Tag Archive for: Mary Haas

By Mary Haas, LSW – April 22, 2021 –

Whether we like it or not, we are constant role models to our kids. Our children are always watching our actions and listening to our words. What a high pressure job to have!

There are times when we are not the best parents, but this is to be expected. We are human just like our kids. As parents, we often make mistakes and respond negatively to everyday stressors. Although life can occasionally become overwhelming, it’s important to remember that we always have a choice as to how we respond to frustrating situations.

Healthy management of stress is an essential skill for children to develop. If we pretend that nothing flusters us we lose an opportunity to guide our child with helpful and productive methods to manage stress and discomfort. Our actions and choices as parents are the best learning tools for our children.

One of the key elements in helping developing adolescents is providing the space for open and honest communication. This means remaining calm even if what we hear is hard to swallow or causes us some discomfort. Honesty is crucial, because our kids can sense when we are faking emotions or not being genuine in conversation, just as we can sense it in them.

When difficult conversations with your teen arise, it is okay to say something like, “Right now, I’m so upset that I can’t make decisions. I want to think this through instead of reacting.” Or maybe something like, “We’ll talk when I’m ready. I need to calm down first.” Then, go take care of yourself. Take the time to process your thoughts and feelings. Once you are ready you can come back ready to support your teen.

Remaining calm is easy in theory, but it can be a lot harder in practice. Calmness is crucial, however. A calm response strategically positions us to have the influence our children need as we guide them toward adulthood.

By the time young people reach late adolescence, they still do not have the ability to make decisions nearly as well as adults because their brains are still developing. When we use calm responses and openness, we create the opportunity for logical problem solving. If we yell and scream, we are signaling to our child the need for an emotional defense by tapping into the survival part of their brain.

By providing calmness in an intense situation, we allow our child to develop and practice thoughtful plans to carry into challenging situations. We allow our adolescent to reflectively link short and long-term consequences to their choices.

Although we may not agree with our teen or approve of the choices they make, we can still express love and empathy. When we get upset with them, it is because of how deeply we love them. Their radically developing brains need reassurance that they are unconditionally loved as their emotional sensors are maturing and sensitive to the reactions of others.

When we practice calmness in our parenting, we become parents who are more willing to work together with our teen. Young people talk to adults who listen. We have a tough job on our hands raising a teen, and although we will never be perfect, we can work to become trusted partners with our child.

By Mary Haas, LSW -January 20, 2021-

Have you ever been nervous going into a job interview? What about paying bills on time, meeting goals at work, or questioning whether we are doing this whole parenting thing right?

Being an adult is hard! Trying to raise kids and do this whole “life thing” can feel overwhelming at times. It can be hard to imagine that our kids might be having worries of their own.

Sometimes even the best parents can overlook a child’s anxieties and fears. However, their little worries are just as real as our adult worries! It is important that we take a closer look into these worries and how to respond to them.

Although we can’t go back in time and feel every anxious moment or overwhelming feeling that came with our childhood, we can acknowledge that throughout our life anxiety can be a steady constant for many of us.

So, what exactly does anxiety look like for a child? How do we respond?

It is important to realize that anxiety can look different for each child; however, there are many common stressors that children experience. Three common worries found in children are the pressures of school, family, and peers. Children may worry about tests, grades, or being called on in class. They might worry about a parent working themselves too hard, a separation within the family, or not getting their needs met. These worries can stem from feeling like they don’t fit in with others to bullying or not having a friend they can trust.

Whatever these fears may look like, you can help! Find out what is on your child’s mind. By being available and expressing interest in your kids’ day-to-day lives, you give them the opportunity to share how they think and feel. If your child seems to be worried about something, ask them about it! Encourage your child to put what is bothering them into words. This helps them verbalize specific details about their feelings, which can help you pinpoint the source of the anxiety they are experiencing.

Another way to help children feel supported and understood is by keeping things in perspective. Sometimes kids worry about big life stuff such as war, famine, and diseases. This is where parents can assure children that what they are feeling is very real while also expressing that adults are working to solve these big issues. Without minimizing feelings, point out that many problems are temporary and solvable. Remind your child there will be better days and opportunities ahead. By teaching children to keep problems in perspective, we can help lessen their worry. This helps strengthen our children with resilience and optimism.

Perhaps one of the best ways we can relieve our children’s anxiety is by being positive role models. The most influential lessons we teach our kids are the ones we demonstrate. Our responses to our own worries, stressors, and frustrations can provide an opportunity to teach our kids how to deal with everyday challenges.

If we practice looking on the bright side of our own situations and voice optimistic thoughts, our children can learn to follow suit. When our adult life worries come into play, we can work on remaining positive and having confidence that these problems are temporary and tomorrow is another day.

By Mary Haas, MSW – July 23, 2019

Change is hard for most of us. We typically don’t welcome change fearlessly with arms wide open. Transitions are sometimes our greatest fear and can provoke anxiety, even in adults.

When faced with changing schools, our child can share these same fears. Even though change is inevitably a part of our lives, it is rarely easy.

When transferring schools and changing educational environments, our children face not only new school buildings but also new faces, new routines, and many new adjustments. As parents, we need to do our best to combat their fears and anxieties to help make their transition as smooth as possible.

Make sure changing schools is the most appropriate option. If other options are available, weigh all of the choices and be sure this is the best thing to do for your child.  

Communication is important, because it is what connects us to our nervous child as they tackle this big life change. Talking to your child early and often throughout the transition will help make each step less scary and confusing.

As parents, it is important to remember that we are changing our child’s whole environment, disrupting their friendships and relationships, and taking away their familiar place of learning.

Because of these major life changes, it is crucial to include your child in the open discussion process. If possible, let your child be part of the decision-making process regarding which school they will attend or when the transition will take place. The more decisions they can be part of, the more they will feel in control of the situation.

Validate your child’s feelings about changing schools, including all of the things they are sad about leaving behind and all of the things they are anxious about going into. Show them that you are standing alongside them and support them the whole way. Communicating, validating, and nurturing this change can make all the difference in their emotional transition.

Making time to get to know the new teachers and staff ahead of the move to the new school can be an added support for both you and your child. This can be a chance for you to discuss any concerns or questions you may have regarding the school.

This is also the time to for them to get to know your child and to talk about your student’s needs to the people who will care for them throughout each day.

Another great way for your child to get involved in their new school is to join extracurricular activities. If your child is old enough they can try to join athletic teams such as soccer, basketball or perhaps other types of activities such as the debate or drama club.  

Getting involved will help your child connect with other peers that share the same interests. This can create friendships and help your child develop a sense of belonging to the school.

As a parent you can get involved by joining the PTA and attending school meetings. Become friends with other parents and plan play dates if your children are young.

Together with these tips and objectives, you can ease your child’s transition into a change of hope and a bright new beginning at a new school.

Yes, changing schools can be scary, but it can also be a wonderful new beginning in a child’s life.