Alright MON, I’m back from Jamaica and tan AF. While frolicking in the ocean, I had time to digest all the information I’ve had thrown at me in recent weeks and the result is this little informational snack I made for you.
I’ve been to seven conferences, panels and lectures since the beginning of the year and while it was tiring (esp on the doubleheader day) I learned a LOT. And, I’m fired up!
5 ways to up your parenting game with the most current information in the game:
5) Neuroplasticity is so hot right now. What’s that? In short it’s a concept that the brain is malleable and always changing. Much like what you eat affects your weight, what you experience affects your brain, constantly. What’s that mean for you? A few things, for starters: talking, reading and singing to your children even as they move through the “Terrible 3’s” can do wonders for you child’s vocabulary and their intrapersonal skills. Explain their environment to them, tell them how you’re cooking their eggs, point out the Fireman and talk about Fire trucks. Narrating their big feelings for them is VITAL: “I can see you are frustrated that Billy took the doll from you, that would make me upset too, can we find a new toy? Or do you want to ask Billy if we can all take turns” while they cry after a toy is taken from them. You’re helping them put words to their feelings and move through tantrums into more productive action steps. When they get that help, their brains are able to self soothe through the tantrum and refocus on problem solving. That gets encoded into their brains as a way to solve conflict. And, the best part is because of our good buddy Neuroplasticity this tactic can (and really should) be employed at all ages because even if you start at age 5 you can still cover ground. The concept is that most issues can be over come with therapy and parenting adjustments AND that problems (for example trauma) can develop if there are adverse experiences or neglectful care.
4) Screen Time: so NOT hot right now. Remember our buddy neuroplasticity? Ol Buddy Ol Pal also works against things. This is where the ever confusing screen time topic gets science-y. There are well-funded studies correlating increased behavior problems, attention issues and increased rates of depression with exposure to lots of screen time. Yikes. We no likey. But also we all KINDA knew that, we’ve heard it before. So what’s so bad about the alphabet game with Elmo? Basically the brain is tricked into instant gratification, it gets bright colors, stimulating sounds and fun characters (aka BRAIN SUGAR) for no work at all. Even if the child is playing an “educational” game, the brain isn’t getting its workout. What does this do? Well it causes the brain to get frustrated and have a hard time with things that aren’t instantly gratifying aka being social, sitting in a classroom, eating out a restaurant etc. If it’s not fun noises and bright colors then they’re not interested.
The second problem with screen time is HOW the screen time is used. If the parent is next to the child and participating in the activity together, some of the detrimental affects can be neutralized. If you’re driving in the car and hand your kid the phone or the iPad because you don’t want to deal with them, then you’re saying to your child “you’re not important, please be quiet and invisible” and guess what, they shut up. So instead of interacting in the car and talking about their day, processing their feelings and increasing their vocabularies, they are disappearing into bright lights and fun noises and tuning out completely. Often times having dinner at a restaurant is challenging because the child demands an iPad to be quiet and the parents are too tired to fight with the child so they give in and now the child is not having a conversation at the dinner table. They’re not watching how all the adults and other children interact and picking up on social cues, they’re not increasing their vocabularies by hearing other adults talk. In short they’re being told again to disappear. The problem with this of course is, it’s harder for them to break away from the tech and back into reality and thus the cycle cycles.
That said, when you are flying you can 100% break out the iPad, whatever it takes to get through the flight! And, if you keep the iPad fresh and rarely used, it’s a great “special treat” to look forward to on flights. I’m literally typing this on the plane while my Future President is tracing letters with Elmo on our iPad Mini. And if our previous layovers are any indicator, I’ll have a nice little fight on my hands to get this iPad back from her. FML.
Concerned about screen time in your house? Take this REALLY comprehensive quiz to see if it’s a problem and then work on ways to cut back if it’s a thing. I like this quiz because it breaks down the level of ESS you might be dealing with and gives you steps to help cut back.
“In short, recognizing and addressing overstimulation and ESS from screen time can have a profound impact on mood, focus, and behavior in children, teens—and even young adults—in a matter of weeks, while restoring peace and harmony in the home.” – PSYCHOLOGYTODAY.com
It has now been proven that 90% of a child’s brain is developed BEFORE age 3. The days of “wait and see” are officially gone thanks to our friend Neuroplasticity. “Wait and see” was a popular approach of physicians up until very recently and that was a philosophy that in early childhood, most issues sort themselves out and there’s very little to be concerned about. Think: everyone is normal. What the recent groundbreaking studies have shown however, is it’s the exact opposite. Notice something that makes you question your child’s development? Get them checked ASAP. Children diagnosed with Autism for example can make remarkable gains when they receive intervention at age 2 instead of later in childhood. Gross motor concerns? Get into the physical therapist asap: the recovery is much faster and the ability to overcome the obstacle is increased significantly the earlier the child receives the therapy. This goes 700% for a child who has experienced trauma or has a high ACE score. Any foster or adoptive moms want to be on the look out for signs of trauma so they can get the kids into therapy asap. Neuroplasticity and time are our friends in all these cases.
2) Parental Mental Health: getting hotter!
For the most part the parenting community is embracing the concept of “Happy family, thriving child” and thus taking steps to ensure the family is happy. In the LA area I’ve seen an increase in child education classes, seminars and programs aimed at teaching parents skills to be effective parents. On my way to Jamaica I read an incredible book “How Children Succeed” and a fascinating study was reported on in the book. Infant rats whose moms gave them plenty of cuddles after a stressful experience were as able as their non-stressed counterparts to solve mazes and interact normally. The infant rats whose mothers were not nurturing after a stressful experience were unable to adventure out into the mazes and presented as extremely anxious. The scientists learned that the ability of the mother to soothe her offspring was a direct indicator of future “success” (I mean they’re rats so like yay successful completion of your maze!). In humans they’re finding that children who are able to connect emotionally to their caregivers in extremely stressful situations are better able to overcome future obstacles such as poor education or multiple ACE’s (adverse childhood experiences) than the children who had to experience such negative things by themselves without support. As moms and dads our role to comfort our children might actually turn out to be the most important thing we can do for them. Happy parents do this well. Stressed and overwhelmed parents obviously have a harder time being able to be emotionally available. As a Doula part of my job is to refer clients to specialists and I’ve noticed a big increase in the demand for therapists. Often times these moms and dads just want professional guidance on how to help their families thrive and their marriages remain strong. But the fact remains that helping parents be their best allows the children to operate at their maximum potential.
1) Mindfulness: so hot right now.
If you pop into any therapy office in LA right now you’re bound to hear the term “mindful” thrown around. In my experience people have a few different definitions of the term, I’ve seen it mean “to consciously check in with the world around you [ie get off the iPhone]” and I’ve seen therapists use it as a parenting philosophy wherein the parents empathize with the child first and react as adults second and then I’ve seen it thrown around the yoga studio as a lifestyle choice looking like a lot of meditating. That said, all those definitions kinda fit together anyway and regardless of which one you’re using, you’re hearing it in the LA area right now. But basically the concept is that as parents we need to be present to teach our children and connect to with them – and we simply cannot do that if we’re tagging each other in memes and watching RHOBH. And off that, mindfulness is a concept of self care – in that we as moms and dads need to be operating at our best if we’re to parent at our best and the only way to do that is to drop the phone. And if you need another reason to unplug, my chiropractor said her business is booming thanks to “Tech Neck” … yikes!
That’s what I can report back for us from my research and conferences so far this year – also don’t forget that this information grows and changes daily as more and more research is done. I can never get enough information so rest assured I’ll be attending every event I am invited to (and can find). Now if you’ll excuse me I need to find some aloe for my shoulders.
I am incredibly passionate about parents doing their own research, therefore my sources are listed below so you can have the information for your own research.
- “HOW CHILDREN SUCCEED” – book by Paul Tough
- Lecture on Early Intervention hosted by Dr Jin Lee, CEO of Baby Noggin
- Unraveling Neurodevelopmental Disorders Workshop – ADHD, Autism, OCD, Anxiety, SPD, ODD, Dyslexia, Tourette’s Syndrome hosted by Dr Andrea Mills
- Quiz from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201711/is-your-child-overstimulated-too-much-screen-time
- Harvard University Center on the Developing Child: https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/inbrief-early-childhood-program-effectiveness/
- “YES BRAIN” – Dr Dan Siegel & Dr Tina Payne Bryson