticed over the past year that many people take selfies when they’re out with loved ones and post them on social media. I know this is important when you’re building your brand, but we are so much more than our image on social media.

I challenge everyone to be present with your family and friends this holiday season. Make sure this season is about them and not building your brand. Take pictures for the memories and don’t worry about social media. You can always go back to building your brand after the holidays.

Really enjoy the moment whatever it may be. If you go to a Christmas parade, don’t just take a selfie and be done with it. Put the camera away and be present with your companions. We won’t get these moments back, and they’re so much more satisfying than getting hearts and likes on social media.

Christmas Parade, Parade, Lisa Orchard, Be Present this Holiday Season
Photo credit: jackoraptor on VisualHunt.com

This is how we get our connections back. This is how we strengthen our bonds with our families and friends. This is how we fight disconnection. We can’t afford to become more disconnected than we already are. Research has shown that increased amounts of screen time can be associated with anxiety, depression, and leads to social isolation which in turn leads to lower self-esteem.

I’m not a therapist, but aren’t these all ingredients for mental health issues? What if we increased our ability to be present and strengthen our bonds with family and friends off of social media. Maybe we’d see a decline in mass shootings and suicides.

Social Media, Be Present this Holiday Season, Lisa Orchard
Photo credit: Sean MacEntee on VisualHunt.com

So, let’s make sure we’re present this holiday season and strengthen those bonds with our loved ones. Maybe start some new family traditions or hold up some old ones. My family has started a new tradition of playing cards during our time together, and while we’re playing, we reminisce and laugh about our antics growing up. It’s a great way to foster that connection we all need.

How about you? How do you strengthen your family connections? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Parenting, Serial Killers

My Thoughts on Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer Story

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. The season change is upon us. I’m not ready to give up summer, but fall is here in all its glory. The leaves are changing, and the air is cooler. Time to hunker down in front of the fire and get my writing on. I write more in the winter than I do in the summer. Something about being in front of the fire with my laptop seems to keep the words flowing. I’ve got a few stories I’m working on and I’m excited about where they’re going. I don’t usually work on more than one at a time, but I had this amazing idea for another story while in the midst of the second one, so I had to put the first one on the back burner. I will come back to it.

But enough about that. Today, I want to talk about Jeffery Dahmer. I know. I know. Gruesome topic, but I watched the documentary “Monster” on Netflix, and I have to say it was intriguing. He didn’t have a good home life. His mother took a variety of drugs while she was pregnant with him, and it appears she may have suffered from post-partum depression after the birth of her second son David.

He also had a tumultuous home life. His parents fought often, and his father was absent. He was always working, and his mother wasn’t emotionally capable to take care of Jeffery and his younger brother. In my honest opinion, he was alone since birth.

This lack of parental love and guidance may not have created Jeffery’s problems, but they certainly didn’t help. I wonder if he had grown up in a loving environment, would he have been a totally different person. So, it begs the question, what’s more important nature or nurture. Is being a serial killer something we’re born with, or is it a learned behavior from an abusive or neglectful environment?

In the documentary, they discussed giving Jeffery’s brain to science, and his father was opposed to the idea. He felt nothing could be gained and he wanted to honor his son’s request to be cremated. All of him. His father, Lionel’s, argument was that they had dissected John Wayne Gacy’s brain and didn’t find any abnormalities. It was normal. He felt Jeffery’s would be normal too.

So, that tells me nurture plays a far bigger role in developing healthy kids than nature. This is good to know. We can stop this type of person from developing if we create loving and safe environments for our kids.

I sense a theme here. I’ve written posts about school shootings, mass shootings, and now serial killers, and the underlying theme in all of this is disconnection. This is just another example illustrating how important the parent-child bond is. The stronger the bond, the healthier the child. We can do better. We can raise our kids with intention. Thanks for stopping by and reading my post today. What do you think? Are there ways we can do better as a society in raising our kids? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in community, education, Parenting, Personal

Let’s be more like Finland

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a week of work and writing. I’ve started a new project and I’m happy to report it’s going well. The kids are back in school and we’re settling down to a routine. Summer went to fast for me, and I’m already missing it.

But enough about that, today I’d like to talk about our school system. For children, play is how they learn. They learn how to manipulate their environment through play. As they grow, their play changes. They go to school and start learning to read and write.

Our educational system needs to incorporate play more into the curriculum. Do away with homework and have more recess for the younger kids and maybe some recess for the older ones as well. Finland ranks the highest in education and their system is radically different than ours.

In Finland, kids start school at the age of seven. They start later in the morning between nine and nine forty-five, and homework is frowned upon. We need to mimic their educational system. I’ve also heard that they’re a people who place a high priority on family and community. Are there mass shootings in Finland? Not like in the US. In fact, seventy-three percent of the one hundred and thirty-nine mass shootings in developed companies are attributed to the United States. Not that the educational system is to blame but revamping it couldn’t hurt.

Finland also provides educational options past the traditional college degree. There’s less stress and more emphasis on caring. Spread throughout the day are fifteen and twenty minute intervals where the students can get up and decompress. It seems to be working for them.

We could learn a lot from Finland, and it should be our country’s goal to educate all members of society in a way that’s beneficial for the members. Why aren’t the powers that be looking at this and making changes?

The reason is because our educational system has become a politician’s tool. A way to secure votes from parents. Promises are made but rarely kept. I’m not sure how to go about making the changes we need to make. Any ideas? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

For more information on Finland’s educational system, click on the link below:

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/09/10-reasons-why-finlands-education-system-is-the-best-in-the-world

Posted in Parenting, Personal

Parenting, It’s not for Sissies

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’ve had a busy week of working and writing. I’ve started a new project, and we’ll see where it goes. But enough about that.

Today, I’d like to talk about dealing with your kid’s independence. This stage of parenting is not for sisses, and I seem to be struggling with this one a little bit. I loved being their mom and planning their playdates and watching them learn and grow. Now, they want their independence as well as my approval, and I’m walking the thin line between being a helicopter parent and allowing them to make their own decisions.

Part of me is excited. They’re on their way. I’ve done the hard part. I kept them alive to this point where they’re almost ready to fly. But I still worry. Did I prepare them enough? Did I help them enough with their critical thinking so they’ll make good decisions? Did I prepare them for the big bad world out there?

I won’t know until they’re in a crisis situation. That’s the hard part about parenting. We can try to prepare our kids for life and hope when they have a difficult decision to make, they’ll have the wherewithal to make it, but we won’t know until they’re in the situation.

I can only hope I’ve prepared them enough. I have to let them make their own mistakes and learn from them too. That’s the part I’m going to have a hard time with. How am I going to help them get over a broken heart? What if they get involved with someone who isn’t healthy and has bad relationship skills? This is the part that keeps me awake at night.

I hope I’ve shown them enough love, so if they get involved with an unhealthy individual they know enough to get out.

I hope they’re not afraid to stand up for themselves and stand up for what’s right. I hope they know I’ll always love them even as I’m letting them go.

Sob. I guess all we can really do is teach and hope they’ve learned the lessons we tried to teach. And pray. Lots of prayers. Parenting, it’s not for sissies. How are you getting through this stage, or how did you get through it? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Parenting, Personal

In-Person Connections Part II

Hello everyone! I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week at work and noodling a new idea for a new story. I haven’t started it yet, but it’s brewing, and I’ll be starting it soon. Hubby and I got away for the weekend and we took the boat out on the water. It was good for the soul to get away.

Now that I’m working from home, I need to get out of the house more often. It’s not just kids who’re becoming dependent on their computers for social interaction adults are too.

I just watched a documentary this week about Hunter Moore and his revenge porn website Is Anyone Up. He worked with another individual (Charles Evens) and they hacked into people’s email accounts and stole photos. Many of these photos were naked pictures. So, the first lesson to learn here is don’t store naked photos of yourself in your email account.

He would then load them up on his website for the world to see, and he could get away with this because he claimed someone else submitted them to his website.  This was true for all intents and purposes because the friend he was working with submitted them under a different name and email account after stealing them from the email addresses he’d hacked.

This created a lot of turmoil for the people who were hacked. It ruined lives. Finally, one angry mother went after him after her daughter’s photos were loaded up on the website. It took a few years, but he was finally sent to prison.

But what about the young girls who’re so needy for approval and attention who load up those pictures themselves? One girl on the documentary wanted this guy’s approval so badly she would do anything to get it. She lost her children because of the things he got her to do. He even loaded pictures of her kids up on the website and that’s what got her in trouble.

If this young girl had had a good support system, she would’ve never gotten into this situation. Our kids need a support system, so when they run into someone who’s unhealthy, they won’t fall under their spell. There are no boundaries on the internet. With in-person contact, people are less likely to cross those social boundaries, and the more healthy in-person contact our kids get, they’ll be able to recognize unhealthy behaviors on the internet, and steer clear of those people.

There are ways to provide that support for our kids. Make sure there’s an open line of communication between you and your children. As they get older, they’re less likely to come to you before going to their peers. Get to know their friends and provide them opportunities to get together with them.

Our house happens to be the one the kids tend to gravitate toward, and we have an open-door policy. I’ve told the boys if they’re ever in a sticky situation, they can call us day or night. We don’t want them driving if they’re intoxicated. So far, this hasn’t been an issue and it’s great. I’m proud of my kids. They’re smart and they listen to their mother…most of the time. 😉

How about you, do you have any ideas on how to keep in-person social connection alive? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Parenting, social media

Making Connections

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week of work and running. I didn’t get much writing done this week because I’ve increased the frequency of my runs. I love summer and I’m trying to spend as much time as possible outside. I also have a new idea percolating, and once I get it put together in my head, I’ll be starting a new project.

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about making connections. Last night I went to a movie with a friend, and it was so nice to see her. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of months, and we needed to catch up.

It’s important that we have in person get togethers. Especially now, with the invention of social media where we don’t physically meet anymore. We still need to have social skills. Humans are social animals. We need that interaction to feel connected. We need hugs and physical contact.

Technology is amazing. I love that I can google anything. The internet has made researching for my writing so much easier, but it can’t replace physical touch. I worry about the younger generation’s dependence on their devices. I hear scary stories of them hooking up just for sex and that scares me. Where is the emotional connection that we need for love?

I try to get my kids to socialize in other ways besides social media, and I’ve been successful in getting them to make connections with their friends, but it doesn’t feel the same as when I was younger. The overuse of social media has been linked to depression and anxiety. Experts haven’t proven there’s a link between social media and teen suicide, but along with the rise of social media, there has also been a rise in teen suicide after decades of a decline. This is worrisome. We need to monitor our kids to make sure they’re not becoming dependent on their games or social media, but it’s hard to monitor during the summer months when parents have full time jobs. On the plus side, connecting via the internet is safer in some ways with mass shootings and school shootings on the rise. Plus, with the online connection at least I know where my kids are.  

So, there are positives and negatives to social media use. What are your thoughts? Are you worried our kids will lose the ability to make emotional connections? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in community, current-events, Family, friendship, Health, mental-health, Parenting, Teen

In Real Life Connection vs. Engagement

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a week of work, writing, and running. It’s treadmill season at the Orchard household and I did something to my back the other day when I was running. It hasn’t gotten any better, and I fear I’m going to have to go to the doctor and get it checked out. It has been four days and it hasn’t gotten back to normal. Ugh.

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about staying connected. With social media we can connect any time for any reason, but is it a true connection? I don’t think so, there’s nothing like taking the time to sit down with family and friends and spending good quality time with them.

The social media platforms, be it Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, main intent is to keep you engaged. Behind the scenes, they analyze your likes and comments to learn what your interests are so they can plant more of those interests in your feeds. This keeps you on their site longer, and it appears like you’re connecting with friends and family, but in reality, it’s more about keeping you engaged than connecting with people.

Don’t get me wrong I love social media because it allows me to stay in touch with friends in other states and countries, but it doesn’t take the place of a true connection with your family and friends right here.

Just the other day, I had brunch with some friends and then we spent the afternoon painting together. It was an In Real Life Connection. One in which, I’m learning how to paint, and I must say Bob Ross is right, there are no mistakes just happy little accidents. 😉 But I digress, the point I’m trying to make is we need in person connection now more than ever. If we lose the ability to read social cues and body language, we’re going to set the human race back to the caveman era.

Evidence suggests there is a correlation between the rise in suicide rates and the rise of social media. We have more access to more information than we’ve ever had. That means we have access to chat rooms and forums that are pro-suicide. Our kids have access to these forums. So, if you’re dealing with a child with some mental health issues and they find their way to one of these forums, it could be trouble.

Cyber-bullying has led to suicides as well, especially among the younger crowd. Social media has become an avenue for that also. So, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a connection with your loved ones. We can never truly know what’s going on in someone’s mind unless we watch for the signs.

But that’s not where I want to go with this. I digress again. Sorry. What I want to say is that maybe Social Media is the symptom, and the real disease is lack of connection or disconnection.

I believe that if it’s not the sole cause, it’s a big part of it. So, keep the communication open with your family and friends. Stay connected. Make sure your kids learn how to make an emotional connection with their friends, so they won’t feel isolated.

So how do we stay connected with so many distractions?

  1. Engage in a common interest like hiking or biking or robotics
  2. Have family night where you play a card game or board game
  3. Watch a movie together once a week
  4. Take a family vacation

These are just a few ideas. There are many ways to make connections with your family. How do you connect with yours? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in community, Parenting

Disconnection: The real Monster in School Shootings

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week. I didn’t get much writing done because I had the flu for a couple of days. I’m feeling better, but it took me a few days to recover. I am better and working on my WIP finally. But enough about that. Today I have an important topic to cover.

This week a school shooting happened in Oxford, Michigan. I’m sure you’ve all heard about it. This is the first school shooting I’ve heard about since the pandemic hit. A few years ago, I did a blog post on school shootings and I remember that one of the key factors in them is disconnection.

The individual feels disconnected from their family, school, and community. This happens to kids who’re bullied. During the pandemic, many schools were working virtually and there were no school shootings. Kids weren’t getting together every day. Bullying couldn’t occur. Now, I don’t know if the shooter was bullied or not. There have been conflicting reports on that, but I do believe the disconnection did take place.

 The first and most important place a teen needs to feel connected is with their family. This is where parenting comes into play. Even when our kids are teens and exerting their independence, they still need to know they’re loved and accepted. We still need to make sure their emotional needs are met.

For example, my oldest listens to a musician who swears a lot in his lyrics. Whenever we ride in the car and he’s driving, he listens to that music. Now, I don’t like the lyrics, but the music itself has a nice beat and can be calming. I make sure and tell him I like the music. The reason I do this is because even though he’s branching out and developing his own tastes, he wants his mother’s approval. So, I give it to him. It’s a way for us to feel connected.

I believe when parents are too rigid in their own beliefs and are unable to give their child the acceptance they need, the child hides that part of themselves away from their parents. This is where disconnection begins. The teen feels this part of himself is unacceptable and starts to hide it from friends and their community. They withdraw instead of reaching out. So, the disconnection begins in the home. We can try to blame the schools or bullying, but it really begins with the parents.

That’s why I was glad to see the parents are also being charged in this shooting because ultimately, they are as responsible as this young kid. I know parenting is tough. There are no do overs and parents make mistakes. But I’ve found when I make a mistake with my kids, if I own up to my mishaps and apologize. They forgive me. This is where it needs to start. The relationship between parent and child is a lifetime commitment. Even when they’re grown and have children of their own, they’ll want that acceptance from their parents. That understanding. So, lets give it to them.

Sometimes, parents are incapable of giving this kind of acceptance to their children because they themselves are struggling. Maybe struggling with addiction or financial issues. In that instance, it’s important for extended family and the community to come together and support this youngster, so he still feels connected and loved. It takes a village folks, it really does.

Yes, bullying is a factor, but bullying can’t occur if there’s connection. So, parents let’s do a better job of staying connected with our kids and they won’t withdraw from their friends and community and they’ll be more likely to reach out for help.

How about you. How do you stay connected with your kids? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!