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Mindfulness is a state of being aware. It is a process of intentionally observing our surroundings in the moment, with engaged awareness and free of judgment. Mindfulness is not a passive state and may require practice to be in the moment. Left to itself the mind wanders through all kinds of thoughts — including thoughts expressing anger, craving, depression, revenge, self-pity, etc. As we indulge in these kinds of thoughts we reinforce those emotions in our hearts and cause ourselves to suffer. By purposefully directing our awareness away from such thoughts and towards some “anchor” we decrease their effect on our lives and we create instead a space of freedom where calmness and contentment can grow.

downloadAs a parent, being mindful allows us to choose a skillful response instead of just reacting. Being mindful can help a child regulate his/her emotions, be more focused, and to make better decisions. Practicing mindfulness with your child is a great way to spend time to together and to teach your child to be aware of their experience and to recognize when their attention has wandered. Why not get your toolbox of ideas ready? Here are some ideas to get you started.


Tool #1 Focus on your body: Do a body scan. Wiggle your toes. Let your arms and legs be like spaghetti. Feel your breath go in and out. Depending on the age of the child, you might say, “Pretend your belly is a balloon and watch it expand. Then blow out a noisy breath through the lips. How does that feel?” You might use a breathing buddy. Put a stuffed animal on their belly and watch the rise and fall of their buddy.

Tool #2 Focus on an object. What is the color? Can you touch it? Is it cold? If you have a smooth pebble or marble, feel the coolness. Then hold it in your hand a few minutes. Notice the change in temperature. If you are eating, focus on the food. Is it cold or hot? Is it sweet?

Tool # 3 Focus on sounds. Ask your child what sounds he/she can hear? Is the clock ticking? Can you hear the wind? Use a bell or sound on your phone or just tap lightly on the table. Ask the child to listen and let you know when the sound stops.

Tool #4 Focus on love. Ask your child to name all the people who love them. Mommy, Daddy, brother, sister, grandparent, dog or cat. You can also think of things the child loves about others. What do you like about your friends? Ask what you can do to be kind to the ones who love you.

If you are a parent, then you most likely have dealt with a some challenging behaviors.  Some parents seem to have more difficulty than otherimages.jpgrs.  The difference is not always luck.  Parents can do specific things that can make problem behaviors worse, keep them the same, or make them decrease.

As a parent, our ultimate goal is to have children who routinely exercise self-control and acceptable behaviors.  It is best to assume that a proactive “teaching” approach will keep yourself calm and avoid power struggles with your child.

  • Rule # 1: Never argue with your child!
  • Before the behavior occurs, discuss choices your child can make about how to act.  Anticipate problems and discuss ways of solving conflicts, how to handle frustrations, and how to express their wants and desires appropriately.
  • Encourage your child to use their words in order to get their wishes and feelings known. “You are too close to me.” – rather than pushing; “Stay out of my backpack.” – rather than hitting; “I really want to go swimming.” – rather than demanding, begging, and pleading.
  • Acknowledge appropriate behavior and reward it intermittently.
  • Remind your child of the reason behind any rule or consequence to a behavior at the time the rule is being enforced. Have them repeat the reason for having the rule, back to you.  “Kicking can hurt someone.” “Kicking doesn’t solve the problem.”  Brainstorm other ways to deal with the problem.
  • Teach your child how to make and keep friends. (smiling, talking, listening, cooperative play, turn taking, how to start a conversation, interactive play, sharing…)
  • Teach problem solving and resolution skills. (role play with puppets, books)
  • Be empathetic to your child’s problems and frustrations. Help them process ways to deal with disappointment, anger, irritation, and sadness.
  • Seek to discover the cause of the behavior. You will gain insight that will make you more empathetic to their problems.

Diane Reed, LPCC

October is National Bully Prevention Awareness month.  Schools and organizations across the country have joined the Stomp Out Bullying campaign.  The goal is to encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness and impact on children of all ages.  

Bullying is a cruel intentional act that is often repeated.  It is prevalent in schools, playgrounds, neighborhoods, and even workplaces.  If children are not taught to deal effectively with such behavior the bullying becomes worse.  Adult bullies often become very proficient at threats and intimidation to get what they want.  Such behavior may be verbal, emotional, sexual, physical or cyber-bullying.  Being a victim is traumatizing for adults, but even worse for children.

The best time to talk to your child about bullying is before they have been exposed to it.  This helps them to mentally prepare and have a plan of action.  This alone will help build their confidence and self-esteem.

HELPGUIDE.ORG provided the following classifications.

Physical Bullying

  • Hitting, kicking, pushing, threatening
  • Stealing, hiding, destruction of other’s property
  • Hazing, harassment, humiliation
  • Making someone do something against their will

Verbal bullying

  • Name-calling
  • Teasing, taunting
  • Insulting
  • Cursing someone

Very young children can’t distinguish between bullying and unkind behavior.   Children need to know that unkind behavior is also inappropriate—e.g. “Your hair is really messy.”  “Your mom is fat.” “I don’t like you.” and “You stink.”


Some Successful Strategies:

  • Ignore the bully, if possible
  • Walk away and pretend to feel brave and confident.
  • Protect yourself.  Safety is the top priority!
  • Don’t bully back.
  • Don’t show your feelings.
  • Tell an adult. Report every threat or assaults. (Teach the difference between tattling and reporting.)
  • Be proud of who you are!

Bullying typically involves at least three individuals—the bully, bystander, and victim.

As students get older, bystanders should be taught to mobilize together, speak up, support the victim, and be a positive influence.  

Dr. Phil McGraw supports teaching Bully BUSTER Skills for Bystanders.

B-Befriend the Victim

U-Use the Distraction (to focus other’s attention elsewhere)

S-Speak Out and Stand Up!

T-Tell or Text for Help

E-Exit Alone or With Friends

R-Give a Reason or Remedy

Victims of bullying often become bullies as they grow older.  Therefore, it is crucial for a nationwide effort to Stomp Out Bullying!  Bystanders can truly make a difference in reducing peer cruelty and halting the cycle.

As parents and community members, we need to continue the awareness and discussion of bullying and its emotional impact on others!

Diane Reed, MA, LPCC


Our community remains aware of tragedy because of the events on December 1st, 1997. We experienced a shooting at Heath High School. Lives were changed forever on that day. Since the Heath shooting there has been much healing, though it was not thought possible at that time. In light of the recent events that took place in Connecticut at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, I want to offer a few suggestions to assist our community. We want to promote healing while avoiding further traumatization of our children.

Life can be compared to a huge heavy suitcase. It can be so heavy that a little child cannot carry it.  Children cope much better when we put what they can carry in a smaller suit case that they can master. We might otherwise overwhelm the child or children leading to stressful reaction. The following are suggestions that will hopefully lead to helpful actions in what a child may be able to bear.

Start the school day as you would normally do with regard to schedule and routine. You might engage your students by asking if there had been any events that have taken place that they had noticed on television. The open ended question allows them to tell whatever is on their minds rather than being led to specific events. You may learn more than just trauma of the school shooting.

Keep the students under control by asking them to speak one at a time. It may prove beneficial for children to share their questions about the event.  Allow them to share their thoughts and feelings. Be ready for emotional responses with a box of Kleenex nearby. You might allow a little more time for play and self-expression with younger children.

It may be beneficial to talk about death and what happens when people die. There is a great book for preschoolers, “Dinosaurs Die” by Marc Brown. It is based on the public television character, Arthur. It is wonderful book to allow for expression as well as questions about death.

Children may want to tell stories of death or violence that they have witnessed. Keep close watch on the level of gruesome details; also watch reactions of children who avoid discussion. This may be a time where you observe children who may have need for additional counseling due to traumas of their own.

Children benefit from being reassured that adults are watching out for them both at home and while as school for their safety.  Repetition of this statement by both teaching staff and parents may be very beneficial. Statements should be made with confidence and concern. Encourage children to let you know anytime that they feel upset, unsafe or overwhelmed. Share with the children about counselors being available for them to talk with if needed.

It is important during a response to a trauma that we do not say too much or over react creating a new trauma which will only worsen existing events. A calm reassuring voice is a must while keeping your point’s simple and age appropriate. The most important thing we can do in response to the recent events is to listen. LISTEN!!!

Here are some tips in dealing with these types of situations:

  • Be cautious about the amount of exposure to TV or other media forms with photos that could be upsetting.
  • Parents and teachers are both encouraged to pay attention to their children’s behaviors and emotions. Please seek help if new sudden changes should occur.
  • This is an important time for parents and teachers to keep one another informed of the changes that they may be witnessing.
  • Seeking the assistance of a school counselor or mental health consultant may be required based on the events and the needs of the child or children.


Roger D. Thompson, MS, LMFT

 Adapted from “Caring about Kids after Trauma or Death” by the Institute of Trauma and Stress at NYU.

Have you ever been in the supermarket with you child when they threw a fit?  How did you feel?  Were you embarrassed to the point of the leaving your groceries in the store and going home?  Did get a tense look on your face?  Did you grit your teeth and threaten to spank your child?  Did you do something to pacify your child? 

Why is it that some parents have the ability to handle these situations with grace, while others melt under the pressure?  The answer may be as simple as understanding the word, Anxiety.  Anxiety is defined as the feeling of worry or unease about a situation with an unknown outcome.  Or rather, anxiety is the feeling a person gets when they desire to have control of a situation that they have no real ability to control.  Often, anxious people seek control in unhealthy, destructive ways (i.e., yelling, arguing, pacifying).  While these methods may be functional (they control the person with whom you are interacting), they are in no way healthy.  If this is the case, it makes sense that parent of the child in the grocery store feels anxious.  They do not have the ability to control the moods or actions of their children.  Although there will be many parents who read this statement and disagree with it, it might be beneficial to give it some more thought.

You are the only person that can control you!  While others may influence your decision, the ultimate decision for how you feel and act belongs to you.  Anxiety is most often activated by fear or frustration.  In the case of a parent and unruly child, the fear might be related to other’s judgments of your ability to parent.  The parent’s anxiety seeks to quiet (think control) the child rather than move to understand and engage the child.  It is difficult for many of us to engage with anxious people.  We feel anxious when we are near them.  Therefore, we must either withdraw from them or we must quiet them.

The Screamfree Institute, founded Hal Runkel, focuses on helping people learn to be in anxious free relationships (e.g., parent/child, husband/wife, and friend/friend).  More, a person in an anxious free relationship is “learning to relate with others in a calm, cool, and connected way, taking hold of their own emotional responses no matter how anyone else chooses to behave and learning to focus on their self and take care of their self for the world’s benefit.”

If you find yourself arguing, fighting, or constantly engaged in battle with a child, spouse, co-worker, or best friend, you might be struggling with anxiety.  You might be trying to control the person you love, rather than trusting them to love and care for you. On the outset, it seems less risky to control someone than to allow them to have free will to hurt you.   If these situations are applicable to you, you might consider it is time for you 1) focus on yourself, 2) calm down, and 3) grow up.  Relationships can only flourish when they are allowed to grow in non anxious environments.

If you need assistance in these matters, you can contact the Christian Counseling Center at 270-442-5738.  You can also check out Hal Runkel’s work on the website,


Andrew N. Williams, MMFT, LMFT

Parents play a vital role in the way children handle stress and crisis. Usually, children’s responses are going to be influenced by their parent’s reactions. If parents take a positive response, children will learn the same. Here are some examples of ways to do this. Some of these examples were inspired by an article on When your child seems upset:

  • Take time to talk and make sure you really understand what the problem is.
  • Turn off the TV, internet, etc. Make sure they have your full attention
  • Let them know you are listening by brief comments, and repeating back what you hear them say
  • Let them know that feeling stressed and angry is normal and that all people feel that way
  • Give them security to know that you are going to take action to be a protection
  • Simply spend time with them so they have the chance to share these personal things.
  • It is helpful for some children to know schedules, children like structure

These are just some basic ways a parent can help their child when they appear stressed. It may be that they need to talk to someone outside the situation such as a counselor. Therapy gives children an opportunity to express things they may find difficult in other settings.

It is important to remember that all children will feel stressed and the way they initially learn how to deal with it is from parents. This is yet another way for parents to teach children.

Justin P. Lewis, MA, LMFT

“Clearly, play seems to be an essential part of social and brain development,” says Panksepp. “It’s only after the need for play has been met that animals are ready to move on to more mature stages of development.”

This research has convinced Panksepp that the restlessness seen in children with ADHD may simply be the children’s way of expressing an innate need for more play. Instead of medicating children to stifle their behavior, Panksepp argues for providing kids with more opportunity to meet that need. In fact, he believes that this could be the key to ensuring their development into focused, socially adept adults.

We don’t expect adults to engage in highly focused mental activity for hours on end without a break. Breaks (in the form of recess) are no less important for kids, and Panksepp’s research suggests that they’re even more important for kids with ADHD.

Jarrett has several theories on why recess may be so beneficial for learning and focusing.

First, having breaks for recess essentially breaks the long school day up into shorter segments. “Brain research shows that breaking tasks up into pieces and providing a change of pace in between enables the brain to focus better,” she says.

Jarrett also stresses that there’s strong medical evidence that exercise has a positive impact on brain chemistry, making it easier to think clearly and focus afterwards. Adults with desk jobs requiring intense concentrations may instinctively do this when they get up to take a walk around the block to “clear their minds.” For kids, recess provides a similar opportunity.

And for kids with ADD or ADHD, having a recess break provides them with a critical opportunity to expend their excess energy, making it easier to focus afterwards.

That’s certainly been the case for Tyler, the fifth grader with ADD. “It’s easier for me to focus after recess because I’m not as antsy anymore,” he says. “I’ve had my fun and now it’s time to do my work. I think recess helps us a lot.”

Expressing your concerns about someone else’s child is not easy and should not be done lightly.

“This may actually be harder than telling someone something about their husband or wife,” Hoffman says. “It’s a very tough situation.”

His advice: Wait for an opening.

“If the other person says, ‘I don’t know what to do with Johnny,’ it may be a good time to delicately express your concerns,” Hoffman says.

But be warned: Saying something, even when prompted, may affect your friendship. And be careful that you state the facts and share your feelings, rather than diagnose or label someone else’s child.

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If your older child has a friend who you think is a bad influence, limit how much time they can spend with this person, says Nancy Darling, PhD, a psychology professor at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. “Set it up so it’s difficult to spend time with them,” Darling says.

Don’t judge older kids by their behavior when they were much younger. Just because someone was a bully or a biter when they were 5 doesn’t make them a bad teen.

“Kids can change and we have long memories as parents,” Short says.

One bad play date does not a bad kid or doomed friendship make. We all have off days, and you should not consider yourself an expert on any child based on one afternoon.

However, if you notice consistent issues over a period of time, then that may be a pattern that deserves more consideration.

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