Self-awareness is a key predictor of a child's ability to be balanced and secure in life. Being self-aware helps kids establish positive peer relationships, get along well at home and respect authority. Self-awareness is at the core of emotional intelligence and is crucial to your children reaching their academic and personal goals throughout their lives.
7 Ways To Teach Kids Self-Awareness:
1. Be a good role model.
In order to parent self-awareness, you have to have it yourself. This means that you demonstrate through your own behaviors that you can calm your anxieties and frustrations and not act out in a negative way. If you start to act out, demonstrate that you can call a time-out on yourself and get centered again.
2. Accept and recognize your child's feelings.
Emotions are emotions. They are temporary energies meant to pass through. If we accept and acknowledge what our children are feeling, the emotions pass through much more quickly and with more understanding. Taking this time to sit with their feelings helps them to not act emotions out in a negative way. Accept the feelings from their viewpoint, and then, if possible, spin them in a positive light.
3. When in doubt, empathize.
Your empathy teaches children their emotional life is not threatening, abnormal or scary. Their emotions are not shameful or defective. They are human and manageable. In this way, you teach your children they are not alone. This helps them see that even the less-than-perfect parts of themselves are acceptable, which helps them to accept themselves and others more wholly.
4. Do not encourage the avoidance of emotions.
Emotions may be uncomfortable, but never minimize them to your children or tell your kids to "move on." Refrain from telling them what they are feeling is wrong. They may not be ready to move on, and it is important for children to learn to navigate the uncomfortable. This is how they learn and grow. We must teach them that whatever they avoid will return in the form of a similar and harder lesson, so they may as well do their learning now.
5. Encourage communication.
Repressing feelings doesn't work. Repressed sadness turns into depression; repressed anger turns into rage; repressed envy turns into jealousy; repressed love turns into possession; and repressed fear turns into anxiety/panic. When we reject or ignore our children's emotions, this causes them to repress, which leads to more severe and chronic emotional problems all throughout life. Let them express freely.
6. Time, attention and listening.
Actively listen to your children. You do not have to agree with what they say or feel, but to argue against it doesn't allow them to hear or know who they are as unique people. Accept their feelings, repeat them back to them for understanding, and listen. Show that you care and can see their point of view.
7. Teach problem solving.
Most of the time, when children experience that their emotions are understood and accepted, the emotions lose their charge and begin to dissipate. This leaves an opening for problem solving. Sometimes, kids can do this themselves. Ask them how they want or think they should handle the situation which is upsetting them. This helps them to hear themselves out, and to learn to make good decisions from within. Sometimes, they need your help to brainstorm, but resist the urge to handle the problem for them; that gives them the message that you don't have confidence in their ability to handle the problem on their own.
All children have issues they are afraid to discuss, so be there for them. To teach our kids self-awareness, we have to help them verbalize these painful or embarrassing emotions so they can understand them and move forward. It is with these emotional issues that they most need support and guidance. A child with self-awareness is able to manage his or her own emotions, which is important in learning, staying focused and being able to see the bigger picture. Teaching self-awareness gives children the ability to know their own emotions and to recognize them when they are happening, making them manageable. This is what we want as parents for our kids: a life of feeling secure from within in an unpredictable world.
Little life message: When children are self-aware, they are motivated from within, and can direct themselves toward goals and work through self-doubt.
If there's one thing that researchers have confirmed in recent years, it's that breastfeeding has benefits. And several 2013 studies uncovered even more evidence supporting that fact: One found that breastfeeding longer may help boost babies' intelligence, perhaps because breast milk contains DHA, which has been linked to cognitive development. Another suggested that breastfeeding may be protective against ADHD -- although it did not establish cause and effect (so it might be that other aspects of children's upbringing, for example, or genetics played a role).
A major American Academy of Pediatrics report issued this year concluded that the majority of medications are safe for nursing mothers, despite the fact that many women are counseled to discontinue their use. Some medications do transfer to breast milk, but the amounts tend to be small, while others do not transfer at all. The difficulty, however, is knowing which drugs are safe and which are not. "There are traditional medications, like aspirin, that have been around for years and that we have a lot of information about, we're secure in our knowledge," one doctor told HuffPost. "But there are new drugs coming out all the time, including new antidepressants and antipsychotics, and we know less about them."
Buying and sharing breast milk online has become increasingly popular, but it is not a particularly safe practice, according to data released in 2013. Researchers purchased samples from one of the most popular milk sharing websites in the U.S. and compared them to those from a milk bank (milk banks, which are regulated by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, follow strict guidelines and pasteurize their milk). The online samples had higher levels of contamination, with 64 percent testing positive for staphylococcous, and three of the samples testing positive for salmonella. Though many parents are, understandably, eager to provide their babies breast milk and may not be able to for various reasons, there is no getting around the potential risks: "There is hardly anything that, as a buyer, you could use to determine if a given sample is safe for your baby," the study's researcher told HuffPost.
A comprehensive review conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that the current U.S. vaccination schedule is safe, and that there is no evidence that immunizing children against polio, whooping cough, measles and other diseases leads to health issues, such as autism or asthma. While the IOM said it hopes the findings will reassure parents and health care providers that current guidelines are safe, it also called for continued monitoring, Reuters reported.
Since the advent of the "back to sleep" campaign (aimed at reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), the number of babies with "positional plagiocephaly" -- medicine-speak for flat spots on their heads -- has soared. A Canada-based study found that more than 46 percent of 2- to 3-month-olds have some form of the condition (most mild). Because the researchers didn't have past figures for comparison's sake, it's entirely possible that this has long been the case, and parents and doctors are just more aware of it now; or it could be because more babies are sleeping on their backs. Whatever the reason, the good news is that flat spots tend to be totally harmless.
It's not just how much sleep kids get, but how regular it is that is important, according to a study out of the U.K. Children with consistent bedtimes scored better on reading, math and tests of spatial skills. And the effects appeared to be cumulative: Children who had inconsistent bedtimes when they were 3 (the researchers asked parents about their kids' bedtimes at ages 3, 5 and 7) scored lower at age 7. And kids who had inconsistent bedtimes at more than one of those ages showed more pronounced effects on their tests. It is not clear yet whether not having a set bedtime is simply a reflection of children living in "chaotic settings" where they were more likely to skip breakfast or have a TV in their room, the researchers wrote or whether the effect was more direct, but sleep experts say the message is clear: "I would tell you that in my estimation, the majority of parents have no idea how important sleep consistency is," one told HuffPost. "It's not because they don't care. They haven't been told."
One of the first studies to take a close look at the amount of sodium in packaged foods made for toddlers found that 70 percent of them exceeded 210 mg of sodium per serving -- the threshold researchers used to classify a food as high sodium. And some of the toddler meals had roughly half of the maximum daily recommendation. Fortunately, baby foods fared better: Almost all of the commercial foods for babies up to one year were relatively low in sodium, the researchers found.
For the first time in decades, childhood obesity rates dropped -- at least among low-income preschoolers between the ages of 2 and 4. These lower rates are, of course, good news but health experts say the overall numbers are still too high: One in 8 preschoolers in the U.S. is considered obese.
A comprehensive New York Times analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released in 2013 uncovered a significant jump in the number of children who were diagnosed with ADHD in the past decade. Up to 11 percent of school-age children have been told they have disorder, according to the Times, for reasons that are not yet understood. It could be, for example, that there is simply more awareness of ADHD or that children are being over-diagnosed. Or, perhaps, there are factors causing ADHD to be more prevalent than before.
The prevalence of parent-reported cases of autism is up from 1 in 86 in 2007 to 1 in 50 between 2011 and 2012,
Research now shows that certain seemingly harmless things can prove risky for children. One study found that televisions injure roughly one child in the U.S. every 30 minutes -- largely by falling on them. Another showed parents should be vigilant when their children are in high chairs (around 9,400 young kids in the U.S. are injured falling off high chairs each year, it concluded). Magnets also pose a risk: The number of yearly swallowing incidents jumped from roughly one child in every 200,000 in 2002 to six per 200,00 in 2010, one study showed). And amusement rides (at parks, fairs, restaurants and malls) injure more than 4,400 children yearly).
A startling study found that when school-age children are bullied by their peers, they're twice as likely to experience so-called "psychosomatic symptoms," including headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, bed wetting and sleep problems. Sometimes, parents and teachers ignore children's physical symptoms or assume they're faking a stomachache, for example, to get out of an activity. But the study emphasizes that adults should take such symptoms seriously, as they might be a sign that something else is going on.
Words matter, and so does the way they are delivered. A study concluded that harsh verbal discipline increases childrens' risk for depression and aggressive behavior (it focused on 13 and 14-year-olds) -- in much the same way that physical punishment often does. "The negative effects of verbal discipline within the two-year period of [the] study were comparable to the effects shown over the same period of time in other studies that focused on physical discipline," one of the researchers said in a statement.
Obesity rates appear to be "cresting" among adolescents and teens, a separate study found. It also concluded that middle and high school students are engaging in healthier behaviors, like eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer sweets; skipping breakfast less often and exercising more. (The study did not establish a causal relationship between these healthier behaviors and the apparent leveling off in childhood obesity rates.) The amount of time spent watching TV also decreased, however, the amount of time teens spent playing video games or chatting online remained largely the same.
The study was highly preliminary and conducted with mice, but it nonetheless generated a lot of attention for its finding that regular marijuana use during adolescence might damage brain function, putting teens at risk for psychiatric disorders down the road. The study is not the final word (indeed, a paper published in 2012 found teen marijuana use does not appear to affect brain tissue health). But as the lead researcher explained, "Over the past 20 years, there has been a major controversy about the long-term effects of marijuana, with some evidence that use in adolescence could be damaging."
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