Forced Apologies

My four-year-old daughter placed herself in the middle of our living room to play with blocks. She was so engrossed with building a wooden castle that she didn’t notice her two-year-old sister walking towards her with her right arm stretched far back to slap her older sister across the head. When that slap came, my older daughter went from happy to surprise to anger and then lots of tears. She ran towards me seeking justice. “Mommy, she hit me!” My younger daughter remained still, looking innocent. I immediately walked over to her with my older daughter in hand and said, “Hands are not for hitting. Say sorry for hitting please.”  I’m sure many parents can relate to this scenario. Teaching our children the skills for making amends is an important life skill and is not so much about saying the words “I’m sorry”.  

There is a belief amongst some parents that enforcing premature apologies on children is not effective. Their reasoning is that premature apologies teach children to lie and encourage insincerity. It also creates shame and embarrassment. Other studies show that young children have the ability to be empathetic even before they can speak; therefore, parents should encourage apologies (Smith, Chen, Harris; 2010). As I reflected on my research and my knowledge as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I recognized several things we can do as parents to create productive apologies: 

  1. Keep yourself in check: It’s frustrating to see your children fight, especially when it happens at inconvenient times. However, it’s important to remain calm and model for your children how to handle frustration.   
  2. Be immediate when possible: When you see an incident occur between your children, address it. The best time for learning and growth is when the incident is still fresh in their minds. However, when there are time constraints and the issue cannot be addressed right away, it is important to tell your children when and where it will be addressed. Be consistent when using the alternative and follow through.  
  3. Ask instead of tell: Avoid lecturing. Ask questions instead. “Tell me what happened?” “What were you feeling when you hit your sister?” Validate the expressed emotion and help them to understand that it is okay to feel frustration and sadness; however, it is not okay to hit or throw things. Help them to also make the connection between emotion and action. “Look at her face, how do you think she’s feeling right now?” Asking these types of questions enhances empathy. 
  4. Problem Solve: Ask questions about what they think they should do when they feel frustrated or sad. Help them to come up with solutions.  Ask questions about how they can make things better with their sibling/s. 
  5. Have them practice a do-over: When your child identifies the solution, have them practice it with the other sibling/s. Praise them for their efforts at the end.    

What is more important than the phrase “I’m sorry” is what children take away from the experience. We can facilitate and enhance learning opportunities by not focusing on the phrase “I’m sorry” but instead more on what can be learned from this situation and how can we improve.  

Winter Can Be Enjoyable

As we roll into the winter months, fitness can be more and more difficult to stay on top of. To help avoid the “Utah winter hibernation” I want to give 4 tips that have helped me to take control of the bleak Utah winters and be able to maintain my fitness lifestyle!  

 

 

  1. Make time for exercise. The most difficult thing about transitioning from summer to winter is planning. During the summer it can be easy to be active just be default. We can ride our bike, go for a walk, and participate with friends and family in outdoor activities without thinking twice about it. During the winter, these activities are not anywhere near as easy to do, if possible at all. So it requires planning to attend a fitness class, go to the gym, etc. So be sure and plan your workout and make it a priority. 
  2. Find a friend to workout with. We all know how hard it can be to get a fitness routine going in the winter. When it is cold outside the thought of leaving our warm bed and going to work out is less than desirable. Finding a friend that has similar fitness goals will help keep you motivated and accountable! Another substitute for this is hiring a personal trainer, even just initially, to help develop those habits.  
  3. Find a new winter hobby. During summer, it can be easy to get a quick workout in by just stepping outside and going for a walk. The cold brings unique opportunities to try something new! I personally love snowboarding, and it provides a great workout. Other things you might try is joining an indoor sports league, fitness classes at a local gym, indoor cycling, etc.  
  4. Be safe. In applying these tips, be sure that you have the right equipment and proper dress attire. One problem that I see, in the winter time is that people don’t dress adequately for winter sports and this can cause physiological problems. For example when running outdoors it is crucial to warm up properly, if we begin a jog by jumping right into it, the cold air can cause our respiratory tract to constrict, decreasing our flow of oxygen when our body needs it. This can lead to lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, hypothermia, and other problems. If you are unsure on what might be needed, ask an expert. 

 Winter can be an excellent time for fitness goals if combated properly! I would love to hear about the fun winter experiences that you have and any new winter activities that you find. You can reach out to me with these experiences and any questions you might have on instagram @trainerkelli or on Facebook! Have fun and be safe!  

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness Magazine

Play Therapy: What is it, and How Will it Help My Child?

 

When adults come to therapy, they can adequately express themselves

using their words and having discussions with their therapist; however, when children come to therapy this may not be the case. Many children do not have the words to express what there are experiencing at home, at school, with friends, etc. Further, children may not be aware of what they are feeling because they do not yet understand what different emotions feel like. Therefore, they would need an outlet which allows them to talk without using words, and without being restricted by a lack of cognitive development. Play therapy helps eliminate these barriers that children face when they come to therapy.

Play therapy allows children to express themselves with the use of toys and actions. It occurs in a safe and caring environment where the child is allowed to play freely with minimal limitations (e.g. safety precautions). Sometimes a therapist may prompt the child’s play during a session; however, most therapists allow children to play with the toys they want, how they want. Play therapy should not make a child feel that they are in therapy or that they are being analyzed. Sessions can last anywhere from 30-50 minutes, depending on the child. A play therapy session can include just the child, the child and their parents, or the entire family, depending on the situation that brings the child in for therapy.

One question to consider when seeking a play therapist for your child is, “Does my child feel comfortable with the therapist?” Because the child will need to express himself/herself through play, it is important for your child to feel safe and comfortable with the therapist. If your child does not feel safe, then play therapy will not be effective.

For parents, this random play may appear to be pointless, because it is “something that children can do at home.” But, when play is done in a therapeutic setting, it will allow the child to process through their experiences and then begin to heal. One explanation for this is that children unconsciously (or consciously) act out whatever they are experiencing in their life, and when a therapist is present, they can reflect back to the child things that they notice (e.g. it seems like the doll doesn’t have any friends to play with, that’s lonely). This reflection helps give the child words to express their experiences, as well as helping the child feel understood and validated.

Play therapy allows adults access to a child’s world. Using toys and actions the therapist can communicate with the child wherever the child is at in their cognitive development. Further, it allows the therapist to help facilitate the healing process by understanding the child and responding back in the way the child needs. Children need to feel validated and heard as much as adults do; play therapy is one way to do this. Children deserve to have a life where they are not burdened by life’s problems, and play therapy is one way to help unburden your child.

Written by – Lexi Lee, MS, LAMFT

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness