Teach your kids to write notes

Why (and how) you should encourage your kids to embrace the thank-you note. And cultivate an attitude of gratitude along the way.

Writing thank-you notes has gotten a bad rap as a chore but a note of thanks can do more than dutifully tell Uncle Max how much you like the Word Yahtzee that he sent. Gratitude may be crucial to compassion, empathy, and even happiness, according to Jeffrey Froh, an assistant professor of psychology and the director of the Laboratory for Gratitude in Youth at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, New York. Why? Thanks for asking!

“Grateful kids tend to be much more satisfied with their lives,” says Froh. “They do better in school and are less materialistic, less depressed, and less envious. Their relationships are much stronger and more supportive.” In one study, grateful kids even reported fewer physical symptoms, like headaches, stomachaches, and fevers.

Thank-you notes don’t have to be reserved for physical loot: Your kids can write them in appreciation of awesome outings or good friendship. “My five-year-old borrowed my phone to type a thank-you text to his mom for a special day that they had spent together,” says Froh. The key is to make it a creative project in which kids get to express themselves. And when they craft their sentiments, you’ll get the chance to appreciate your unique, sometimes wacky little people.

To Make Thank-Yous More Meaningful

Set a time for it. There’s something wrong about trying to teach gratitude by nagging or rushing a kid. Get some snacks and settle in.

Gather your resources. A correspondence kit is a fun motivator. Put one together with note cards, a return-address stamper, a great pen, postage stamps, stickers, a first address book, and even sealing wax and a monogram seal.

Be the designated writer. A child who can’t write yet, or one who is just learning, will feel more grateful if she doesn’t have to agonize over sentences. Also, transcribing her thanks gives you a chance to capture the depth and the complexity of her feelings. (“Thank you for the game Candy Land, which has Queen Frostine, which is who I love so much even though it’s who Ben loves, too, and so we fight sometimes.”)

Teach sincerity. You want your kids to learn to be authentically gracious. Aunt Ida’s terrifying woolen anorak? Skip “Thank you for the beautiful sweater—I love it!” and talk your child through what is true. “Dear Aunt Ida, it must have taken you so long to crochet this. The wool feels really warm, and you remembered that my favorite color is green! Thank you so much.”

Do it now—and later. Every now and then, encourage your child to send another note, long after the fact, just to make somebody’s day—especially for a gift that has turned out to be a favorite. “Remember that moose hat you gave me last Christmas? Here’s a picture of me wearing it on our trip to Niagara Falls!”

Source can be found here.

Working Memory

 

Executive Functioning: Working memory

Working memory is a basic mental skill. It’s important for both learning and doing many everyday tasks. Working memory allows the brain to briefly hold new information while it’s needed in the short term. It may then help to transfer it into long-term memory.

Most kids with learning and attention issues have trouble with working memory. Working memory is an ability that allows us to work with information. It helps us learn and perform even basic tasks.

Working memory is one of the brain’s executive functions. It’s the ability to hold on to new information so we can turn around and use it in some way. Working memory allows us to hold information without losing track of what we’re doing.

Working memory is like a temporary sticky note in our brain. It holds new information in place so the brain can work with it briefly and perhaps connect it with other information. (Attention plays a big role in this process.)

The teacher may ask your child to put her snow boots away, but first hang up her coat. Your child may only do one task or forget which one she’s supposed to do first.

Your child may also find that the information she has remembered doesn’t make much sense. Because of her working memory problems, her brain didn’t package it properly in the first place. If kids learn information in a disjointed way, they have trouble using it later.

A video from Executive Function Coach Benjamin Mizrahi.
Mr Mizrahi is a coach, a learning specialist and a teacher.

Morning routine – a follow up

A follow up on my first video on morning routines.
Remember that most of the stress in the morning stems from the fact that we are trying to manage few routines at the same time. (ours and our kids’)

(my first video on morning routine can be found here: https://youtu.be/LY2XYWFANbo )

Mr. Mizrahi is an Executive Function coach, a learning specialist and a teacher in New York City.

 

 

Four Lessons from “Inside Out” to Discuss With Kids

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, it’s important to get involved in your kid’s media lives, one way of doing so is to watch movies together.

Today, I sat with my kids to watch the movie “Inside Out.”

“Since its release, Inside Out has been applauded by critics and adored by audiences.

But perhaps its greatest achievement has been this: It has moved viewers young and old to take a look inside their own minds. As you likely know by now, much of the film takes place in the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, with five emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—embodied by characters who help Riley navigate her world. The film has some deep things to say about the nature of our emotions—which is no coincidence, as the GGSC’s founding faculty director, Dacher Keltner, served as a consultant on the film, helping to make sure that, despite some obvious creative liberties, the film’s fundamental messages about emotion are consistent with scientific research.

Those messages are smartly embedded within Inside Out‘s inventive storytelling and mind-blowing animation; they enrich the film without weighing it down. But they are conveyed strongly enough to provide a foundation for discussion among kids and adults alike. Some of the most memorable scenes in the film double as teachable moments for the classroom or dinner table.

Though Inside Out has artfully opened the door to these conversations, it can still be hard to find the right way to move through them or respond to kids’ questions. So for parents and teachers who want to discuss Inside Out with children, here we have distilled four of its main insights into our emotional lives, along with some of the research that backs them up. And a warning, lest we rouse your Anger: There are some spoilers below.

1) Happiness is not just about joy. When the film begins, the emotion of Joy—personified by a manic pixie-type with the voice of Amy Poehler—helms the controls inside Riley’s mind; her overarching goal is to make sure that Riley is always happy. But by the end of the film, Joy—like Riley and the audience—learns that there is much, much more to being happy than boundless positivity. In fact, in the film’s final chapter, when Joy cedes control to some of her fellow emotions, particularly Sadness, Riley seems to achieve a deeper form of happiness.

This reflects the way that a lot of leading emotion researchers see happiness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, the author of the best-selling How of Happiness, defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” (emphasis added) So while positive emotions such as joy are definitely part of the recipe for happiness, they are not the whole shebang.

In fact, a recent study found that people who experience “biodiversity,” or a rich array of both positive and negative emotions, have better mental health. The authors of this study suggest that feeling a variety of specific emotions may give a person more detailed information about a particular situation, thus resulting in better behavioral choices—and potentially greater happiness.

For example, in a pivotal moment in the film, Riley allows herself to feel sadness, in addition to fear and anger, about her idea of running away from home; as a result, she decides not to go through with her plan. This choice reunites Riley with her family, giving her a deeper sense of happiness and contentment in the comfort she gets from her parents, even though it’s mixed with sadness and fear.

In that light, Inside Out’s creators, including director Pete Docter, made a smart choice to name Poehler’s character “Joy” instead of “Happiness.” Ultimately, joy is just one element of happiness, and happiness can be tinged with other emotions, even including sadness.

2) Don’t try to force happiness. One of us (Vicki) felt an old, familiar frustration when Riley’s mother tells her to be her parents’ “happy girl” while the family adjusts to a stressful cross-country move and her father goes through a difficult period at work. As a child, Vicki got similar messages and used to think something was wrong with her if she wasn’t happy all the time. And all the research and press about the importance of happiness in recent years can make this message that much more potent.

Thank goodness emotion researcher June Gruber and her colleagues started looking at the nuances of happiness and its pursuit. Their findings challenge the “happy-all-the-time” imperative that was probably imposed upon many of us.

For example, their research suggests that making happiness an explicit goal in life can actually make us miserable. Gruber’s colleague Iris Mauss has discovered that the more people strive for happiness, the greater the chance that they’ll set very high standards of happiness for themselves and feel disappointed—and less happy—when they’re not able to meet those standards all the time.

So it should come as no surprise that trying to force herself to be happy actually doesn’t help Riley deal with the stresses and transitions in her life. In fact, not only does that strategy fail to bring her happiness, but it also seems to make her feel isolated and angry with her parents, which factors into her decision to run away from home.

What’s a more effective route to happiness for Riley (and the rest of us)? Recent research points to the importance of “prioritizing positivity”—deliberately carving out ample time in life for experiences that we personally enjoy. For Riley, that’s ice hockey, spending time with friends, and goofing around with her parents.

But critically, prioritizing positivity does not require avoiding or denying negative feelings or the situations that cause them—the kind of single-minded pursuit of happiness that can be counter-productive. That’s a crucial emotional lesson for Riley and her family when Riley finally admits that moving to San Francisco has been tough for her—an admission that brings her closer to her parents.

3) Sadness is vital to our well-being. Early in the film, Joy admits that she doesn’t understand what Sadness is for or why it’s in Riley’s head. She’s not alone. At one time or another, many of us have probably wondered what purpose sadness serves in our lives.

That’s why the two of us love that Sadness rather than Joy emerges as the hero of the movie. Why? Because Sadness connects deeply with people—a critical component of happiness—and helps Riley do the same. For example, when Riley’s long-forgotten imaginary friend Bing Bong feels dejected after the loss of his wagon, it is Sadness’s empathic understanding that helps him recover, not Joy’s attempt to put a positive spin on his loss. (Interestingly, this scene illustrates an important finding from research on happiness, namely that expressions of happiness must be appropriate to the situation.)

In one the film’s greatest revelations, Joy looks back on one of Riley’s “core memories”—when the girl missed a shot in an important hockey game—and realizes that the sadness Riley felt afterwards elicited compassion from her parents and friends, making her feel closer to them and transforming this potentially awful memory into one imbued with deep meaning and significance for her.

With great sensitivity, Inside Out shows how tough emotions like sadness, fear, and anger, can be extremely uncomfortable for people to experience—which is why many of us go to great lengths to avoid them (see the next section). But in the film, as in real life, all of these emotions serve an important purpose by providing insight into our inner and outer environments in ways that can help us connect with others, avoid danger, or recover from the loss.

One caveat: While it’s important to help kids embrace sadness, parents, and teachers need to explain to them that sadness is not the same as depression—a mood disorder that involves prolonged and intense periods of sadness. Adults also need to create safe and trusting environments for children so they will feel safe asking for help if they feel sad or depressed.

4) Mindfully embrace—rather than suppress—tough emotions. At one point, Joy attempts to prevent Sadness from having any influence on Riley’s psyche by drawing a small “circle of Sadness” in chalk and instructing Sadness to stay within it. It’s a funny moment, but psychologists will recognize that Joy is engaging in a risky behavior called “emotional suppression”—an emotion-regulation strategy that has been found to lead to anxiety and depression, especially amongst teenagers whose grasp of their own emotions is still developing. Sure enough, trying to contain Sadness and deny her a role in the action ultimately backfires for Joy, and for Riley.

Later in the film, when Bing Bong loses his wagon (the scene described above), Joy tries to get him to “cognitively reappraise” the situation, meaning that she encourages him to reinterpret what this loss means for him—in this case, by trying to shift his emotional response toward the positive. Cognitive reappraisal is a strategy that has historically been considered the most effective way to regulate emotions. But even this method of emotion regulation is not always the best approach, as researchers have found that it can sometimes increase rather than decrease depression, depending on the situation.

Toward the end of the movie, Joy does what some researchers now consider to be the healthiest method for working with emotions: Instead of avoiding or denying Sadness, Joy accepts Sadness for who she is, realizing that she is an important part of Riley’s emotional life.

Emotion experts call this “mindfully embracing”emotion. What does that mean? Rather than getting caught up in the drama of an emotional reaction, a mindful person kindly observes the emotion without judging it as the right or wrong way to feel in a given situation, creating space to choose a healthy response. Indeed, a 2014 study found that depressed adolescents and young adults who took a mindful approach to life showed lower levels of depression, anxiety, and bad attitudes, as well as a greater quality of life.

Certainly, Inside Out isn’t the first attempt to teach any of these four lessons, but it’s hard to think of another piece of media that has simultaneously moved and entertained so many people in the process. It’s a shining example of the power of media to shift viewers’ understanding of the human experience—a shift that, in this case, we hope will help viewers foster deeper and more compassionate connections to themselves and those around them.”

Source here.

9 bad habits you must break to be more productive

Nothing sabotages your productivity quite like bad habits. They are insidious, creeping up on you slowly until you don’t even notice the damage they’re causing.

Bad habits slow you down, decrease your accuracy, make you less creative, and stifle your performance. Getting control of your bad habits is critical, and not just for productivity’s sake. A University of Minnesota study found that people who exercise a high degree of self-control tend to be much happier than those who don’t, both in the moment and in the long run.

“By constant self-discipline and self-control you can develop greatness of character.” –Grenville Kleiser

Some bad habits cause more trouble than others, and the nine that follow are the worst offenders. Shedding these habits will increase your productivity and allow you to enjoy the positive mood that comes with increased self-control.

Impulsively surfing the Internet

It takes you 15 consecutive minutes of focus before you can fully engage in a task. Once you do, you fall into a euphoric state of increased productivity called flow. Research shows that people in a flow state are five times more productive than they otherwise would be. When you click out of your work because you get an itch to check the news, Facebook, a sport’s score, or what have you, this pulls you out of flow. This means you have to go through another 15 minutes of continuous focus to reenter the flow state. Click in and out of your work enough times, and you can go through an entire day without experiencing flow.

Perfectionism

Most writers spend countless hours brainstorming characters and plot, and they even write page after page that they know they’ll never include in the book. They do this because they know that ideas need time to develop. We tend to freeze up when it’s time to get started because we know that our ideas aren’t perfect and what we produce might not be any good. But how can you ever produce something great if you don’t get started and give your ideas time to evolve? Author Jodi Picoult summarized the importance of avoiding perfectionism perfectly: “You can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page.”

Meetings

Meetings gobble up your precious time like no other. Ultra-productive people avoid meetings as much as humanly possible. They know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so when they must have a meeting they inform everyone at the onset that they’ll stick to the intended schedule. This sets a clear limit that motivates everyone to be more focused and efficient.

Responding to e-mails as they arrive

Productive people don’t allow their e-mail to be a constant interruption. In addition to checking their e-mail on a schedule, they take advantage of features that prioritize messages by sender. They set alerts for their most important vendors and their best customers, and they save the rest until they reach a stopping point in their work. Some people even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when they’ll be checking their e-mail again.

Hitting the snooze button

When you sleep, your brain moves through an elaborate series of cycles, the last of which prepares you to be alert at your wake up time. This is why you’ll sometimes wake up right before your alarm clock goes off—your brain knows it’s time to wake up and it’s ready to do so. When you hit the snooze button and fall back asleep, you lose this alertness and wake up later, tired and groggy. Worst of all, this grogginess can take hours to wear off. So no matter how tired you think you are when your alarm clock goes off, force yourself out of bed if you want to have a productive morning.

Multitasking

Multitasking is a real productivity killer. Research conducted at Stanford University confirms that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

But what if some people have a special gift for multitasking? The Stanford researchers compared groups of people, based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitasked a lot and felt that it boosted their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who liked to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch!

Putting off tough tasks

We have a limited amount of mental energy, and as we exhaust this energy, our decision-making and productivity decline rapidly. This is called decision fatigue. When you put off tough tasks till late in the day because they’re intimidating, you save them for when you’re at your worst. To beat decision fatigue, you must tackle complex tasks in the morning when your mind is fresh.

Using your phone, tablet, or computer in bed

This is a big one that most people don’t even realize harms their sleep and productivity. Short-wavelength blue light plays an important role in your mood, energy level, and sleep quality. In the morning, sunlight contains high concentrations of this blue light. When your eyes are exposed to it directly, the blue light halts production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and makes you feel more alert. In the afternoon, the sun’s rays lose their blue light, which allows your body to produce melatonin and start making you sleepy.

By the evening, your brain doesn’t expect any blue light exposure and is very sensitive to it. Most of our favorite evening devices—laptops, tablets, televisions, and mobile phones—emit short-wavelength blue light, and in the case of your laptop, tablet, and phone, they do so brightly and right in your face. This exposure impairs melatonin production and interferes with your ability to fall asleep as well as with the quality of your sleep once you do nod off. As we’ve all experienced, a poor night’s sleep has disastrous effects upon productivity. The best thing you can do is to avoid these devices after dinner (television is OK for most people as long as they sit far enough away from the set).

Eating too much sugar

Glucose functions as the “gas pedal” for energy in the brain. You need glucose to concentrate on challenging tasks. With too little glucose, you feel tired, unfocused, and slow; too much glucose leaves you jittery and unable to concentrate. Research has shown that the sweet spot is about 25 grams of glucose. The tricky thing is that you can get these 25 grams of glucose any way you want, and you’ll feel the same—at least initially. The difference lies in how long the productivity lasts. Donuts, soda, and other forms of refined sugar lead to an energy boost that lasts a mere 20 minutes, while oatmeal, brown rice, and other foods containing complex carbohydrates release their energy slowly, which enables you to sustain your focus.

Bringing It All Together

Some of these habits may seem minor, but they add up. Most amount to a personal choice between immediate pleasures and lasting ones. After all, the worst habit is losing track of what really matters to you.

 

By Travis Bradberry –
Source: click here

Wonder

Last night, my wife and I went to the theater to see the movie Wonder.

WONDER tells the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial deformation that, up until 5th grade, had prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters his fifth-grade class.

Wonder is an earnest and emotional family drama. Auggie meets both cruel bullies and good friends as he attends school for the first time; his supportive family (including his parents, played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) is always there for him — even when he tries to push them away. The movie has clear positive messages about choosing kindness, appreciating everyone for who they are (rather than what they look like), true friendship; empathy and perseverance.

If you’re looking for your next family activity and your kids are middle schooler or older, take them to see Wonder. It’s important to get involved in your kids’ media lives -– and your kids will love it too.

Talk about it. Help them become critical media consumers. When credits roll or the next day, make time to chat about what you watched. Kids might be interested in learning more about animation or Hollywood history. Visit the library to follow up on interests piqued by the movie. Talking with kids about how movie characters handled situations can be a subtle way to reinforce your family’s values or get kids to open up about their lives.

Check out these conversation starters:

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT …

  • Families can talk about how the other kids react to Auggie in Wonder. What do they learn about him over the course of the movie? What do you think you’d do in their position?
  • How does being bullied affect Auggie? How did you feel about Julian by the time the movie was over? What role does peer pressure play in some of the bullyings? How would you handle the situation that Jack Will faces?
  • How does the story show the importance of empathy and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

 

 

#ElsaGate – what is it ?

The name Elsagate is derived from bizarre videos featuring Elsa from the Disney cartoon Frozen and Spiderman indulging in despicable acts no child should ever see. Gore, violence, sexual fetishism, abuse and rape are the prevailing themes in such videos. The term “Elsagate” itself has also evolved and it is no longer used to describe just videos featuring the Frozen franchise character, it is instead used to describe any video, animated or not, targeted at children, that contains these disturbing messages.
Hundreds of these videos exist on YouTube, and some generate millions of views. One channel “Toys and Funny Kids Surprise Eggs” is one of the top 100 most watched YouTube accounts in the world – its videos have more than 5 billion views.
Its landing page features a photo of a cute toddler alongside official-looking pictures of Peppa Pig, Thomas the Tank Engine, the Cookie Monster, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Elsa from Frozen.
But the videos on the channel have titles like “FROZEN ELSA HUGE SNOT”, “NAKED HULK LOSES HIS PANTS” and “BLOODY ELSA: Frozen Elsa’s Arm is Broken by Spiderman”. They feature animated violence and graphic toilet humor.

Photo of a copied cartoon of Peppa Pig as a zombieImage CANDYFAMILY/YOUTUBE

YouTube did not offer a spokesperson for interview, but in a statement said: “We take feedback very seriously. We appreciate people drawing problematic content to our attention, and make it easy for anyone to flag a video.

“Flagged videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and any videos that don’t belong in the app are removed within hours. For parents who want a more restricted experience, we recommend that they turn off the Search feature in the app.”

The company also suggested that parents use the YouTube Kids app, which is available for mobile phones and tablets, and turn on “restricted mode” which limits flagged content. It can be found at the bottom of any page on the YouTube site, but cautions that “no filter is 100% accurate”.

And since Trending began investigating, several of the channels that we brought to the attention of YouTube have been removed – including the one containing the video of fake Peppa visiting the dentist.

The videos may not be coherent, but many proponents of the Elsagate theory claim this is an organized and orchestrated attempt to condition children into believing abuse is perfectly natural. Furthermore, they state these videos are normalizing pedophilia and different forms of violence, grooming children. Creating an entire generation of potential abusers and victims.

One can only hope that is not the case, but patterns keep emerging. Artist, writer, technologist and publisher, James Bridle, in his piece about Elsagate, published on Medium and quoted in the Guardian, had the following to say.

“Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatize, and abuse children, automatically and at scale.”

Solutions

Solutions to prevent kids from viewing those videos:

  • Dont let your children watch youtube unsupervised
  • Read the YT Parent Resources
  • Turn on Youtube’s restricted mode howto
  • Report the offensive Youtube Channels as adult content works YT Guidelines
  • The YouTube Kids app filters out most – but not all – of the disturbing videos
  •  YouTube suggests turning on “restricted mode” which can be found at the bottom of YouTube pages:
    screenshot of YouTube bar showing how to turn on restricted mode

    • The NSPCC also has a series of guidelines about staying safe online, and there are more resources on the BBC Stay Safe site.

    I would like to share some tips from Parenting.com on how to keep your child safe on internet:

    1. Step into their cyber-world
    “Parents have to get involved. Just as they know every detail of the playground around the corner  — the jungle gym, the swings  — they need to know their kids’ online playground as well,” says Tim Lordan, staff director of the Internet Education Foundation, a nonprofit group that produces the online safety guide GetNetWise. It may be hard to keep your eyes open after visiting what seems like the 100th website devoted to Barbie, but playing copilot to your child is the best way to make sure she gets a smooth ride. By the time she’s 7, you won’t need to be glued to her side, but you should be somewhere in the room or checking in frequently.

    2. Set house rules
    Decide how much time you’re comfortable with your children being online and which sites they may go to. You might post a short list or even a signed contract (like the free ones at www.SafeKids.com) next to the computer. So there’s no confusion, talk about the rules  — and the consequences for breaking them. “Our house rules say the kids are allowed half an hour of computer time on ‘their days.’ One child has Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other has Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then they get one hour each on the weekend,” says Jamie Smith of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, mom of Hailey, 12, and Kody, 9. “They have certain sites they can visit without special permission. Any others have to be approved by me or my husband.”

    3. Teach them to protect their privacy
    While they won’t fully understand the consequences of revealing personal information online, you should still make sure your children know:
    * never to give their name, phone number, e-mail address, password, postal address, school, or picture without your permission
    * not to open e-mail from people they don’t know
    * not to respond to hurtful or disturbing messages
    * not to get together with anyone they “meet” online.

    More tips to follow

    4. Know that location is key
    Keep the computer in a central spot, where it’s easy to monitor its use. “We have five computers in our house, but only two  — mine and the PC in the family room  — are hooked up to the Internet. That way, I can frequently check up on what they’re looking at,” says Cecilia M., a mom of three in Teaneck, New Jersey.

    5. Be their go-to person
    Instruct your child to come straight to you when she sees anything that makes her uncomfortable, and assure her that you won’t overreact, blame her, or immediately rescind her online privileges.

    6. Turn your ISP into your ally
    Before buying a safety product, experts recommend that you work with what you’ve got, starting with your Internet service provider (ISP). America Online, MSN, SBC Yahoo!, EarthLink, and others have reliable, free parental controls that can limit children’s access to websites and communication features (e-mail, instant messaging, chat) by age, content categories, time, and other choices.

    7. Make your browser work double-time
    If your ISP lacks that capability, you still have some safe-surfing options at hand on your browser (the program that enables you to view web pages). Internet Explorer has Content Advisor (under Tools/Internet Options/Content), which filters out language, nudity, sex, and violence on a 0 to 4 scale. Netscape and Safari (for Mac users) have parental controls like filtering as well. Using your browser won’t get you the comprehensive results that a safety product or your ISP would yield, but it can be suitable for the times you’re sitting next to your little one surfing the net.

    8. Tune up your search engine
    Your search engine can be pressed into service for free. (But be aware: A savvy child could switch the settings back.) Once you set restrictions, Google will block sites with explicit sexual material (Preferences/SafeSearch Filtering). AltaVista puts several types of offensive content off-limits with its Family Filter (Settings/Family Filter setup).

    9. Stay in a kid-friendly zone
    For beginners as young as 4, consider confining online exploration to web addresses that list child-safe sites on everything from TV, movies, music, and games to world history, science, and trivia. Some good choices:
    * web directory Yahooligans
    * answer supplier Ask Jeeves for Kids
    * the American Library Association’s Great Web Sites for Kids
    * the U.S. government’s “Dot Kids” domain .

    10. Call on software for assistance

    While no technology is fail-safe, it does add another layer of protection. “The key is to make sure you have something that reflects your values and is just technological help, as opposed to trying to take over your role as a parent,” says Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety.org, a nonprofit Internet safety and education organization with several websites. So make sure you can make changes to fit your family’s needs.Though these six tools will cost you, most offer a free trial period, and all are champs at doing your bidding. Just ask yourself, what’s your primary goal?

    * Shutting out the smut (and other undesirables)
    Best for parents who want maximum protection with minimal effort, CyberPatrol 6.2 deflects objectionable web content with a twofold filtering technique. It blocks sites on its comprehensive list of restricted web addresses, then does keyword pattern searches for offensive material on non-blacklisted sites that may have slipped through the cracks.
    You decide: How much to customize. You can allow certain categories (Sex Education but not Adult/Sex, for instance); add your own blocked or allowed sites or keywords; and more.
    What your child sees: Varies from a bold “Access Restricted” notice (with the CyberPatrol “To Surf & Protect” shield) to a discreet “This page cannot be displayed” message.
    Cost: $40 for one year/$60 for two; Windows, www.cyberpatrol.com

    * Keep the Internet under lock and key
    ControlKey 2.0 is The Enforcer. No key means no Internet access. The small blue device (part of the company’s SecuriKey product line) plugs into a USB port and also serves as a watchdog for you. Children can do homework-related research but not waste time IM’ing; they can open their own documents but not your desktop check register. Setup is a little tricky and time-consuming. But once installed and configured (according to what you want to control or protect), it’s easy to use and a good choice for parents who want stronger restrictions or are dealing with kids who broke the rules. You’ll just need to guard it like your car key. Register so the ControlKey “token” can be replaced ($45) if lost.
    You decide: What to lock up: access to files you’d like to keep private? A particular computer game? Certain sites?
    What your child sees: “Access Denied” message (when the computer is restricted) or “This page cannot be displayed” (Internet restricted).
    Cost: $60; Windows, 800-986-6578 or www.controlkey.com

    * A pristine site for young surfers
    Instead of keeping out what’s bad, Kidsnet keeps in what’s good, and only that. Every website on its vast “white list” has been vetted and classified according to Internet Content Rating Association and Kidsnet standards. Home page Hazoo is well stocked with web offerings (even a Google search box), ranging from pbskids.org to hilaryduff.com.
    You decide: What to exclude and include and how subtly to draw the distinction. What your child sees: “Ahoy mate!” A pirate or another cartoon appears on a “redirect” page, telling kids why they can’t go to an off-limits site and offering two alternatives.Cost: $30/year; Windows, www.kidsnet.com

    * Something to keep you safe online, too
    Norton Internet Security 2006 provides everything: parental control over web content and Internet access, virus defense, spam blocking, privacy preservation, and firewall fortification. That makes it a good choice for families with general security concerns and less commitment to content-oriented parental controls (a small part of the protection package) and for those with older children plagued by spam and other system interlopers.
    While setup takes a while  — you’ll need to uninstall conflicting software, and it’s best to back up your computer before you start  — it’s easy to customize and manage all five programs included from a main “System Status” screen.
    You decide: When to turn on parental controls; which of 31 content categories are blocked; whether to restrict programs that access the Internet; how high to set controls over sending private information.
    What your child sees: Message that Norton “blocked access to this restricted site” and why.
    Cost: $70/$90; Windows/Macintosh, www.symantec.com

    * Knowing exactly what they’ve been up to online
    When a child is using the computer, Spector 2.2 takes snapshots of what’s onscreen at intervals and stores them in a hidden file to record all they do. You then view the file like a video (play, pause, fast-forward, rewind).
    It’s best for parents who have reason to believe a child is breaking the rules or is being victimized (or who want to keep a record, just in case). Just be aware that a program like this can erode trust if you use it to spy on kids without cause or on the sly.
    You decide: Degree of sneakiness, between stealth mode and visible (a tiny red box in the system tray); whether to record everything or only activities involving Internet access; how often to capture images and when to delete them.
    What your child sees: In stealth mode, the program is invisible.
    Cost: $100; Windows/Macintosh, 888-598-2788 or www.spectorsoft.com

New rules

Flexible Thinking is the ability to adapt to a new situation. It requires the ability to “unlearn” old ways of doing things and plays a key role in all types of learning.

One of the ways to introduce flexible thinking to your kid is to change some rules. Kids with flexible thinking can have trouble seeing that there’s more than one way to do things.
Practice seeing alternatives by helping your kid make up new rules for games. Have players slide down ladders and walk up slides in Chutes and Ladders. Find another path to get back home, run the bases in reverse order while playing kickball…

Once your kid gets comfortable with switches like this, try combining the rules of two games to make a new game.

Playing to change the rules on small things will help your kid become more flexible when something unexpected arise.

Back to School Stress

Back to School Stress

Back to school is a source of stress for many parents, but it’s important to not forget that it can also be for the children. Here are some tips and tricks to help our children overcome the stress of Back to School.

How do our children live the return to school ?

After spending two months of vacation, day camp or outdoor activities, it’s sometimes difficult to resume the pace of the new school year. Parents are of course worried about the reorganization of this busy time of year, but many children and teenagers are also sensitive to the tension caused by the start of the new school year.

The stress that our children live can be manifested in different ways, and the signs are not always very visible. We must therefore be on the lookout to perceive them and thus be able to help our child. For children in early childhood school, there may be more restlessness, lack of appetite, greater insecurity than usual, or difficulty falling asleep. Adolescents, who are more likely to close themselves up when they don’t go well, will appear to be preoccupied, less involved in family life, and may even be more irritable in their relationships with others, such as parents and friends.

What stresses our children?

There is no doubt that stress is different from one child to another and depending on age, but some sources of stress are shared by most:

The fear of the unknown: who will be my teacher? Who will be in my class? Will the atmosphere be good? These are questions that most children and teenagers are asking. If the child changes cycles or goes from lower school to middle school, it’s easy to imagine that this fear of the unknown will become more intense.

External changes: moving, divorcing parents, change in custody, death or sickness of a family member … These factors will make it more difficult for young kids to leave the family cocoon and start his return to school in a relaxed way.

The idea of performance: the desire to have good grades – or not to have bad grades if he has experienced previous failures – and of course the will to succeed in sports and extracurricular activities in which he participates .

Tips for a good life for 5-12 year olds:

Re-establish a routine between supper and bedtime.
Involve your child in shopping for school supplies. He is allowed to make certain choices, when possible, to make him feel involved during this period of preparation.
Spend quality time with your child (even if you are overwhelmed!). Remain available for your child.
Listen to what your young ones tells you and try not to minimize his problems. Even if you feel that he sees things worse than they are, his feeling of anguish is real.

For the 12-16 years old

Spend time alone with your kid doing an activity or a sport that you both enjoy, without television or computer.
If you feel stressed or worried about his return to school, you can try to approach the subject with him.
With his participation, a schedule is established for the moments devoted to school work, leisure and other activities, and, very importantly, sleep.
This schedule is displayed in a common room, such as the kitchen, to ensure that it is respected.
Despite the burden of schoolwork and time spent on activities and recreation, your teenager is required to take time off for family supper. The best way to keep in touch with your kid daily!

For everyone

On school days, get up early enough so that our youngster can have a supportive breakfast and so that you have time to spend a good time with him before arriving at the school, without feeling jostled by the time .

There is evidence that academic achievement is directly related to the quality of relationships students have with their teachers. So if we feel that there is a discomfort, approach the subject with your child and then meet with his teacher or the school principal. Important: avoid taking sides with your child.

Limit the extracurricular activities that your child will participate in. Young people are often full of energy at the end of the holiday and ready to embark on a variety of activities. You must ensure that your child has free time in his / her schedule. Moments where he can simply rest, read, listen to his favorite music or simply play for pleasure and not to perform!