Health and Wellness
Each week, one of our community partners, Dr. Moe Gelbart generously volunteers his time to provide information for our community related to wellness. Dr. Gelbart is the Executive Director of Thelma McMillen Center in Torrance.
NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS FOR PARENTS
Happy 2019, and welcome back to school. As it is traditional to reflect on goals, visions, and desired changes, and to make New Years Resolutions, I offer these suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions for parents:
1. Examine your priorities. Most of us put our families as our number one priority, but when we look at how we spend our time, quality time with our children is often lacking. This is especially true for working parents. Be sure to carve out positive time that your children enjoy spending with you, that has no particular accomplishment or goals attached, and that your children experience as pleasurable. You can start with something as simple as having one meal together as a family every week.
2. Catch them doing something right. We spend a great deal of our time setting boundaries, disciplining, and having consequences for behaviors we want to minimize, but it is more important to notice, recognize, and acknowledge positive behaviors. This is important even if the behaviors are only partially in the direction of the desired behavior. Changes are much more likely to occur, and more powerful, when accompanied by positive reinforcement. It is believed that children hear 17 negative comments for every point of encouragement or praise. Help raise your child’s self-esteem and self-worth with positive statements.
3. Model the behavior you would like to see in your child. Monitor your own screen time and cell phone use. Create cell phone free time each day. Limit TV time, and replace it with reading. Review your nutrition and exercise plans. As I have written in previous columns, your children will be more likely to do what you do, not what you say.
4. Ask less questions. By this, I do not mean to talk less, or inquire less. Questions often leave the subject of the questions feeling like they are under attack, or are being interrogated. They get defensive because they do not know what the motivation behind the questioning is. You can achieve a better connection if you express your own feelings, and wait for a response. For example, instead of saying “where were you last night?” you can replace it with “ I didn’t know where you were last night, and that made me really concerned and worried”. Most likely you will get a response, with much less anger and irritation.
5. Listen more. Be willing to listen with what therapists refer to as “the third ear”. In addition to the content of what your child is saying, try to understand the feelings behind their communications, and work hard at validating their feelings. Remember, their feelings are based on their perceptions, experiences, and world views, and are
always a result of how they see things. Being able to reflect on that for them will strengthen the communication, and make it easier for you to help guide them.
6. Carve out time for yourself. Parenting is a tough job, and takes a great deal of devotion and energy. I have heard from many parents who feel taken for granted by those in their family. Make sure your schedule includes time and activities which are solely for your benefit and self-care. Don’t sacrifice things that make you feel good and help energize you. In addition, make sure you and your spouse/partner have time together that is not devoted to family issues.
7. Reduce how over protective you are. While it is your role to provide limits, boundaries, and safety in your children’s lives, they need to make mistakes in order to grow, and learn from them. Don’t feel like you have to shield them from all pain. A poor grade, a painful relationship, a rejection, etc., can be beneficial, and lead to improved choices if handled correctly. I have worked with many parents who, lovingly, have tried to protect their children from all negative experiences, only for those children to go off to college and not have developed an adequate base to take care of their own needs.
8. Manage your expectations. Try to find the balance between encouragement, and having meaningful goals and plans, and making sure that you are understanding your child’s needs and desires. College admission is a good example of this. While we might want to wear a sweatshirt with an Ivy League school name on it, so we feel proud and accomplished, that may not be the best for your child. When it comes to grades, remember, by definition, 50% of the group is below the mean – everyone cannot be in the top 10%. Help your child value themselves for who they are, not necessarily for what they accomplish.
9. Have the courage to set limits and boundaries. I have written about the importance of limits/boundaries, consequences, and follow through. Work hard at being clear and consistent. Your child will seemingly rebel, but will be grateful and feel cared for and safe
10. Remember to reflect on being grateful. Before going to bed each night, reflect on the things, big and small, that you have to be grateful for. Research shows that a short, regular gratitude reflection has many powerful positive benefits.
Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at email@example.com.
Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center