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Ten Tips For A Successful Mentorship

By: Caroline Ceniza-Levine

January is National Mentorship Month, so if you participate in an official mentor program or you just have people in your life who you regularly go to for advice, make sure to send out a special thanks! Mentor relationships are very helpful to your professional development, which is why many companies and outside organizations invest heavily in offering these programs.  The best mentor relationship works for both you and your mentor. Here are 10 tips for a successful mentorship:

Clarify both of your expectations

Even if a company or organization put you together with your mentor, do not assume that you are both on the same page as to why you were matched. Let your mentor know what you are hoping to get out of the mentorship. For example, if you’re looking for help balancing work and life commitments, let them know that is your specific goal. Your mentor might assume you want advice on moving up in the organization or being a better manager. At the same time, ask your mentor what they want out of the program. Many mentors just want to give back since they benefited from a mentor themselves, but they may also have something you can help them with, and it’s a great way for you to let them know you want a two-way relationship.

Confirm the logistics

You may prefer live meetings, but this may be too difficult with your mentor’s schedule.  Ask specifically how your mentor likes to meet – e.g., live, by phone or by video. If it’s very different than what you prefer, see how you can compromise – e.g., by mixing up the meetings. Confirm how frequently you will have scheduled meetings. Confirm if it’s okay to email or call in-between scheduled meetings. Don’t assume that your mentor likes to meet any specific way or frequency – always ask.

Help your mentor help you

Once you do settle on a goal for the mentorship and a cadence of meetings, you still need to specify what you need. Are you looking for encouragement or do you need something more hands-on? Are you looking for ideas and advice? Or maybe you have a specific idea already, and what you really want is to role play or refine how to execute on the idea. Your exact needs will likely differ from meeting-to-meeting or over the arc of your mentorship. The more explicit you can be, the easier it will be for your mentor to help you. They may be the type who is a natural cheerleader and not realize you want a devil’s advocate. Or they may be the type to jump into brainstorming mode and list out ideas, when you already have an idea and want help elsewhere. Help your mentor help you.

Take the initiative in scheduling

When you first meet, you might set a regular meeting day – e.g., last Tuesday of each month at lunch. More likely, you will schedule as you go. You might schedule the next meeting at the former meeting but this might still be too far in advance (or not enough time). Confirm with the mentor how far in advance they prefer to schedule. Put reminders in your calendar to reach out and schedule according to what you both agreed. If your mentor reaches out to you, be responsive.

Respect your mentor’s time

Responding in a timely fashion to your mentor’s outreach is one way of respecting their time. Coming to scheduled meetings on time, and sticking to the agenda and time agreed upon are also ways to respect their time. Showing effort or results in-between meetings is another way of letting your mentor know that time with you is time well spent. You don’t have to agree with or act upon everything your mentor says, but there should be some related movement in-between meetings so that the mentor knows your work together is having an impact.

Don’t ask for too much too soon

The best mentor relationships do have an impact. Please, don’t expect or ask for too much too soon. In the early days of your mentorship, focus on getting to know each other and on asking for answers to questions the mentor will know right then, with little preparation or extra work. You can then build up to more complex or time-intensive requests, such as feedback on your resume. Keep in mind that mentors warm up at their own pace. If you know the person already, they may be willing to jump right in and look at your resume or business plan at the first meeting. But if you don’t know the person at all and you were matched together by an outside program, then you want to ease into things.

Have fun

Part of building trust is getting to know each other. Make it part of each mentor meeting to focus, not just on business, but getting to know each other personally. Knowing more about your mentor will help you better communicate and may even give you more or different ideas on how you can collaborate. Letting your mentor know more about you will enable them to help you more effectively.

Keep your mentor informed

Your career is dynamic and changing, and you don’t see your mentor that often. You need to keep them informed, especially if your situation changes in a way that impacts the mentorship. For example, let’s say you were matched together a few months ago and you have been working on work/life issues, but then a spot opens up in your group that you didn’t realize you wanted but now you definitely do. Let your mentor know, even before the next meeting. This shifts what your focus is, and even if your mentor still wants to talk work/life balance, at least they’ll know you have other things on your mind.

Have a plan for when things go wrong

What if you want to shift the focus of the mentorship but your mentor does not? What if you have taken the initiative to set up meetings, show up prepared, but it’s your mentor who isn’t responsive? What if there is a change in situation and your mentor no longer fits your needs? Or what if you just have a personality clash? If you’re part of a structured program, find out who in the program can help you navigate any difficulties. See if there is already a process for making changes, or if you have to choose between leaving the program or staying in the current situation. Get outside assistance and prepare a heart-to-heart with your mentor. If the relationship isn’t working for you, it probably isn’t working for them. Clearing the air might fix it or, at least, give you both the opportunity to move on.

Reciprocate and give back

If things do work and you have a smashingly successful mentorship, don’t forget to pay it back. This includes asking your mentor how you can help them – do not assume that you have nothing to offer just because you’re more junior. This also includes being a mentor to others. I have worked with several mentorship programs (as mentor, mentee, and behind-the-scenes organizing), and most programs can always use more mentors.

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What Is the Negativity Bias?

By: Kendra Cherry

Have you ever found yourself dwelling on an insult or fixating on your mistakes? Criticisms often have a greater impact than compliments, and bad news frequently draws more attention than good.

The reason for this is that negative events have a greater impact on our brains than positive ones. Psychologists refer to this as the negative bias (also called the negativity bias), and it can have a powerful effect on your behavior, your decisions, and even your relationships.

What Is the Negativity Bias?

The negative bias is our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of a rebuke more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise.

This psychological phenomenon explains why bad first impressions can be so difficult to overcome and why past traumas can have such long lingering effects. In almost any interaction, we are more likely to notice negative things and later remember them more vividly.

As humans, we tend to:

  • Remember traumatic experiences better than positive ones.
  • Recall insults better than praise.
  • React more strongly to negative stimuli.
  • Think about negative things more frequently than positive ones.
  • Respond more strongly to negative events than to equally positive ones.

For example, you might be having a great day at work when a coworker makes an offhand comment that you find irritating. You then find yourself stewing over his words for the rest of the workday.

When you get home from work and someone asks you how your day was, you reply that it was terrible—even though it was overall quite good despite that one negative incident.

This bias toward the negative leads you to pay much more attention to the bad things that happen, making them seem much more important than they really are.

What the Research Says

Research has shown that across a wide array of psychological events, people tend to focus more on the negative as they try to make sense of the world.

We tend to…

  • Pay more attention to negative events than positive ones.
  • Learn more from negative outcomes and experiences.
  • Make decisions based on negative information more than positive data.

It is the “bad things” that grab our attention, stick to our memories, and, in many cases, influence the decisions that we make.

Motivation

Psychological research suggests that the negative bias influences motivation to complete a task. People have less motivation when an incentive is framed as a means to gain something than when the same incentive will help them avoid the loss of something.

This can play a role in your motivation to pursue a goal. Rather than focusing on what you will gain if you keep working toward something, you’re more likely to dwell on what you might have to give up in order to achieve that goal.

Bad News

Additionally, studies have shown that negative news is more likely to be perceived as truthful. Since negative information draws greater attention, it also may be seen as having greater validity. This might be why bad news seems to garner more attention.

Politics

Differences in negativity bias have also been linked to political ideology. Some research suggests that conservatives may have stronger psychological responses to negative information than liberals. Some evidence, for example, has found that people who consider themselves politically conservative are more likely to rate ambiguous stimuli as threatening.

Such differences in the negativity bias might explain why some people are more likely to value things such as tradition and security while others are more open to embracing ambiguity and change.

Examples of Negative Bias

The negative bias can have a variety of real-world effects on how people think and act. Do any of these situations and events seem familiar?

  • You received a performance review at work that was quite positive overall and noted your strong performance and achievements. A few constructive comments pointed out areas where you could improve, and you find yourself fixating on those remarks. Rather than feeling good about the positive aspects of your review, you feel upset and angry about the few critical comments.
  • You had an argument with your significant other, and afterward, you find yourself focusing on all of your partner’s flaws. Instead of acknowledging their good points, you ruminate over all of their imperfections. Even the most trivial of faults are amplified, while positive characteristics are overlooked.
  • You humiliated yourself in front of your friends years ago and can still vividly recall the event. You find yourself cringing with embarrassment over it, even though your friends have probably forgotten about it entirely.

Where Negative Bias Comes From

Our tendency to pay more attention to bad things and overlook good things is likely a result of evolution. Earlier in human history, paying attention to bad, dangerous, and negative threats in the world was literally a matter of life and death. Those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive.

This meant they were also more likely to hand down the genes that made them more attentive to danger.

The evolutionary perspective suggests that this tendency to dwell on the negative more than the positive is simply one way the brain tries to keep us safe.

Development

Research suggests that this negativity bias starts to emerge in infancy. Very young infants tend to pay greater attention to positive facial expression and tone of voice, but this begins to shift as they near one year of age.

Brain studies indicate that around this time, babies begin to experience greater brain responses to negative stimuli. This suggests that the brain’s negative bias emerges during the latter half of a child’s first year of life. There is some evidence that the bias may actually start even earlier in development.

One study found that infants as young as three months old show signs of the negativity bias when making social evaluations of others.

The Brain’s Response

Neuroscientific evidence has shown that there is greater neural processing in the brain in response to negative stimuli. Studies that involve measuring event-related brain potentials (ERPs), which show the brain’s response to specific sensory, cognitive, or motor stimuli, have shown that negative stimuli elicit a larger brain response than positive ones.

In studies conducted by psychologist John Cacioppo, participants were shown pictures of either positive, negative, or neutral images. The researchers then observed electrical activity in the brain. Negative images produced a much stronger response in the cerebral cortex than did positive or neutral images.

Effects

While we may no longer need to be on constant high alert as our early ancestors needed to be in order to survive, the negativity bias still has a starring role in how our brains operate. Research has shown that negative bias can have a wide variety of effects on how people think, respond, and feel.

Some of the everyday areas where you might feel the results of this bias include in your relationships, decision-making, and the way you perceive people.

Relationships

The negativity bias can have a profound effect on your relationships. The bias might lead people to expect the worst in others, particularly in close relationships in which people have known each other for a long time.

For example, you might negatively anticipate how your partner will react to something and go into the interaction with your defenses already on high alert. Arguments and resentment are often the results.

When it comes to relationships, it is valuable to remember that negative comments usually carry much more weight than positive ones. Being aware of our own tendency to fixate on the negative is also important. By understanding this natural human tendency, you can focus on finding ways to cut other people a break and to stop expecting the worst.

Decision-Making

The negative bias can have an influence on the decision-making process. In their famous work, Nobel Prize-winning researchers Kahneman and Tversky found that when making decisions, people consistently place greater weight on negative aspects of an event than they do on positive ones.

People Perception

When forming impressions of others, people also tend to focus more on negative information. For example, studies have shown that when given both “good” and “bad” adjectives to describe another person’s character, participants give greater weight to the bad descriptors when forming a first impression.

How to Overcome Negative Bias

Stop Negative Self-Talk

Start paying attention to the type of thoughts that run through your mind. After an event takes place, you might find yourself thinking things like “I shouldn’t have done that.” This negative self-talk shapes how you think about yourself and others.

Reframe the Situation

How you talk to yourself about events, experiences, and people plays a large role in shaping how you interpret events. When you find yourself interpreting something in a negative way, or only focusing on the bad aspect of the situation, look for ways to reframe the events in a more positive light.

Establish New Patterns

When you find yourself ruminating on things, look for an uplifting activity to pull yourself out of this negative mindset. For example, if you find yourself mentally reviewing some unpleasant event or outcome, consciously try to redirect your attention elsewhere and engage in an activity that brings you joy.

Savor Positive Moments

Because it takes more for positive experiences to be remembered, it is important to give extra attention to good things that happen. Where negative things might be quickly transferred and stored in your long-term memory, you need to make more of an effort to get the same effect from happy moments.

So when something great happens, take a moment to really focus on it. Replay the moment several times in your memory and focus on the wonderful feelings the memory evokes.

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By: Barbara Field

Creativity helps us perceive the world in new and different ways. It helps us create works of beauty, problem solve, and refresh our bodies and our minds.

When you are having fun, you are positively impacting your health.

Creativity Improves Your Mental Health

During a pandemic, you especially need to take a mental break from current events and the endless news cycle. Expressing yourself through artistic and creative activities is like a prescription for your mental health.

Surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and elsewhere have shown unequivocally that stress and anxiety have skyrocketed since the advent of COVID-19. Turning to creativity has been proven in extensive research to relieve both stress and anxiety.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, creativity also helps lessen the shame, anger and depression felt by those who have experienced trauma.
The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center has an art therapy program for soldiers with PTSD. Veterans often find it difficult to express their trauma verbally. But art therapy manager Tammy Shella, PhD, ATR-BC says that, “Through art therapy, patients can convey how they really feel on the inside and reveal things that they weren’t comfortable sharing with the world.”

Creativity Puts You in a Flow State

Have you ever been so immersed in writing in your journal, creating postcards out of your recent photographs or dancing to your favorite band that you lost all sense of time?

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What Is Imposter Syndrome?

By: Arlin Cuncic 

Impostor syndrome (IS) refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context.

To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. It can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise.

The term that was first used by psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s.1 When the concept of IS was introduced, it was originally thought to apply mostly to high-achieving women. Since then, it has been recognized as more widely experienced.

Characteristics

Some of the common signs of imposter syndrome include:

  • Self-doubt
  • An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
  • Attributing your success to external factors
  • Berating your performance
  • Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
  • Overachieving
  • Sabotaging your own success
  • Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short

While for some people, impostor syndrome can fuel feelings of motivation to achieve, this usually comes at a cost in the form of constant anxiety. You might over-prepare or work much harder than necessary to “make sure” that nobody finds out you are a fraud.

This sets up a vicious cycle, in which you think that the only reason you survived that class presentation was that you stayed up all night rehearsing. Or, you think the only reason you got through that party or family gathering was that you memorized details about all the guests so that you would always have ideas for small talk.

The problem with impostor syndrome is that the experience of doing well at something does nothing to change your beliefs. Even though you might sail through a performance or have lunch with coworkers, the thought still nags in your head, “What gives me the right to be here?” The more you accomplish, the more you just feel like a fraud. It’s as though you can’t internalize your experiences of success.

This makes sense in terms of social anxiety if you received early feedback that you were not good at social or performance situations. Your core beliefs about yourself are so strong, that they don’t change, even when there is evidence to the contrary.

The thought process is: If you do well, it must be the result of luck because a socially incompetent person just doesn’t belong.

Eventually, these feelings worsen anxiety and may lead to depression. People who experience impostor syndrome also tend not to talk about how they are feeling with anyone and struggle in silence, just as do those with social anxiety disorder.

Identifying

While impostor syndrome is not a recognized disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it is not uncommon. It is estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this phenomenon in their lives.

If you think you might have imposter syndrome, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you agonize over even the smallest mistakes or flaws in your work?
  • Do you attribute your success to luck or outside factors?
  • Are you very sensitive to even constructive criticism?
  • Do you feel like you will inevitably be found out as a phony?
  • Do you downplay your own expertise, even in areas where you are genuinely more skilled than others?

If you often find yourself feeling like you are a fraud or an imposter, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist. The negative thinking, self-doubt, and self-sabotage that often characterize imposter syndrome can have an effect on many areas of your life.

Causes

We know that certain factors can contribute to the more general experience of impostor syndrome. For example, you might have come from a family that highly valued achievement or had parents who flipped back and forth between offering praise and being critical.

We also know that entering a new role can trigger impostor syndrome. For example, starting college or university might leave you feeling as though you don’t belong and are not capable.

Impostor Syndrome and Social Anxiety

Impostor syndrome and social anxiety may overlap. A person with social anxiety disorder (SAD) may feel as though they don’t belong in social or performance situations.

You might be in a conversation with someone and feel as though they are going to discover your social incompetence. You might be delivering a presentation and feel as though you just need to get through it before anyone realizes you really don’t belong there.

While the symptoms of social anxiety can fuel feelings of imposter syndrome, this does not mean that everyone with imposter syndrome has social anxiety or vice versa. People without social anxiety can also feel a lack of confidence and competence. Imposter syndrome often causes normally non-anxious people to experience a sense of anxiety when they are in situations where they feel inadequate.

Types

Imposter syndrome can appear in a number of different ways. A few different types of imposter syndrome that have been identified are:3

  • The perfectionistPerfectionists are never satisfied and always feel that their work could be better. Rather than focus on their strengths, they tend to fixate on any flaws or mistakes. This often leads to a great deal of self-pressure and high amounts of anxiety.
  • The superhero:Because these individuals feel inadequate, they feel compelled to push themselves to work as hard as possible.
  • The expert: These individuals are always trying to learn more and are never satisfied with their level of understanding. Even though they are often highly skilled, they underrate their own expertise.
  • The natural genius: These individuals set excessively lofty goals for themselves, and then feel crushed when they don’t succeed on their first try.
  • The soloist: These people tend to be very individualistic and prefer to work alone. Self-worth often stems from their productivity, so they often reject offers of assistance. They tend to see asking for help as a sign of weakness or incompetence.

Coping

To get past impostor syndrome, you need to start asking yourself some hard questions. They might include things such as the following:

  • “What core beliefs do I hold about myself?”
  • “Do I believe I am worthy of love as I am?”
  • “Must I be perfect for others to approve of me?”

To move past these feelings, you need to become comfortable confronting some of those deeply ingrained beliefs you hold about yourself. This can be hard because you might not even realize that you hold them, but here are some techniques you can use:

  • Share your feelings. Talk to other people about how you are feeling. These irrational beliefs tend to fester when they are hidden and not talked about.
  • Focus on others. While this might feel counterintuitive, try to help others in the same situation as you. If you see someone who seems awkward or alone, ask that person a question to bring them into the group. As you practice your skills, you will build confidence in your own abilities.
  • Assess your abilities. If you have long-held beliefs about your incompetence in social and performance situations, make a realistic assessment of your abilities. Write down your accomplishments and what you are good at, and compare that with your self-assessment.
  • Take baby steps. Don’t focus on doing things perfectly, but rather, do things reasonably well and reward yourself for taking action. For example, in a group conversation, offer an opinion or share a story about yourself.
  • Question your thoughts. As you start to assess your abilities and take baby steps, question whether your thoughts are rational. Does it make sense that you are a fraud, given everything that you know?
  • Stop comparing. Every time you compare yourself to others in a social situation, you will find some fault with yourself that fuels the feeling of not being good enough or not belonging. Instead, during conversations, focus on listening to what the other person is saying. Be genuinely interested in learning more.
  • Use social media moderately. We know that the overuse of social media may be related to feelings of inferiority. If you try to portray an image on social media that doesn’t match who you really are or that is impossible to achieve, it will only make your feelings of being a fraud worse.
  • Stop fighting your feelings. Don’t fight the feelings of not belonging. Instead, try to lean into them and accept them. It’s only when you acknowledge them that you can start to unravel those core beliefs that are holding you back.
  • Refuse to let it hold you back. No matter how much you feel like you don’t belong, don’t let that stop you from pursuing your goals. Keep going and refuse to be stopped.

Remember that if you are feeling like an impostor, it means you have some degree of success in your life that you are attributing to luck. Try instead to turn that feeling into one of gratitude. Look at what you have accomplished in your life and be grateful.

Don’t be crippled by your fear of being found out. Instead, lean into that feeling and get at its roots. Let your guard down and let others see the real you. If you’ve done all these things and still feel like your feeling of being an impostor is holding you back, it is important to speak to a mental health professional.

 

 

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By: Family First Indiana

Helping your children develop healthy habits is one of the greatest gifts you can give as a parent. It can also be one of the most challenging things you ever do. You have a chance to give that a gift to your children and that will help make their lives easier. By creating a routine, sticking with it, and helping your child succeed, you can show them what is possible through hard work and determination.

Here are some tried and true ways to establish healthy homework and study habits with your kids.

CREATE A ROUTINE

This can be the hardest part of all—getting started with a new routine, or any routine for that matter! With work schedules, after school clubs, sports, classes or events, it can be difficult to get into a regular after-school routine.

If children are staying after school and doing homework in latchkey, one way to set up an evening homework routine is simply to review the homework with them.

For elementary children, they may have a spelling list to study or a worksheet to complete. Get into a routine of asking them if they completed their homework, and check the worksheet with them. This gives you an opportunity to help answer their questions, check that they got all of the answers right, or to review for the upcoming quiz or test one more time.

GIVE THEM A CHOICE

Do your kids need a half hour after school just to decompress, play outside, walk the dog, or change clothes? Maybe they need a healthy snack right after school? Some kids may choose to dive into homework immediately to get it out of the way. Let your kids have a say in what works for them and ask for their input in the routine. They’ll be more likely to stick with the routine this way, and you won’t be fighting an uphill battle.

SET UP INCENTIVES

Think of rewards and incentives that work for your child. Does she love to spend time playing with her toys, or is she obsessed with a new game on the tablet? These can be good incentives for completing homework and chores. Some kids will be less motivated to finish homework if they’ve already had an hour of TV, and then they have to stop watching to get their homework done. Every child is different and responds to different types of rewards. Set up your routine so that your child knows he or she gets to do something they like after they complete their homework. Such as:

  • Play outside with friends
  • Watch TV or play video games

CREATE A HOMEWORK STATION

The kitchen table, a quiet desk in the corner, the dining room, the den or office—wherever you choose, make a designated space for homework. Here are some ideas for creating a study area where your kids will feel comfortable and be able to focus on homework:

  • Plenty of clear desk space for writing and spreading out papers
  • Set out healthy snacks (bowl of fruit, pretzels, fruit snacks)
  • Stock with school supplies (pens, pencils, paper, calculator)
  • Basket or organizer for papers, assignments
  • Expect kids to tidy/clean the space after homework is done

REMOVE DISTRACTIONS

Every child learns differently and may require a different kind of environment for concentration. You may have one child who needs quiet music in the background, while another child needs complete silence. In that case, you might make sure they have headphones or separate study spaces. In all cases, remove whatever is distracting to your child. Phones, games, TV, toys, tablets and laptops (unless needed for school work), music, pets—whatever keeps your child from focusing, get them in the habit of removing it during study time.

USE A CHECKLIST AND TIMER

Teaching your child to use a checklist is a wonderful habit that can last a lifetime! The humble checklist is a powerful tool for getting things done. It can be easy to forget steps or get distracted; the checklist is just a visual reminder of tasks they need to accomplish. And when they finally check off that very last one—sweet rewards! Free time, food, rest, TV, or whatever incentives lie in store for those who complete their checklist.

Along with a checklist of homework tasks and chores, set a timer. If you have older children who are studying for a difficult test, make sure they study in shorter blocks of time. A timer will help with avoiding burnout and trying to “cram” for the test.

BE PREPARED. AVOID CRAMMING

Speaking of cramming, it isn’t healthy and usually doesn’t lead to good outcomes anyway.  Studies show that students perform worse when they stay up late and cram for a big test. So, how do you instill good study habits to help your child avoid cramming?

Plan ahead. Does your child’s teacher post homework assignments and tests for the week on their website? Find out how these assignments are communicated to parents. You should also ask your child questions about tests and assignments that are coming up. Then, help them develop a study plan. Make a plan for studying in chunks throughout the week and month to get prepared for the test. Finally, give them a pop quiz or review their assignments to ensure they’re ready. All of these things will help reinforce how to prepare, study and do homework the right way. As your children grow and develop these habits, you can slowly start expecting them to prepare and study with more independence.

REVISE AND IMPROVE THE HOMEWORK/STUDY ROUTINE

As your children grow, their routines will change. Take a look at what’s working and what is causing a lot of strife in the family. Are children running around in the morning, telling you about last minute assignments they forgot or can’t find? Are children leaving papers or assignments in their lockers after school? What reminders or incentives need to change in order to smooth out these rough spots in your routine?

Keeping to your routine, enforcing discipline, and encouraging your children in good study habits is an ongoing labor of love. It’s not easy! But if you do your best and put in the hard work, you and your child will reap the rewards many times over.

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ANTIRACISM RESOURCES FOR THE FAMILY

By: Amethyst J., Families First Hospital Response Volunteer

Families First believes in helping our community through life’s challenges and changes. We believe in helping people deal with issues that are too tough to tackle alone. For us, standing with the Black community in the fight against racial injustice means sharing resources that can help your family start or further conversations about race, racism, and anti-racism.

REFLECT & LEARN

To earnestly begin anti-racist work, explore your own biases and personal contributions to racism, then further your understanding of American History and systemic racism.

TALKING WITH & MODELING FOR CHILDREN

Children learn about race from what they see and hear, including silence around injustices. Being anti-racist means actively fighting against racist systems and ideas.

TAKE ACTION

Vote for, support, and connect with politicians and organizations fighting for systemic change.

  • Vote – Register to vote if you have not already, and vote for candidates supporting antiracist policies.
  • Equal Justice Initiative – Work to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequity.
  • Campaign Zero (and the 8 Can’t Wait project) – Research-based policy solutions to end police brutality in America
  • Color of Change – Online racial justice organization

Remember, first understand how you can contribute, then take action. From there, build habits and behaviors that keep your anti-racist work going, but remember to take breaks and care for your mental health. This keeps your work sustainable.

TOGETHER WE CAN WORK TOWARD SOCIAL JUSTICE.

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By: Family First Indiana

During this coronavirus outbreak, many of us are stuck at home with our partner and children. You might see this as a great opportunity for some quality family time that your normal routine typically doesn’t allow. But once you’ve played all the board games in your house and watched The Little Mermaid for the fourth time since Friday, stir-craziness might start setting in, causing tension and an ever-thinning patience. Family bonding can strengthen your relationships, but 24/7 interaction in a confined space isn’t always ideal. In this situation, boundaries are key! 

 

Take a look at the following tips on how to set and maintain healthy boundaries to keep your spirits high during this time of uncertainty.

 

REGULATING STRESSFUL EMOTIONS

The rapid spread of Covid-19 and the vulnerability of older people has stressed the current healthcare system, causing governments to mandate drastic measures to contain the spread of the disease. Fitting our whole lives into our homes is inherently going to cause some friction, but the sooner we can figure out a temporary new normal, the better. On a macro level, sitting with uncertainty can cause a general feeling of stress. Adding more localized stressors like teaching or entertaining kids all day, adjusting to working from home, looking for work after being let go, or worrying about money and food can ramp up anxiety even further. It’s important to know your stressors and recognize when they begin to pile on top of each other.

– Take time to be present with your own situation. Understand what’s expected of you from the government, your boss, your family. Don’t get caught up in all the “what-ifs” and what next week or next month will look like. Day by day and hour by hour, focus on the present moment.

– Focus on what you can control. Most of us aren’t doctors or healthcare workers on the front lines of virus defense. Right now, our work is in our household. The best thing you can do right now is make sure you and your family are okay. This means setting boundaries when things get overwhelming. Take everyone’s feelings seriously (this means your own too) by talking things out or writing in a journal. Find a balance that works for you when consuming daily news. Do what you can to stay informed, but take breaks to limit feeling overwhelmed.

– Maintain both mental and physical health. If you feel creeping anxiety, try to channel those feelings into physical activity. Preferably something you enjoy, whether it’s yoga, running, weightlifting, whatever. Exercise can have a calming effect and fill our brains with “feel-good” chemicals. Additionally, now that our focus is narrowed to home life, try to use this time to make healthy food choices. Try three meals a day full of fruits and vegetables to help you feel as balanced as possible.

WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?

The family’s all in this together, and it can be hard to navigate exactly what our kids need from us in this weird upside-down time. Channeling the endless energy of children with a finite amount of space and activities is a challenge. Here are a few suggestions that can help.

– Establish rhythms. Children need structure; a properly established routine helps kids feel secure and attached to something. Without rhythms, unhelpful behaviors can pop up such as irritation and defiance. To avoid these, know that giving kids what they need, not what they want, is best in the long run. Start by establishing a bedtime and wake up time. This makes sure that kids get the right amount of sleep and gives you as a parent some down time to recharge your batteries. Add into your schedule some daily activities such as schoolwork and reading time. These should fall at the same time each day. Once you’ve established a solid routine with your family, know that it’s okay to incorporate some spontaneity once in a while. Surprising the kids with a pizza and movie night is a great treat to reward good behavior.

– It might be tough to hear and tougher to incorporate, but you should limit screen time. Usually, screens do nothing but entertain kids. And while that’s helpful in certain quantities, it can be detrimental in the long run. Certain websites, apps, or games can give a hit of dopamine, a “feel good drug”, to keep us coming back. But, long term, this can numb our children’s emotions. An over dependence on screens can cause your child to struggle with self-disclosure, regulation, and relationships. Find points in the day to limit the screen time and be active with each other.

KNOW YOURSELF

To keep a level head, stay in tune with your own personality and limits. Are you okay with your kids blasting music and dancing around the house? Or do you need quiet time for you and your partner to get things done? Either is okay. Maintaining a home where everyone feels comfortable is important. Find your daily rhythm as a parent, take breaks, and take time to yourself. If you enjoy reading or playing solitaire on your phone, give yourself the time to indulge and enjoy it.

Assign each family member a safe zone in the house. It could be a bedroom or their favorite spot. If someone gets overwhelmed with negative emotions, grant them permission to decompress in their safe space. Don’t look at it as a punishment, but an opportunity to reset and keep the peace. Model this for your children to help them understand. You can say, “I feel stressed and will take a break now. If you need me, I will be in my room reading or writing.”

 NOTE ON PARTNERSHIP

Any of these strategies can be implemented by one person. Though if you have a partner or another adult in the house, make sure you create and implement your strategy as a team. This way, everyone’s on the same page and nothing gets undermined accidentally. Having everyone in the house agree to routines and rules does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to maintaining peace. Lean into your partnership when times are tough, sharing the load of responsibility can do wonders to ease any burdens waiting for you along the way.

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By: Jonathan M. – Family First

Back to school season 2020 looms only weeks away and represents for many families their most uncertain schooling experience to date. Sitting with that uncertainty can allow sprouts of stress and anxiety to pop up in our kids. Though we’re equally unsure of what school will look like this fall, Families First would like to offer some ideas and strategies to help your children cope with the stress of going back to school during a global pandemic.

Like adults, kids are are creatures of habit and their routines have likely turned upside down over the past few months in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Because of this, they might be experiencing fear, anxiety, and confusion about what’s coming next. Children need routine, so consider going back to school as a chance to build a new routine that makes sense for your family’s situation. Approach this topic by accepting that things will look different and figure out what works best for your family. Then, clearly communicate this new routine with your child. Explain what they can expect their days to look like and let them know unexpected things might happen and that it is your responsibility as the parent to deal with them. Focus on the things you can control, such as morning and homework routines and try to consciously include one self-care task. This can be whatever works best for your family, such as a daily or weekly walk, meditation, or creating art.

These tumultuous times are affecting people in all different ways, but one common concern is that of safety. Start addressing this concern by making sure you follow up-to-date guidelines from credible health sources. Make sure kids understand the basic health guidelines such as wearing a mask, washing their hands effectively, and keeping a safe distance from others. Model these behaviors for them, so they know what’s expected. Help illustrate this point by explaining why these precautions are so important in age-appropriate language that isn’t scary or sensationalized. Wearing a mask and washing hands won’t always go perfectly, so if you’re struggling in these areas try to implement a reward system to encourage safe behaviors.

A technique you can use to calm a child’s anxiety is a deep breathing technique called “smell the cookies, blow the candles out.” Instruct them to take slow, deep breaths by imagining they’re smelling a plate of their favorite fresh-baked cookies and then blowing out a bunch of birthday candles. Deep breathing allows the brain to take a break and grounds the child and their body in the present moment.

If anxiety in your child pops up often, try to make time to have a focused conversation about it. Sit down and ask directly about their concerns and really listen. Always address topics they bring up with empathy and try to come up with a practical plan to help them work through their fears. Make sure to tell your child that they are loved and cared for. Remind them that you are not going to put them in harm’s way and that you are doing your best to make safe decisions.

Lastly, make sure you’re caring for yourself as well. Anxiety and stress in parents can build to the point of disrupted function, which negatively affects children. Take care of yourself so you can be the best caretaker for your kids. This is a stressful time for you too. You have had to adapt quickly into many different roles and make adjustments you’ve never had to even consider before. Give yourself the credit you deserve and check in with your own feelings often.

Before you put any of this advice to work, take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back because you’ve got this. You’re doing a great job.

 

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By: Kathryn Doyle

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Young people whose parents tend to fight with each other or are over involved in their kids’ lives are at increased risk of depression and anxiety, according to a new comprehensive review of past studies.

Kids tend to first experience depression or anxiety between ages 12 and 18, the authors write. They reviewed 181 papers published on potential links between how parents behave and which young people experience either disorder.

It’s impossible to say how important parenting is relative to other factors that might influence depression and anxiety, like bullying at school, study author Marie Yap said, but “it is clear from the wider body of research that by virtue of their role and presence in children’s lives . . . parents have an incredibly important role, both directly and indirectly.”

Yap led the study at the Population Mental Health Group at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health in Australia.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression affects between 5 percent and 10 percent of adolescents and anxiety, which may include panic disorders, affects about 25 percent of teens.

In the new analysis, stronger links were seen between parenting and depression, including sad moods and decreased interest in activities, as compared to anxiety.

Keeping track of kids whereabouts, or “monitoring,” while giving them an autonomous say in family decisions were parent behaviors associated with lower levels of depression.

Parents who were less warm, fought more, were over-involved or generally “aversive” had kids who more often experienced both depression and anxiety, according to the review in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

“In our meta-analysis, (aversiveness) includes harshness, meanness, sarcasm, hostility, criticism, punishment and shaming or rejecting behaviors by the parent towards the teenager, as well as parent-teen conflict,” Yap said.

“So in large part it can be summed as ‘meanness’, but it can also reflect a fracture in the parent-teen relationship where conflict is frequent, intense and unresolved.”

Identifying parental factors linked to depression could help inform prevention efforts, she said.

“There are a lot of factors that seem to be involved in the development of anxiety and depression that we can’t change,” Ron Rapee said.

Rapee is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He is a colleague of Yap’s but was not involved in the review.

Genes, family history of mental health problems, poverty and ethnicity have been independently linked to teen mood disorders, and those are basically immutable.

“Parenting is one factor that should be possible to alter,” Rapee said. “So if we can identify ways that parents influence anxiety and depression in their children, then we can teach parents different ways of acting and prevent the development of these emotional disorders. “

Key messages from this study, he said, are that parents should try to be supportive, warm and open with their kids, give them clear guidelines and boundaries, but at the same time allow them freedom to learn from their own mistakes and not to over-control them.

“But the most important message for parents, perhaps by way of a caveat, is this: Don’t blame yourselves when things go wrong,” Yap said. “Such research evidence should be used to inform and empower parents in enhancing their children’s mental health, not to use for blaming them.”

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TECHNIQUES TO COMBAT ANXIETY

By: Masha Nelson – Family First

We are currently experiencing a troubling and uncertain time. In order to come out of this stronger, we need to figure out ways to cope with our anxiety and stress efficiently. During this time, combating our anxiety is equally as important as social distancing. If we do not have control of our minds, it affects our bodies and could eventually make us physically sick. Anxiety directly correlates with stress, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “chronic stress can affect your health, causing symptoms from headaches, high blood pressure, and chest pain to heart palpitations, skin rashes, and loss of sleep.” Experiencing these stressful conditions could make you more susceptible to illness and we’re here to help prevent you from becoming another coronavirus statistic. Below, you will find some of my personal favorite anxiety reducers for staying in control of the body and mind.

  • Technically we are machines. The body is designed for all our parts to work together. So just like a car, if something goes wrong and is ignored, it leads to damage. But human bodies don’t come with a “check engine” light, so it’s important to understand our body’s distress signals. Doing routine inventories of your bodily sensations helps you observe what’s going on physically and emotionally. Take advantage of the knowledge that the mind affects the body and use that to heal yourself: such as the link between anxiety and your physical state. At the end of a yoga practice, it is common to lay in a plank pose and release bodily tension. To practice on your own, bring a relaxing awareness to each part of the body, starting with the crown of the head and work down to the toes. This exercise ignites awareness to parts of the body we don’t often think about and helps relieve tension we don’t even know we’re carrying. This exercise can be done sitting or lying down. Try incorporating this technique before going to bed or after waking up to make it a habit. But you can do a version of this technique pretty much anywhere.

To learn more and follow a guided meditation, click here.

  • One of the wisest things my mom told me growing up was not to solve problems before bed. As hard as it sounds, it does get easier with time to tuck worries far, far away for the night. Staying up, looking at social media, and Googling your problems will not only take away from your sleep time, but it also feeds anxiety. Making a to-do list for the morning signals to your brain that your worries and concerns are noted and will be dealt with later. Don’t try and focus on how to fix everything, but when, such as tomorrow. Concentrating on the “how” creates more counterproductive anxiety. The best way to pacify the brain is to give it ways to “turn off.” One exercise called “4-7-8” quiets your mind and makes you feel drowsy, so don’t “4-7-8” and drive!

To learn more about this technique, click here.

  • Our brain is capable of re-structuring and fixing some of the damages made by internal or external circumstances. The concept is called neuroplasticity. According to William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR, the brain has an ability “to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.” The brain heals itself by identifying an issue on one side of the brain and forms a new connection between the brain cells. This takes time, but somehow the brain knows where and how to fix itself! This means the brain can be more powerful than our bodies. When a limb is cut off, our body can’t grow a new one, but our brains make new connections all the time. Harness this power by rerouting your worries into healthy habits. The habit must be hard enough to fully occupy the mind, but easy enough that you don’t give up and jump back into worry. For example, counting backwards from 1000 by subtracting 7. This goes a lot faster after you get the hang of it and can be done without paper or calculator. If this exercise is done every time an anxious loop pops up, the brain will start automatically switching to the exercise without getting lost in anxious thoughts. You know you’ve done this right if you start counting down seemingly out of nowhere. Once this happens, you and your brain are working as a team.

To learn more about rewiring your brain, click here.

As we go forward, we need to learn how to cope and adapt to what is ahead. The best way to prepare is to develop tools to cope with anxiety and remain mindful of what our body needs.

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