5 Ways to Help Girls Feel Self-Confident


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“I don’t get it. She’s smart. She’s kind. She’s athletic. She has a ton of friends… but she doesn’t see it.” A mom of an eleven-year-old girl made this statement, but I hear some version of this over and over again. It always leads to the same question: Why doesn’t my daughter have any self-confidence?

There isn’t an easy answer to this question. Are young girls under more pressure today than they once were? Perhaps. Are they exposed to media content above their developmental level? Yes, this is often the case. Is that why so many young girls feel they don’t measure up?

According to key findings from the Dove Self-Esteem Fund’s report, Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report of the State of Self-Esteem (2008), 7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members. Think that’s bad? Think on these findings:

  • 62% of girls feel insecure or unsure of themselves
  • 57% of girls say they don’t always tell their parents certain things about them because they don’t want them to think badly of them
  • The top wish among all girls is for their parents to communicate better with them, which includes more frequent and open conversations about what is happening in their own lives
  • 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking or drinking when feeling badly about themselves

Something to consider before we move on: 91% of girls age 8-12 turn to their mother as a resource when feeling badly about themselves.

When we shift gears, the question becomes, “How can I help?”

The truth is that there is no easy button when it comes to guiding young girls through the murky waters of preadolescence and adolescence. It takes time and a lot of patience.

Start by making a few small changes:

Listen more than you talk

Young girls often tell me that parents are terrible listeners. As a nine-year-old once told me (in a moment of frustration), “My mom always says, ‘Listen! Listen!’ but she never listens to me. I don’t even get to finish my story and she has three ways to fix is so she can stop talking to me.” That young girl’s mom was not actually trying to shoo her daughter away. Her intention was to help. Her need to fix, however, clouded her ability to listen, and that negatively impacted their communication.

Listen for the sake of listening. Your daughter turns to you because she trusts you to be there for her. It might be hard to resist the urge to jump in with solutions or start calling the school and other parents, but right now your daughter needs you to listen with both ears and empathize.

Believe in your daughter

If you want to raise a daughter who believes in herself, begin by believing in your daughter. I utter these words often.

Young girls can be their own worst critics. When we add on external criticism, it can be downright overwhelming for them. It’s not our job to highlight what we perceive to be their failures or missteps in an effort to inspire them to do better in the future. Parents often tell me that they believe this builds resilience in kids. Tell them where they messed up so they can get it right the next time. The truth is that this leaves kids feeling worthless. They already know that they failed the test, lost the game or sang out of tune… they don’t need us to go through the play-by-play in an effort to correct. They need us to provide support and empathy.

To raise resilient girls, the best thing we can do is to believe in their abilities, even when they have a terrible day. They can and will learn to work through those obstacles in their own time.


I’m as guilty as the next parent when it comes struggling with the work/family balance, and it’s hard to ignore that flashing, beeping phone. That’s why I keep it on silent and leave it upstairs when my daughter is around. I don’t want to break my connection with her to deal with an email that can surely wait.

High on the wish list of things girls want their parents to do better: Spend more time together. You might feel like your daughter is pushing you away, but I’m willing to bet that she feels like you don’t have enough time for her.

Make time to be together. Get out into nature and go for a hike. Read a book together. Play Monopoly (yes, really). Snuggle up and watch a movie. Whatever you do, be present. Shut out the rest of the world and place your focus on her.

Ask questions

Young girls often tell me that they feel like their parents quiz them about all the wrong things. Parents ask about grades, tests and quizzes, sports and lunch, but they don’t always ask questions that lead to meaningful conversations. What is it that our daughters really crave? They want to feel understood!

Instead of the usual questions about high-pressure stuff, try some of these:

  • What was the best part of your day?
  • What was the worst?
  • What’s your favorite song right now?
  • If you could do anything you wanted instead of going to school today, what would you do?
  • Do you have a favorite character from a book you’ve read recently?
  • What do prefer to do when you have downtime?

Another great way to get kids talking about the more important things in life? Play a game of 2 truths and 1 tale. Take turns telling two true statements and one tale, and try to spot the tale. You’ll be surprised what you learn!

Tell about you

One more thing that I hear a lot of from the young girls who sit on my couch is that conversations with parents feel one-sided. We ask a lot of questions about them, but how much do we share about us?

Sharing our own stories can be powerful for our daughters. The more they get to know us, the more trust we build.

Just the other day my daughter asked me, “Did you ever know any tricky girls when you were me age? The ones who are friends some days but not every day?” This sparked a wonderful conversation about friendship, empathy and understanding.

Don’t be afraid to share your truths. Where your story left off just might be where your daughter’s story begins…

How Heavy is Your Backpack? An Exercise in Empathy For School Age Kids


The end of the school year can be tough. As parents, we feel like we’re crawling to the finish line. We’re so close, but there’s still so much to be done before we close the books on another year. For kids, it can be a bit of a mixed bag of emotions.

They look forward to summer. More time for fun and less work to be done. Long summer days that fade to night. Swim-soaked hair and watermelon dripping down chins. They long for summer long before summer arrives, it seems, but they also feel sad or nervous about the end of the year. It’s hard to say goodbye to a teacher and a class full of friends.

The other day at school pickup I noticed a lot of tired faces. They’ve worked hard all year and they’re tired. They’re ready for a break. He cheated! You cheated! That’s not the rule! I don’t want to play! The little arguments feel big and important. Hard moments seem to crop up at every turn.

When the complaints roll in, it can be tempting to blame the other child. Believe me, I understand. I know the feeling – the child retells the story and you just want to jump into the past and fix the problem for them! You clench your fists because you just can’t imagine that kids argued so passionately about kickball… again.

You might even caution your child to just stay away from the kid who keeps calling him a cheater. Just stay away. Avoid the child – avoid the problem.

As hard as it can be, I try to focus on empathy when these stories come home. First, I listen to my child. I empathize and provide compassion. I let my child talk it out. Later, I revisit the situation and talk about empathy for others.

“The heavy backpack” is an empathy project I’ve been doing with kids for years. It helps them think about how others feel and learn the art of perspective taking. It’s simple but powerful.

How heavy is your backpack?

We all carry emotions with us. For kids, it can be useful to think about the image of carrying an invisible backpack stuffed with our feelings. Many kids tend to be “stuffers” by nature. It’s hard to talk about feelings, and many kids don’t have a well-developed feelings vocabulary. They stuff their feelings until they explode.

Kids can identify with the process of stuffing a backpack. When it’s light, you hardly notice it’s even there. When it gets too full, it’s hard to lift. When it’s so full that you can’t possibly fit one more thing in it, you can’t even push it from place to place.

When kids stuff their feelings, it’s like shoving them into a backpack. At first, it might feel only a little bit heavier than usual. Over time, the weight of the backpack drags them down.

They struggle to concentrate. They feel overwhelmed, anxious or even depressed. They might cry, yell or have a complete meltdown. The feelings, once stuffed safely inside the invisible backpack, suddenly become too big too carry and they spill out – everywhere.

The only way to cope with them is to work through them, but I find that many kids don’t have that opportunity. Often, they are told to “move on” or “get over it”. What they internalize is this: Your feelings don’t matter. This isn’t important.

Their feelings are important, though, and the only way to help them work through those big emotions is to empty that backpack, one feeling at a time.

Unpack the backpack.

What am I getting at? Why should we talk about invisible backpacks? Talking about those backpacks we all carry (but don’t always acknowledge) helps kids develop empathy for others. When they recognize what they carry in their own backpacks, they can begin to think what other people might carry in theirs. Instead of reacting quickly when something goes awry, they can think about how the other person might be feeling and make a positive choice.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Place an empty backpack on your child’s back and ask him how it feels. Ask him if he can jump up and down with it on.
  • Explain the invisible backpack. Talk about times when you stuff your own feelings and what that feels like.
  • Get some wooden blocks or other heavy objects and explain that these will represent the feelings we stuff.
  • Pick up a block, assign a feeling to it (ex: I felt super frustrated when I got stuck in traffic and was late to my meeting, I’m worried about a friend who isn’t feeling well, etc.) and place the block in the backpack. Do a few more and toss them in.
  • Ask your child to think of things that weigh him down – stuff that happens that he tries not to think about but still make him feel mad, worried or any other feeling (Ex: I didn’t know my spelling words, sometime said I cheated in soccer, I couldn’t sit with my friends at lunch). Have him add his blocks to the backpack.
  • Ask your child to try to think about feelings that might weigh his friends down. Talk about those things and add some blocks to the backpack.
  • Have your child try on the backpack full of blocks. Ask him how it feels now that it’s stuffed. Ask if he can jump up and down.
  • Explain that this is how people feel when they carry around big emotions. This is why we don’t always make the best choices and sometimes we overreact or say things we wish we didn’t.
  • Ask your child what he can do to be a helper if it seems like a friend might have a heavy backpack. How can he get help if his own backpack gets too heavy?

Talk about empathy.

A few weeks ago I asked 21 first grade students if they knew the meaning of empathy. Only two kids raised their hands. One of them was my son.

I hear a lot of talk about the importance of empathy of kindness, but I often find that kids don’t actually know what empathy means. If they don’t understand it, how can they practice it?

Talk about empathy with your kids. Discuss what it means and how they can be empathic friends. We can’t just expect kids to understand and practice empathy without first providing information and guidance. When we take the time to teach, they grow into empathic and compassionate citizens.

The next time your child comes home full of big feelings about the events of the day, get out the backpack and blocks and rely on empathy to help him work through his feelings.

For more great strategies to teach empathy and help kids work through their feelings, please check out THE HAPPY KID HANDBOOK.

Studies Show Harsh Discipline and Spanking Are All Harm and No Good – Try This, Instead


Breaking news from Science Daily: The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to act out, defy their parents, engage in aggressive and antisocial behaviors and have both mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.

Take a moment to let that sink in.

According to a new study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, spanking is associated with the above-mentioned unintentional detriments and is not associated with either immediate or long-term compliance. Long story, short: This meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking proves what we already know – spanking doesn’t work.

You can find the study here.

I’ve worked with countless parents over the years. Sometimes parents come to me because they want to avoid spanking – they remember what it felt like and don’t want to repeat history but they don’t know what to do. Sometimes parents want to stop yelling. Sometimes parents feel they are too permissive and their kids don’t respect them. Others are baffled by the behavior they see and want to figure out what they can change in their parenting style to improve the family dynamics.

One thing I’ve heard over and over again: “I was spanked and I turned out fine.” This is a fairly normal defense mechanism parents use to pack away the hurt and focus on the positive. In many ways, it makes sense. People use these statements to prove that their parents didn’t hurt them – it’s hard to admit that the people you loved the most as a child hurt you in some way.

But the truth is in the research: This meta-analysis included over 160,000 children and is the most complete analysis of the effects of spanking to date.

I find that spanking and authoritarian parenting tend to be generational. This is how my parents did it, so this is how I will do it. When I help parents work through their stuffed emotions about these parenting styles, however, I find that a world of hurt hides beneath the surface.

Side note: New research out of Iowa State University found that “harsh parenting” may increase a child’s risk for obesity and poor physical health later in life. You can read more about that here

We aren’t destined to repeat the patterns of previous generations. You can love your parents and make different choices for your children. It’s okay to move forward and think about what works best for your little ones. 

One of the problems with finding a parenting style that suits each parent is that it’s fairly difficult to find adequate support once the kids are beyond the preschool years. Information and groups are everywhere for those first five years, but then, poof!, it all disappears. Parents are left to sort out conflicting advice found on the Internet.

Honestly? That’s why I wrote THE HAPPY KID HANDBOOK. It’s a resource to help parents cope with the ups and downs that can and do occur along the way.

One of the most frequently asked questions I find in my inbox is this: How do I get started with positive parenting? How do I change everything and start over?

The good news is that if you’re asking that question, you’re already making changes. It takes time, patience and practice to try new parenting strategies. Change almost never occurs in a day – there will be slips and falls and tears and frustration, but the end result will be worth the effort.

Set healthy boundaries.

Kids need boundaries. Chances are, you already set some. When you set a certain bedtime and stick to it, that’s a healthy boundary. When you teach your kids look twice before crossing the street, that’s a healthy boundary. You get the point.

Kids come into this world full of curiosity and questions. They don’t have all the answers and they certainly don’t make the right choices every time, but they do look to their parents to fill in the blanks. It’s up to us to teach them about physical health, emotional health, safety, social interaction skills, problem solving skills and coping skills. Sounds like a lot, I know, but I’m willing to bet that you tackle some of these in small ways every single day.

Start with your expectations. I don’t have a ton of “rules” in my house, but I do expect kindness, respect, forgiveness and empathy. Do we mistakes? Yes. Do we work through them together? Absolutely.

Parent the child you have.

It’s fine to have a blueprint of rules and expectations. We all have certain ideas about how we want this parenting gig to go when we first begin the journey, but we also have to consider the individual needs of the kids we have. If you have a highly introverted child or a highly sensitive child on your hands, yelling and sarcasm will crush that child. Telling and extroverted child to “just stop talking” is akin to telling her to be someone else. Thinking out loud is how she processes her thoughts.

Get to know the individual needs of your child and meet him where he is. When we parent our kids with personality in mind, we help them thrive.

Remain calm.

Kids can really set parents off. Meltdowns, in particular, are a source of stress for many parents. It’s hard to know what to do when your kid is falling apart in the middle of the soccer field, after all.

Remain calm.

When parents meet anger with anger (or frustration with frustration), the situation only gets worse. Engage in deep breathing to calm your own reactions and empathize with your child. Stop worrying about what other people think and stay focused on the little one in your arms.

Be okay with big emotions.

Many parents are triggered by the feelings of their kids. Kids cry and parents want to fix the problem. Kids yell and parents want to hand out time outs. It takes time to learn how to process and cope with emotions, and yelling and crying are simply ways to vent those very big feelings.

Let your kids express their emotions. Let there be tears. Let there be foot stomping. Let there be yelling when times are tough. You can work on coping skills when they’re calm but shushing their feelings in the moment (or distracting them with candy) will only lead to a bigger meltdown later on.

Find the hidden picture.

All behavior is communication. Most kids don’t have the sophisticated social skills to say, “I’m feeling really jealous of Johnny right now and I would like more 1:1 time with mom, too,” so they hit Johnny, instead. Or they yell at Johnny. Or they hide Johnny’s toys and tease him while he tries to find them. Kids need help communicating their feelings, and it’s up to us to teach them

Look for clues to identify the underlying problem and talk to your child about how he might be feeling. Hunger, exhaustion, jealousy, anxiety, anger and loneliness can all result in behaviors that seem defiant on the surface. Dig beneath the surface to help to your child uncover his hidden emotions and learn to cope.

Try family meetings.

A weekly check in to talk about how things are going can be a great strategy for families. It’s a time to discuss what’s working, what’s not and how all family members are feeling about the current family dynamics.

When families communicate and listen to one another, they learn to work together for the greater good. Take the time to check in and engage in open and honest communication as a family. Your kids will benefit from having a voice, and you will find ways to improve the family dynamics as a result.

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How to Deal With Explosive Temper Tantrums

How to deal with explosive behavior

Josh* was seven-years-old when his mom reached out to me. I will never forget the phone call. Two minutes into her description of her son’s temper tantrums that occurred frequently and seemed to last “forever”, she broke down into tears. Feeling alone in the situation, the family quietly dealt with Josh’s tantrums behind closed doors and didn’t seek advice from anyone. They were exhausted, embarrassed and frustrated. The tantrums, which I later discovered lasted approximately 45 minutes in duration and occurred about three times per week, were negatively impacting the family.

Mom and dad were out of energy and out of ideas. They fought constantly and lost their patience with Josh regularly. His sisters, both older, began to shut down. They avoided him and pulled away from their parents. Nothing seemed to work.

This family felt very alone in their struggle to help a child with explosive tantrums, but the truth is that tantrums aren’t just for toddlers and many families face very similar situations.

Tantrums can and do occur in the school age years. As parents, we tend to reframe big kid tantrums as “meltdowns”. Many school age children have difficulty coping with their emotions and lack the ability to verbalize their feelings. Meltdowns occur when emotions build up and kids need to release their feelings. It’s common for kids to direct these pent up emotions toward their parents or care givers. The good news, if you choose to see it, is that this expression of misdirected frustration is actually a sign of trust.

What makes a tantrum “explosive”?

Tantrums shift from average to explosive based on a number of factors.

  • Length: Explosive tantrums tend to be long in duration
  • Aggressive behavior: Can include hitting, biting, throwing things
  • Excessive screaming (can include cursing and verbal threats)
  • Behavior that can be considered dangerous for the child or the bystanders (ex: jumping from a moving car)
  • Can occur across multiple domains (ex: home, school, baseball practice, etc.)

Note: All children are different and you should always evaluate your child’s behavior against his own baseline (his average daily behavior).

Why do children engage in explosive behavior?

It’s important to remember that behavior is a form of communication. A child who is so overwhelmed that he lashes out is distressed. There is no one reason that triggers explosive tantrums, but there are a few things that explosive children tend to have in common:

  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Poor (or no) coping skills
  • Lack effective communication skills
  • Poor impulse control
  • Lack problem-solving skills

There is a tendency to view explosive behavior as “manipulative”. Children who experience explosive tantrums tend to run high on emotion and low on coping skills. They aren’t trying o manipulate – they are trying to communicate.

What can parents do?

Remain calm.

When parents yell, command and/or criticize kids during explosive tantrums, the aggressive and explosive behavior increases. These tantrums are very difficult for parents to manage. Practice deep breathing techniques when you’re calm so that you can calm your senses when your child engages in explosive behavior.

Use calming phrases (on repeat) and don’t give in.

It’s tempting to give in the moment an explosive tantrum begins, but giving in won’t necessarily stop the behavior and it certainly won’t help long term. Giving in reinforces the behavior.

When your child is calm, talk through some calming phrases that you can use when he’s upset. “I know you’re upset; I will help you calm down” works for some kids, but many kids are specific in what words actually calm them (versus inflame them).

THE HAPPY KID HANDBOOK is packed with great strategies to deal with big feelings!

Log it.

Keeping a tantrum log helps. I know that writing down the event is probably the last thing you want to do once it’s over, but keeping a log helps you establish patterns and find the triggers. When you know what sets your child off, you can make a plan.

You don’t have to fill a page. Start with this:

  • Time of day
  • Length of tantrum
  • Behaviors that occurred (screaming, hitting, breaking things, etc.)
  • Possible triggers
  • Interventions that worked
  • Interventions that didn’t work
  • Baseline status: Where it occurred, last time child ate and what, how much sleep the night before, what was coming next

Create a daily discharge plan.

Kids need to vent or discharge their emotions. In addition to the fact that kids are sitting for longer periods and expected to learn and even play (sports) at an accelerated pace, many kids spend the day in survival mode. They stuff their emotions to avoid a meltdown in front of peers and save it for home.

Create a safe space for venting emotions. Some kids respond well to venting while drawing, some need to yell it out and some like to write it down then tear it up. Find a strategy that works for your child.

Set clear limits and expectations.

As parents, we have a tendency to provide stern reminders of our expectations and limits when we’re under pressure, but many kids fail to internalize those limits and expectations and need reminders. Make your behavioral expectations and limits clear when kids are calm. You don’t need 100 house rules, you simply need to talk about your expectations and provide frequent reminders.

Structure is essential for kids who tend to have explosive tantrums. Keep to a consistent bedtime, have consistent meals and snacks and factor in downtime.

Increase 1:1 time.

Sometimes explosive kids struggle to relate to or bond with their parents. They often feel sorry after their tantrums and carry around feelings of guilt. Plan regular 1:1 time with your child to spend time bonding with him and getting to know him better.


Deal with your feelings.

Many parents experience frustration and resentment as a result of their children’s behavior. Some also feel sad and anxious. Work through your own feelings about your child’s behavior so that you don’t bring those feelings into the mix when your child experiences a meltdown.

Many parents benefit from their own therapy or parent education to work through these feelings.

Be aware of possible underlying issues.

Explosive tantrums can stem from other underlying issues. A few to consider:

  • Anxiety
  • Learning differences
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder

If your child experiences explosive tantrums more than twice a week (on average) into the school age years and fails to improve, seek an evaluation. If your child displays any suicidal behavior (thoughts, actions, plans) or is a danger to others, seek immediate help.

This article does not replace an evaluation from a licensed mental health professional.

*Names, genders, ages and other identifying features changed.


10 Strategies to Help Your Anxious Child in the Moment

10 Strategies to Help Your Anxious Child in the Moment


Childhood anxiety is tricky business. There are a lot of misconceptions, and often times it either goes unchecked or becomes a blame game. Parents get blamed. Kids get blamed. Even teachers and schools get blamed.

Here’s the deal: Anxiety has a genetic component. Some kids are more anxious than others, but they don’t necessarily have an anxiety disorder. Others do. “Bad parenting” doesn’t cause anxiety. Kids don’t create their own anxiety. Circumstances can trigger anxious feelings, but they don’t cause anxiety. Blaming holds little value when it comes to helping kids with anxiety.

Uncovering the worries and unpacking the feelings are different than blaming. In helping kids understand their triggers, we empower them to use adaptive coping strategies when they confront those triggers.

But here’s the thing: Sometimes kids (of all ages) have huge, anxiety-based meltdowns and it’s really difficult to know what to do in the moment. Sometimes they yell and scream and tell you to go away, even though they secretly want you to stay. This isn’t a test. Anxiety is overwhelming and kids have a tendency to say the opposite of what they mean when they’re overwhelmed with emotion.

So what can parents do when kids are in meltdown mode and talking doesn’t even feel like a possibility? The strategies below are some favorites as identified by many kids in my office over the years. Note: All kids are different and not every strategy will appeal to every kid. Try a few to figure out how to help calm your child when she needs you the most.


Bear hug.

Sounds simple, right? The problem is that sometimes kids scream things like, “go away!” or “leave me alone!” or “I’m FINE!” when they’re overwhelmed by anxiety, and this causes parents to back away.

I’ve had many kids sit on my couch and say that what they really want (even when they say otherwise) is a big bear hug from mom or dad. The combination of pressure and loving embrace helps release some of the tension contributing to the anxious feelings and provides a safe space to release those emotions.

Read old favorites.

Think twice before you start donating old picture books. Just because your child can read chapter books doesn’t mean she’s ready to move away from the old favorites that brought her joy in her earlier days.

Reading old favorite stories helps kids tap into memories of early childhood – this feels calming and soothing for many. Reading to your child can help your child focus on breathing and listening and staying present in the moment – all good ways to reduce anxious feelings.

Whisper talk.

When kids experience overwhelming anxiety, all of their senses are heightened. Everything seems loud, bright and just too much. If they run away and slam the door or cover their ears and yell it’s because they want to block it all out.

Whispering, not necessarily about the triggers, can help soothe your child. Remember back when your whispered to your baby? Big kids also feel soothed by a calming voice. Whisper about the clouds in the sky or the butterfly out the window. Whisper about ice cream cones on a summer day. Whispering a favorites list can be a great calming strategy.

Blow bubbles!

Blowing bubbles isn’t just for little kids. The combination of getting outside into nature, fresh air and deep breathing (required for bubble blowing) are known antidotes to anxious feelings. Get outside an blow bubbles when you’re anxious – no matter your age!

Color together.

Kids tell me over and over again that what they really want when they’re feeling intense anxiety is for parents to stay with them while they calm down. Coloring together is a great way to soothe those intense emotions while spending time together. Those adult coloring books are popular for a reason – get some!

Bubble bath.

Pour your child a nice warm bath with plenty of bubbles, turn on some relaxing music in the background and let the stress and anxiety melt away.

Create a cozy spot.

I always encourage parents of anxious kids to have a designated stress free zone in the house. Stock it with favorite books, coloring books and other supplies, stress balls, soft pillows and blankets, journals and any other relaxing activities that appeal to your child.

Take a mindful walk.

Mindfulness + nature + exercise = decreased anxiety. It’s a simple equation. Don’t spend the time talking about anxiety and stress. Notice the green grass, the fluffy white clouds and the flowers just in bloom. Trust me.

Walk down memory lane.

Sometimes big kids need to be reminded that they’re still those little kids who always sat on your lap and asked for one more story…just taller and more knowledgable. Get out the family photos and walk down memory lane together. Talk about favorite days, favorite trips and favorite memories.

Check out.

I can’t say this enough: We need to work together to take back childhood. If kids are under more stress today, we all have to own our role in it. Skip the soccer practice (the team will survive). Take a season off (your kid will still be an athlete). Take a break from the community musical (he can go back to it next time). You get the point.

Childhood is in crisis because kids are expected to do too much every single day. Check out. Bring back free play and downtime and family time. Take back childhood.

For more on helping kids cope with stress and anxiety, get your copy of THE HAPPY KID HANDBOOK.


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How to Help Your Quiet Child Connect


Ask my son about his day at school and you will get a play-by-play of his two recess periods. You’ll find out what they played, who said something funny, who scored a goal (or a run or something else) and who got frustrated with the game. If anyone cheated, you’ll hear all about it.

In first grade, playing with his friends is everything. Sure, he’s a math enthusiast and loves science and history, but recess is by far his favorite part of the day. When the day is done, however, so is he. No need for play dates. No filling the spaces with extra curricular activities. No busy social calendar. Recess has him covered.

I get a lot of questions from parents concerned about their “quiet” or “shy” kids. They worry that their kids struggle to make friends. They wonder if their kids are lonely or sad at school. They don’t know how to help them “fit in” with the other kids.

This is a natural worry among parents of kids with all kinds of personalities. Somewhere deep down in the recesses of our emotional memory banks, we all remember that time when we didn’t fit in or felt left out. We don’t want our children to experience that kind of hurt. We want to fix it before it happens.

Here’s the thing: More often than not, the so-called “shy” and “quiet” kids in question are actually perfectly content. It’s their loud, talkative and highly social parents who worry.

Here’s the other thing: There is a difference between a child who struggles with mild social anxiety or has difficulty engaging with peers and introverted children.

One more thing: Try to avoid the labels. “Shy” can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Identify formation starts early and takes time. A kid who is always called “shy” will eventually act the part.

Introverted children enjoy downtime. They like to be alone and draw energy from doing various quiet activities on their own. For introverted kids, school is a real energy zapper. They need after school time and weekends to recharge. They aren’t avoiding other kids, they’ve just had their fill.

As for the kids with mild social anxiety or the kids who tend to be quiet in groups, you can help them practice a few skills to make the process of connecting easier (and less anxiety producing).

Respect their preferences.

Not every kid wants to play every sport and join every group. Some kids genuinely prefer 1:1 play. I was that kid. I loved afternoons with my best friend but dreaded birthday parties and group play. I wasn’t anxious about fitting in, I just preferred a smaller environment.

Understanding and respecting your child’s preferences is crucial. Forcing your child to fit some mold won’t help your child connect with others. In fact, it will have the opposite effect. Instead of forcing your kid to attend every party or meet large groups of kids at the park, ask your child who she wants to play with and start there. Also? Step back and let the kids play. Quiet kids need time to develop relationships. Micromanaging the play date or planning big outings are counterproductive.

Don’t push.

You can’t force your child to want to have play dates and make new friends. If you do, your child will likely feel anxious about the whole process of making friends.

Put your needs (and feelings about it) aside for the time being and provide support. Ask about friends here and there, but resist the urge to pepper your child with questions about the lunch table, recess and the latest activities the kids are doing.

Teach a few “meet and greet” skills.

When children end up on my couch for “difficulty making and maintaining friends”, I find that many of them need help with social interaction skills. They either steamroll conversations in and effort to be heard or they stare at their feet and wait for the moment to end.

Try these tips to help your kids meet new people:

  • Notice the eyes: Instead of hissing, “look up” every time your child meets someone new, prepare your child in advance by teaching her to focus on the color of the person’s eyes. Zooming in on this detail can make the meeting feel more manageable.
  • Loud and proud: Quiet kids tend to have quiet voices. Practice speaking in a hour voice at home by pretending to use a microphone to give a speech about Lego building. Instead of saying “speak up” when your child talks to others, get low and whisper, “loud and proud” as a reminder.
  • Be curious: Sometimes kids worry about how they will answer questions when they meet new people. Teach your kids to be curious about others by asking questions to start a conversation. This decreases some of the anticipatory anxiety that can crop up in social situations.

Practice conversational skills at home.

Ever been stuck in a group at a party where one group member talks on and on and always finds a way to circle the conversation back to his own interests? Many adults lack basic conversational skills. Excessive chatter is simply a coverup.

Teach your child the art of sliding in and out of conversations. This is best done at the dinner (or breakfast) table. If your quiet one tends to watch without comment, stop and point out times to slide in with a comment or question and slide back out.

Practice ice breakers.

Sometimes the hardest part is finding something to say. I often encourage my kids to follow these two tips when meeting new kids:

  • Find out one interesting thing about the other child. Your child can practice simple questions like “do you have a pet?”, “do you play a sport?” or “what’s your favorite thing to do after school?”
  • Share one interesting thing. When the other child answers a question, your child should practice responding with his own interesting fact (“I have a dog, too!)

While these ice breakers might sound simple, many kids freeze up in large groups or new social situations. Practicing at home helps.

Friends make school more fun and actually help kids feel more confident in the classroom. But social interaction skills don’t come naturally to every child. Some kids need a little extra help at home!

For more great tips on helping kids connect with others, pick up a copy of THE HAPPY KID HANDBOOK!


Image: Pexels

10 Things Your Anxious Child Wants You to Know


I work with a lot of kids with anxiety. Not all of them meet the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder (some do, some don’t), but they do have anxiety that is no longer manageable without help. To that end, I teach coping strategies to both children and their parents and listen to the worries that keep kids up at night.

While all children are different and have different sources of stress, I have found a common theme among my anxious kids: They worry about worrying others. Imagine worrying all day about a wide variety of things and then adding worrying about how you might make others worry to that very long list of worries? It happens. A lot.

As I tell the kids I work with, anxious kids often have a tendency to be highly empathic kids. Not only do they have their own emotions to to process, but they also take on the emotions of those around them. Sounds unfair, doesn’t it?

At some point in treatment I ask all of my worriers the following question: What is one thing you wish your parents understood about your anxiety? While the wording of their answers varies, there are some common themes that emerge in response to this question.

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but below are ten of the responses I hear most often.

It’s really hard to stop worrying.

Your kids don’t want to feel anxious. In fact, when I follow up with, “If you could make one change right now, what would it be?”, they almost always respond, “I would stop worrying.” You can’t just hit a button (or take a magic pill) and make anxiety disappear. It takes time and work. There will be peaks and valleys. Your children need you to understand this.

My worries are real to me.

Adults have time and wisdom on their side, and sometimes this causes parents to minimize the worries of their anxious kids. That’s a mistake. Regardless of what you think, your child’s worries are real to her. Meet her where she is and listen.

I don’t want to make you sad or upset.

How you respond to your anxious child is important. When you get frustrated with your child’s anxiety, your child feels responsible. When you tell your child that his anxiety makes you sad or overwhelmed, your child feels responsible. Your child doesn’t want to upset you. He just wants to tell you how he feels.

I don’t mean to be annoying.

Anxious kids tend to ask a lot of questions. Often, they ask the same question repeatedly. This is because they feel a complete lack of control and knowing the plan helps. They aren’t trying to annoy you by peppering you with questions, they just want the information. Visuals help.

I really can’t fall asleep alone.

When the lights go down, the worry brain grows in size. Kids are active little beings and even the most anxious ones can push their worries down by day, but the worries will emerge at night. They aren’t trying to power struggle at night – they really do struggle. Mindfulness and guided imagery help. Push the bedtime up to allow for extra time to settle down.

Holding your hand helps.

Your kids know that you can’t fix it for them or make the anxiety go away. You can’t save them from it. When I ask what they want from their parents when they’re anxious, they often cite holding hands, snuggling, reading together, drawing together or taking a walk together as helpful strategies. In short, they want you.

You can’t fix it for me.

You might feel like you have the answers because you’ve been through something similar or you view the problem through a different lens. They don’t want your quick fix strategies, though. More often than not, your anxious kids simply want you to listen and empathize.

I need extra time with transitions.

Change is really hard for anxious kids. They can’t move from teacher to teacher or place to place as easily as their non-anxious peers. When their schedules are overhauled without warning, they panic. Take the time to help your anxious child adjust to change. Talk details and be honest.

Asking “How can I help?” is better than telling me what to do.

Anxious kids don’t always have the solutions or know exactly what they need, but barking out orders tends to cause a spike in anxious feelings. Ask; don’t tell.

When you tell me not to worry, I feel like a failure.

Telling an anxious kid not to worry isn’t fair. Learning to cope with worry takes time and patience. They can’t stop their anxiety overnight and they feel pressured when parents say things like, “Don’t worry so much!” Try something like, “What do you think is causing you the most worries today?”, instead.

For information and strategies to help your anxious child, pick up a copy of THE HAPPY KID HANDBOOK.

Raise Assertive Kids in 8 Easy Steps


In the past two days, two wonderful small moments occurred. The first happened during a chemistry lesson in my daughter’s classroom yesterday morning. When the teacher asked for volunteers to read the conclusion of the experiment out loud, my daughter raised her hand high in the air. Sounds like no big deal, right? The thing is that my daughter is never the first to raise her hand. She prefers to blend in and though she often knows the answers and yearns to show her teachers that, she doesn’t always speak up. To volunteer before the others and read in front of the class in a clear, strong voice is a big deal.

The second wonderful small moment occurred during her classroom Valentine’s Day celebration this afternoon. When another student offered to share extra balloons (he brought more than he needed), she jumped at the chance to get one. Again, this probably seems like the day in the life of a nine-year-old, except that my daughter typically thinks of others first and never reacts so quickly in such situations. She was beaming with pride when she recounted her ability to really speak up and use her voice this week. It’s something she thinks about often, and I see her working through her ambivalence about assertive communication as she grows.

Some kids are naturally more assertive than others. It can be hard to find the line between assertive communication and aggressive communication, and some kids hang out in the land of passive in an effort to be polite and respectful (like my daughter). The problem, of course, is that assertive communication is essential to building healthy working and personal relationships. Kids need to learn how to communicate their feelings, thoughts and needs in an assertive manner.

What does it mean to be “assertive”?

Being assertive means speaking up in an honest and respectful way. Assertive people stand tall, make good eye contact and speak clearly. They don’t talk over others, but they don’t let others talk over them. Assertive kids use their communication skills to do the following:

  • Give opinions
  • Ask for help
  • Express their needs
  • Disagree in a respectful manner
  • Offer suggestions
  • Speak up for others

What should I do if my child isn’t assertive?

Remain calm. You can’t force a child to become more assertive simply by saying it. Learning to assert yourself takes time and practice.

The truth is that one of the most frequently asked questions in my inbox is this: How can I teach my child to be more assertive with her/his friends (or teachers…or coaches)? If your child hasn’t found her voice yet, she’s not alone. You can practice these skills in the (emotional) safety of your home, and that will help your child find her voice.

8 Steps to more assertive kids:

Review communication styles.

Role play is always the best way to practice social skills. More often than not, kids aren’t aware of their own communication styles. They might think they speak assertively, when really they tend to have a more passive or aggressive style.

Using real life scenarios (provided by your child), act out the three communications styles. How would a passive (quiet voice, looks to the floor, has difficulty finding the words) person handle talking to a teacher about a grade? How would an aggressive (loud voice, has trouble listening, talks over the teacher) communicator cope? How can your child use assertive (practice first, maintain eye contact, ask questions, speak clearly) communication to resolve the problem?

Practice eye contact.

It can be really hard to look someone in the eye when you’re trying your best to hide in plain sight. I would know. I was one of those kids. Work hard and keep your head down – the rest will fall into place. Yeah, eventually I had to learn to speak up.

I always practice conversations that I know will be difficult or presentations in the mirror. Looking in the mirror helps you practice making eye contact in a safe place. After a few rounds in the mirror, try the same conversation with a family member. Another fun strategy? Make videos and replay them to see check for eye contact and voice tone.

Teach “I” statements.

A big part of assertive communication involves expressing your needs without blaming others or ignoring the needs of others. The key to doing this is learning the art of “I” statements.

When my kids struggle to assert their feelings, I always ask them three questions: What are you feeling? What are you thinking? What do you need? This cues them to tap into “I” statements.

Practice the art of debate.

Kids who struggle to assert themselves tend to avoid conversations that involve personal opinions. Sometimes they worry about what others will think. Other times they worry about hurting someone else’s feelings. Respectful communication does include healthy debates and disagreeing in a respectful manner, however, and kids do need to learn this skill.

Host a kitchen table debate over the weekend! Pick a topic (gummy worms versus jelly beans), have all family members (even you!) come up with their own opinions on the matter and debate the issue.

Create a word wall.

Okay, maybe it’s more like a phrase wall. Kids internalize the messages we send verbally, but nonverbal messages also go a long way toward helping kids learn to speak up.

One day, on a whim, I covered my daughter’s closet door with positive phrases like, “I can make a difference” and “I am kind and caring”. She loved it. I see her reading it often and she repeats some of the phrases when she needs them.

Have a personal motto.

Sometimes a calming, confident phrase helps kids remember to use their strong voices. I often encourage kids to come up with their own personal motto to use when they need to be strong and assertive.

Your kids should come up with their own phrases to inspire confidence, but something like, “When I use my strong voice, I solve my own problems” helps inspire assertive behavior.

Remain calm.

One of the hallmarks of assertive communication is staying calm when asserting your thoughts or needs. To that end, it helps to practice some calming behaviors:

  • Count to 10 before you respond
  • Take 3 deep breaths
  • Relax your facial muscles
  • Repeat your motto

Replace “I don’t know” and “I don’t care”.

Kids who rely on passive communication often answer questions with “I don’t know” or “I don’t care”. They do this to avoid debate, hurting someone else’s feelings or causing additional stress to another. These phrases create bad habits, though. It becomes second nature and they miss out on getting their needs met.

When you hear “I don’t know” or “I don’t care”, cue your child to start again with “I prefer”. They might not get their needs met every time they ask, but they do need to learn to express their wants and needs.

The Happy Kid Handbook includes a chapter dedicated to teaching assertiveness skills – grab your copy today!

How to Help Your Anxious Kid Avoid Avoidance Behaviors


Avoid avoidance? I know, sounds like I missed something there, but stay with me. In the past few weeks, my inbox has been overflowing with questions about helping anxious kids who have a tendency to avoid all possible anxiety triggers. Should parents push kids to “face their fears”? Should they encourage the avoidance because the anxiety seems to “disappear” as long as the child avoids the triggers? What’s a parent to do?

Parenting an anxious child is hard work. Just when you think you have the problem solved (nine night lights to clear up the fear of the dark later), a new trigger emerges. That’s because anxiety isn’t just about the triggers. Irrational fears and intrusive thoughts have a way of snowballing, and kids confront a lot of new information on a daily basis. For a non-anxious child, new information is fun and exciting. For an anxious child, however, new information can lead to new fears.

Add the new fears to the old fears (you can install all the night lights you want, until kids learn to cope with anxiety those Band Aids can come off at any moment!) and you have a big mess of fears.

Avoidance is a common strategy used by anxious kids. Honestly, it’s easy for parents to fall into the trap (been there). When kids avoid their triggers, they tend to appear calm and happy again. The problem is that it won’t last.

What are avoidance behaviors?

Avoidance behaviors are things kids (and by kids I do mean all ages – even the tweens and teens!) do or don’t do to reduce their feelings of anxiety. There are different levels of avoidance. For example, true avoidance behaviors occur when a child goes to great lengths to completely stay away from a trigger. If a child is afraid of reading in front of his classmates, for example, he might either try to stay home “sick” when he has to give a book report or invent reasons to leave the classroom during book report time (I need to see the nurse).

Partial avoidance, sometimes referred to as safety behaviors, are things kids do to try to hide their anxiety. Ever notice a kid who always seems to drop his pencil and disappear from sight the moment the teacher starts calling on kids for answers? That’s avoidance. Safety behaviors help kids feel in control in the moment or help limit exposure to the trigger. Other examples include avoiding eye contact when talking to people, leaving the room frequently, daydreaming to check out and even drinking and drugs in older kids.

While avoidance behaviors might give kids some immediate symptom relief, they don’t help them learn to cope with their triggers. In fact, the fears actually have a tendency to snowball when kids engage in avoidance behaviors.

Take, for example, a child who refuses to go to school due to separation anxiety. It feels good and safe to stay home, so the child engages in negative behaviors to avoid going to school. Over time, as the days add up, the child starts to internalize the message that she can’t go to school. School is scary, overwhelming and just too hard. The more she stays home, the more she believes that she’s can’t possibly cope at school.

Avoidance can actually increase the risk of engaging in negative safety behaviors down the line. Drugs and alcohol are used to dull the feelings of anxiety, particularly for those facing social anxiety.

How can you teach kids to avoid avoidance?

Like all things anxiety related, avoiding avoidance requires time, practice and patience. There will be good days and not-so-good days along the way. Try not to view setbacks as failures when your kids are learning to cope with anxiety. Setbacks are simply a call to review what is and isn’t working so that your child can continue to practice adaptive coping strategies.

***If anxiety impacts your child’s ability to go to school or participate in normal daily activities, call your family doctor for a referral to a mental health professional specializing in children and adolescents. 


With that in mind, try these five steps to help your child learn to avoid avoidance:

Unpack the triggers.

More often than not, what begins as an intentional avoidance becomes a habit over time. The kid who hides every time a dog is near no longer has to think about avoiding the dog. she just does it. It’s how she copes.

It can take time to help kids unpack their anxiety triggers and identify their avoidance behaviors. When your child is calm, talk about what it means to feel anxious (your heart races, your brain warns you to avoid something, your palms sweat, etc) and what kids of things might cause those feelings. Share your observations of your child. Ask your child if she ever tries to avoid things that make her feel scared or worried.

I always recommend having the child make a “trigger tracker” list. This helps the child gain some control over the feelings of anxiety.

Challenge exaggerations.

Anxiety is fueled by irrational thinking. What might begin as a small worry (did I leave the stove on?) can quickly snowball when intrusive thoughts take over (my house is burning down!) Experiencing a complete lack of control over the trigger can increase those intrusive thoughts. This sends kids into fight or flight mode, and flight is often the easiest option.

Teach your child to challenge exaggerations by using self-talk. Help your child make a list of the intrusive thoughts that tend to snowball, then practice making logical statements instead. When kids learn to pick apart their worries and ground themselves in logical thinking, the intrusive thoughts shrink.

Start small.

It can be tempting to tell a kid to just get back in there and face his fears, but that kind of statement feels paralyzing to a child struggling with anxiety. Anxious kids often feel overwhelmed on a good day – they can’t just “shake it off”.  What they can do is start small and go from there.

If dogs are a huge source of anxiety, for example, start by reading books about dogs. Next, find a pet grooming place that will let your child watch a dog being groomed from behind the glass. After that, find a friend with a very calm and kid friendly dog and pay that dog a visit. You get the drill.

If social anxiety is the problem, start by attending a gathering for 15 minutes then work up to 25 and 35 and so on until larger gatherings no longer feel overwhelming.

Focus on manageable tasks.

One of the most difficult challenges for anxious kids is that once their anxiety is triggered, everything feels huge and overwhelming. Teach your child to break things down into manageable parts. If test anxiety is a problem, help your child learn to study in specific blocks of time with plenty of relaxation breaks and break down the test material to one focus area per study block. When he actually takes the test, have him use a plain piece of paper to block out the section he’s not working on in the moment.

Learning to break things down helps kids feel in control of their triggers.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

All kids are different and no one strategy works for all kids (except deep breathing to calm the feeling of panic – that always works when done correctly), but there are tons of ways to practice confronting triggers.

Mirror, mirror: Have your child role play anxiety producing situations while facing a mirror. The more kids practice confronting their triggers, the more mastery they gain. Join your child to help him work though difficult situations.

Put on a social play: Writing, directing and starring in a play about your own worries can be quite empowering! Encourage the whole family to get in on the action, as directed by the anxious child. Play truly does help children gain mastery over the fears, and this is a great way to get started.

Sing a silly song: As silly as it sounds, rewriting the lyrics to a favorite tune to reflect how you can face your fears really does help. I do this to show my kids that we all have worries and sources of stress, but casting them in a new light can make us feel better.

The Happy Kid Handbook is full of great strategies to help children and families learn to cope with stress and anxiety. Grab your copy today!

Image credit: Pexels

How to Help Your Negative Thinker


Some kids are super hard on themselves.

For many years, I worked with a little girl who struggled to silence her inner critic. She constantly looked for approval and praise from her teachers, me or her parents. It wasn’t just that she needed praise – she wasn’t a kid raised on “you’re the best at everything!” – she just couldn’t stop looking for flaws.

One day she brought me a poem she had written in her free time. It was quite beautiful and far more sophisticated than you would expect from a nine-year-old. The imagery practically jumped off the page. “Do you think it’s good?” Loaded question. Her words hung in the air for a moment while I read the poem a second time. I knew that I had to choose my words carefully. Was it good? Yes, definitely. Would that response help this child move forward? No. “I love how you describe the sunset. I can picture it in my mind. What’s your favorite part?” She looked at me with curiosity for a while. The silence spoke volumes. “I never really thought about that,” she said, meeting my gaze at last.

What’s the deal with negative self-talk?

Negative self-talk is fairly common among young children, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that a child is pessimistic by nature or needs help from a therapist. Sometimes it stems from perfectionism. Sometimes it’s a result of stress or pressure. Some kids get stuck in black and white thinking – one small failure seems like a huge failure (ex: I bombed that spelling test so I must be a terrible speller.) Sometimes it’s even a cry for more 1:1 time with mom or dad.

No one is positive all of the time. Even the greatest optimists among us have hard days once in a while. When kids get stuck in a negative loop, however, it can impact them in many ways. It’s difficult to learn, for instance, when the inner critic tells you that you’re terrible at math, spelling or something else. It’s hard to have fun on the playing field when your inner critic tells you that you ruined the whole game by letting that goal in. It’s even hard to enjoy time with friends when that pesky inner critic makes you feel like you don’t have much to offer the friendship.

What can parents do to help?

The truth is that you can’t change this behavior for your kid. Responding to negative self-talk with an overly optimistic outlook might actually fuel the negativity. Getting out of the negative loop takes time and practice. But you can support and encourage your child along the way.

Watch your words.

Do you ever catch yourself saying something like, “wow, I really stink at that game!” or “why can’t I catch a break this week?” Kids are the masters of picking up on what we say when we think they aren’t paying attention. Sure, we give great speeches about the power of positive thinking, including stories of our own childhoods, but those sometimes fall flat. What kids look for is how we respond in the moment. They watch us when the chips are down so that they might learn how to cope with the hard stuff.

Think about the words you use when your kids are around. If we criticize ourselves or our children out loud, our kids will internalize it and repeat it.

Stop overcorrecting.

Kids endure a lot of negative input when they’re young. Most of it is meant to help – it comes from a good place. Parents want to keep them safe from harm or help them solve problems. Parents want to raise kind, respectful and responsible kids, and that involves establishing healthy boundaries and providing input on behavior.

But sometimes it comes from the need of the parent. Not long ago, I sat in a first grade classroom and watched as the kids presented projects they made for homework. It was easy to see which were made by the kids and which were made by the parents. Parents want their kids to succeed – they also feel pressure to perform in some way – and this results in the parent take-over. Overcorrecting the homework can quickly snowball into doing for the child and completely taking over.

When parents don’t let their kids try (and don’t let the homework go back to school with mistakes), kids feel like they aren’t good enough. It’s a tough burden to bear when you’re young, and it does result in negative self-talk.

Listen and empathize.

When kids do come to you full of negative thoughts, the best thing you can do is listen and empathize. Countering every negative statement only adds to the pressure to be better or perfect in the moment of upset. Giving your child the space to vent and conveying understanding shows your child that you get it – life is hard, we all make mistakes and sometimes it feels like we can’t do anything right.

Offer honesty.

After your child vents her emotions and gets the negative thoughts out, take some time to brainstorm together. Give honest feedback. Instead of countering “I failed my spelling test and I’m a terrible speller” with “you’re a great speller! It was just a bad test!” try talking about ways to practice spelling that might be more fun and engaging.

Countering negative black and white thinking with positive black and white thinking isn’t a solution. Helping your child think about what went wrong or what has her down and coming up with a list of solutions empowers her to try a new tactic the next time. It also reminds her that she has the power to make changes.

Create a positive word wall.

Sit with your child and think about some positive phrases that might be inspiring – almost like a list of mantras to tap into when the going gets tough. Put them on a poster, decorate it and hang it on the wall. In times of struggle, the words will be there to lift her up. When kids are surrounded by positive thoughts, they internalize them.

Correct missteps.

We all have bad moments. We all say things we wish we could unsay and we all make mistakes. Instead of pretending those bad moments didn’t happen, talk about them. Correct the mistakes and apologize for your own words and behaviors.

Parents have a tendency to try to hide the bad moments from the kids, but showing our kids that we struggle at times actually helps them gain perspective. Ask them to help you brainstorm solutions to your hard moments! Kids might feel like they’re the only ones who need help, but very often they have the answers to our problems, too.

For more great strategies to empower kids to work through stress, anxiety and negativity, grab your copy of THE HAPPY KID HANDBOOK!