Movement Has Been Replaced By A Sedentary Lifestyle – Why Kids Need Play!

When I was growing up, I played outdoors a lot. We didn’t have a television because my mom thought it would rot our brains out.  I know that is extreme, the point was we filled our time with going outside, being creative and playing in the creek. There was not much time for being sedentary in my family. We played outside together, worked together, played long board games and my sisters and I made up lots of dances in the living room (and made mom watch our performances). What I didn’t know is that my parents were building my brain and giving me a healthy lifestyle.

How things have changed.

“A UK survey conducted by the National Trust found that modern children spend half as much time outdoors as their parents did, despite the fact that 96% of the parents surveyed felt it was important for kids to have a “connection to nature.””-www.theatlantic.com/magazine

Children need to play outside. It’s one of the building blocks of brain development. When kids play outside, they learn cause and effect. They test their limits. The first physical science experiments happen in our own backyards-

  • when a child throws a rock in the stream and the water smacks him in the face.
  • when a child jumps from a swing and feels the jarring in his knees.
  • when he climbs a tree and falls two feet.
  • when he builds a dam and stops up the water in the stream

These are all brain builders. A child who has time to test his limits, build, create and pretend is growing the logic portion of his brain.

Play helps children teach themselves to regulate their emotions.

“University of Denver researchers Elena Bodrova, Carrie Germeroth, and Deborah J. Leong found that children teach themselves to regulate their emotions and think before they act when they play. For example, if a child is pretending to be Olaf from Frozen, they may pretend they’re melting when they come inside or insist that they like warm hugs. In each case, they consider how their actions will correlate with how Olaf should act in a given situation.”- Whitbyschool.org

If anyone has ever played make believe with a child, you know that kiddos play out relationships. They play Mom, Dad, sister, brother, super heroes, soldiers, or fill in the blank. My eldest used to ask me to play with her. She just told me what to say and I said it while her character was the star of the show (kind of like her). This is one of the ways kids figure out relationships. Often we hear children playing with the same words they hear us using -“It’s okay, mom is here” or “If you do that again you are in trouble”.

Play gives children a chance to practice what they’re learning.
– Fred Rogers

The Scientific Re-do.

When children have had trauma in their lives and struggle with regulation, play can help fill in the gaps missed in brain development. Organized play with a point can help. Acting out a scenario the right way and the wrong way helps a child form new pathways in his brain. This is a non threatening way of doing a re-do. This can be done with puppets or just acting it out. Try acting out the wrong way to ask for something and then the wrong way. Kids definitely enjoy the wrong way, they may giggle, but the right way will stick!

Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain - unless it done with play, in which case it takes 10-20 repetitions._ - Dr. Karyn Purvis.png

Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain – unless it done with play, in which case it takes 10-20 repetitions.” – Dr. Karyn Purvis

Movement is Important.

Movement in play, indoors and outdoors are part of the pathway to healthy brain development. What a video game and screen time can’t do is amplify time, they simply spend it.

“Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.” Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods.

Organized play can teach skills and create a new synapse in the brain quicker, more efficiently and with more smiles than just going through the motions. While it’s tempting to fill time with screen time, remember you can’t get that time back. It’s spent on something that doesn’t have a great return. Educational show are great, but actually doing activities together -indoors or out- produce a greater reward.

*This is part of a Back to Basics Series! If you missed the beginning, start here or catch up the podcast here.

 

 

 

Redos and Kids from Hard Places

Traditional Parenting doesn’t work with kids from hard places.

We learn in ETC Parent Training we need to empty our traditional parenting toolbox and refill it with new tools.

A REDO is one of those tools.

Every offense by a child doesn’t need a volcanic reaction.

A redo is an opportunity for a child to redo the action in the right way. This is so important because it helps rewire the brain. A parent simply and playfully (if possible) walks the child through the proper steps. I use and example of this in the video below. A great thing to remember is a redo can be quick, playful and specific.  For example if you have two kiddos playing with cars and one grabs one out of the other one’s hand. Here are two scenarios:

Traditional Parenting:

Mom: Give that car back. You should know better. We share in this house. Blah. Blah. Blah- meaning a whole sermon on why we share.

Redo Parenting:

Mom: Let’s try that again, buddy. Give the car back. (Child hands car back however reluctantly, Mom smiles). Great job, giving the car back. We don’t take.

*If the child wants the car and they are community property, then you as the parent can work out a time for each child to use the car. This is also an opportunity for the child to ‘use his words’ and ask for the car instead of grabbing it. All of these tools should be used quickly and with a pleasant tone. When we use anger to work out scenarios, our child will too!

Here’s a short video I did on the topic for The Whole House Adoption/Foster Support Group: (don’t you love my expression?)

Six Risk Factors

“A scar is evidence of a wound, but also evidence that we can heal.”- Scott McClellan

I didn’t think it would be this hard.

My child’s behaviors are out of control.

He got kicked off the school bus AGAIN.

He keeps punching kids in line.

The whole house is like a war zone.

I thought I could do this, but I don’t know if I can. It’s just too hard.

 

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I’ve heard these statements along with pleas for help from countless parents. I have offered to come into the home and do some observation, as well as get some parenting tools that work into the hands of the parents. It seems as if every time, the parent says, “Oh, he/she is so manipulative, I don’t know.” As if the child will pull the wool over my eyes (as he may do with some professionals or teachers) or their situation is so unique, so individual that I won’t be able to grasp it. It is this pit of ‘aloneness’ that foster and adoptive parents feel. No one else struggles like you. Nobody understands. We adoptive/foster parents may feel as if we have slipped an Alfred Hitchcock are captives who will never escape.   To move forward with understanding, we must first have knowledge.

Every behavior is a need inappropriately expressed.  Foster/Adopted children have had trauma in their lives. Trauma changes the neurochemistry of the brain in these children.

In adoption/foster circles we hear the phrase ‘children from hard places’. As Ryan North, Executive Director of Tapestry Ministries, reminds us, this is not a geographical location. As explained in The Connected Child, there are six primary risk factors that characterize children from hard places:

  1. Prenatal stress and harm-over 80% of children adopted/foster care have been exposed to drugs or alcohol, cortisol crosses the placenta and alters the structure of the brain and damages the immune system* story of the woman stressed in pregnancy- measured her cortisol levels and those of her infant six months after delivery.
  2. Difficult labor or birth Twin example- one born at home, one at a hospital after a 45-minute ride to the hospital
  3. Early medical trauma Hospital stay, surgery, etc.
  4. Trauma- a house fire, natural disaster, auto accident, death of a parent
  5. Neglect-  says “You don’t exist.”
  6. Abuse – says “You don’t matter.”

Five things are impacted by early trauma (any one of the six risk factors)

  1. Brain- altered brain development, overactive amygdala. It’s as if the child is chased by a bear all the time. Our experiences shape the connections in our brain. Hebbian principle- what fires together wires together.
  2. Biology- Neurochemistry is altered. Hormones altered. Serotonin is often low. Dopamine is low or high. Some young children have the adrenals of a ninety-year-old.
  3. Body- Learning delays, developmental delays, sensory issues
  4. Beliefs- What’s one firmly held belief that you have? What would it take you to change that belief? Kids from hard places often believe: People don’t love me because I’m not worthy. If I was worth something, people won’t treat me this way. Everyone leaves.
  5. Behavior Regulation. Co-regulation. Self Regulation. – A child from hard places has difficulty regulating because he has not had the natural progression. Remember, a behavior is a need inappropriately expressed. Fight, Flight, Freeze mode is often what kids from hard places get stuck in.

Traditional parenting doesn’t work with these kids. In the ETC course for adoptive/foster parents, we teach 25 parenting tools to help these kids have hope and healing. The tools are based on the model TBRI- Trust-Based Relational Intervention, created by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at TCU in Texas. This approach was turned into a training curriculum by Michael Monroe and Dr. Purvis called ETC Training for Adoptive and Foster Parents. 

If you’re struggling with helping your adoptive/foster child heal and make progress, check out ETC Training, find one in your area here.

If you are local and want Kathleen to come do a training for parents or professionals- email her at Postiveadoption@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Embrace the Privilege of Saying “YES”!

 

Ever think about how many times you say no to your children?

Do you feel guilty for always saying no?

Does it seem to cause the child to misbehave more when you are constantly saying no?

Children from hard places are often in survival mode. They want to control their environment because it gives them a false sense of security. We want children to have a real sense of security. We want them to feel safe, to have a voice.

When our brains hear negative information constantly, it puts us in a downward spiral. Children from hard places are already have displaced wiring. Their neural pathways may always lead to the negative. Life experience has taught them that life is not good.

We want to change those pathways. We want our kids to enjoy life and feel positive. Can you imagine never feeling as if life is good. NEVER. Sad, huh? I understand this perspective, because I was a child from a hard place and I often had an overwhelming negative feeling, all the time. Not a great place for a kid to live.

Even neurotypical children need to hear the word yes! Saying yes is nurturing. For every one time your child hears the word no, he should hear the word yes seven times!  I know, you’re thinking, how in the world do I do that? You can’t say yes to your child climbing on the cabinets or going outside in the middle of a thunderstorm. So, what do you do?

Change your no to a yes.

Change your no to a yes.

One of the simple ways of changing a no to a yes is as simple as rephrasing your answer. I often use the phrase “You’re welcome to…”

“You’re welcome to go outside as soon as you finish your chore!”

“You’re welcome to play that game as soon as you finish your math worksheet.”

“You’re welcome to read that book after your nap.”

This rephrasing changes how the brain receives the information. You are essentially saying yes with a condition, but it is still a yes! This also shifts the burden of responsibility to the child, which gives him power over his choices. He can make going outside happen. He can make playing that game happen. He has a bit of control over his environment which makes him feel heard and more in control, in a positive way.

Warning! This doesn’t mean your child will comply willingly or immediately do what is asked of him. It’s a process. This new way of doing things won’t change a behavior overnight. Be loviningly firm. Don’t point out his failures. Just remind him it is up to him to be successful.

Some days here at the Guire Shire can get pretty hectic when kids and grandkids are here. One day we were doing a scavenger hunt outside and getting the kids out there is like rounding up cats. A child melted down, thinking she was missing out on the fun. The other kids beat her out the door while she was busy playing with play doh. True story. This is what happens next.

“I want to go outside!” accompanied by tears and wailing.

“You can go. Just get your shoes on,” her dad replied.

More wailing. Thrashing on the ground.

“_____________, You can go outside. Just get your shoes.”

More wailing.

“Where are your shoes?” That question activiated the upstairs brain in child. She answers. They find the shoes and she goes out the door for the scavenger hunt. He could have said, “No. You missed it, they already started. You were playing with play doh and not paying attention.” All were true. Except she didn’t miss it. She just got distracted. He gave her the power to choose to leave the play doh and go participate. He gave her a yes.

Another way of saying yes, is the Yes Jar.  

Find out more, by clicking on the link and watching the video. Kayla North explains the hows and whys of the yes jar! The yes jar is a simple way of filling your day with yes!

There are lots of ways to add more yessing to your days. What creative ways have you used? Has this article made you think of some things you could try? Please share your examples and ideas! We’d love to hear from you!

Embracing the Privilige of Saying Yes is one of the 25 Parenting Tools taught in Empowered to Connect Parent Training for foster and adoptive parents. Want to know more? Click here. Why should you find an ETC Parent Trainer and sign up? Find out here.

Connecting While Correcting

Do you feel as if you are always yelling at your children and they just don’t listen?

Do you feel distant from your children? As if you are wounding their spirit every time you correct?

Are you wondering how to navigate this road of parenting without anger? Without that feeling of distance? 

Do you want to connect and correct at the same time?

If so, this is for you…..

“There is no such thing as adoption or foster care without loss.”

“As a result, our children have some unique histories and unique needs, and because of this they will need parents who have a unique approach in order to help them connect in a relationship and begin to heal.”

Your child needs a high degree of structure and a high degree of nurture.

The authoritarian parent offers a high degree of structure with a low degree of nurture.

The permissive parent offers a high degree of nurture with a low degree of structure.

The best is a balance of both.

How do you know which way you lean? Here’s a short check list from The Connected Child to help you determine.

You’re Too Permissive and Lenient if…

  • You make rules and promises and don’t enforce them
  • You nag, nag, nag but don’t enforce.
  • You wait too long to enforce and then explode in anger.
  • You beg your child to cooperate.
  • Your child is the one who decides if and when things get done.
  • You ask your child “What do you want?” more often than you tell him what has to happen.
  • You allow your child to physically harm you or others.
  • You often pretend you don’t notice misbehavior or disrespect.
  • Your child encounters no negative consequences for cursing or bad-mouthing you.
  • Your child doesn’t take your word seriously.
  • Your child talks disrespectfully to you.

You’re Too Strict and Controlling if…

  • You tell your child “No” more frequently than you praise him.
  • You tell your child “No” more frequently than you show him affection.
  • You constantly tell your child what to do and don’t give him the opportunity to make choices or compromise.
  • You shut down your child’s expressions of sadness or disappointment .
  • You ignore or belittle your child’s point of view.
  • You use punishments, shaming and insults to gain your child’s compliance.
  • An hour doesn’t go by without you finding fault with your child.

control

Obviously, your child needs correcting. We can be too permissive and let our child run all over us. A parent out of control is a child in control. Kids need adults who are in control. It makes them feel more secure. If we connect and correct at the same time, it’s possible to attach securely. What does this look like? First and foremost, there should not be any anger in correction and save your yelling for when your child runs toward the road or a swimming pool with no floats on. Your child will take it more seriously then. Plus anger and yelling wounds an already wounded spirit. Or for those street smart kid, stuck in survival mode, it gives him the upper hand. He knows he can control Mom or Dad. Then it becomes a battle of the wills. Or a battle of his past with your’s.

When you need to correct, take a breath. A long deep one and think, is this a mountain or a molehill? Do I need a gnat gun or an elephant gun? Does this need a “try that again with respect ” or “are you asking for a compromise?” Think about your goal, do you want your child to succeed and make progress or do you want him to feel punished? If it is punished, then expect the opposite of connection on his part (and your’s too). There are days when we cycle through separation and connection. I understand that. We can’t control our children’s reactions to our parenting, but we can control how we parent.When we have to correct with a command, we can follow it up with praise. We don’t have to withhold our love or frown when correcting. Not every command requires a mean face.

The best way to look at it is through the lens of our relationship with God. Ever since sin entered the world and separated us from Him, he has tried to reconnect. He offered the life of His Son so we could be in relationship with Him. That has always been His goal. He connects and corrects, always offering a path back to His loving arms. Back to relationship. He says, I am here for you, no matter what. That should be the message we send to our kids. We are here. Yes, you needed some correction, but the connection is not lost because of that. It is possible to connect and correct.