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Student stress over getting into “good” schools

130830170410-angry-father-daughter-laptop-story-topThe struggle is on between parents and young adults. The struggle is about college. Not, should I go or not go to college. The struggle is debt or no debt, is this school the best for me, will I be able to get a job if I choose this school over that school.

Having 4 children myself and watching the results of many more going to school, getting out and working on using what they learned – one thing I do know is that the stress level prior to going to the school of your choice is greater than the stress of writing the papers and finishing the assignments the student gets after getting to the school of their choice.

My biggest concern is about the pressure that our students feel about getting in to a “good” school. Bottom line – Go to any company and you will see that those employed there come from a variety of colleges. While there may be a particular position in a particular company that might be more available to a student from a single school – people do not generally hire based on what school you went to. They hire on who you are, your attitude and skills.

The experience in college is simply what you make of it, what you do when you get there – no matter where you attend. Why is this important to understand.

Being stressed out is one of the risk factors that we see over and over again in youth suicide. Want to learn more of the risk factors and what you can do to protect the youth in your life?

Attend the QPR training on May 3 – 10 AM at Balanced Life Skills. Learn more here.

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How to recognize and help anxiety in a child

anxious childAnxiety in children can be seen in a number of different ways and yet may be missed by some parents and teachers. While anxiety is a leading mental health concern for children, it can be overlooked because often these children are more quiet and compliant. Unfortunately if a child is dealing with anxiety, they may also deal later in life with depression, even increased substance abuse and a general loss of quality of life.

How can we tell if our child is dealing with anxiety? Here are a couple of the signs.

  • are they clinging when you separate from them
  • are they excessively shy
  • do they worry a lot
  • do they avoid social situations or places do to fear
  • are they complaining about headaches or stomachaches
  • do they experience panic attacks

Anxiety is a normal feeling for everyone and it is not dangerous. Yes it does feel uncomfortable, but it will eventually decrease. Anxiety is temporary and honestly it has it good points too. Anxiety can help us to prepare for dangerous situations or even heighten our performance or motivate us to practice, study or prepare better than others might. However anxiety becomes a problem when we begin to react in the absence of real danger.

Here are just two things to remember though when trying to assist a child who experiences anxiety in situations that are really safe for them.

  • do not give too much reassurance. I know we want to let them know we are there for them, tbut doing so excessively can even raise the anxiety and they do not learn to cope on their own. Giving them some questions to ask themselves about the situation and learning to answer them will teach them to think through the situation or challenge. Model for them how you make those decisions.
  • help them build self-confidence. Praise the efforts they put into facing their fears and the accomplishment of the task they completed. Activities such as an art including martial arts, visual arts and performing arts are all individual and as they work at them they will improve and see their progress. Giving them responsibilities with a pet or in charge of something at home is another way of helping them to see that they are good at these tasks, builds self confidence.

There are more ways of working on anxiety, but a good safe environment and the encouragement of parents and mentors will do wonders for the growth of an anxious child. Balanced Life Skills has worked over the years to with anxious children and parents overcome their fears and grow into confident young men and women. We are a school that teaches peace, including peace within ourselves.

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Should children be allowed to fail?

I just read a headline and summary of an article about a young man in a private school who received a letter grade of “D” in an honors biology class. So what did the student and parents do? They sued the school for not doing enough to help their son so that he would not get rejection letters from colleges he was applying to. Fortunately the judge in the case did not see it the same way, but this does bring up an important discussion.

Really?  Is this a realistic expectation in real life?

Really? Is this a realistic expectation in real life?

Expecting that our children should or will get all of the best grades and will excel at everything they try is not realistic and creates way too much pressure on them.  When they see us as adults make mistakes and recover with effort and perseverance they learn how to handle disappointments in their own performance.  On the other side though, not allowing our children to have disappointment, consequences or failure by swooping in and saving them from every situation where we are afraid they might not “feel” good about themselves or get what they “want so bad” does not build – self esteem, resilience, grit, confidence, or anything that will help them in the real world.  

In the end children who do not learn to put in the extra effort or to pick themselves up and start over again, learn to feel helpless, hopeless, shocked at failure, and have an increased amount of depression.

That is one of the greatest lessons children learn in the arts and especially the martial arts. It is a safe place to work on a skill, make mistakes, keep working at it and then see improvement and success, all the time being encouraged by others for their incremental improvements. We have setbacks – we may have a test we do not pass, or a stripe we do not get, but we learn that with some extra effort, coaching and practice we can improve and be successful.

Combining failure or disappointment with effort and perseverance equals greater success and resilience for the next event in our life that may have larger implications. What other parts of your life can you use to learn these life lessons?

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Kindness & Mean-Spirited Behavior – an Important Discussion

Do we really want to talk to our kids about being mean? The answer to this question is yes! In order to comprehensively teach children about kindness, they also have to grasp the concept of mean-spiritedness, its consequences and often-times its devastating results.

Unfortunately all of us, including our children, have to deal with individuals that exhibit hurtful behavior. It is important for our children to understand that any type of mean behavior that they initiate either on their own or in a group setting can have a strong, negative impact on the recipient. They must grasp that this type of behavior is aggressive, may become bullying or even abuse – none of which is ever acceptable.

A nice exercise to do with your children regarding this topic starts with giving them some examples and asking them what they think the recipient of that behavior may feel. This is a great way to hear their thoughts, and get a meaningful discussion started regarding kindness vs. mean-spirited behavior. Some ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

  • A group of children are playing and another child wants to join in, but the group will not allow the child to play, and they start laughing and making fun of the other child.
  • A student is called on in class and doesn’t know the answer, and a bunch of kids start whispering and laughing.
  • There is a child that is new to the class and is standing on the side of the playground with no one to play with. One of the boys in the class goes over to him and asks if he wants to play.
  • A child is walking down the hallway and trips. One of the kids walking in the other direction helps him up.

children-playingYou’ll note that two mean-spirited and two kindness examples are listed. Following these examples, let your children come up with their own examples and the impact on the recipient, both positive and negative. Encourage a discussion of behavior they have seen and even behavior they themselves have exhibited. If they share instances where they exhibited mean behavior, keep an open mind and ask them what they can do differently next time. Always keep the conversation going in a positive manner about better choices.

When it comes to kind or mean-spirited behavior there’s always a choice. Your children will have to make these choices every day. Through discussion you can help your children uncover the right actions on their own, where kindness is always the chosen option.

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Should your family have a mission statement?

Creating a mission statement for our families may not have been the first thing on our mind as we just try to get through our days being sure the kids get to where they need to go and dinner is served at a reasonable hour.

Imagine however that at your place of employment that you were expected to just “do” and you did not know what the goal was, or that your goal was simply to collect a paycheck at the end of the week.  At some point you no doubt would be looking for more.  More satisfaction, more purpose, responsibility and in general an understanding of why am I doing this?

Every family to be strong enough to get through the confusing / difficult times or even to make good decisions in the good time, needs to know why they do what they do.  Knowing that greater purpose, helps our children too, to make decisions based on values and purpose.  In our 30 minute presentation we will discuss the why and how to create a family mission statement.  You will be moved to clarify the “why” your family exists and what is important to you that you would like to pass on to your children.

Join us at Balanced Life Skills at 5:30 PM on Wednesday April 16 in the Media Room

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