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4 Ways to Shift Classroom Climate

The spotlight shines even more brightly on classroom climate these days. The Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) allows us to focus on social emotional learning with a little more intention and provides the funding to back up an effective educational plan. But when we try to shift classroom climate, the process must start with the mindset of leadership. In the classroom, that means it’s up to teachers!

Below, you’ll find four mindset practices that have the potential to shift classroom climate in powerful ways. As you build these four mindset practices into your own day, you can pass on these skills to your students. Specifically, they need tools to help them connect with others, particularly with those whom they view as different from themselves. As this skill grows, you’ll shift classroom climate more and more naturally.

 

improve school climate

 

1. Greet Students Daily

Stand at the door to welcome students by name. This gives a great message to all students that they are important to you:

  • You’re happy to see them.
  • You notice specific things about each person. (For example, when someone is back after being absent by saying, “Jake, nice to see you back again!”)

 

2. Build a Welcoming Committee

For younger grades, assign a few students each week to be the welcoming committee. Their job is to make sure that every student who walks in the room gets a “Hello, <name>” from another student. Over time, have students enlarge that greeting by complimenting the student on a skill or attribute. “Hello, <name>. I like your smile today!” (This is not a fashion-focused compliment.)

 

3. Assign Group Activity

Including activities daily that invite students to work in groups, particularly by changing those groups every week to help students who would otherwise not connect to work together.

 

4. Encourage Brainstorming

Structure group activities so everyone contributes. Teaching the value of brainstorming and how to add ideas without saying “that won’t work” because maybe even if it won’t, it will give someone else an idea that works.

Not only will these four mindsets help shift classroom climate, when implemented they can provide a sense of safety for students.

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Helping School Staff Thrive

A rising tide lifts all ships.

This idiom carries such truth, doesn’t it? It’s one that rings true in schools. When students are thriving, the adults in the building are happy. Even more, when the adults in the building are thriving alongside the students, everyone flourishes.

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Helping School Staff Thrive

School climate is getting more press of late, as schools implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Many accountability plans include school climate, but how do we measure it? What are best practices? You want your school to ooze positivity, and for people to feel this positivity the moment they step through the front doors.

Administrators ask, “What can I do to be helping school staff thrive?”

 

Teacher Stress Levels are Rising

A recent poll by the American Federation of Teachers reveals that 61% of teachers are stressed out. 58% say that their mental health is not good. In the same poll, more than half the teachers admit that they don’t feel the same enthusiasm about teaching as they did when they began. Chronic stress shows up as irritability, mood swings, exhaustion, and other physical and mental health symptoms. It leads to withdrawal from colleagues, increased absences, and high turnover rates. One study states that almost half of teachers change careers within the first 5 years. Of the ones who remain, 57% are disconnected from their teaching role and their students’ needs. Students feel the impact of teacher stress daily.

On a more positive note, engaged teachers lead their students to higher academic achievement.

 

Adults Need to Grow their SEL Skills

A CASEL study concluded that schools have better SEL outcomes when they also cultivate SEL competencies in adults. When we’re helping school staff thrive by engaging them in SEL at the adult level, classrooms experience more positive developmental outcomes. This adult learning can also reduce burnout among staff.

5 Radical Minutes not only teaches SEL to the students, we also provided weekly staff prompts to engage your staff in the same manner. When they engage in 5 Radical Minutes for Staff, they learn SEL skills as they interact with their peers each week. This 5-minute time at the beginning of any staff meeting can shift your school climate in powerful ways.

we-must-do-more-in-helping-staff-thrive-because-stress-levels-are-rising

 

SEL Skills Benefit ALL Individuals

We know that to change habits or to learn new skills, the single most important factor is reinforcing the neurological pathway of that improved behavior or skills.  “Practice makes perfect” applies here!  5 Radical Minutes is most effective for students when all adults in the building pair up with a student. This process changes both how adults listen to students and also increases student trust such that they have more courage to approach adults when they need help or want to work something out.

 

When all staff in the building take part in 5 Radical Minutes prompts, two things happen:

  1. Staff relationships improve and new or isolated staff come to know others in a way that builds trust.
  2. Staff experience the effectiveness of the program in the same way students experience the program in the classroom.

 

If you know an administrator, we’d love it if you shared this article with them! We know they have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. We’ve put together some free resources on our website and a Pinterest board for them.

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3 Steps to Help Youth Concentrate

Our youth face so many pressures!

Whether it’s taking the brunt of adult frustration or anger, or coping with poverty, homeless, or drug addiction, they often come to school distracted. They’re also perceptive, so they feel of the pressures those around them. The anxiety they feel is real. These pressures interfere with their ability to concentrate in school. Some challenges even make school seem irrelevant in comparison. As a result, we need to help youth concentrate.

With younger youth, use the concepts below as an activity. With older youth, use them as a framework for conversation. For both, the process encourages them to find their own way through the transition into school.

 

Use language easy for the child to understand, given the developmental stage and language capacity.

 

Most of us know people with challenges.

Lots of us have challenges in life. Many families struggle with a range of issues. Some students have parents who work two jobs, some only have one parent at home. Others have siblings or parents who use drugs or alcohol. Any of these family challenges can affect us.

when-we-help-youth-concentrate-we-help-them-leave-challenges-at-the-door

These challenges can make it difficult to concentrate.

Some students might be sitting at their desks right now trying to figure out how to help their parents. Or wonder if their family member is okay. These thoughts can make if difficult to concentrate at school.

School can make us smarter so we can figure out better solutions.

When we focus on academics, our brains make new connections and we become smarter and learn to think more dynamically. We learn how to brainstorm and try new things. This allows us to figure ways to cope with challenges outside of school. These skills can help us for the rest of our lives.

 

Teach the following 3 steps to help youth learn to concentrate more easily.

 

1. Establish the difference between school and everywhere else.

There’s a difference between school life and home life. When we’re at school, we’re here to learn about academics. Along the way, we make friends and learn about life and relationships. When we’re at home, we’re learning about life and relationships, and maybe not so much about book learning or academics.

help-youth-concentrate-in-6-steps

 

Step 2. Establish your visual reminder.

After some discussion and a few open-ended questions, encourage your younger students to find a small image in a magazine. No one else in the school will know what the image is about, but each student will use this image as a reminder to leave their problems behind for a time.

Step 3. Learn to leave your challenges outside the door.

Now that we know the value of academic learning at school, we will use our image to help us remember to leave our challenges outside the door. Can can even tape them right to the classroom door! Those problems will be there when we’re ready to go home. When we leave these challenges outside the door, we’ll be able to be present and ready to learn in the classroom.”

 

when-we-help-youth-concentrate-we-teach-them-skills-theyll-use-all-their-lives

 

Use this activity in reverse to help youth concentrate away from school.

Students who struggle or are bullied at school can take a break from it when they’re home by following this same process as they walk out of the school.

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4 Ways to Use Safety, Connection, & Purpose to Build Community

Kids need to feel safe, valued, connected, and purposeful.

Life is full of paradoxes and opposites. No better words so aptly describe the start of a brand-new school year. School staff smiles optimistically at the sunny beginning amid the shadowy concerns for student safety. You plan for new programs despite the budgetary constraints. You watch the irony of students trying to act naturally. For us at 5 Radical Minutes, we must balance our prevention program and crisis response training. Despite the paradoxes and ironies, there are two things we know for sure: we all value a fresh start and we all need to make schools feel safe. To accomplish this, school must be a place where kids feel valued, connected, and purposeful. Teachers and staff play a big role in this.

 

4 Ways to Help Make Schools Feel Safe

As teachers and staff, you have an enormous opportunity to influence school climate. These changes are outward facing, but they start on the inside. There are many ways to shift your mindset. We explore four below.

 

Practice Gratitude

Start your day with a gratitude mindset. This may be a quiet moment as you get dressed. You might add a few things to a running list on your phone as you prepare your morning coffee. Maybe you jot down 3 things in your daily planner as students show up. However you mark your gratitude, be intentional. Allow gratitude to be the focus of your thoughts as early in your morning as possible.

 

Keep Yourself Centered

Take a few minutes to get centered. Breathe deeply 3-4 times to slow all the things going on in your mind and body. Keeping your emotions in check and staying calm throughout the school day will not only allow you to teach more effectively, you’ll be more available to your students.

 

Find a Positive Focus

You have a choice in how you look at your day. You can dread certain aspects, focus on your fatigue, and assume that one of your more troubled student will act up in class again. OR you can walk into your day assuming that you’ll do something kind for someone. Whether or not you realize it, you are reaching all of your students every day, both by what you do and by what you don’t do. Choosing to be positive will allow you to touch the lives of your students powerfully!

 

Make school a safe place

Build Community

Once you’re at school, look for every opportunity to build community and to guide students in building their own community around them. Notice times your language could be more inclusive. Add more suggestions for ways students might work on things together during problem solving, reinforcing the message, “Two heads are better than one.”

Implementing each of these things in a systematic yet heartfelt manner will help make schools feel safe, and students feel valued, connected, and purposeful. 5 Radical Minutes serves as a tool to help make this happen.

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9/11 Tribute: NYC Saviors of the Children

The teachers at Ground Zero on 9/11 were newly into their school year.

Some were so young, it takes your breath away to imagine their courage. Many were first-year teachers. All were barely into the school year, just matching faces to names and mastering desk cubby assignments. Some were at rug time, some were reading to their students, and some were teaching math. Others led music or browsed the school library with students on 9/11. Then there were all the aides and clerical staff. There were OT and PT specialists working with special needs students and administrators in the wheelhouse. They all held a different role for each select group of students.

They quickly switched role from teachers to saviors of their students on 9/11.

Suddenly, they were all remarkable, caring adults who — without having a choice to consent or decline — became the saviors of their students on 9/11. They pulled down shades to draw attention away from the burning towers. They brought students into the hallways so they couldn’t see what fell past the windows. And when they realized that everything was tumbling down around them, these teachers responded courageously.

Teachers, administrators, therapists, secretaries … all set out into the war zone of falling fire and debris, hand-in-hand with their students. They counted them at the end of every block to ensure they were all still together. Bits of burning plastic melted to their clothing. Toxic dust covered their bodies.

All students on 9/11 were delivered safely to friends and family.

Most headed north, but some loaded students onto boats that left for unknown locations. Students went to Stanton Island and students to New Jersey. Angels of mercy cared for each and every one as they arrived. They brought comfort and warmth to them in gymnasiums and churches, and protected these New York’s students on 9/11 until they could reunite with family.

We know the stories of many brave, strong protectors on 9/11. But the teachers in Lower Manhattan also did what no one ever drilled for them to do. They saved every single one of their students on 9/11, all without any major injuries.

Fire fighters are rightfully honored in the 9/11 legacy. But we must also pause to recognize the miracle of school staff. From Vesey Street and Liberty, to Church Street as well. On this day, all left the positions for which they’d been trained and became saviors and guardian angels of the youngest among us.

If there was a miracle amid the horror, it was that every child made it out. All by virtue of the remarkable souls who happened to be the teachers and staff of Lower Manhattan.

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The Scientific Benefits of Mindfulness

How Mindfulness Helps Our Bodies AND Our Brains

There are so many reasons mindfulness and deep breathing is helpful for people of all ages. And science agrees on the benefits of mindfulness. Mindfulness and deep breathing activates our vagus nerve, which helps us calm down, think more clearly, and heal. This short video explains the basics, and is a great one to share with the kids in your life!

Another of the benefits of mindfulness is that it helps our brains function better. It can boost our recall of information and instructions, calm us down when we’re afraid or angry, and fall asleep more quickly at night. It can even help with anxiety and depression!

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Below are a few resources that recount the science and subsequent benefits of mindfulness:

  • 9 Facts About the Vagus Nerve. This fascinating article from Mental Floss walks readers through all the amazing things the vagus nerve is responsible for — it does far more than just initiate our relaxation response.
  • Dacher Keltner on the Vagus Nerve. In this video, UC Berkeley psychologist and Faculty Director of the Greater Good Science Center shares his research on the vagus nerve, a key nexus of mind and body, and a biological building block of human compassion.
  • 9 Ways Deep Breathing Supercharges Your Body and Mind. Deep breathing affects almost every single system in our body. It not only helps us feel better, it also helps us heal!
  • How Mindfulness Practices are Changing an Inner City School. This Baltimore school has embraced the daily practice of mindfulness, and it’s transforming success rates and kids are taking more responsibility for their actions. The same could be true in your own home!

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Mindfulness practices take time, but the benefits begin immediately! These habits you’re building for yourself and the kids in your life will benefit you all for your entire life. We’d love to hear about your mindfulness practice and how it’s helping you. And if you’re a teacher using experiencing the benefits of mindfulness in the classroom, tell us your story!

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Anxiety in Kids: What It Is, What It Does, and How to Manage It

Anxiety is in the news a lot these days, and it seems more and more kids struggle with anxiety.

Most kids (and adults!) suffer fear and anxiety from time to time. What are the different types of anxiety, how do we recognize the symptoms, and what do we do when things change from occasional fear or anxiety into an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety in Kids: What It Looks Like and How to Help

Types of Anxiety in Kids

Most of the following fears are common to most children. Many children outgrow them as they learn to cope with new situations and as their emotional development increases. But overall, anxiety in kids is like a big, loud, uncontrollable alarm that keeps going off in their insides. As a result, anxious kids can become risk avoidant, which hinders them from taking part in so many things many other kids get to enjoy. The alarms that go off in their heads can affect their bodies physically, resulting in a lack of sleep, headaches, stomachaches, irritability, muscle tension, and fatigue. When anxieties progress past occasional episodes and a child seems to show symptoms on most days for weeks at a time, it may be time to consider intervention of some sort.

Activities to help your child cope with anxietySeparation Anxiety

Children as young as 7-9 month olds experience separation anxiety and stranger anxiety. This is a normal and healthy development! While it’s difficult for us parents to walk away when our children are crying or clinging, we know that they will be okay once a few moments have passed and fun things distract their attention. As time passes, children learn that they are safe, mom or dad will return, and that in the meantime they can enjoy their time with others.

When this fear continues on when children reach school age, it’s possible they have developed a separation anxiety disorder. This can make it difficult for them to learn, make friends, and expand their horizons.

Symptoms of separation anxiety in kids may include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Missing out on activities
  • Continual texting to check-in
  • Nervousness or distress at the thought of separation
  • Nightmares about separation
  • Headaches, stomachs, vomiting, physical distress when away from a parent (or as parent leaves)
  • Refusal to sleep alone
  • Worried about a parent’s health and well-being
  • Angry or violent behavior when they can’t be with parent

anxiety in kids can make them withdrawn

Social Anxiety

According the Child Mind Institute, “social anxiety is characterized by intense self-consciousness and fear of embarrassment that goes beyond common shyness, causing a child to go great lengths to avoid social interactions.” This anxiety in kids can show itself in two ways. The first is performance anxiety (also known as stage fright), which deals with things like presenting in public, test taking, ordering food in a restaurant, and sports ability. The second is interactional anxiety which not just about a fear of talking to others but also fear of being noticed by others in public, offending others, even eating in a cafeteria.

As more and more kids are on social media and seeing the curated lives of their friends, it’s understandable that self-consciousness abounds. Social anxiety can appear at any age, but it’s most common around middle school, when children desire to make more and more of their own decisions but are fearful of making the wrong choices. (75% of social anxiety onset happens between 8 and 15 years old.) The root can be anything from childhood shyness to a traumatic experience like bullying. When left unaddressed and untreated, it can lead to isolation and depression.

Symptoms of social anxiety in kids may include:

  • Racing pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Breaking out in a sweat
  • Cold hands
  • Nausea and stomach
  • Vision changes

 

Panic Disorder (Agoraphobia)

Over 3 million Americans will experience a panic disorder during their lifetime. Panic disorders can be terrifying for a child to walk through on their own. According to WebMD, a panic attack is “a sudden, intense episode of anxiety with no apparent outside cause.” Additionally, “When a child has had two or more of these episodes, and is preoccupied with worries about them happening again, it is considered a panic disorder.” The triggers for these panic attacks can be as varied at the child. When left unaddressed, panic disorder can lead to isolation and depression, and could lead to alcohol or drug use.

Panic attacks are often characterized by:

  • Intense fearfulness
  • Racing heart
  • Choking sensations
  • Excessive sweating or cold flashes
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Numbness or tingling in limbs
  • Inability to catch breath
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Fear of going crazy

anxiety in kids can make them want to hide

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder happens when fears and anxieties become obsessions and lead to uncontrollable thought processes and actions that help children to cope. Children do not enjoy these behaviors but pursue them out of compulsion. These can lead to rituals that help them feel they are more in control of their environment and more safe. This behavior is not a result of them (or you as parents) doing something wrong. It’s important to remember that many routines are healthy, such as getting ready for school in the morning or getting ready for bed at night. Things cross into unhealthy when they make life harder, not easier. If your child’s routines are interfering with daily life, invite them into a conversation.

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder according to the International OCD Foundation may include:

  • Excessive checking (re-checking that the door is locked, that the oven is off)
  • Excessive washing and/or cleaning
  • Repeating actions until they are “just right” or starting things over again
  • Ordering or arranging things
  • Mental compulsions (excessive praying, mental reviewing)
  • Frequent confessing or apologizing
  • Saying lucky words or numbers
  • Excessive reassurance seeking (e.g., always asking, “Are you sure I will be okay?”)

PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health diagnosis. Acute PTSD can sometimes occur after a child experiences violence (or a threat of violence), injury, harm, or suddenly loses someone close to them. It can occur shortly after the event, or even years later. Often, people with PTSD experience “flashbacks” of the traumatic event, nightmares. Acute PTSD varies from Chronic PTSD because it typically has an identifiable root cause or event.

Chronic PTSD is different in that a child has distorted thoughts to survive a situation, such as living in abject poverty, homelessness, ongoing abuse, or living with a family member who has an addiction. Any of these can bring about distorted thinking, which in the moment can be a coping strategy, but when they transition into a healthy life circumstance, these thinking errors can be so engrained that it takes a long time to recover.

According to the CDC, symptoms of PTSD in children may include:

  • Reliving the event over and over in thought or in play
  • Nightmares and sleep problems
  • Becoming very upset when something causes memories of the event
  • Lack of positive emotions
  • Intense ongoing fear or sadness
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Constantly looking for possible threats, being easily startled
  • Acting helpless, hopeless or withdrawn
  • Denying that the event happened or feeling numb
  • Avoiding places or people associated with the event

anxiety in kids can be lonely

Helping Your Child Cope with Anxiety

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, consider talking with your child about how he or she feels.

  • Make a plan together to work through transitions.
  • Slip notes of affirmation into the lunchbox of left on the pillow.
  • Help your child reframe their anxious thoughts into positive ones.
  • Remind your child of any changes coming in the normal routine.
  • Compliment any and all progress.
  • Talk to your school counselor or your pediatrician as a resource or referral source for support, counseling, or therapy.

Activities to help your child cope with anxiety

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Holiday Conversation Guide

It’s such a busy time of year! We hope you are sparkling along with joy and a sense of ease.

Wait, you’re not? Are you feeling the stress of the countdown between now and the holidays? Are holiday conversations and everything else overwhelming? If so, create a moment right now just for you and take three deep breaths.

 

One…. breathe in through your nose and count to five. Now out.

Two… breathe in and let your belly expand to the count of five. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… Now out.

Three… breathe in love and picture the people you love the most. Count to five and then breathe all that collected love out to them.

 

There, see? That should make you feel a little better.

What else can help? Seeing loved ones can be one of the best things about the holiday season. In fact, many of us attend events with both friends and family we don’t see at any other time of the year. Whether it be work parties, family gatherings, or obligatory gift exchanges, along with the fun there can also be that moment when the unintentional result is awkward conversations, political angst, or hurt feelings.

But as Ralph Waldo Emerson so aptly states,
“Life is too short but that there is always time for courtesy.”

 

That’s some pretty sage advice. Thank you, RWE! We believe that great conversation is a courtesy as well — one we owe both ourselves and others. As a result, we’ve been working on some tips and tricks for you to use during your holiday season. Enjoy!

Here’s our beautiful little ebook gift to you.

(Download from our Free Resources Library.)

It’s chock full of tips, conversation starters, and digging a bit deeper with face-to-face time, no matter where you find yourself this holiday season. Want to know a little bit more? We’ve outlined the three basic steps it includes below:



Grab The Holiday Conversation Guide from our
Free Resources!

Take me to the Free Resources

Then let us know how it works for you. We’d love to hear your stories!

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Screen Addiction: What It Is, Who It Affects, and How To Avoid It

We face unprecedented challenges trying to raise children in this face-paced digital age.

Because we have no precedence for how the virtual world impacts our children, we’ve not known what kinds of limits are reasonable, needed, or essential. Often we’re making decisions based on our children’s pleas rather than on a knowledge of the impact of the digital world on their developing brain. An important place to begin is to understand why children are so drawn both to social media and to a range of kinds of games online.

Let’s start with a little science.

Screen addition is increasing rapidly

Screen time affects prefrontal cortex development

The prefrontal cortex of a child’s brain develops slowly. In fact, it often does not reach maturity until the age of 26 or even 30 years old. So what’s the prefrontal cortex all about? Well, it’s essential for the following:

  • relationships
  • trust
  • compassion
  • and it’s where the moral compass lives within us

Anything that interferes with the prefrontal cortex development is something about which we should be very concerned. We now know that some types of internet use interfere with prefrontal cortex development. But the internet world changes swiftly. As a result, it has been difficult for researchers to keep up with just what impact it may be having. But that have made some inroads.

Screen time affects white matter development in the brain

We now know that there are some devastating effects of certain types of internet use on our children. Recent research is showing us that the white matter of the brain is developing entirely differently for youth who spend quite a bit of time online. More alarming, we are now learning that certain types of activity actually interferes with the prefrontal cortex. Knowing how to sort through these activities can help us oversee our children’s screen time more effectively. It is possible for them to safely use electronic devices without impairing the development of their brains.

Lin & Zhou et al, 2012

Technology is designed to be addictive

We’re up against a difficult fight. Tech experts intentionally design technology to be addictive. What we know is that addictions, whether they be substance or activity based (alcohol consumption vs. gambling) all involve a sudden hit of dopamine to the brain. We also know that crystal meth, cocaine, and orgasm are 3 of the highest hits of dopamine that we ourselves can give our own brains. Right behind those 3 is the hit of dopamine that we have when we’re online and someone likes our Facebook or Instagram post, or sends us a text.

screen addiction faqs

The beginnings of addiction can start when kids are as young as toddlers

The simple act of using a digital device that gives us that hit of dopamine is actually an essential building block for addiction. In children this develops very swiftly. For instance, we can look at a young child using a math program on a digital device where if the child sees the number 1 and then the number 2 and they touch the number 3, then a clown comes out on the screen and does something fun and the child is excited, parents often misinterpret what is happening. Although it looks to the casual observer that the child has learned that 1+2=3, what’s actually happening that the child has told himself that “if I know to push the right button, something really fun thing happens and makes me feel good.” What’s actually happening is that that child gets a hit of dopamine and we’re feeding the beginnings of an addiction for a child to increase the dopamine levels in their own brains by what they do online. This is a difficult pill for parents to swallow!

We must ask ourselves if we’re willing to have addicted children

A starting place for us to ask ourselves is, “At what age are we willing to have our children addicted and to what.” When we begin to understand the difference in what kinds of online activities promote addiction and which don’t, we begin to make better choices. (Apps with infinite scrolling or playing are a prime offender when it comes to addiction. Think Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, etc.)

At what age are we willing to have our children addicted and to what

A major interference in our own ability to look openly at screen addition in children is our own addiction to our devices

Parents often give in to the pleas of children that if you’re doing online time then why can’t I? The obvious answer to that is that it’s the same as alcohol. As an adult you may have a glass of wine with dinner, you still may clearly know that you don’t want to be giving children alcohol with their meals as well. A hit of dopamine is a hit of dopamine. It doesn’t matter whether the cause of dopamine is a physical act involving online time or drinking of a substance, the addiction comes from the dopamine. It comes from within our own brains.

 


When we add those two issues together: the possibility of early addiction for children coupled with a loss of development of the prefrontal cortex, we have some serious thinking to do about how we allow our children to engage online.


Screen addiction increases the longer you use technology

The troubling fact about addiction is that receiving a certain level of dopamine hit today means that child is going to want great hit a year from now, and a greater hit a year from them. Consequently, kids using screens at 8 or 9 and getting that hit from games, Instagram or snapchat, get that hit of dopamine. But the needs increase rapidly over the next few years — that’s the nature of addiction. The body acclimates to the amount it’s used to and then it needs more. And the prefrontal cortex is suffering, leaving our kids with limited capacity for:

  • Relationships
  • Trust
  • Compassion
  • Impaired moral compass

 

Plan family activities together to decrease screen time and promote face to face time

One of the best antidotes for screen addiction is face-to-face contact

One of the antidotes to all this is to carefully organize children’s lives to have face-to-face compassionate contact with one another that develops the prefrontal cortex. In today’s digital world, we must all re-learn how to be present. Face-to-face contact will build real relationships. Are we saying that messaging and social media are all detrimental? No, not at all. But it’s interesting to note that often when youth think they’re connecting online, say through Facebook or Snapchat, they’re actually looking for is that hit of dopamine from any message. Because it doesn’t matter who a message is from, youth confuse connection for the addiction to the hit of dopamine they get.

screen addiction faqs

We’ve assembled a list of ideas to help keep the conversation going in face-to-face contact:

  • Make eye contact with one another.
  • Set aside any distractions. (Put away your phone, set down your book, close your laptop, etc.)
  • Ask open-ended questions. (These are questions that don’t end in yes or no, such as “What surprised you the most about…” or “What’s the best thing that happened today?”)
  • Consistently plan activities together, even if it’s as simple as a daily walk to prepping dinner.

If you want even more face-to-face engagement tips, consider 5 Radical Mintues for Families. This monthly subscription provides 3 weekly activities for the whole family. Each activity lasts only about 10 minutes but helps build engagement, trust, and greater happiness for each who participates. And it’s only a $5 monthly investment!

Screen Addiction Blog Article 5 Radical Minutes

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 Building Emotional Resilience Through Mindfulness

Mindfulness. It’s a popular word these days — a buzz word used by those in the know.

Mindfulness is the “in” thing when it comes to handling stress, bringing greater fulfillment, better focus, and higher academic achievement. Great leaders practice mindfulness. And technology is following suit with a myriad apps to help increase mindfulness.

But what really is mindfulness? The American Psychological Association defines it this way:

… a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. While it may be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them….

Researchers theorize that mindfulness meditation promotes metacognitive awareness, decreases rumination via disengagement from perseverative cognitive activities and enhances attentional capacities through gains in working memory. These cognitive gains, in turn, contribute to effective emotion-regulation strategies.

That’s a lot to wrap our heads around. And while the term mindfulness still sends some people running for the hills because they believe it has to do with religious practices, there are some solid scientific benefits that mindfulness practices bring:

Mindfulness Builds Gratitude

Scientific Benefits to Mindfulness

Mindfulness Alleviates Stress

Stress in today’s day and age is just a matter of course. It’s akin to being human. And it shows itself not just in distraction; it has many physical side effects as well! WebMD lists these symptoms as potentially stress related:

Emotional symptoms of stress include:

  • Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
  • Avoiding others

Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth

Cognitive symptoms of stress include:

  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side

Behavioral symptoms of stress include:

  • Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much
  • Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
  • Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing

 

We don’t know about you, but these symptoms include a lot of stuff wewant to avoid. There’s good news, though! Mindfulness practices can help reduce almost all of these stress symptoms over time. But mindfulness isn’t a magic wand, as much as we wish we could say it is. It’s a practice that takes some time to learn but  helps us systematically lessen stress over time. Practicing mindfulness doesn’t mean that the issues that are causing stress will go away. However, It doesmean that we will learn how to acknowledge these stressors in our lives and learn to be okay with the imperfect state of things. Mindfulness helps us as we navigate the bumpy road we’re on. This simple act of acceptance can be far from simple, but by calming the mind and body we’re better able to pursue solutions.

Mindfulness Engages the Vagus Nerve

Mindfulness Builds Compassion

Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention — to our bodies, our emotions, and our thoughts. But instead of judging ourselves, mindfulness lets us acknowledge these thoughts and feelings and then let them pass. In a world that condemns at every turn for not being smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough or fast enough, this lack of judgement can do wonders! When we learn to be more compassionate with ourselves, we open ourselves up to be more compassionate with others. By checking in with our bodies and minds a few times a day to find out how we feel, why we feel it, and where we feel it, we can avoid feeling overwhelmed.

In fact, we’ll often discover that most of the time, overwhelm, anger, or fear isn’t the enemy. Rather, how we react to these feelings is where we often sideline ourselves.  Mindfulness allows us to see patterns in our thinking. As a result, we can avoid getting caught up in our thoughts. We’re less caught up in our own dramas and become more aware of the thoughts and needs of others. We’re in this life together, and when we give ourselves and others the room to be themselves, compassion blossoms.

 

Mindfulness Builds Compassion

Mindfulness Engages the Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve, our biggest cranial nerve, transports messages from the brain to the respiratory, nervous, and digestive systems, and all the major organs, and back again. It also controls our ability to stay calm. And it’s the one that tells our brain that you’re safe and protected. For example, when you meet someone you like, all the nerve receptors in your body let your brain know that a good thing is happening — all through the vagus nerve. Just the same, when you’re nervous or uncomfortable, this same nerve lets your brain know that things are amiss. When we take the time to breathe deeply and slowly, we let our brains know through the vagus nerve that all is well. The more we engage the vagus nerve positively, the more peace, calm, joy, and good health we enjoy.

Mindfulness Builds Gratitude

Checking in with ourselves daily helps us slow down. When we scan our body, mind, and thoughts for what’s going on and how we feel, we begin to notice the areas that hold tension. This awareness, this mindfulness, can help us catch tension as it begins building rather than when it explodes. We begin to notice what feels good, or what we like more quickly as well. A beautiful aroma, a soft fabric on our skin. And we can observe the positive benefits of stress — how it energizes us to get things done or make needed changes.

 

Mindfulness Boosts Mood

Mindfulness Builds Resilience

Resilience is the ability to recover readily from adversity. Does mindfulness really have the power to make this happen? Before we answer, let’s talk about how we cultivate resiliency. A recent study by Badri Bajaj and Neerja Pande highlighting the link between mindfulness and resilience found this:

“Mindful people … can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down (emotionally). Pausing and observing the mind may (help us) resist getting drawn into wallowing in a setback.”

These researchers discovered that “individuals with higher mindfulness have greater resilience, thereby increasing their life satisfaction.” Their conclusion? “Mindfulness training could provide a practical means of enhancing resilience, and personality characteristics like optimism, zest, and patience.”

 

Emotional resilience can be strengthened through mindfulness practices. And in our case here at 5 Radical Minutes, it can be done in just five minutes a day. There’s no greater investment we can make in ourselves than to invest time to alleviate stress, and build compassion, gratitude and resilience!

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