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The 1 Thing That Helped My Child’s Anxiety

Ted Lowe | September 26, 2023

You may not always know how to help your child with anxiety. I sure didn’t, especially when my 15-year-old daughter had her first panic attacks during the chaos of 2020. I attempted to talk her panic and anxiety away using my go-to, logic. You may also spin some of these classics: “You need to calm down. Nothing can be as bad as all this. You need to get yourself together so I can help you.” These comments made things even worse for her. But if she didn’t need logic from me, what did she need?

I was clueless about how to respond to her subsequent panic attacks. Then something amazing happened. My friends Will Hutcherson and Chinwé Williams asked me to be a pre-reader of their book, Seen: Despair and Anxiety in Kids and Teenagers and the Power of Connection. This timing couldn’t have been more perfect, and the advice couldn’t have been more effective. While the book had many insights, I want to give you just one way to help ease your child’s anxiety, even during panic attacks.

The One Thing That Helps Anxiety

I talked with Will and told him exactly what was happening. He explained that during panic attacks and extreme anxiety, the logical part of our brains is greatly impaired, while the emotional part is on fire. So, to help ease my daughter’s anxiety, I had to relate to her emotionally. He asked what I did to connect with her when she was as young as 2 or 3 years old. I shared that I would hold her and sing to her. He said, “Do that.” You may be thinking like I was “Man, you have got to be kidding me. The last thing a 15-year-old wants is to be treated like a toddler.” But I was so desperate I tried it, and it worked!

Since she was lying on the bed in great distress, we couldn’t exactly dance. So I lay beside her, and gently sang, badly, a song we used to dance to when she was little. Within just a few minutes, it greatly helped to calm her down. I couldn’t believe it. When I told Will what happened, he said, “By just being with her and not trying to fix her with logic, you showed her empathy. Empathy relieved her anxiety and brought her back to the logical part of her brain.”

If you are looking for how to respond to your child’s anxiety, look no further than empathy.

Something That Doesn’t Help Anxiety

You may be thinking, “What about advice?” Isn’t there a time and place for advice that could help our kids not experience anxiety? Shouldn’t we share the advice for them to get their homework done early to avoid the anxiety that comes from waiting until the last minute? Shouldn’t we encourage them to avoid friends who consistently treat them poorly? Shouldn’t we encourage them to exercise before they feel overwhelmed with anxiety? Yes, there is a time and place for this type of advice. But in the middle of their anxiety is not the time nor the place.

I’m not sure why I was surprised empathy is the best response to my daughter’s anxiety. When I’m in the middle of feeling anxious, empathy is what I want. If you are looking for how to respond to your child’s anxiety, look no further than empathy.

Sound off: How do you help your child manage his or her anxiety?

The post The 1 Thing That Helped My Child’s Anxiety appeared first on All Pro Dad.

4 Ways to Slow Down Time With Your Kids

Dan Orlovsky | September 26, 2023

I feel like time is flying. Every minute with my kids is like a vapor—it’s here one second and then it’s gone. I remember holding my triplets in the hospital like it was yesterday. Then I blinked and watched them head off to middle school. It’s sad to think those moments in between aren’t coming back.

Every day, our kids are getting closer to graduation and leaving our homes for good. We’re busy, but we have to be intentional about the time we spend with them. If we don’t, we’ll look back one day and wonder how we missed it all. It sounds impossible, but here are 4 ways to slow down time with your kids.

1. Let them play with you.

I love watching golf on lazy Sunday afternoons, but my boys don’t always want to sit on the couch and count birdies. They want to play catch, knockout, capture the flag, or go to the beach. My daughter likes to have her nails painted and paint mine, so I do that with her. I never regret it, either, because the day is coming when they won’t ask me to go on scooter rides. I could talk for hours about how much fun I have shooting hoops in the driveway. Do the tea parties. Grab the crayons. Try hopscotch, even if you’d rather watch golf.

Shed your gruff exterior if you have one. Emotion is proof you’re alive and present in the moment.

2. Let them surprise you.

My boys are triplets but they are all so different. One loves comic books, another is a budding author, and one is all about cooking. And my daughter? She’s a singer! It’s amazing what you’ll learn about your children just by asking them what they’re passionate about. They are all so talented, so I make it my mission to plug in to what matters to them today. It gives me a way to bond with each of them in a tailored way.

3. Let them break you.

It’s hard for me not to tear up a bit when I look at old photos of my kids. They were so little. That time isn’t coming back. Men have that urge to be tough all the time. Be compassionate and vulnerable instead, and let your kids’ giggles and cries crack your outer shell. Let yourself cry when they tell you they love you. Hug them a little longer than normal after a long day. Kiss their foreheads when reading bedtime stories. Shed your gruff exterior if you have one. Emotion is proof you’re alive and present in the moment.

4. Let them fuel you.

My boys are sports fanatics. They play football, lacrosse, and baseball. When they sit and watch football with me, they ask great questions and we draw up plays together. I love it! It’s as if every time we flip on the TV to watch a game, we are provided with chances to make meaningful memories. Their passion for sports makes me more passionate, too. If we get invested in what matters to them, we’ll be invited along for the ride.

Sound off: What gets you excited about spending time with your kids?

The post 4 Ways to Slow Down Time With Your Kids appeared first on All Pro Dad.

5 Ways to Vet Your Kids’ Friends

Scott Gulbransen | August 15, 2023

I stood in our kitchen, completely frozen. Concern overcame me as my son’s words hit me about an incident earlier that day. It was a harsh reality check—he was being mocked by a classmate for not looking at pornography on somebody’s phone. I realized I didn’t know my son’s friend as well as I thought I did.

As parents, we want to ensure that our children surround themselves with positive influences that support their growth and well-being. The company our kids keep can significantly impact their behavior, attitudes, and choices. Here are 5 ways to ensure your kids’ friends are the influences that help your child grow, not get off track.

1. Talk to their parents.

Believe it or not, some parents don’t try nor have the desire to get to know the parents of kids their children spend time with. This is a red flag for you. Interacting with the parents is essential, and you can figure out a lot about what the kids are into and what has influenced them by getting to know their parents. My son had one friend who would regularly come over whose parents would immediately drive away as soon as the car door shut, even when I tried to make contact. This kid ended up having some trouble and getting suspended from school.

2. Talk to your kids’ friends.

I glean much information from talking to my kids’ friends when they’re around. It’s much easier to assess kids’ motives and the meaning behind their demeanor when you initiate and carry on conversations with them. Do they make eye contact? Are they respectful and forthcoming with answers when you chat with them? These are all things you can assess when you carry on a conversation. It also lets you learn more about their family and gives you an opportunity to spot any red flags.

3. Believe your eyes.

As the father of five kids, I’ve seen it all. Yet the most important lesson I’ve learned about my kids’ friends is that you can sum it up by just watching how they act and what they do. Today, with social media, you can also get a peek at what they’re like by what they post. Our kids aren’t allowed social media, but not all parents have that restriction. You aren’t right 100% of the time, but by watching their behavior, in person and online, you can quickly identify unhealthy influences.

If your kids’ friends don’t respect your boundaries, it’s not a healthy relationship for your child.

4. Set boundaries.

When my kids start chatting with friends, hanging out with them, or doing any other activity, I speak directly to my kids’ friends so they know what our house rules are. This sets a clear boundary that you can use as a measuring stick for their influence on your kids. If your kids’ friends don’t respect your boundaries and often lead your kids outside them, it’s not a healthy relationship for your child.

5. Trust your gut.

As parents, you know the feeling. It hits you right in the gut when something isn’t right with your kids. If you see trouble signs in the other areas outlined above, then go with your gut. Yes, your kids might not be happy you suddenly are shutting down the opportunity to hang out with a new “friend,” but you’ll both appreciate it later. Our intuition is powerful when protecting and raising our kids. Trust it.

Sound off: What impact will kids friends have on them?

The post 5 Ways to Vet Your Kids’ Friends appeared first on All Pro Dad.

9 Ways We Teach Our Kids to Be Disrespectful

Bobby Lewis | August 15, 2023

I remember being super excited the day my son grabbed his glove and took the diamond for his first real baseball game. I played the sport growing up and loved it, but I didn’t remember cheering guidelines hanging on the dugout fences when I was a kid. I was surprised to read rules for spectators like, Remember, these are just kids. The umpires are human. The coaches are volunteers. It got me thinking about ballpark (and parenting) behavior.

The only reason for that sign being posted was because too many parents were getting belligerent over T-ball. It must have been pretty bad, too, to warrant those words of warning. Shouting and belittling someone over balls and strikes in Little League or starting a fight is ridiculous. You would not only look like a fool, but your child could also pick up a few disrespectful habits from the person who is supposed to set a good example for them. Sometimes, as dads, we must check ourselves because our little ones learn a lot by watching us. Here are 9 ways we teach our kids to be disrespectful.

1. Talking About People Behind Their Backs

We all tend to do this more than we admit. Sometimes unwittingly! Gossip is corrupt communication, designed to drag someone else down or paint him or her in a negative light, and when we participate, it reveals the sour motivations of our heart. Gossipers tend to show indifference toward the feelings, reputations, or perceptions of the people being targeted. That’s textbook disrespect. Limit your gossiping if you don’t want kids to mimic you. When you overhear them doing it, ask them how it would feel if they found out someone were gossiping about them.

2. Ignoring Our Bills

This is simple. Pay what you owe. When people provide you goods or services and you choose not to compensate them, it tells others that you are selfish and don’t care about their well-being. Don’t stiff people. They work hard, too. Closely monitor your spending if you feel like you can’t manage your bills well and teach your kids to be responsible with money.

3. Procrastinating

Others are counting on you. They will count on your kids, too. When we wait until the last minute to tackle a task, it strains others besides just ourselves. It tells them their time is less valuable than ours.

4. Cursing

Cursing at people is a way of belittling them, which is disrespectful for sure. Cursing is meant to be degrading. When using it to add emphasis, it usually just comes off as a cover for not articulating yourself well. Kids who hear it will mimic it. Cursing causes disrespectful kids.

5. Screaming

Screaming is a way to try to elevate yourself over others or demonstrate power over them. If this is done out of anger, it shows a lack of self-control. Legendary football coach Tony Dungy never yelled at players and still earned the NFL’s respect. Pulling someone aside and having a heart-to-heart discussion is better.

6. Being Late

Disrespectful kids pick up on your actions, and this is one thing adults do too often. Being late tells others that their time isn’t important to you. Being on time says the meeting, and the person involved, matter immensely. Being late is disrespectful. Being on time is respectful.

7. Not Tipping After a Meal

If someone worked hard for you, thank him or her properly. Not everyone can leave giant tips after meals, but leaving nothing is a major sign of disrespect for someone who is serving you.

8. Talking Poorly About Your Wife

Not everyone gets along all the time, but belittling your wife is a dangerous thing to do because it sends a clear the message that you don’t care about her feelings. If you belittle your wife in front of your kids, expect them to do the same. It is disrespectful to insinuate that one person is a lesser part of the family. It also sets a very poor precedent for when your kids get married.

9. Being Hypocritical

Holding people to a standard you are unwilling to submit to does not show respect. It shows them that, in your eyes, you’re better than them and don’t need to be confined by rules. Strive to teach humility in your words and actions.

Sound off: What habits do you need to shift in order to show respect to the people around you?

The post 9 Ways We Teach Our Kids to Be Disrespectful appeared first on All Pro Dad.

5 Ways Dads Cause Family Tension

BJ Foster | August 15, 2023

Charlie lay in his room quietly, wishing his dad would go to bed. His stomach was in knots. The pots clanged again with more yelling. It was 1 in the morning, and his dad was in the kitchen trying to make himself something to eat. Several hours of whiskey didn’t satisfy his appetite, and he was angry he couldn’t find the frying pan he needed. Charlie’s dad became easily agitated and unpredictable when drunk. He was worried his dad might start an argument or possibly do something worse. This was a regular Saturday night routine, a routine Charlie hated. An hour later, he listened to his dad’s footsteps saunter to his room. It was finally quiet, but it was another 15 minutes before the boy calmed down enough to sleep.

Are you creating family tension in your house? Our kids’ emotional well-being is largely determined by us. Our temperament, character, and behavior can provide kids with a sense of security or a world of internal chaos and turbulence. If it’s the latter, it can cause significant emotional and psychological damage. That’s why we need to work to establish stability by avoiding that type of behavior. Here are 5 ways dads cause family tension.

1. Volatility

The other day, my son left his socks in the living room after I told him to pick them up. When I had to remind him, he anxiously said, “Oh, no! Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry!” as he ran past me to the living room to pick them up. Yes, he said sorry five times. His reaction was shocking to me. I wasn’t mad and had spoken calmly the whole time. It made me think back to all the times I yelled or spoke harshly to him for similar things. It’s made me wonder how much anxiety I have caused him. Is he afraid of how I’ll react? When our reactions are volatile, it makes our kids walk on eggshells. It can produce fear of failure, social anxiety, or hesitance to try new things.

2. Substance Abuse

Like for Charlie’s dad, substance abuse makes a person unstable. Kids are already vulnerable. They have surging emotions and little control over their lives. They lack a core identity, and their friendships are tenuous at best. They desperately need stability from their parents. Having a father in a drunken state is dangerous, adds to their confusion, and gives them greater anxiety. It’s a burden they are unable to carry, and we should never put them in that position. If you have an addiction, seek help immediately.

Inconsistency from a parent is like making kids live through an earthquake every day.

3. Inconsistency

Inconsistency from a parent is like making kids live through an earthquake every day. As I said in the last point, kids need stability, structure, and parents who are reliable. One of Adam Sandler’s characters said, “It’s gotta be boring how reliable parents are.” He’s talking about consistency. Our kids should almost take for granted how dependable we are. They should know we’ll be there, that our love will never go away, our boundaries are solid, and our follow-through is firm. All of it gives kids the assurance they need.

4. Applying Pressure

Kids live in a world of increasing expectations. They have enough pressure on them from teachers, coaches, bosses, peers, and themselves. Kids don’t need more expectations and pressure from their dads. All it will do is contribute to their feeling more alone and anxious. Trust me, they will retreat from you. What they need is love, support, encouragement, guidance, and training.

5. Worrying

Fatherhood is not for the faint of heart. It’s a huge responsibility, and there are a lot of physical, emotional, and financial demands. Worrying about how to pay for things, how our kids will turn out, or figuring out solutions to the thousands of problems that hit us each day is natural. When I look back at the early years of parenting, I wish I hadn’t worried so much. When we worry, our kids worry, and it has a negative effect on their overall health (and ours). Being concerned is healthy. Being worried is not.

During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about worrying (Matthew 6:25–34). He said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Worrying doesn’t add any value to our lives. It strips it. Jesus goes on to say that God knows what you need. He is willing and able to provide everything you need, practically, emotionally, and spiritually. All you have to do is seek Him out and ask.

Sound off: What other things cause family tension?

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When Your Kid Rejects Your Family Values

Tony Dungy | August 15, 2023

As fathers, we are like the head coach. We set the template for our family, the goals, and the direction. When I was coaching both the Buccaneers and Colts, I had signs in the locker room all the time that illustrated to the players what we were all about. Now what did the players have to do? They had to buy into it. It’s not always easy. Sometimes you have players who don’t buy into the team philosophy.

As a dad, kids can be the same way. You may have a son or daughter who doesn’t see things your way. They may even reject the values that are important to you and your wife (if you’re married). How do you get your teams or your kids to buy into your values? Here’s how.

Explain it clearly.

Tell them what is important, but don’t forget to explain why it’s important. Talk about it clearly. Listen to their responses and any possible objections. Make sure they feel heard and then explain further. But more powerful than explaining it clearly is the next point.

If you want to make your kids see how important something is, live it out.

Show them.

Live it out. When I was a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Coach Chuck Noll talked about family values. He said, “Don’t put everything into football. Don’t make football your whole life.” Saying that was great, but he demonstrated it by leaving work to be home with his family, by bringing his kids to work, and giving us time off to be with our families. I also saw him institute family Saturdays, where our practice was interspersed with the kids being there. I may not have gotten it right away, but over time, he helped me see it. If you want to make your kids see how important something is, live it out. So say it, reinforce it, and keep doing it.

Sound off: What would you do if your kids rejected your family values? Or what have you done that’s worked well?

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