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Amy Steele, LCSW, RPT – Nov. 29, 2019

In any sport, there are a number of skills that one must learn to be successful. The skill of being a good loser will take kids far in life, whether they play sports for one season or make it as a professional athlete. It is a skill that is used throughout all of life when disappointing things happen.

 A good loser accepts the loss in a way that shows respect for one’s self, both teams, the coaches and all of the other people involved. The seven tips below will help you improve your child’s ability to be a good loser and a good winner.

  • Start young.  Play board games with kids when they are little. Teach them that everyone wins and loses sometimes. End games by having everyone shake hands or do “Good Game” high fives to practice positive outcomes. 
  • When your child is upset about losing (at any age,) acknowledge that you understand it is disappointing to lose. You may have a child that is such a sore loser that you avoid games or anything competitive with them at all. While this may make it easier at the moment and avoid a tantrum, avoiding it would take away a great learning opportunity. Teaching your child to persevere through what they may see as a failure shows them they can get through hard things and that you will be with them as they do. You are building character, and each time you do this it will become easier for the child to handle it the next time.
  • Observe your own behavior to see if you and other adults in your child’s life are modeling good sportsmanship. The adults closest to a child (in particular the same-sex parent) are the people they look to the most as a model for their behavior. Do you make excuses for your own difficulties or when things don’t go your way?  Blame your boss when something goes wrong?  Yell at the coach or referees? Criticize your kid’s teacher in front of them?  How do you react when your team loses or your child doesn’t make a team? Decide what you can do to be a better example of a good loser for your child.
  • Expect your child to be responsible for their own actions and remind them that everyone has bad days and everyone makes mistakes – even coaches, referees, and teammates. Make your child accountable every time they have a bad attitude such as making excuses, blaming others, booing, or criticizing someone.
  • Encourage your child to watch how others act when they lose and use it as a teachable moment.
  • Teach your child to encourage their teammates and look for the positives.  Good sports and good teammates support and encourage each other.
  • Help your child bounce back from disappointments in games and sports, as this is good preparation for real life. 

As your child grows they will have the skills in place to help them handle many different kinds of loss, such as the loss of a job or a relationship.   It is likely they will turn to those who helped them handle a loss previously when they need help again. Be that person for them when they are young.

By Amy Steele, LCSW, LAC, RPT, February 12, 2019 –

Independence and self-reliance are valuable skills to equip children with as they grow. We want them to be able to take care of themselves and not have to rely on others meet their needs. 

To nurture and develop those skills we have to start early in childhood.  Starting as young as age 1 or 2, begin to give children small, simple tasks and encourage them in their efforts.  This takes consistency and day-to-day nurturing. It is not always easy and can sometimes be time consuming. 

Most parents can recall a time when doing something for their child was easier, quicker, or more peaceful than having the child do it.  Yet, each time we choose to do something for our child that they are capable of doing for themselves, we are taking away the chance for them to build confidence in their ability and learn important life skills on their way to independence and self-reliance.

Here are some tips for fostering independence in your child:

  • Consider opportunities. Identify tasks that are age-appropriate and safe (be sure to provide proper supervision when needed). Making a list of tasks can be helpful for you and your child.
  • Pre-plan to allow for extra time and the probability that there will be mistakes.  It’s easier for us to be calm and patient with the effort when we are not pressed for time.
  • Prioritize and go slow.  Pick one task at a time so your child isn’t overwhelmed.
  • Work together. Initially it may be good to share the task, especially if your child is resistant to the idea.
  • Give choices. Making choices is part of being independent. Allowing them to pick between two simple choices acceptable to you gives them pride and practice. (i.e. “Do you want to put the spoons or the forks out as we set the table?”)
  • Perfection is not the goal. Accept that it won’t be done as well as you could do it. If messes are made use it as another learning experience. Show your child how to clean it up with patience and understanding, assuring them that it happens to everyone.
  • Encourage problem solving. When questions come up, encourage them to come up with solutions to minor issues, even if they need to think about it a little, instead of rushing in and taking care of it for them.

Some appropriate tasks for children ages 2-3 include picking up toys and books, putting dirty laundry in the designated spot, throwing away trash, partially (working up to fully) dressing themselves, removing shoes and putting them away, and dusting with a sock on their hand. Kids ages 4-5 can make their bed, clean out things under their bed, feed pets, water plants, clear dishes from the table and wipe up their area.

At age 6-7 kids can sweep the floor, empty the dishwasher, gather trash from different rooms, fold clothes and towels and match socks.  By 8-9 years of age kids can walk the dog, bring empty garbage cans up from the curb, sweep the porch, put groceries away, and tackle simple cooking and baking with parental supervision. 

Encouraging independence at a young age, not doing for your child what they can do for themselves, will build confidence and self-reliance that they can build on as they grow.

By Amy Steele, LCSW – June 5, 2018 –

Surprisingly, the average age of a child the first time they see internet pornography is 11 years.  Kids don’t have to be looking for pornography; it is programmed to find them.

To think that it won’t happen to your child leaves them at risk for stumbling upon sexually-explicit material online (whether they are looking for it or not) that they are not developmentally able to handle, emotionally or mentally.

Tweens and teens are at the age of natural curiosity about sex. When presented with the opportunity and such easy access, many are choosing to view pornography – and doing it more than once.  Today’s porn content is drastically more graphic, violent, deviant and destructive than anything ever seen before.

Highly sexualized, violent material poses many risks for a developing brain.  In the adolescent years when brains are still developing, viewing porn can deform the pleasure centers of their brain.

Neurological research has found that pornography is particularly addictive because of the neuro-chemical release in the brain that occurs while viewing it.  For many youth, the euphoric “high” that occurs quickly develops into a coping style for escaping emotional distress.

Studies have shown that kids who viewed pornography for hours each week have less gray matter in their brain than those who did not view it.  This means there are fewer neurons and neuro-connectivity in the pleasure centers of the brain, leaving the brain craving more while making it harder for the same images to provide pleasure.

Therefore, young viewers seek more graphic and violent content, an indicator of addiction.  Males make up the majority of those addicted to pornography, but females are also addicted.

Youth that view pornography once a month or more are at a greater risk of developing depression, anxiety, sexually permissive attitudes, preoccupation with sex, inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, unrealistic ideas about sexual relationships, insecurities about body images in females and insecurities about sexual performance in males.

As an adult, they are more likely to be unfaithful to their spouse.  Fifty-six percent of divorce cases involve one party having obsessive interest in online pornography.  With the increase of internet pornography and pornography addictions, there has been an increase in violent sex crimes, an increase in child pornography, and sex trafficking is at an all-time high.

Parents, it’s time to let LOVE overpower the discomfort of discussing this topic. Talk to your tweens and teens about pornography.  Keep revisiting it; this is not a one-time conversation.

Look for teachable moments in the media and daily life.  Remind your child of your family values.  Tell kids where pornography may pop up online and what to do if they find it – turn it off and talk to a trusted adult.

Reassure them they will not be in trouble if they come to you right away.  Teach them about responsible online behavior and rules.  Establish house/family rules such as computers/laptops must be in main living areas; devices must be kept out of bedrooms; phones must be turned into parents at night for charging.  Block pop-ups on computers.

Most importantly: Frequently check kids’ phones, tablets and computers. Read their texts and emails.  Look at their pictures, social media and other apps.  This is not an invasion of privacy.  It is your responsibility as a parent to keep your tween or teen safe in the age of technology.

By Amy Steele, LCSW, Courier & Press, February 28, 2017 –

The pressure children feel from standardized testing can cause feelings of stress and anxiety.  While low levels of anxiety can motivate students to study and perform well, severe anxiety can make it difficult for a child to go about their daily activities.

Some students experience physical symptoms of anxiety such as stomachaches, headaches, feeling too hot or too cold, or feeling like their heart is beating rapidly.  Others experience emotional symptoms such as “blanking out,” having difficulty paying attention, or experiencing trouble thinking clearly.  If your child describes these symptoms, talk to their teacher and the school social worker or school counselor about ways to help them.

Start preparing your child emotionally by understanding their feelings.  Talk to them about their feelings about the upcoming test, listen for the level of confidence they seem to have, and ask them what about the test worries them.

Particularly during times of stress, children need extra comfort, nurturing and understanding to help them feel secure and confident.  Build time into the day to give them some one-on-one attention.

Encouraging your child to talk about how they feel and listening to them with empathy assures them their feelings are normal.  Let them know you have confidence in them and believe they can do it.  Help them rehearse positive thoughts and statements, such as “I’ll do my best” or “I’ll show what I know.”

Teach them ways to relax or stay calm before or during the test by practicing at home, possibly before bedtime.  Have the child take a slow deep breath while spelling out their name, one slow deep breath as they say or think each letter.  Another way to help them relax is to talk through and imagine a scenario where they go to school, have a good day and feel calm as they take the test and do well.

Remind your child of the strengths, talents, and personal qualities that make them special and unique. Make sure they know those qualities go far beyond what a standardized test can measure.  Be specific so they can remember these valued qualities when they need to remember them most.

Finally, express your unconditional love to your child.  This gives them confidence, security and a relational bond that is a great boost for their hearts and their brains.