6 Tips to Raise an Optimist

6 Tips to Raise an Optimist

There are many reasons to encourage optimism in our children, including long-lasting positive affects on their mental and physical well-being. (Did you know optimists are much more likely to live past 100?) But how do you go about raising an optimist? Put these six tips into practice, for starters, and watch the positive benefits extend to the rest of your household. 

9 Curiosity Killers

You want your child to be curious, right? Of course you do! After all, curiosity is the drive to gather new information and experiences and it’s at the very heart of learning. Studies show that kids who exhibit a higher level of curiosity are at an advantage at school and beyond, benefitting socially, emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually. 

3 Place Families Should Make Phone-Free

3 Place Families Should Make Phone-Free

Take back family time and set an example for your kids by creating tech-free zones in the most important areas of your life.

You're sitting down to dinner and -- buzz, buzz! -- your phone starts vibrating. You're driving your kid to practice and -- beep, beep! -- a call comes in. You're tucking your kid into bed and -- squawk, squawk! -- an app begs to be played. It never fails: Technology interrupts our most treasured family moments.

10 Things Parents Of ‘Normal’ Kids Should Know

Many children who suffer from depression, generalized anxiety disorder (which is not the same as teen angst), ADHD, executive function impairment, ODD, dyslexia, sensory issues, and/or are on the autism spectrum can “pass” for normal, their symptoms attributed to bad behavior or (everyone’s favorite) bad parenting.

But it’s not that simple. This article by Jami Ingledue talks about some things parents of “neuro-divergent” kids want you to know. CLICK HERE to read the full article. 

Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School

The importance of play to young children's healthy development and learning has been documented beyond question by research. Yet play is rapidly disappearing from kindergarten and early education as a whole. We believe that the stifling of play has dire consequences-not only for children but for the future of our nation. This report is meant to bring broad public attention to the crisis in our kindergartens and to spur collective action to reverse the damage now being done. 

#NoTeachersNoFAPE - Call to Action in Support of Fair Teacher Salaries

The New York State Coalition of 853 Schools was formed in 1991 to meet the growing needs of students with IEP diploma requirements. Today, the coalition meets the educational requirements of New York State on the grounds of agencies that provide various child welfare, juvenile justice, and family/community support services.

The Parkside School is an 853 school, and therefore urges everyone in our community to join us in a final effort to call on our senators, assembly members and governor to include $18M in the adopted state budget to begin to address the huge disparity in salaries between our teachers and those who work for public school districts.

How Your Can Help:

With the state budget being finalized in less than 2 weeks, please CALL, TWEET and POST on Facebook to get the message across that our kids deserve a Free and Appropriate Public Education too!

1.  Call Governor Cuomo at 518-474-8390
2. Call your Senator & Assembly member (find their contact information)
3. Tweet and Post using these slides, hastag #NoTeachersNoFAPE and tag @NYGovCuomo @CarlEHeastie @LeaderFlanagan and @JeffKleinNY

Sample language for your calls/posts: 
Our kids deserve a Free and Appropriate Public Education too! Including $18 Million to begin to fix the problem for 4410 & 853 school teachers in the final budget!


The Science of Character: Developing Positive Learning Traits

In the last ten years psychologists have done a lot of research into the character qualities and strengths that help people feel happy and satisfied with their lives. There’s been a similar emphasis on the personality traits that help students succeed in school by remaining engaged and motivated to learn over an extended period of time. Traits like optimism, curiosity, social intelligence, and enthusiasm are just a few of the character traits that have shown to lead to satisfied lives.

Check out this post by Katrina Schwartz on KQED. It features an eight minute film by Tiffany Shlain and The Moxie Institute Films. It explores how people can strengthen good character traits by appreciating the positive qualities of others and oneself. It discusses the neuroscience behind a strong character, emphasizing that character is not a fixed quality, but rather something that can grow, change and ultimately improve happiness and satisfaction.

Click here for the post and video. 



5 Ways Parents of Preschoolers Can Raise a Body-Positive Kid

How's this for a scary statistic: Studies show that kids as young as 5 say they don’t like their bodies.

Common Sense Media's survey of body-image research shows that parents play a huge role in shaping how kids think and feel about their bodies. Starting to bolster kids' body image early, even in preschool, can make a big difference in how kids feel about themselves as they grow up.

Here are five ways to immunize your kids against poor body image, with conversation starters, media picks, and resources to support your discussions. Read the full article on commonsensemedia.org.

How Praise Became a Consolation Prize

Helping children confront challenges requires a more nuanced understanding of the “growth mindset.” By Christine Gross-Loh, The Alantic

As a young researcher, Carol Dweck was fascinated by how some children faced challenges and failures with aplomb while others shrunk back. Dweck, now a psychologist at Stanford University, eventually identified two core mindsets, or beliefs, about one’s own traits that shape how people approach challenges: fixed mindset, the belief that one’s abilities were carved in stone and predetermined at birth, and growth mindset, the belief that one’s skills and qualities could be cultivated through effort and perseverance. Her findings brought the concepts of “fixed” and “growth” mindset to the fore for educators and parents, inspiring the implementation of her ideas among teachers—and even companies—across the country. Read the full article here. 

The Secret to Calm Parenting

This is an excerpt from A Calm Brain, a new book by Gayatri Devi, MD, a neurologist and the director of the New York Memory and Healthy Aging Services.

Calm is a sense of internal composure that lets us function to the best of our abilities. It is the ideal state of the brain, supported by a body completely allied with it, allowing us to harness our cognitive powers while maintaining a balance with our emotions. When you are calm, you are in your zone, unperturbed by distractions or distress.

The brain has complex systems for relaxation and calm to counteract its mechanisms for alertness and anxiety. These body-based visceral systems lie not within our frontal lobes, our rational higher brain, the seat of logic and thinking, but within our core brain, which controls our emotions and impulses, and the vast environmental sensor and receptacle that is our body. Read the full excerpt here. 

How to Develop Mindsets for Compassion and Caring in Students

Early in his career Dr. Robert Brooks became the principal of a school in a locked-door unit at McLean Psychiatric Hospital. He and his staff of teachers worked with children and adolescents who were severely disturbed and whose behavior showed their turmoil. Within the first few months, Brooks felt demoralized and dreaded work each day.

“I had a very negative mindset,” Brooks said at a Learning and the Brain conference on mindsets in San Francisco. Brooks is now a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is the author of over a dozen books, including Raising Resilient Children. He has spent his career researching how to help develop resilience in children and adults, working extensively with educators in many contexts.

Brooks’ experiences at McLean gave him insight and empathy for how difficult teaching can be, especially when students don’t outwardly appear to want to learn. When faced with so many challenging students, he felt like nothing he or his staff did would make a difference for how much kids learned or their behavior. He began to feel that when they were released from the hospital they would likely end up on drugs, in jail or dead. Read more...

Helping Children With Selective Mutism During the Holidays

For many people, holidays represent times of happiness. It is the season to spend extra time with loved ones, cook delicious meals, indulge in sweets, and exchange stories and presents. However, for children with selective mutism, holidays can also be stressful. That’s because family gatherings and parties can put more pressure on kids to socialize, and children with SM have great difficulty speaking outside of their comfort zone.

During the holidays, with all of the different people, places and activities, it is common for children with selective mutism to feel overwhelmed. Some may express that they are worried or uncomfortable, while others may show it through their behavior, with more meltdowns or more whining or clinging. To make your holiday season less stressful and more fun, here are some helpful tips.

Do some prep work. Think ahead and plan how the day and night will look, as best as you can. Pack a bag of toys (MANY toys!) and plan to bring some prizes to reinforce all of the brave things your child will be doing.

Part of your planning can include preparing others, as well. Let family and friends know where your child is in terms of her bravery so they know what things to do and what things to avoid. For example, let others know it would be helpful if they said, “Nice to see you!” rather than, “Hi. How are you?”

Set realistic expectations. It’s important to check in with yourself over what your expectations are. You might have an idea of what you think “should” happen during the holidays, but it is essential to be realistic and meet your child where he is at. Expecting him to speak with cousins he only sees once a year may simply be too hard for now.  Speaking to you in front of cousins may be a more appropriate goal. You never want to set your child up for a situation in which he may fail.

After you’ve set some realistic expectations, make sure to share them with your child, too. Not only will realistic expectations reduce everyone’s stress, but they will also empower your child and help him feel proud and accomplished.

Start slow. Kids with selective mutism need time to warm up. Start by sitting off to the side in your house or your relative’s house. You could even start in the car, on the front porch or in a separate, quiet room. Get your child feeling comfortable in this new environment by praising her, reflecting what she is saying and following her lead as you play a game that she likes. Refrain from asking questions in the beginning, and then slowly prompt her.

Validate the struggle and praise the effort. It always feels good to know that you are understood. Validating statements like, “I know this is hard for you” and, “I understand that you are nervous,” can go a long way with children with SM. And then remember, praise, praise, praise! Expressing “Awesome job playing in this room with me!” and “Thanks for telling me that!” are great ways to increase verbalizations and make your child feel good. The more enthusiasm the better!

Build momentum. Remember that room or quiet area of the house you chose earlier? Know that you can always return to it if you or your child need a break. But don’t stay too long — it is important to get your child back out there and keep his engagement up. If he is speaking to one member of the family, go ahead and slowly introduce another. If he is simply playing and gesturing, that’s okay, too. Meet your child where he is at and enjoy the party!


Source: "Helping Children With Selective Mutism During the Holidays: How to be supportive and help kids shine during family gatherings and parties" by Lindsay Brand, PhD, Child Mind Institute

What’s the ‘Sweet Spot’ of Difficulty For Learning?

In an NPR story in 2014, Tovia Smith reported on the growing number of schools that are trying to instill “grit”— perseverance in the face of adversity — in their students. Smith focused on one such school:

“Tom Hoerr leads the New City School, a private elementary school in St. Louis, Mo., that has been working on grit. ‘One of the sayings that you hear around here a great deal is, “If our kids have graduated from here with nothing but success, then we have failed them, because they haven’t learned how to respond to frustration and failure,”‘ says Hoerr.

After years of focusing on the theory known as ‘multiple intelligences’ and trying to teach kids in their own style, Hoerr says he’s now pulling kids out of their comfort zones intentionally. Read the full article here.

Resources for Creating Sensory Diets

Topday we'd like to look at the basic idea behind what a sensory diet is, who can create one and who they are helpful for. We want to share some resources for creating sensory diets for therapists, parents, and teachers. An Occupational Therapist who has been trained in sensory processing and sensory related therapies is the best person to develop and create a sensory diet for your child. However, all children also benefit from sensory breaks or brain breaks throughout their day, not just those who need a formalized sensory diet.

Read the full article on growninghandsonkids.com. 


Engaging Parental Support for Smarter Thinking

Parents can help develop their children's executive function by modeling inquiry and reasoning, demonstrating real-world uses for what they learn in school, and creating an ideal study space. 

Given that students spend much more time outside of school than in the classroom, partnering with parents can be an effective way to help children and youth enhance their executive function. Reinforcing messages and strategies related to taking charge of their thinking at home also illustrates how truly useful it can be to be the boss of your brain.

Read the full article by By Dr. Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers on Edutopia.

Overparenting: 5 Recovery Steps From a Former Stanford Dean

Doing too much for one's children is a middle-to-upper-middle-class affliction; children growing up in less privileged communities tend not to suffer from parental overinvolvement. Nevertheless, says former Stanford Dean Julie Lythcott-Haims, who has written a book on the ills of overparenting, the impact on children is serious and long-lasting. Read more here: http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/01/05/overparenting-5-recovery-steps-from-a-former-stanford-dean/