Category: Children

September 21, 2021 by Jodie Fishman, MPH, MCHES 0 Comments

This Year’s Hottest Back-to-School Supplies: Masks and Problem-Solving Skills

Jodie's son
Jodie's 6-year-old, heading to first grade

My six-year-old started first grade this month at a brand-new school, not a familiar face in sight. On the first day, he asked his next desk neighbor if she wanted to be friends. She responded with a shrug and said she’d think about it.

The next day, her answer was no. 

Grrr.

My mama-bear blood boiled when he told me her verdict, but his little freckled face remained relatively calm and matter-of-fact. He didn’t seem angry. Mostly, he seemed unsure of what to do next.

As our kids begin a new school year, many back in the classroom after a long Covid-induced hiatus, I join many parents across the country (and around the world) who are pitching in to help our kids figure out social problem-solving. 

Parents' Back-to-School Worries

A new study of nearly 450 parents of kids ages 2-8, conducted via text message by Bright by Text and Big Heart World, found that:

  • 75% of parents reported concern about their child’s social-emotional learning. 
  • Parents are more concerned about social-emotional development than academic learning.
  • Only 31% of parents reported feeling “very confident” in helping their child build social-emotional skills. 

With so much out of our control right now (95% of parents surveyed remain concerned about their child catching COVID), there are still ways we can help our kids get back out there confidently. 

Three Strategies to Help Our Kids Solve Problems

Here are three strategies for helping your child solve social problems: 

  1. Bounce questions back. When my first grader asked what I thought he should do to make friends, my other kids jumped in with suggestions. “Hang out at the monkey bars during recess,” suggested my third grader. “You’ll definitely make friends there.” My four-year-old asked if he could move up to 1st grade and be his big brother’s friend. (Sweet, but not possible.) I bounced the original question back to its asker: “What do YOU think you should do?” And, with just a few minutes of thought, he came up with some great ideas for making new friends and also getting along with the not-so-interested classmate. Of course, sometimes our kids will need us to help problem-solve — but other times they just need to know that we believe they have the answers.
  2. Use the “try 3 before coming to me” rule. With three kids close in age, there are near-constant conflicts in my house. Which movie to watch, who gets to use which toy, what playground we go to. Simply put: conflicts are exhausting — for the parents, for the kids, and even for our family’s dog who gets up and leaves the room when a disagreement rumbles through! The “Try 3 before coming to me” rule encourages kids to come up with three ways to solve a problem on their own before asking a grown-up. If they’re playing a board game and disagree, the “try 3” rule might look like: negotiate on a rule that may solve the problem, start the game over, or pick a new game. If all of that fails, then they can ask me (or another grown-up) for help. This encourages kids to solve a problem amongst themselves first before asking for outside help.
  3. Make respect an ingredient in disagreements. Kids (friends, siblings, classmates) don’t always agree. And that’s okay. But calling people names, yelling, or physically hurting someone else are not okay. When a disagreement comes up between my own kids or my child and a friend, it often helps to remind them that they actually like each other — and that they don’t have to agree, but they do have to approach each other respectfully. These words sink in the most when everyone has had a chance to take some deep breaths and calm down.

As we begin yet another pandemic school year, let’s all add social problem-solving skills to our school supply list. 

For more tips on helping your child grow a big heart this school year, text HEART to 274 448.

September 1, 2021 by Julia Levy 0 Comments

Build a Kind World With Your Child!

Kindness matters! Being kind can help other people and the planet, and it also helps YOU. Research shows when you do kind things for others — big or small — you get happier and healthier!

This month, Big Heart World is teaming up with our friends at the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small To Fail to join Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation’s #BeKind21 — a movement that asks all of us to do something kind for the first 21 days in September to flex our kindness muscles and build a culture of kindness and compassion. 

Here’s a calendar with ideas to inspire you and your family to spread kindness this month:

We hope these ideas inspire you and your little one, and we can’t wait to hear how you make the world a kinder, braver place! Share with the hashtag #BeKind21 with us on Facebook or Instagram!

Please sign up and take the the #BeKind21 pledge yourself: https://bornthisway.foundation/bekind21.

Born This Way Foundation launched #BeKind21 in 2018 to invite participants to practice an act of kindness for themselves and others each day from September 1st to September 21st to build kinder, connected communities that foster mental wellness. 

July 6, 2021 by Julia Levy 0 Comments

Seven Ways Parents Can Help Their Kids Cultivate Post-Covid Friendships

Dr. Kavita Tahilani

COVID-19 has interrupted school and playdates, music classes and soccer clubs — straining children’s friendships and limiting their opportunities to interact with peers.

Now, as families eye the end of the pandemic, Big Heart World talked with Dr. Kavita Tahilani, mother of a young child and a Child and Adolescent Psychologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to get tips on how parents can help their kids prepare to interact with peers, rekindle friendships, and make new friends. 

“We are all social beings,” Dr. Tahilani said. “Social interaction is important for all of us, at any age. I think it’s really important for kids and teenagers because it’s such a part of their development and their growth and their emotional growth for them to be able to experience caring for individuals and others outside of their family, for them to be able to see how their actions impact others and how others can have an impact on them, and for them to develop empathy.” 

Seven Tips Parents Can Use to Help Their Children Transition Back to "New Normal"

Dr. Tahilani shared seven tips to help parents support their children as we start to transition back to a new “normal.”

  • Practice Interacting With Peers

“Figure out smaller, less intense ways for kids to start to practice interacting with peers,” she advised. Every child is different, but parents should consider introducing social interactions this summer in ways that feel safe to their family. This could mean having an outdoor playdate or getting together with another family outside. It could mean encouraging your child to interact with new kids at the playground or in another safe setting. 

  • Understand Your Child’s Concerns

If your child is anxious about something social — like an upcoming playdate or meeting new kids after summer break — start with conversation. “Make sure you’re communicating with your child about what their concerns are. Is it that they’re concerned about COVID specifically? Or are they concerned that they don’t know how to talk to kids anymore?” Dr. Tahilani said. “It’s important to understand what your child is nervous about, so you can make sure you’re solving the right problem.”

  • Get Back on a Regular Routine

Your schedule might have been a little different during COVID-19 and over the summer, but at least two weeks before school starts, Dr. Tahilani advised families to embrace structure and expectations around things like waking up, eating meals at regular times, bathing, and going to bed on time. Keeping a routine will help with the transition back to school, which will help with everything — including making friends. 

  • Practice Going Back to School

“A lot of times, kids will have what we call anticipatory anxiety,” Dr. Tahilani said. “There might be a lot of anticipatory anxiety leading up to the first day of school. For some kids, once they get there, once they’re in the classroom, they’ll adjust. For some kids, it’s going to be stressful for them throughout the day.” Talk with your child about their feelings before something new happens, practice strategies they can use if they’re feeling stressed, and rehearse. For example, you and your child can role play going to school, introducing themselves, and finding something in common with a new classmate. The rehearsal could have some real-life elements: try driving or walking to school before the first day, looking around, and playing at the playground so that your child knows what to expect. 

  • Parents: You should lead the way!

As it becomes safer to see friends, parents can model how to be a good friend by getting together with their friends. For some parents, Dr. Tahilani said this might mean facing their own anxiety about post-pandemic mingling. But, she said, it’s important to remember: “Even if you’re not having specific conversations with your child about anxiety or feelings or friendship, they’re still watching and you’re still the model for them.” 

  • This might take practice!

“I think this is a moment where we all need to be mindful of our expectations,” Dr. Tahilani said. “It may take kids some time to readjust to whatever this new normal is going to be. Have patience and keep trying.”

  • Don’t push too hard. 

Challenges are good, but be careful not to push too hard. “I think this is a moment where we all need to be mindful of our expectations,” Dr. Tahilani said. “It may take kids some time to readjust to whatever this new normal is going to be. Have patience and keep trying.”

 

Please Note: Parents who are seriously concerned about their children’s shyness or reluctance to socialize should talk to their children’s pediatricians. 

June 2, 2021 by Lindsay Ganci 0 Comments

Parenting With a Big Heart: Hear With Ruby

Ruby with Hearing Aid

A few weeks before our daughter’s fourth birthday, we learned she is moderately hearing impaired bilaterally. After a third audiology evaluation and a confirmed diagnosis, I stood in the ENT’s office trying to absorb what it all meant; for Ruby’s happiness, for her experiences, for her health, and for her confidence. 

I could feel the rising pressure of shock in my body, quickening my pulse and threatening my control of the moment we were in. 

Swirling amidst the quick actions to take (we had to have earmold impressions taken right away) and decisions to be made (we had to choose a model of hearing aids) were the surprise, concern, and unanswered questions. I was also shocked and anxious over the price tag. At the height of the pandemic, when only one parent could attend the doctor’s visit, I stood alone with three strong forces: our bold, bright, bubbly daughter; the implications of a lifelong, expensive medical diagnosis; and the pressure to explain, quickly, her newest opportunity to meet a challenge head on.

How do I explain this sudden new reality for our daughter? How do I make this all feel manageable and safe for her?    

"How do I explain this sudden new reality for our daughter? How do I make this all feel manageable and safe for her?"
Framing "Disability" as "Opportunity"
Ruby with sunglasses

My instinct was to keep it simple, empowering, and positive. What came out was something like, “Hey Ruby, you know how your eyes need some help to see, and so you wear glasses? Well, the doctors have told us that your ears need some help to hear. So now you get to wear hearing aids to help you hear the whole world. And you can choose any color for the aids that you want. You’re so lucky!”

I am not sure I realized it at the time, but explaining Ruby’s hearing loss to her in a strength-based way set us on a meaningful path. This reality has given a 

clarity to the voice with which I introduce my daughter to her world, and a purpose to my parenting of my child, who by definition has a “physical disability” but more importantly, a powerful opportunity. 

Four Lessons: Reframing Challenge

Ultimately, there are four experiences I hope Ruby embraces alongside her hearing loss: 

  1. Confidence: We have always told Ruby that uniqueness is what makes each person beautiful, and discovering what makes you and others’ unique is the most fun part of life. We leaned hard into loving Ruby’s “super ears,” purchasing sparkly charms to attach to them, ordering dolls wearing aids just like her, and quickly finding role models in her world she could see her beautiful self in. We worked with her to create a visual story about her hearing loss and her super ears, so she could use it to explain her new accessories to her friends, teachers, and family. While we never want her to feel defined by her aids, we do always want her to walk into a room ears first, proud of them as one of the many things that make her unique.  
  1. Gratitude: Our family’s sense of gratefulness for the privilege to be able to provide our children with all they need to fully participate in the world will always overshadow the concerns and challenges we have with hearing loss. Our gratitude motivates us to surround Ruby with opportunities to help others experience the gifts of technology and services that she is fortunate to have. 
  2. Empowerment: It is our hope that Ruby grows up knowing that while she might experience feeling “different” at times, and face some challenges, these challenges are not impediments to her goals. On the contrary, we hope she grows up motivated by the knowledge that she is able, capable, and expected to help others not in spite of her differences or difficulties, but because of them. In the creation of Hear With Ruby, our family’s fund that supports and advocates for families with children with hearing loss, we hope that Ruby feels empowered to use her experiences as a hearing impaired child for good. 
  3. Advocacy: One of the main goals of Hear With Ruby is education; and one of our biggest hopes for Ruby is a strong voice of self-advocacy. In advocating, she is teaching about hearing loss and accepting people of all abilities, and thus making the world a more accessible, empathic, and inclusive place not just for herself, but for all the children who have felt different, or differently abled, in some way.
"Super Ears" For a Super Girl

In every challenge there is beauty and learning to be found.

On Ruby’s first day wearing her aids, she said to us, outside on her swing set, “Mom, that’s God! That’s God, whispering to me in the wind!

I love that Ruby’s hearing aids have helped her hear the wind around her, which to her, felt like a whisper from God. I love that I have learned so much about who she is through her journey learning to hear the whole world.

I love that in being presented with a new challenge, we decided to see it as an opportunity to grow and heal the world as we navigate it.

And I really love Ruby’s super ears for the way they have given purpose and clarity to my role as her mom, helping her navigate her world and love herself exactly the way she is.  

Ruby with sunglasses