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If your child is young enough that you are in charge of his or her social calendar, you can always stop making play dates. But if you value the relationship with the parent, this can strain, if not ruin, that relationship too, Hoffman says.

“If your friend pushes you about getting together, you can … say something like, ‘Your son is really rough and aggressive, and he scares my son,'” says Elizabeth J. Short, PhD, a psychology professor and the associate director of the Schubert Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

You can also take steps to control the play environment.

“Make sure you are present to monitor the play dates so that all kids stay safe,” Short says. For example, she suggests that you host the play date if you’re uncomfortable with other options.

“If you think your kid is at risk, then I would not take a second chance,” Short says. “Always be open-minded, but when you feel it might jeopardize your child’s safety, go with your instinct because instincts don’t lie.”


By Denise Mann

There are good play dates, so-so play dates, and then there are meltdown, can’t-get-out-of-there-soon-enough play dates.

Preschoolers may do battle over a toy, engage in name-calling, refuse to acknowledge one another, or even push, bite, or hit their playmate. Older kids may tease, taunt, or torment each other and/or get into trouble — or even into dangerous situations.

Of course, your child’s health, safety, and well-being — physical and emotional — come first. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to look out for that.

“You have to protect your kid and you don’t want to put your kid in a situation where he or she is uncomfortable,” says child psychoanalyst Leon Hoffman, MD. “If your kid doesn’t want to play with another child, you have to take that very seriously,” says Hoffman, who co-directs the New York Psychoanalytic Society’s Pacella Parent Child Center.

But how do you know if you’re reading the situation correctly? When should you express your concerns to the other child’s parent? And how can you do it diplomatically?

The next few posts provides expert advice.

In our on-the-go culture, we often try to keep our kids busy 24/7. It is crucial to learn early in life to enjoy your own company. “In countless studies, people who know how to lose themselves in a creative “zone” report feeling peace and contentment throughout their lives,” says Dr. Alice D. Domar, Ph.D.

We want our kids to feel good about themselves, so it is natural to try to remove obstacles along the way. Here’s the rub: If we are always trying to solve their problems they will not develop the ability to fight their own battles, accept when they are wrong and learn to move on. Jenn Berman, Psy.D. says “Handling stress or disappointments, admitting mistakes, and changing direction are some of the most crucial skills for living a happy life. The only way to master them is through practice.”

When your child complains that he can’t do something like finish a puzzle or put on his sneakers, do not try to convince him that he can. As grueling as it may be, show patience and say “That’s okay. There is no hurry. Next time you wants to try again, let me know.” Whether it is a few minutes or a few days later, he will probably come back to the task at hand. If he gets aggravated and starts to yell, it’s a good time to say, “I understand it is frustrating, but it is not okay to scream.”

A review of 50 years of research on family routines in the Journal of Family Psychology found that rituals like family meals and bath and bedtime routines help children feel secure, strengthen family ties and lead to greater productivity. They may even help improve their health by maintaining good habits such as brushing teeth, exercising and washing hands. Another study, from the University of British Comlumbia, in Vancouver, found that these sorts of rituals provide a neurobiological benefit by stimulating both the left (logical) and right (emotional) sides of the brain.

Knowing their parents understand them is a crucial building block of happiness for kids. “Your child can only develop happiness and self-confidence if she feels completely and totally accepted,” says Bonnie Harris, author of Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids. “Listen to your child without making any judgments about whether she is right or wrong. Your goal should be to hear her side of the story.

Most of us realize that the secret to happiness is not owning a lot of stuff. It’s really about instilling in our kids a strong sense of authentic gratitude and appreciation for what the world offers free of charge. The best way to do it? Feel it yourself. “When parents express gratitude for everyday events, their kids grow up feeling more joyful, enthusiastic, determined, interested, and engaged in the world around them,” says Dr. Carter.

Scienctists estimate that only half of an upbeat attitude is genetic. “Happiness is really a wide range of positive emotions that are more learned behavior than inborn traits,” says Christine Carter, Ph.D., executive director of the Greater Good Science Center, in Berkeley, California. “Our children develop their habits of thinking, feeling, and behaving based on what we teach them about the world, their relationships, and our expectations.”

The goal is for our children to have a firm foundation of contentment so they can learn to roll with the punches, enjoy what they have, and make the best of any situation. There are five keys to helping your kids stay in the bliss zone. These will be covered over the next five posts.

  • About 2% of school-aged children (i.e. children 6-12 years of age) appear to have a major depression at any one time. With puberty, the rate of depression increase to about 4% major depression overall. With adolescence, girls, for the first time, have a higher rate of depression than boys. This greater risk for depression in women persists for the rest of life. Depression is diagnosable before school age (e.g. ages 2-5) where it is somewhat more rare but definitely occurs. Overall, approximately 20% of youth will have one or more episodes of major depression by the time they become adults.

  • About 4% of teenagers have major depressive disorder (MDD) at any one time. Among teens, girls are more often affected than boys. MDD frequently interferes with home, school and family life, including causing a lot of family stress. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers, with about half of these associated with depression. This makes depression a common and serious illness that is important to identify and treat early in the course of the disease. To understand which treatments work best for which depressed teenagers, TADS is comparing different treatments for major depression in teens, with the goal of improving the treatment and outcomes of young persons with this disorder.

“Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.

-Robert A. Heinlein

Parenting Tip:

It is tempting to remove obstacles and pave the way for our children to have an easy life. Maybe we think that we’re doing them a favor. Maybe we’re trying to make up for the difficulties we faced as a child. Or maybe, just maybe, if we’re honest, it’s because making their lives easier often makes ours easier as well.

But remember, easy doesn’t mean better. It takes grit and determination to succeed in this world and you don’t get those two things by sitting around and having your parents make your life a cakewalk for you. You get those two things by working hard and struggling. Give your kids the opportunity to achieve something on their own – through difficulties – and you’ll be giving them one of the greatest gifts that money can’t buy.
-Hal Runkel, Author of ScreamFree Parenting

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