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Shuffling The Deck - By Chris Gearing

Monday, August 22, 2016

How do parents, siblings, and families fare after a child leaves for college?

Ushering a child off to college is a landmark event, but most people tend to focus on the new college undergrad and not the family they left behind. How do they redefine their new household now that one member has left the nest? In order to navigate this special time in your family’s life, here are some common myths and the real science to dispel them.

Lets look at mom and dad first:

Myth: Women fall apart when the children leave

Are you picturing a woman sitting forlornly at the kitchen table drinking her third glass of wine before noon? Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, most women reach new heights once they are released from the daily grind of taking care of children. Leading researchers say that most women already have a defined role separate from the family – perhaps a career, in the community, at church, or even in a PTA or a neighborhood association. They often come into their own as leaders and decision makers once the kids go off to college.

Myth: Men are always strong and sturdy once the kids depart

The days of distant dads are gone! According to research, fathers struggle more than mothers when the kids leave home. In contrast to their wives, men don’t prepare for or process the changes to the household until it’s too late. With that “stiff upper lip” mentality, they remain stoic and strong until the reality hits them all at once. Their precious son or darling daughter is now an adult and won’t be home for dinner. If it really hits them hard, they can even withdraw into a significant sadness or even depression about what could have been or how they should have handled things differently.

Myth: Marriages suffer once the kids are grown

Marriages “after children” tend to reset. Understand that child rearing has dominated the marriage for decades, and now they can revert back to focusing on their relationship and dating! In fact, these marriages are often closer since they have achieved an important landmark in life and withstood the test of time. Now they have time to engage in all those activities and hobbies that have been on the back burner. Marriages often become more romantic and may return to the earlier patterns of adventure seeking and carefree fun that was more typical of early courtship and dating.

How do siblings fare when big brother or sister hits the door?

Myth: Without their older siblings, most kids are lost

Most of the time, the younger siblings fare pretty well. In fact, they often come into their own and develop a new role within the family. Now that their older sibling no longer overshadows them, they can fully define their new identity, interests, and life direction. Naturally, they often receive much more time and attention from mom and dad than before. However, this can sometimes backfire. Greater scrutiny can cause more tension and conflict to come to the surface, especially if there were already underlying problems that have never been addressed.

Myth: Undergrads often return to find the family exactly the same

The family may seem very different to a returning student. When any family member leaves, the family must renegotiate the household roles. We revisit who the mediator will be, how decisions are now being made, and even the division of household chores. Left behind family members do tend to either become closer or more distant depending on how each family member behaves. Either way, “home” will be very different.

Myth: Younger siblings always have their own independent path

Watching your older sibling rocket into a new phase of life makes most of us consider our own next steps. Younger siblings who are close with their departing brother or sister embrace them even more. They are much more likely to emulate their older sibling’s fashion sense, political views, and career choices. They may even choose the same college. In fact, a study from Harvard University and the College Board found that 69% of younger siblings enrolled in the same type of college as their older siblings while 31% of younger siblings actually applied to the exact same institution. Surprisingly, about 20% of younger siblings went to the exact same college when it was time for their decision.

So, what can parents do for younger siblings left at home?

A Teachable Moment

Use this change in your family as a teachable moment. We always want to show our children that change is not necessarily a bad thing. More importantly, the changes that come in the life of a family are inevitable and can lead to wonderful new opportunities. Children need to see their parents approaching difficult or sad situations as something that is temporary and focus on the next exciting step for the future.

New Rituals of Connection

When a sibling leaves for college, the entire family is in state of redefinition. Using the new freedom of parents and the remaining siblings, the family can now embark on new family adventures, explore different hobbies together, and bond around a new family identity. Discover new restaurants, explore new travel destinations, try paintball, check out a new museum, or even have a “stay-cation” to finally enjoy a family night of baseball out at the ballpark. Families now have an opportunity to bond in an unprecedented way and try out new methods of connection. Maybe the departing older sibling wasn’t a baseball fan!

A Growing Circle

When the children begin to leave the nest, parents and kids have an opportunity to expand their social circle. Research shows that mom and dad often reconnect with their own siblings, extended family, and long lost friends at this important time. Younger siblings also have an opportunity to create a closer bond to their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and community at large. Again, the family relationships realign and reset to encompass a community that may have been overlooked during the busy years of child rearing.

For More Information:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr03/pluses.aspx

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/09/19/research-suggests-relationship-between-siblings-college-enrollment-choice

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/galtime/college-bound-the-impact-on-the-siblings-left-behind_b_3721334.html

https://www.noodle.com/articles/helping-younger-siblings-cope-when-your-child-heads-to-college

Talking To Your Kids About The Orlando Mass Shooting - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how to talk to your children about the mass shooting in Orlando and other acts of violence - click here.

CBS 11 - Corporal Punishment - How Much Is Too Much? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discussing Adrian Peterson and how to discipline your child effectively - click here.

CBS 11 - Corporal Punishment - How Much Is Too Much? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discussing Adrian Peterson and how to discipline your child effectively - click here.

Childhood Depression - Can Exercise Prevent Childhood Depression? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, August 08, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how exercise can help prevent depression in your child - click here.

Parenting – How To Discipline Your Child Without Yelling or Spanking - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how you can properly discipline your child without yelling or spanking - click here.

Spanking or emotional abuse through speaking can have a lifelong, devastating impact, especially on children below the age of 10.

Since many children still need discipline and clear boundaries, you must have other options available to discipline your child when you’ve lost your patience. Here are a few suggestions:

Take A Break

If your child has just acted our severely, you may want to put yourself in a time out first. Take a breath and slow down. Your mind will be clearer and you’ll make better decisions if you are calm and focused. Give yourself a chance to calm down for a few minutes before deciding how to discipline your child and potentially overreacting.

You’re The Model

Since your job as a parent is to teach your child how to manage their emotions, you need to make sure your voice is calm and your body behavior is relaxed. Next pick your words carefully and remember to speak respectfully to your child. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach your child how to speak to others without anger or contempt. Angry parents can be very scary and intimidating, and your child is soaking in every word and action from you.

Rewind and Slow Down

One of the best things you can teach your child is how to effectively understand and solve problems that frustrate and upset us. A wonderful way to teach them how to understand what happened is to walk back through what just happened and explain why they are being disciplined.

There are more effective ways to teach and discipline your child than spanking or yelling.

For instance, removal of privileges is a very effective punishment for most teenagers since it restricts their freedom, which is highly valued during these years.

Remember that every time your child needs to be disciplined, you have another opportunity to teach them the attitudes and behaviors necessary for a successful and happy life.

Source:

"Longitudinal Links between Father's and Mother's Harsh Verbal Discipline and Adolescents' Conduct Problems and Depressive Symptoms," by Ming-Te Wang and Sarah Kenny, in "Child Development," 9/13/13

Parenting - Is Yelling the New Spanking for American Parents? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the new trend of parents yelling instead of spanking their kids - click here.

Is yelling the new spanking for American parents? Many parents have been warned to not spank their children, so they have turned to yelling as a way to reach their child and correct bad behavior.

But new research suggests that yelling at your child, especially teenagers, can actually make them more resistant to change and better behavior.

Many of us do yell when we are overwhelmed by the moment, and we are often haunted by our words and actions afterward. Rather than resolving the problem and helping our child make a positive change, we make the problem much worse.

Children who are routinely yelled at tend to make one of three choices:

1.) They yell back, which often ends in disaster.

2.) They withdraw into stony silence with resentment brewing beneath the surface

3.) They become silent and anxious while magnifying what happened and the future consequences.

Yelling teaches your child that you are not in control of your emotions at that moment, and it makes them less likely to control their emotions in the future.

In addition, spanking and yelling can increase aggression and resentment, both physically and verbally. Severe yelling or emotional abuse through speaking can have a lifelong, devastating impact, especially on children below the age of 10. Please make sure to watch my next video on this topic – How To Discipline Your Child Without Yelling or Spanking.

Source:

"Longitudinal Links Between Father's and Mother's Harsh Verbal Discipline and Adolescents' Conduct Problems and Depressive Symptoms," by Ming-Te Wang and Sarah Kenny, in "Child Development," 9/13/13

Parenting - Is Spanking or Yelling A Better Way To Discipline Your Kids? - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discussing which discipline method is better - spanking or yelling? click here.

Violence - The Effects of Violent Movies on Children and Teens - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the effects of movie violence on children and teens and how parents can limit violent movies and maintain their relationship with their child - click here.

Many parents are concerned about the findings just published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, linking violence in movies to higher levels of aggression and violent behavior. Recognizing that many children love violent movies, parents are wondering how to gauge which movies their kids should be watching or if their kids should be seeing violence at all!

State of Development

Be aware that adolescent brains, when compared to adult brains, are especially vulnerable to what they see, hear, and experience. They are still building their beliefs about the world, about other people, and about themselves. Always remember that your teenager’s brain will continue to unfold and develop until their mid-twenties.

External Influences

Neuroscientists warn us that by the time the brain reaches adolescence, brain development is heavily governed by external influences. What the adolescent brain sees, it encodes and internalizes. As parents, you want their movies to include appropriate themes and stories of empowerment, virtuous beliefs, courage & persistence, and age appropriate romances.

So, how can you keep your relationship with your child intact while also keeping your child away from violent movies?

Risk Factors

Violence from children and teens is often correlated with predictors including neglect or abuse at home, bullying at school, and serious mental illness. However, showing your child a violent movie does not mean that they will automatically become violent. There are hundreds of factors that keep children from turning to violence including a loving and supportive family, the demonstration of the appropriate use of firearms, and mental health counseling. Make sure that your child has all of the facts and fully understands the responsibilities and consequences of violence and gun use.

Just Say No

While it is always difficult to tell a child that they cannot see a movie that all their peers are seeing, you will thank yourself in the long run for holding the line if you believe that the movie has too much violence. “No” is a complete sentence and telling your child “no” is not an invitation for negotiation. Children and teens need compassionate, thoughtfully explained limits from their parents who are emotionally responsible. The best thing you can do is to draw those boundaries long before the trip to the movie theater, and make sure your child knows that violent movies will be fewer and far between.

Sources:

"Gun Violence In PG-13 Films Tops Levels In R-Rated Movies" in USA Today, 11/11/13

Pediatrics, The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians

"The Primal Teen" by Barbara Strauch

Violence - Your Children and Violence In The Movies - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the recently published report from The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians about children and teens being influenced by violence in movies - click here.

Many parents are concerned about the findings just published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, linking violence in movies to higher levels of aggression and violent behavior.

Recognizing that many children love violent movies, parents are asking what effect can this movie violence have on their child?

Here are a few important points to keep in mind:

Weapons Effect

We do know that just seeing a weapon can increase levels of aggression and forceful behavior in certain people—what psychologists call the “weapon effect.” Studies clearly show that violence in movies can increase aggressive attitudes, values, and behavior.

Learning By Example

Watching an entire movie in which glamorous people you identify with or admire use guns may do several things: 1.) increase your comfort level with guns and gun violence, 2.) desensitize you to violent actions and gun violence, and 3.) decrease empathy and understanding for the victims of gun violence. Therefore as parents, it is advisable to limit your child’s exposure to gun violence in the movies.

Who To Watch

However, this finding does not mean that your child is going to automatically become violent if they are exposed to violence in the movies. There are hundreds of mitigating factors that would prevent them from becoming violent including a supportive family, the demonstration of the appropriate use of firearms, and the absence of significant mental health issues. The real vulnerability to violent imagery lies with children who are from neglectful or abusive families, who are bullied and marginalized at school, and who lack substantial psychological coping skills to deal with rejection and failure. These children often feel lost and the images of gun violence restore a sense of empowerment and control that is missing in their lives. These “at risk” kids are the ones we need to worry about.

Sources:

"Gun Violence In PG-13 Films Tops Levels In R-Rated Movies" in USA Today, 11/11/13

Pediatrics, The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians


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