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Screen use alternatives


  • 1. If screen use isn’t good for my child, why should I get an app?
    It would seem getting an app that must be used on a screen is the exact opposite of a screen free alternative. However, the app is a tool, always in your hand, that contains the activity ideas, instructions, age ranges and mental and physical benefits to the activities. The app allows you to choose the waiting situation you are in, THEN gives the activity choices specifically for that situation, THEN after the activity is chosen, and instructions are read, the screen is NO LONGER NEEDED AND PARENTS AND CHILDREN DO THE ACTIVIITES TOGETHER THUS CREATING THE OPPORTUNITY FOR STRENGTHENED RELATIONSHIPS AND POSITIVE INTERACTIONS. ALL THE ACTIVITES ARE SCREEN FREE AND REQUIRE NO PROPS (except for a few where props would be readily accessible in a purse, pocket or in the setting- such as a restaurant).
  • 2. What are the screen use guidelines for children from the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics?
    SCREEN USE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) and AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS (AAP) BIRTH – AGE 2 SCREEN USE IS NOT RECOMMENDED (phones, tablets, TV, computers-avoid all) AGE 2-5 years NO MORE THAN 1 HOUR A DAY, less is better After age 2 introduce high quality children’s programming and media; watch with your child, ask them questions and explain what they are seeing. See link below for sleep and physical activity recommendations as well:
  • 3. What are the negative affects of screen use for children and what does the research say?
    I will focus on the neurobiological risks associated with screen use for young children. Screen use is defined as viewing or using anything with a screen, such as TV, DVDs, movies, computers, phones and video games (Sweetser et al., 2012). In 2019, MRI evidence showed that preschooler’s microstructural integrity of white matter in the brain was endangered with screen use (Hutton et al., 2020). Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to quantify white matter integrity in the brain, these researchers explored the associations between screen use and white brain matter tracts that support language, executive function and literacy skills in children ages three to five. They recruited 69 preschoolers and measured their access to screens, frequency of use, content viewed and viewing with a caregiver. The results indicated that structural markers for language performance were associated with lower neurocognitive skills in those with higher screen use. Similar negative associations were seen in regards to emotion integration and lower scores on corresponding behavioral measures (Hutton et al., 2020). Further research is needed to establish causation for these results whether these neurobiological differences were a direct result of the screen use itself or the differences in human interaction affected by screen use (Hutton et al., 2020). In a similar study by the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media, it was found that children who did not follow the recommendations for time limitations of screen use for children ages two to five to no more than one hour per day, had delayed white matter development (Beal, 2020). Several systematic reviews and meta-analyses suggest detrimental effects were also seen in regards to cognitive, behavioral and emotional outcomes as well with screen use for infants, toddlers and preschoolers (Li et. al., 2020). In contrast, recent findings demonstrated that children with lower screen time use exhibited better executive function abilities (Martins et. al., 2020). Screen use for young children has significant neuro-biological risks, including a delay in language development and vocabulary, impaired or delayed fundamental motor skills (Martins et. al., 2020), a decrease in parent child relationships (Hutton et al., 2020, Sweetser et al., 20), obesity, short sleep duration (Li et al., 2020) and abnormal oxygen uptake, as unnatural images flash too fast for the brain’s persistence of vision (Cytowic, 2015).
  • 4. What is the difference between active screen use and passive screen use?
    Screen time is defined as viewing or use of anything with a screen, including TV, phones, tablets, computers, video games. Screen use is a SEDENTARY activity meaning little to no movement or physical activity Passive screen use: screen time with little to no interaction from user Active screen use: involves interaction with content by cognitive or physical engagement. Also denotes a focus of conscious use with clear intention for improving lives and connecting with others. Irrespective of value, whether educational or content based, the cause for concern from researchers is the amount of daily screen time for young children (Sigman, 2012) and how that impacts the development of executive function. A distinction between passive screen time and active screen time also plays into the variables of the research (Martins et al., 2020). Screen content that requires little to no interaction from the user would be considered passive. Current studies indicate that most children spend the greatest amount of time as passive screen viewers (Martins et al., 2020). The associations between screen time and health risks are reported to occur when screen use exceeds two hours a day (Sigman, 2012). Research suggests low levels of activity (sedentary screen use) for children can result in heart disease, obesity, sleep disorders, increase of fatigue and reduction of concentration as well as emotional stress and dysfunction. Additionally, screen use has been shown to contribute to: low attention span, eye strain, language development delays, and to suppress melatonin levels. Screen use can alter the structuring of the brain and negatively impact cognitive development. Children learn best by moving and need to be actively engaged in their body and mind.
  • 5. What are some GREAT alternatives to screen use?
    MOST PARENTS RELY ON SCREENS TO… - RELIEVE A CHILD’S BOREDOM - PASS THE TIME WHILE WAITING - GIVE THEMSELVES UNINTERRUPTED TIME TO GET READY OR FINISH A PROJECT -GIVE THEMSELVES A BREAK OR HAVE SOME QUIET TIME. Use the below suggestions to PREPARE FOR THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, then you’ll be READY WITH screen free alternatives. Making the effort to have less screen time in your family is exactly just that-AN EFFORT! Screen use is an easier way to occupy children- it’s less messy and requires so little effort on the part of the parent to accomplish- No preplanning, no gathering supplies, no clean up afterwards, and no tantrums to deal with because it’s what your child wants. But give alternatives a try and very soon your child will learn that the alternatives are more rewarding. PROVIDING ALTERNATIVES TO SCREEN USE TAKES INTENTION, CREATIVITY AND DETERMINATION! One idea: Prepare a cupboard or area of the house and label it with a sign “SCREEN FREE ACTIVITIES” so that children know whenever the need arises, they can go to this place to find something to do. You can put toys in there that just for this occasion and never come out otherwise. For these occasions, use toys or things you have in your house but add in some “new” things or ways to play with them. This makes them seem special or more interesting-this can breathe new life into your existing toys and activities. -Playdough -If age appropriate, add in some toothpicks, buttons, pipe cleaners, the real rolling pin, potato masher, pizza cutter, cookie sheet, etc. If the activity incorporates fine or gross motor opportunities children should engage in them longer. -Build a fort- let them use kitchen chairs, stools, and pillows from the couch and blankets to create a hideaway. If they are old enough to write, have them create a name for their fort, or draw a map for others to find it, or create a story about it. Give them flashlights put in the fort and a snack if you are comfortable with food being in the place it is located. Have them take in a pile of their favorite books. -Outside- A great quote; “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Children need to be outside. In his book, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv shares compelling research about the importance of daily time outside and how essential it is to a child’s healthy physical and emotional development. -Puzzles, games- Time them to see how fast they can put together a puzzle. Play a game in a different way than you ever have before. -Give them access to something they rarely get to look in or use- this can be your button or baseball card collection or the pots and pans drawer or food storage container cupboard (add in some fuzzy balls, plastic spoons, measuring cups etc.), a bathroom drawer with Q-tips and cotton balls etc. A dollar store can supply these items inexpensively but worth every cent! -Make a mobile sand and water bin- Get a large storage container with a lid that slides under the bed and fill it with sand, rice, wheat or beans OR water if you get really brave. Roll it onto a large tarp. Add in scoops, funnels, empty 2 liter pop bottles or plastic dinosaurs or cars etc. For best effect, have it be something they only get to play with when you need 30 minutes to finish a work project or make dinner etc. That way they will look forward to this more than something on a screen. -Fidget spinners and sensory toys- Especially great for toddlers. Keep some of these kinds of toys in your purse, they can hold them while in a shopping cart. -Sorting objects-Have a container full of something children can sort like buttons, shapes or small objects that come in different sizes shapes and colors. Have child sort them into a muffin tin from largest to smallest or by color etc. -Color and paint- find free printable pages on the internet of things your child is very interested in and have them ready for these times you need to get something done. -Sticker books- special ones that can only be used during these situations of the day when you need to get something done. -Crafting supplies box- special one that only comes out as an alternative to screens-glue, paper and sequins, buttons, fabric pieces, fuzzy balls, paper plates, napkins, yarn, popsicle sticks etc. Kids know what to do! -Building toys- Legos, Magna tiles, tinker toys, car tracks, blocks etc. Have them build, then allow them to take pictures of their creations. -Write letters or books- Create blank books by using half sheets of paper and folding in half. Add a cover using a half sheet of colored paper. Have these in a box ready to be used when needed. Children can create a new story and illustrate a book whenever they need something to do. -Listen to stories-There are many read aloud stories on the internet that you could turn on and have your child sit in a cozy place and listen. Great for using their imagination as they envision the characters and places etc. -While We’re Waiting app (available on the app store for Android now and Apple soon). This app provides over 100 screen free activities to do with your child while in any waiting situation that build cognitive function and strengthen relationships. Can be a great resource when they are bored or you need to pass some time. Determine the times of the day or occasions that you most resort to screens and if the above suggestions do not help, please email me and I will help you come up with something.
  • 6. Why does screen use undermine and child’s sense of action and initiative and emotional well-being?
    According to Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige (2018), a child’s social and emotional development is built over time and learned through many experiences and interactions and screen use limits those opportunities. The cumulative effect of technology replaces social interaction. Screens are most commonly used to distract a child from the experience they are having at the moment whether that be stress, anxiety, frustration, a hard transition or boredom and the goal is to amuse, occupy or end distress-to take them somewhere else emotionally. It does work for the short term because screen interaction bypasses those emotional experiences. However, NOT going through them is detrimental to development and wellbeing (Carlsson-Paige, 2018). Dismissing opportunities for a child to confront an emotion, such as frustration, prevents them from working through feelings in the present tense and gaining coping tools from life experience. Instead of looking inward for mental resources to cope, they turn to external sources to solve their negative feelings. This practice in these moments, accumulated over time, fails to produce emotional resilience (Carlsson-Paige, 2018, Hunter, 2020). The While We’re Waiting app can provide an opportunity for emotional skill development needed to deal with emotions in the moment and provide tools for a lifetime. When a child is on a screen there is a profound shift from acting to re-acting, moving to looking. This impacts a child’s initiative. Initiative is an important human capacity and propels a young child to further their progress of development whether that be with grabbing, crawling, standing or walking. Early screen use undermines this sense of action and produces a sense that action does not come from inside oneself but from an outside source therefore causing a child’s attention to shift from the initiative and ideas they construct themselves. This prohibits optimal brain development as full body, mind, senses and emotions are unnaturally inhibited (Carlsson-Paige, 2018, Hunter, 2020). Carlsson-Paige (2018) explains that play is the engine of development and provides a child with open ended, undefined parameters for cognitive processing as they bring their own needs and imagination to the experience. Screens give defined parameters, remove active participation and are composed of confined boundaries that do not promote creativity. Images and characters from screens do not allow a child to access their own inner psyche because outer influences have no reciprocal relationship with the child’s needs, life and emotions. Children are active learners who construct their ideas through interacting with materials and screens are a passive experience. With screen viewing the inner life of imagination and emotion are affected by outside direction. Information cannot be poured into a child as one would an empty vessel, genuine learning takes place as children build knowledge through conceptualizing information not from repetition and rote methods (Carlsson-Paige, 2018).
  • 7. What can parents do to promote healthy screen use habits?
    Model healthy screen use behaviors: -set clear boundaries for yourself with your phone; Ex. Never at dinner table, not while at park with child, not during certain hours of the day etc. -Explain to children what you are doing on your phone; Ex. If you have to check your email for work, say, “I have to check for an important message from my boss that I need to know about so I can do my job well.” or “I need to read this text message from a friend who needs help.” -Tell children how long you will be on a call or looking at a text or email. Then stick to that time. -Never use phone at dinner table - Create family rules about cell phone use -Choose to engage together, face to face, in times of boredom or while waiting Highly recommend this podcast:
  • 8. What are the physiological reactions to stress for a child?
    -temper tantrums -whining -attention problems -distracting behaviors -aggressive outbursts -inability to sit still
  • 9. Waiting is a challenging task for children, why is that?
    It is estimated that Americans will spend 37 billion hours each year waiting. As human beings our behavior is goal-oriented and waiting becomes the barrier that prevents us from immediately reaching our goals. (Houston et. al., 1999) Waiting for a child is a particularly challenging task due their underdeveloped executive function network in the brain. Executive function refers to the management system of the brain. It is the mental skills and processes that enable us to focus attention, adapt to new and unexpected situations, remember instructions, control impulses, regulate emotions, set and achieve goals, problem solve, plan and organize. These mental skills are the basis for higher order cognitive functions. We use these skills constantly as we learn, work and manage daily life. In addition to being governed by their limited attention span, young children’s ability to wait is also influenced by one of the core elements of executive function, called inhibitory control (IC) (Elton et al., 2014). According to these authors, inhibitory control is located in the pre-frontal cortex and is defined as one’s ability to inhibit their impulses and habitual, natural or prevalent behavioral responses to stimuli, in order to display appropriate behaviors consistent with one’s goals. IC includes self-regulation, which is defined as a state of being able to manage emotions and impulses, as well as control one’s behavior (Anzman-Frasca et al., 2015). According to the same author these abilities have been emphasized as powerful predictors of adaptive development. They influence a child’s ability to wait, because children may not have developed the cognitive skills required to regulate behavior expectations during the waiting period (Rymanowicz, 2015). In the preschool years, children become increasingly more able to execute purposeful and effortful behaviors, because the frontal cortex underlies these capabilities (Davis, 2002). The waiting period may appear to be a time of inactivity, but for a child it is a time of active pursuit (Rymanowicz, 2015). They use energy as they exercise the ability to control impulses, actions and behaviors, regulate thoughts and respond to stimuli. Stress for a child can be brought on by over- or under-stimulation, and or subjection to excessive expectations (Bullock, 2002). Attentional processes are exhibited by external behaviors, physiological and neural responses and psychological engagement (Gaertner et. al, 2008). When a child encounters experiences that bombard their sensory impressions, they do not have the brain development needed to determine when they have had enough and this can lead to a child feeling out of balance and they react with attention problems, distracting behaviors, repetitive movements, and an inability to sit still. A child is compensating for uncomfortable feelings in their body and their surroundings (Hunter, 2014). Waiting Immobilizing a child’s body for a period of time is a tedious, tiring and difficult task in this stage of development (Moyer & von Haller Gilmer, 1954). The emotions generated by waiting are frustration, anxiety, regret, annoyance, and uncertainty. Waiting causes children to feel stress. It also causes stress to parents and often this results in negative interactions between parent and child during this time.
  • 10. Why is learning to wait so important for a child?
    Learning to wait is a crucial life skill and dealing with the emotions of waiting is a method of self-control. It requires training and practice, and it is a psychological state (Prisco, 2019). Dr. Megan Kaden explains that many people in society never learn how to tolerate the discomfort and unknown of waiting and that one of the most essential skills for adult development is learning how to regulate one’s feelings while waiting (Kaden, 2017). For children AND adults being able to wait successfully requires emotional regulation abilities, as they monitor, evaluate and modify emotional reactions to accomplish a goal (Kim and Maio, 2011).
  • 11. What are the physiological reactions to stress for a child?
    It is important for parents to understand the effects of stress on a child. Because stress “freezes” a child’s ability to apply executive functions appropriately, it is a risk factor for dysfunction especially to young children as their cognitive capabilities have not yet matured (Calderon, 2020). Waiting is a stressful situation for human beings (Kim & Miao, 2011). Over- or under- stimulation from a child’s environment, such as boredom, is one of the predominant causes of stress for children (Marion, 2003), which could be associated with any type of waiting. We know from personal experience that when children are given a task they view as challenging or difficult, they are likely to act out. Children typically exhibit stress with a physical reaction; crying, sweaty palms, aggression, defensive outbursts, rocking and self-comforting behaviors, headaches, stomach aches, nervous fine motor behaviors such as hair twirling or biting, toilet accidents or sleep disturbances (Stansbury & Harris, 2000). -temper tantrums -whining -attention problems -distracting behaviors -aggressive outbursts -inability to sit still
  • 12. Can children learn to wait more patiently?
    With regards to attention span and helping children be successful in situations that require the developing cognitive skills of executive function, research suggests that young children can be trained to wait more patiently and that their attentional capacities can be improved by supportive and nurturing parents (Altun et al., 2016, Center on the Developing Child Harvard University, 2021). Theorists have emphasized that the importance of caregivers’ emotional support experienced within learning moments or problem-solving contexts, is linked to a child’s persistence at tasks and the promotion of engagement with the child’s environment (Gaetner et al., 2008). In contrast, other research suggests that unfavorable early environments, marked with harsh discipline and low levels of support, were associated with lower levels of attentional control and higher child physical abuse as adults (Center on the Developing Child Harvard University, 2021, Crouch et al., 2012,). This study was also first to demonstrate that parents reporting low levels of attentional control and ability to concentrate, had higher levels of negative emotion and interpersonal problems (Crouch et al., 2012). This same author suggests that this is because when young children experience lack of support in challenging situations, they do not learn to respond flexibly to competing demands of attention and to adapt negative thoughts and feelings to more productive solutions, therefore the quality of a child’s early environment affects the development of higher order attentional abilities and may have long term connections to social and emotional adjustment. Parents are not always familiar with young children’s neurological capacities, and they often lack the training and tools to enhance executive function development. This can lead to negative interactions during stressful times, such as waiting, interactions that negatively influence the development of positive relationships between the child and their parents. Developmental research also suggests that negative emotions have the potential to disorganize attentional processes (Gaertner, 2008). This is because attentional processes are developed as children practice cognitive skills with support and understanding. Parents need to understand the relationship between inhibitory control and the development of executive function, because cognitive strategies are further developed as they are practiced in challenging situations with patience and support from a caring adult (Taylor et al., 2018). Parents should understand that by guiding children patiently through experiences beyond their physical capabilities, they are helping children acquire tools needed to gain power and control over their bodies and mind (Rymanowicz, 2015). Studies show that disruptions to the development of inhibitory control networks from birth to age six may impair executive abilities in adolescence and adulthood resulting in risk factors for later drug use and/or other disorders (Elton et al., 2014). For that reason, high response inhibition abilities for a child represent a protective factor (Elton et al., 2014) from limited self-control, addictions, failure to think ahead about consequences and lack of suitable restraint (Scholastic Parents Staff, 2021). Early IC is further linked to later psychosocial outcomes, such as adjustment and self-competence, and it appears to affect academic outcomes (Anzman-Frasca et al., 2015; Elton et al., 2014). Knowledge of these possible outcomes may encourage parents to implement and support valuable opportunities to strengthen cognitive function and create growth promoting environments.
  • 13. What is a developmentally appropriate expectation for the period of time a child can successfully wait or maintain focus on a given task?
  • 14. How important is the parent/child relationship to brain development and capacities?
    Research suggests that parent-child relationships are the key to cognitive training and executive function development (Calderon, 2020) and children’s attention can directly relate to adult behaviors in the immediate context (Parrinello & Ruff, 1988). Additionally, negative emotion and interactions disorganize attentional processes (Center on the Developing Child Harvard University, 2021, Gaetner, 2008; Kim & Kochanska, 2012). Cognitive skill development can be seriously delayed or impaired and brain architecture disrupted when children do not get what they need from relationships with adults and the conditions of their environment (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2021). Constant support, shared experiences and time spent together are what helps build the cognitive scaffolding that allows for the development of self-regulation skills and the foundations of executive function (Calderon, 2020). Scaffolding refers to the passive, natural process through which new concepts are formed and how the brain integrates incoming information with existing knowledge structures, particularly in early childhood (Williams et al., 2009). As a child’s intentional capacities increase, their emerging deliberate emotion regulation skill set becomes revisable to scaffolding from adults (Grabell et al., 2019). This interpersonal scaffolding must involve a caregiver and a child engaging in conversation about emotions, social function and delivery of information that shapes understanding. A study by Kochanska et al. (2001), found that how mothers assist their child during negative emotion challenges predicted the child’s ability to endure the same negative challenge by themselves one year later. Similarly, Gaertner et al., (2008) multimethod study on focused attention in toddlers, showed that maternal praise and positive evaluations of effort, during a task where visual attention was measured, predicted higher levels of observed attention capacities. The level of positivity in the parent-child relationship is a strong predictor of a child’s self-regulatory skills, executive functioning, attention span, academic achievement and child’s ability to be persistent in day to day tasks (Kim & Kochanska, 2012; McClelland et al., 2006; McClelland et al., 2000). Substantial research also suggests that one’s ability to successfully navigate a challenging task begins in infancy and through early childhood and the relationship with caregivers acts as a key context for reparative interactions during these tasks and this may be the foundation for developing emotional and behavioral regulation skills (Kemp et al., 2016). A common theme in developmental literature suggests that, for young children, experiencing challenges that include emotions of distress, anxiety or conflict, positive consequences may surface when such experiences are repaired on a consistent basis with a parent that coordinates problem solving techniques and positive interpersonal interactions (Kemp et al., 2016). Dr. Martin Seligam, a pioneer of positive psychology, explains that parents cannot teach their children without having connections and relationships. According to him, this can be achieved by focusing on human well-being which is a focus on their strengths (Seligam, 1996). Clinical researchers suggest that the real-time, moment-to-moment interactions parents have with their children are the immediate engines of development (Granic et al., 2007) and these day-to-day direct experiences are the substance out of which antisocial outcomes materialize. Therefore, Granic et al. (2007) argue that these experiences must also be the context through which these outcomes are changed with positive parenting strategies. Research supports the correlation between a young child’s poor emotional regulation to externalizing outcomes (Southam-Gerow et al., 2002). Parent-child interactions provide the context for which regulation skills are learned and practiced (Kim & Kochanska, 2012). Flexibility (being able to shift from one emotional state to another, according to context demands) is a key factor in these interactions for healthy development and allows for negative emotions to also be experienced and recognized (Granic et al., 2007).
  • 15. How can parents help children be successful in challenging situations?
    Parents facilitate the development of executive function when they establish routines, model positive social behaviors and create and maintain supportive and reliable relationships (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2021). Spending time together and providing activities that foster creative play and human interaction, social connection, vigorous exercise and teaching children to cope with stress, builds the cognitive scaffolding for increased attentional abilities and emotional and self-regulation (Calderon, 2020; Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2021; Kim & Kochanska, 2012). Physical activities, such as organized sports, can also promote the development of executive function as they require children to carry rules and strategies in their mind and adapt to other’s actions, be mentally flexible, monitor their own behaviors and performance, and increase blood flow to the brain (Calderon, 2020). Research suggests that mindfulness training and meditation have been shown to improve executive function, as they enhance prefrontal activation, and reduce stress. These mental exercises allow children to bring their attention to the present moment, examine feelings and emotions, identify coping strategies, breathe for calmness and express gratitude and kindness towards self and others (Calderon, 2020; Petersen & Posner, 2012). Parents must better understand the profound significance of their responsibility and impact of nurturing cognitive development, building relationships, providing an environment of growth and teaching children positive ways to deal with stress. While young children may not have the physical capacity to wait longer than a few minutes, parents who focus on what they can do and help them be successful in all situations, allow for relationships to grow and learning capacities to be optimized during times of stress. For example, when children have personal interest in an activity, their attention span can double in length (Seefeldt & Wasik, 2005). Children also develop improved concentration and attention span when engaged in activities that are age appropriate (Mcilroy, 2021). When a child will be experiencing a waiting period, a parent influences executive function development when they explain to the child the situation that they will be experiencing beforehand, and provide an estimate of the duration of the wait (Kim & Miao, 2011). This author suggests that providing this kind of information reduces uncertainty and uncertainty is what often forecasts a negative experience. When waiting periods are extended beyond what was anticipated, anxiety is intensified (Kim & Miao, 2011). This same author suggests that when individuals have information about what is to be expected in a potentially emotional situation, emotional regulation tends to be more effective by decreasing the emotional relevance. Parents build executive function during waiting when they set appropriate expectations, are clear using specifics, empathize, provide frequent practice and try distractions with games or stimulating activities that involve problem solving, memory, attention cues, motor control or sequencing (Brain Balance, 2021; Rymanowicz, 2015). Also, identifying potential stumbling blocks and discussing solutions beforehand, providing exercise and movement, trying activities of physical manipulation while focusing on another task such as fidgets (Anunsen, 2021; Kim & Miao, 2011; OTFC, 2021), and providing brain breaks when attention span limits are met, allow children to gain lifelong problem-solving skills (Anunsen, 2021). Attentional deployment strategies (distractions) are an important negative emotion regulator (Kim & Miao, 2011) and can help parents relieve the stress of waiting as well. When children receive a high proportion of effort and strategy praise, they exhibit strong increasing motivational frameworks in desired challenges (Gunderson et al. 2018). In a study conducted by Cole et al. (2009), young children who were able to verbally produce strategies for regulating anger, sadness or other emotions, and had high maternal supportiveness during distress, exhibited higher self-regulatory behaviors. In contrast, when parents were rigid, aggressive, harsh, insensitive or negative in their attempts to prevent or curtail misbehavior that may accompany stress or boredom, detrimental effects such as problem behaviors were shown in children later down the road, along with a smaller range of coping strategies and emotional intelligence when asked to problem solve (Granic et al., 2007). This same author suggests that healthy parent-child interactions need to be emotionally flexible and reparative to prevent aggressive childhood behaviors. Parents can help children be successful in accomplishing stressful tasks, that extend beyond their attention span capabilities by instituting brain breaks (Anunsen, 2021). Brain breaks can be as short as one minute and consist of physical activity that increases blood flow and oxygenation to the brain, thereby boosting neural connectivity and stimulating nerve cell growth (Terada, 2018) in the area of our brain responsible for learning (Merriam-Webster, n.d. Cerebrum). Brain breaks provide a reset to attention span and decrease stress, improve productivity and boost brain function (Godwin et al., 2016). These breaks reset focus using movement and keep the brain healthy, play a key role in cognitive abilities and actually improve attention and memory, as they change the structure of the brain (Terada, 2018). Brain breaks can reduce disruptive behavior and reset capacities to stay on task and increase effort after waning (Terada, 2018).
  • 16. How to diffuse a temper tantrum?
    Before DIFFUSING A TANTRUM, TRY PREVENTING ONE BY… -EXPLAINING EXPECTATIONS before even entering a store, a restaurant, an amusement park, going to a friend’s house or before any particularly challenging task etc. -Make sure children are well rested and fed before venturing out to do errands The most effective tools for diffusing a temper tantrum are EMPATHY, GUIDANCE AND DISTRACTION… -EMPATHY AND GUIDANCE: Repeat back to the child what the child is expressing frustration or sadness about. Guide them to a strategy to solve the problem. Example: If child is screaming, “I want that candy!” Get down on their level and in a calm voice say, “You want that candy?” “That makes me sad when I can’t have the candy I want too.” (There is a reason I used the word “diffuse” a tantrum because this technique is truly like diffusing a bomb! I have used it on countless children that are having a full blown fit and when I repeat back to them what I hear them saying, they physically take a breath, pause and look at me and the level of the tantrum comes down a bit. Sometimes it takes a couple minutes of repeating the process but usually it is pretty instantaneous.) Dr. John Gottman teaches this technique in these steps: -Recognize these stressful moments as a teaching opportunity -Acknowledging the child’s emotion; sadness, anger etc. -Help child to name it -Allow child to experience their feelings -Comfort and stay with child until calmed DO NOT DISMISS WHAT HAS MADE THEM FEEL THIS WAY EVEN THOUGH IT MAY BE VERY ILLOGICAL. Example do not say, “stop acting like this, now you’re really not getting anything, STOP IT, I’m never bringing you to the store again, why do you do this?” These kinds of reactions negatively affect the relationship and do not provide the nurturing a child needs when they lose control. P.S. I fully recognize and understand that this all looks really good on paper but is extremely hard to do, especially in the moment when your stress level sky rockets because of the feelings that your child’s temper tantrum make you feel. Practice, practice, practice and be patient with yourself. Remember you are the parent and are using this as an opportunity to teach crucial life skills and build emotional intelligence. If you mess up and handle it poorly, apologize to your child and let them know that you are working to handle things better. Talk about the experience together. DISTRACTION: Another way to say an ATTENTIONAL DEPLOYMENT STRATEGY, (redirecting focus) used to regulate negative emotions, altering the trajectory of the emotion by decreasing the emotional relevance. It is my favorite for toddlers. Usually works like magic! Pick the child up and say, “oh my gosh did you hear that?” or “I think I just saw a bird, can you see it?” or “Can you jump like a frog?” Make an interesting sound with your mouth or hands and ask them to try it. Example: Child does not want leave grandma’s house and is bawling on the floor. Say, “What kind of animal could we be to get to the car?” “We could swing like monkeys, hop like a bunny?” Whatever they choose, do it with them to the car.
  • 17. How does consistency in discipline strengthen relationships between parent and child?
    Children thrive in predictability. Having rules and knowing what to expect from parents who are true to their word, gives them a sense of control of their life. Children are able to regulate emotions because they can trust their boundaries and see their parents are reliable figures who will not move the boundaries with threats or inconsistent consequences. This consistency and firm boundaries allow a child to feel safe, secure, confident and create a relationship of trust between child and parent. Clear limits and consequences are crucial to children developing emotional wellbeing because they can depend on outcomes that never change. When parents use warmth, kindness, patience, responsiveness and optimism in their discipline, an emotional bond is created thus providing parents with an increased influence on children when discipline is required. Studies show a link between parental responsiveness and a child’s emotional intelligence. Negative interactions disrupt attentional processes as well as affect a child’s nervous system. It’s important that parents do not ignore disobedience and have clear consequences for disobedience. However, remember that a child’s feelings are not disobedience but the misbehavior is. Listening to a child and seeking to understand their words and feelings builds emotional health. Children who cannot depend on a parent’s word and consistency to that word, learn to distrust, lose respect and feel confused. So, when child is misbehaving and a parent gives a consequence, it is crucial that consequence is one the parent can live with and is willing to carry out, otherwise it becomes a threat and children quickly learn that the parent cannot be trusted to keep their word therefore causing emotional distance between parent and child.
  • 18. Why do I need the While We’re Waiting app?
    Do you use waiting as an OPPORTUNITY to build crucial brain connections, life skills and strengthen relationships? Most parents do not think of waiting as time that can be used to for such important purposes. When waiting with your child in a line or at a restaurant, or to relieve boredom and pass the time, what best describes your parenting practice? Have child do something on my phone; movie, game etc. Play some kind of game with your child like “I Spy” or another activity like a song or story You look at your phone Let them figure it out, in other words you don’t do anything Most parents do not feel confident in their abilities to wait longer than 10 minutes with children without giving them a screen to look at. They do not have ideas of what to do instead. The WHILE WE’RE WAITING APP is a tool for doing just that! The activities in this app are research based and had to MEET criteria established in literature to build executive function by PROVIDING ... -opportunities for memory practice, sequencing, problem solving, and cognitive flexibility -ATTENTIONAL DEPLOYMENT STRATEGIES that reduce negative emotions -adequate brain breaks with physical movement or mindfulness -positive familial interactions thus strengthening relationships and bonds -growth mindset practice -be prop free except where items needed are readily accessible because of location -tested in real life waiting situations with result being a positive, stress- free waiting period with laughter and fun Parents often resort to screen use to occupy children during waiting situations. However, there is substantial research suggesting parents should use EXTREME CAUTION in relying on screens to relieve boredom and pass the time as they can negatively impact cognitive function and development. This app has 100+ screen free activities that parents and children do TOGETHER while waiting. It is engaging the whole family! It begins with how to prepare your child for any waiting situation (following these steps can make ALL the difference in the experience you have) Next, you choose the waiting situation you are in; lines, restaurant, appointment, traffic etc. then choose an activity based on age of child. Concise instructions come next with the mental and physical benefit given for each activity. Lastly, watch your WAITING experience change in the most positive ways! Growth supported and nurturing environments contribute significantly to a child’s Executive Function development as does the parent-child relationship, particularly in challenging situations such as waiting. So never let those minutes of waiting go to waste again! While We’re Waiting app puts OPPORTUNITY in the palm of your hand! Give your children skills that will benefit them for a lifetime! FAQ 18- In what ways did app testers report their family benefitted from using the app. -Strengthened relationships -Increased attentional capacities -Improvement in behaviors during stressful situations -More positive parenting practices exhibited by less yelling, threats, punishments and parental frustration -Increased problem- solving abilities -Less negative interactions -Waiting passed quickly and with lots of fun and laughter -Children requested app activities rather than using parent’s phones -Cooperation and taking turns was practiced and enhanced -Less automatic responses to use screens -App began to be referred to as the “Fun Phone” -Ability to wait with child without offering screen was increased exponentially One parent summed up the app this way… “The app we never knew we needed and now can’t live without!”
Why is waiting hard
Parent child relationship
Who Screen Use
Why do I need the app
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