The Ways Your Parenting Language and Approach Impact Your Child

Kids learn more from our examples than any lecture. This includes how we communicate, face obstacles, manage anxiety and accept feedback. This can be challenging on a “good day,” never mind during a pandemic. If there were ever a time when kids are looking to parents for ways to process and interpret the uncertainty and fear associated with the current health crisis, it’s now. If there were ever a time when parents needed information and support to help them do just that, it’s now. Concurrently, there’s a powerful opportunity for you to learn about the brain and use that knowledge to your advantage in your parenting. How do you know if your parenting approach could use an upgrade? Consider the following: What messages are you sending your kids about how to handle anxiety provoking situations? Do you pay attention to your “warning signs” and employ strategies to help you re-set? Or, do you ignore your well being and hear yourself using reactive, dismissive or catastrophic language? My husband and I were four sons into our parenting journey and still lacked an understanding about stress, effective coping skills and the power of communication, often repeating the same ineffective statements we heard as kids. If you asked my kids where they learned anxiety from, they’d all point to me. If you asked them where they learned anger, they’d point to their dad. Modeling and environment matter. Accepting these truths and being willing to make adjustments in our habits and ways of communicating cultivated a healthier environment for our family, strengthened us as parents, and ultimately empowered our sons. The same can...

Empower Your Parenting with Less Anxiety

  I was four sons into motherhood and still hadn’t reckoned with my anxiety. I hadn’t gotten help, mainly  because I had no awareness I could have any power over my anxiety and didn’t have a clue anxiety was treatable. My anxiety was on spin cycle…What if my sons didn’t like school or played too many video games? What if they got hurt in contact sports? Was their diet healthy enough? Was the youngest child getting ripped off…when was the last time I read that child a book? And fast forward several years…What if they crashed the car? (they did). Catastrophic thinking, “what ifs,” and fears of uncertainty and imperfection seemed “normal” parts of my day I’d just have to get used to. Physiological manifestations—rapid heart rate, jumpy knees and tight chest—were sensations I’d just had to live with…permanently. How wrong was I. When one of my sons was diagnosed with post concussion syndrome, I immersed myself into a world of neuroscience and learned about the impact of stress on the brain. For the first time, I became aware that an anxiety disorder was a combination of nature and nurture. Whoa! This nurture part was breaking news and sparked a new way of thinking about my anxiety: I couldn’t change my genes, but I could change my environment. To do this, I had to take an honest look at how anxiety was affecting my parenting. This was a wakeup call moment, and it might be for you as well. Our children are sponges and interpret the world by how we face situations. Not only did I want to begin...

The 11 Thought Leaders That Parents Should Know

When your child is born, so is your parenthood journey. These days, as a parent you may find yourself working harder than ever as you adapt to new ways of navigating your home, work, and social life. That’s why I want to provide you with a cheat sheet of thought leaders who can support you with the cognitive, emotional, social, academic, and character development of your children. When given the awesome responsibility of parenthood, you have no idea where this journey will take you… whether your child will show signs of anxiety or depression…whether they’ll have trouble organizing themselves, making transitions, staying focused, or self-regulating. In your commitment to caring for and nurturing your child unconditionally, you rely on the level of knowledge and skills you have at the time. If you’re like me, much of the knowledge I had was inaccurate, incomplete, or misunderstood. I honestly didn’t know what I didn’t know. One of my biggest discoveries as a parent and educator was learning about the brain, especially the connection of emotion to learning and the power of environment in developing mindsets, habits, self-talk, and skills. You can’t change your kid’s genes, but you can shape their environment. So, I am here to empower you. But I can’t do it alone. Let’s meet 11 thought leaders that changed my life and learn ways they can enhance your parenthood journey. Judy Willis, Neurologist, University of California, Santa Barbara Author of How Your Child Learns Best: Brain-Based Ways to Ignite Learning and Increase School Success. “ I [we] wake up with a new brain everyday and it is up to...

How Stress Affects Executive Function in Children—What Teachers Need to Know

Teaching stressed students and those with executive function deficits and anxiety disorders places additional demands and challenges on teachers. By equipping teachers with information and strategies to decrease classroom stress and boost executive function, teachers have an awesome opportunity to shape students’ brains in the best possible ways. Stress was once a topic associated with adults, but with the spike in anxiety among children, stress levels are increasing in the classroom, making it more challenging for teachers to teach and students to learn. More and more kids are acting out or zoning out in class, causing their stress response to activate and executive function skills to go offline. First, let’s clarify what executive function is. Think of it as your brain’s GPS system, a set of self-directed cognitive, social and emotional skills that tells the brain what, where and how to do something. This “system” cues and coordinates skills such as: Task initiation (i.e. getting started on an assignment and knowing how to organize/prioritize) Setting goals (i.e. making goals achievable…not too high or too low) Working memory (i.e. remembering directions or applying steps to a math problem) Self-monitoring (i.e. checking work and making improvements) Effort and Focus (i.e. sustaining the effort and focus needed to complete a task) Self-regulation (i.e. keeping emotions in check, particularly when obstacles occur) Cognitive flexibility (i.e. shifting gears or perspectives and transitioning from one task to another) Executive function is regulated in the prefrontal cortex and continues to develop throughout life. Since the brain is not fully developed at birth, children are not born with these skills needed for success in school and life...

How Parents Can Best Support Their Children During School Shutdowns

With very little warning, many parents or caregivers have a new role they didn’t anticipate filling on such short notice: Homeschool Teacher. Globally, schools are shutting down — some for a minimum of 30 days, others indefinitely. With very little warning, parents and children are adjusting to a whirlwind of new homebound changes and routines, many of which are adding high levels of stress to their daily lives. There is one new role many parents or caregivers didn’t anticipate filling on such short notice: Homeschool Teacher. While the thought of taking on this role may be initially overwhelming, take comfort in knowing you have been your child’s first and most important teacher all along. However, transforming your kitchen or dining room table into a classroom is another story. As you step in and support your child’s learning, a certain amount of stress is to be expected. Your child’s well being is a priority, and so is yours. Since parents don’t leave the hospital with their newborns and a parent toolbox in tow, allow me to equip you with a crash course of information, tips, and strategies about the science of learning and managing stress. If there was ever a need for a parent toolkit, it’s now. How Stress Works It all starts with a trigger. Worried thoughts follow, which activate a part of the brain called the amygdala, the brain’s alarm. It sends a “Mayday!” message to the brain indicating a threat, releasing stress chemicals which produce physiological changes throughout the body — rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, body tightness, headache and/or stomachache — and turn on the Fight,...

A Teacher’s Evolution: From Parent To Neuroeducator

My evolution from educator to neuroeducator has been a process of connecting the dots. It began with a love of learning and a passion to empower my students throughout the learning process, particularly the underperforming and those with ADHD or learning disabilities. As a mom and life-long educator, you can imagine my dismay when by 4th grade, my sons said they hated school. The spark they once had for school was barely a flicker. When asked, “How was school?” “Boring” was the daily refrain. “What did you learn?” “Nothing” was the typical response. I found this particularly frustrating because I was a teacher. A special educator to boot. Yet, I was unequipped to get to the root of the problem and felt I had fallen short as a parent and educator. I wanted to know why my sons, who loved learning, hated school. Over the years, I discovered they weren’t alone. In my classroom visits to schools across the country, I observed an increase of students in negative emotional states — anxiety, frustration, anger, boredom and lack of relevance to subject matter, causing them to act out or zone out — the same emotions my own sons were experiencing. And it wasn’t just me noticing these behaviors. I found myself in numerous conversations with teachers, coaches and parents who expressed frustration that their students, players or children lacked focus, motivation, resilience, self-regulation and self-direction, despite best efforts to instruct them. What was going on? It wasn’t until the diagnosis of a family member with Post-Concussion Syndrome that I started to get some answers. I became a regular participant at...