Category: Parenting

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

June 2, 2021 by Makeda Mays Green 3 Comments

How to Reintegrate Kids into A Diverse Post-Pandemic World

Makeda Spaking

The Covid-19 pandemic unleashed a global health crisis and exposed racial disparities, which, in many ways, heightened ongoing conversations about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Now — after an unprecedented year marked by physical distancing and social unrest — parents are wondering how to effectively help their children return to a sense of “normalcy” and reconnect with others. As parents work to support this return, what’s “normal” has shifted: the national discussion of what matters is significantly different from pre-pandemic.

According to a recent social discourse analysis that my team and I conducted at Nickelodeon, concerns about children’s social and emotional health during Covid-19 is the second leading topic of conversation among parents of 2- to 5-year-old children (more than 130% higher than last year). This topic is only eclipsed by diversity (which grew by 2022% year over year), with an emphasis from parents on what they can do to raise awareness. That is not a typo — parents’ conversation about diversity has grown by more than two thousand percent.

Helping Children Leave the Family Bubble and Build Diverse Relationships

With the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and a growing national focus on bias against the Asian American and Pacific Islander and Jewish communities, parents flocked online in the past year to learn more about how to raise their children to be more racially sensitive and accepting. Our research showed that white parents, in particular, are invested in ways to teach their children about racial diversity. Parents of color, meanwhile, are invested in looking for resources that showcase empowering portrayals of people who look like them.

Overall, parents across racial and ethnic groups are expressing a general interest in helping their kids develop healthy relationships with diverse individuals. As families physically isolated during the pandemic, kids spent more time with people of shared backgrounds and perspectives. As social restrictions now begin to lift around the country (albeit at different rates), parents say they are looking for rich opportunities to foster inclusivity and celebrate similarities and differences.  

Black Lives Matter
Help Your Kids Get Ready to Rejoin Our Diverse World

Based on my experience as a researcher and a mom, here are five ways to support children’s social and emotional development and help to reintegrate them into the diverse world in which we live:

  1. Try meals from different cultures

Visit ethnically diverse restaurants, or search for recipes of meals typically served in different countries to try authentic cuisine inspired by culinary traditions from around the world.

  1. Visit cultural museums

Take trips to local and national museums that introduce children to cultural icons and influences. For example, consider visiting the National Museum of African-American Music in Nashville, TN, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center in Washington, D.C. or the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, CA. (If you’re still visiting museums virtually, there are many ways to explore art and culture online. Google Arts & Culture is a great place to start.)

  1. Read diverse books

Visit the library and select a variety of material (e.g., graphic novels, comic books, fiction, and nonfiction) about people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives to give children a well-rounded view of the many people and places that make up our world. First Book is sharing tips with Big Heart World on how to build a more diverse and inclusive home or classroom library and is sharing some titles that you might consider

  1. Attend art festivals

Spend time at outdoor festivals to experience paintings, sculptures, music, and dances that celebrate different cultural events and traditions.

  1. Support international kids’ film festivals

Attend kids’ film festivals that feature uplifting storylines and empowering portrayals of diverse characters, including BIPOC leads, in short and long-form films. If there aren’t any kids’ film festivals near you, curate your own at home using titles from other recent kids’ film festivals like this.

Helping Children Identify Their Emotions

Key Takeaways:
  • Identifying emotions helps children communicate their feelings and provides them with tools to feel confident expressing themselves.
  • Encourage children to notice their physical and behavioral expressions of different emotions.
  • When children are aware of their emotions they can practice more effective regulation strategies.

Emotions can be confusing and overwhelming for adults, so just imagine how it must feel for a young child. Children feel a vast array of emotions daily, sometimes experiencing quick shifts between each one. On top of that, children are realizing that they can have multiple feelings at the same time. It’s a lot!

“Big” emotions (e.g. anger, sadness) can be particularly challenging for children who don’t yet know how to communicate and manage their feelings effectively.

Encouraging children to label and describe their feelings, both in everyday moments as well as during times they’re experiencing difficult emotions, can help children build emotion awareness.1 However, it is important to keep in mind that discussions about big and difficult emotions happen best after your child has had time to decompress!

When children have a greater awareness of their emotions and a vocabulary to communicate their feelings, they have the tools to tell you how they are feeling, which allows them to seek help and work on emotion regulation strategies.1

So the next time your child feels upset, they might recognize the sensation of a faster heartbeat, tenderness in the throat, and increased body temperature — and think to themselves, “I’m feeling angry.” This awareness can lead to action, seeking comfort from an adult or taking some time to cool off.

As children build their emotional literacy, they develop confidence in the way they experience their own emotions and learn that feelings can change.2 As children grow older, their understanding of emotions evolves with time.

What does identifying emotions look like at different ages?

3-4 years

  • Labeling distinct emotions, like “happy” and “sad.”
  • Using language to describe their feelings, “I feel happy when I pet the cat.”
  • Exploring that they have different ways to express different feelings, “I stomp my feet when I’m mad and I laugh when I’m happy.”
  • Trying out a variety of ways to show their feelings, and noticing how others receive and respond to those feelings.

4-5 years

  • With adult support, identifying which regulation strategies work for them, and beginning to practice them independently.
  • Understanding that feelings can change or have different levels of stimulation, (e.g., the feeling of frustration as opposed to anger).
  • Exploring the idea that you can feel more than one feeling at the same time.

5-6 years

  • Beginning to understand more complex emotions like worry and trust
  • Expressing that their feelings change throughout the day.
  • Identifying appropriate ways to express their changing emotions in different contexts.
  • Increased confidence and autonomy in choosing regulation strategies and communicating emotions.
Here are some ways to help your child assess their emotions:
  • Model emotion awareness in your own life. 3 When your child sees you experiencing feelings, name them: “I’m feeling really sad that we can’t visit Grandma right now. I really miss her.”
  • Help children understand the connection between body language, facial expressions, and emotions by specifically pointing them out. 3 For example, “I can see that you are hiding behind me and covering your face, are you feeling scared?”
  • When you’re playing pretend or telling stories, have the characters express a range of emotions and play out different scenarios. 4 Role play and storytelling are excellent ways to learn about and practice emotions!
  • Let your child feel their feelings—the good, the bad, and the ugly. 5 Try not to convince them that they’re “fine,” when they’ve expressed (possibly very loudly, and of course in public), that they are not in fact fine. Let them experience and process their emotions. Afterward, have a conversation about appropriate ways to manage their emotions in the future.

May 2, 2021 by Veronica L Tapia 0 Comments

Parenting with a Big Heart

This week, my four-year-old daughter, Abigail Rose, told me that her best friend had punched her at school. I asked if she had told her teacher what happened and she said yes, and that he had gotten in “big trouble” for what he did. 

Rather than being pleased her friend had been disciplined, my daughter was sad about it.  

“Mom, I asked Ms. Valerie if his time out could be over because he already said he was sorry, and I already forgave him and he’s my friend,” she told me. 

My big-hearted baby girl is growing up so quickly and I am so proud of so many of the choices she makes every day:

choices to be kind, gracious, loving, and compassionate. No one is even allowed to kill a bug in her presence because she says that God put her in this world to help care for all creatures, big and small. 

So, how did I ever get so lucky? Truly, I don’t think luck has anything to do with it.

Children, from the earliest age, begin to absorb everything around them. The things they see, feel, hear, and experience in their earliest years of life become a part of who they are and who they will one day become. Our children may not remember every moment of their early childhood, but what they will always remember is how we made them feel. How I treat them now is how they will grow up to treat others.

My Abby is incredibly sweet and a wonderful little human, but she is also sassy and spicy and she gives me a run for my money! 

I see so much of myself in her and whenever she is giving me a hard time, I try my best to react in love because I know that on my hardest days, I need a little extra love, too.

When she cries because it’s clean up time and the floor is literally covered in toys to the point where you can no longer see the carpet underneath, I validate her feelings and we clean up together because I know how it feels to be overwhelmed. When she is on edge right before her dance recital, I try to remember that she has a tummy full of butterflies and I let her know that it is okay to be nervous and that I’ll be there to support her, no matter what. I live by the golden rule with my children, always keeping in mind how I might feel in their shoes. 

My second child, August Rain, was born with a neural tube defect that completely turned our world upside-down. He had a major spinal surgery at four months old, multiple hospitalizations, and a variety of challenges that we faced together as a family in his first two years of life. 

There were times I held my daughter as I cried over her baby brother and I would explain that Mommy was feeling sad and scared and that everyone feels those things sometimes but what’s important is that we talk to someone that can help us to feel better, that we cry when we need to and that we don’t try to hide how we feel. I do not hide my heart from my children, I share it with them. 

I see now how those experiences have left life-long impressions on my daughter’s heart. Last week, I had a mini meltdown at my computer when August interrupted me for the 500th time while I was busy working and I just couldn’t hold back my tears any longer. 

Abby came up and said, “It’s okay, Mommy, I’m here to help you feel better.” Oh, my heart. 

Becoming a special needs mom has made me even more passionate about my mission to spread kindness by raising kind kids. 

I believe that the best way to raise kids with big hearts is to parent with a big heart. We lead by example and it can be incredibly challenging to be that role model of grace and kindness all the time but when we see our babies growing into these amazing, compassionate little people, it is absolutely worth it.