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Help Your Child Be A Real-Life Hero: Studio 5

Help Your Child Be A Real-Life Hero

In a culture consumed with pop stars and super heroes, it’s hard to spot true heroes. Find out what real heroes are made of and how to help your child be a real life hero. Therapist, Julie Hanks, LCSW explains the difference between role models and heroes.


What do you think of when you hear the word “hero”? For many, the word “hero” has become synonymous with celebrities, inventors, sports figures, musicians, and other individuals with special gifts or powers, excellent performance, or other noteworthy accomplishment.

Social psychologist Phil Zimbardo, PhD, claims that as a society we’ve “dumbed down heroism”. Not every good, kind, generous, smart, talented, famous person is a “hero”. There is a difference between role models and heroes.

Helping children become heroes in their own life story

1) Redefine Hero

What is a hero? Heroes don’t have to have magical powers or be involved in monumental feats. Zimbardo defines a hero simply as “a person who acts on behalf of others or in defense of integrity or a moral cause” and involves these 4 parts:

  • Voluntarily action
  • In the service of others or moral cause
  • Involves personal risk
  • Without expectation of personal benefit

Last Christmas my 8-year-old son showed heroism in a simple, yet touching way, when he left this letter for Santa on Christmas Eve. While it’s a small gesture, it was the opportunity for me as a parent to celebrate those budding heroic qualities.

“Thanks for bringing presents, but iff you think I don’t need it than give it to people who doesn’t get presents”

2) Watch for Heroes Everywhere

Once you’ve redefined what a hero is, you can take note of every day heroes in your community, in your family, and literature and movies.

Disney’s animated movie “Mulan” is an entertaining movie, with lively characters, and it can also be a springboard for conversation with your children about the 4 parts of heroism. Here are a few questions you might want to ask your children.

What value or moral cause prompted Mulan to go to battle?

Why do you think Mulan volunteered to fight in her father’s place?’

What was Mulan personally risking by making the choice to join the army?

What are some values that are important to you?

Are there any situations where you can act like a hero?

Jason M. Robison posted this on Facebook, “We teach our four children that being a hero is rarely glamorous and very often unpopular. We keep our eyes wide open for examples in the community that we can point out to them.”

3) Encourage Social Awareness and Action

The greater more people who witness an emergency; the less likely anyone is to do something about the situation. This is called the bystander effect. Help your child to understand this tendency and encourage them to act. They have the power to change the group norm by taking action on behalf of someone.

Encourage your child and teen to speak out, and to even challenge authority, in defense of another or one of their core values, even if it’s not popular.

Our children and teens come up against opportunities every day to be heroes. It may be as simple as sitting next to a lonely classmate in the lunch, walking away from a group of friends when they start to gossip, or reporting an act of bullying that they witnessed on the playground.

On Facebook, Vickie Johnson De Blasio says “We teach our kids that a hero does their best to improve the lives of others, without looking for acknowledgement.”

4) Teach and Nurture Heroic Virtues

Talk about your family’s values and the importance of developing character. Cultivate integrity, courage, compassion and social awareness in your family life. Families are losing the oral tradition of storytelling, and technology is taking over conversation and reading times. Provide your child opportunities all have examples of heroic figures with qualities that children can emulate in your family history, in literature and in religious text.

I’ve often heard my neighbor and dear friend Rene tells her three young children, “You can do hard things.” That simple statement can help her children see themselves as standing for something greater than themselves. Another family member frequently asks his son daily, “Who’s life can you bless today?”

Sharing stories of heroic family members can help nurture heroic virtues in your child. In 1856, one of our distant family relatives, Ephriam K. Hanks, volunteered to rescue a group of the Mormon Pioneers who were starving and stranded in a bitter winter storm. When he heard about the plight of the Willie and Martin handcart companies he was ready to risk his own life to help bring them to the Salt Lake Valley.

5) Be a Hero

The best way to inspire and teach your child to cultivate the hero inside of them is to be a hero, to cultivate your own heroic nature. I often hear children and teens in my clinical practice complain about how their parents lecture too much. We can do better at living heroic qualities instead of simply talking about those qualities.

As an adolescent, I remember going with my dad on Sunday’s to visit widows in my church community and neighborhood. We took them food and sat and talked with them. As a young child, I thought it was a boring and a waste of time, but looking back now it was a powerful lesson on the ability to make a difference for someone else.

Get more information on Dr. Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project

Therapy For Kids Who Don’t Need It?: Quoted in Babble.com

Julie Anderson survived a mother’s worst nightmare — the death of a child. She took her 2 young children to therapy to deal with grief around the their youngest brother’s death, but continued to take her children if for therapy “check ins” through the years, even when things were going well.

Now is when they need to go to a therapist. Why? Because looming on the horizon is the terrible triumvirate of middle school, puberty, and high school. And because if you wait until there’s a problem, you might not be able to get your kid to talk to you (or anyone else) about it.”

Julie recently interviewed me to get a therapist’s point of view on taking your kids to therapy BEFORE they need one. Read what I have to say in Julie’s Babble.com article…

“Therapy for Kids Who Don’t Need It


Tuesday Tunes: Celebrating Mothers Playlist

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.  She never existed before.  The woman existed, but the mother, never.  A mother is something absolutely new.  ~Rajneesh

In honor of Mother’s Day I put together this custom playlist of songs written about my journey of motherhood — joy, pain, growth, wonder, exhaustion, delight, sorrow, empathy, loss,  humility….

Download “Celebrating Mothers” iTunes Playlist here

Here’s the run down of the playlist and a little bit of background on each song…

1-Make Enough of Me

Written at a time when the needs and demands of family and life felt crushing. This song is a prayer born out of my inadequacy and desperate need for  strength beyond my own.

2-Angels

Dedicated to my own mother, Linda, and written after my parents divorce, I hoped to convey my gratitude for her loving care during my childhood, and let her know that all of the little things she did for me and her other 8 children mattered.

3-Healing

Written when my oldest children were still in elementary school as I came to the realization that while I could soothe and calm all of their worries and hurts, the time would soon come where they would need a “healing beyond me”.

4-Open Apology

Before my children became teens I wrote this song of apology for all the mistake I’ve made, and will continue to make. I wanted to apologize before they realized my humanness and to reassure them that I am well aware of my shortcomings as a mother.

5-The Child in Me

When my oldest son was a toddler, it found myself reliving certain emotions and experiences of my own childhood. At the same time, I was in grad school studying about child development, psychology, therapy and realized that the best tool to get in touch with my “inner child” was asleep in my arms.

6-Home

“You are my resting place. You are my saving grace. You are the arms where I belong.” We all want and need a home.

7-One Child

There’s a huge space between our 2nd & 3rd children — 9 years.  We were ready for another baby and the anticipation and celebrating was so wonderful. Then my thoughts turned to another mother — Mary. What kind of anticipation did she have waiting to hold the Son of God?

8-Hope Enough For Two

Part of family life is leaning on each other and loaning our own strength to help our loved ones get through painful times. “I’ve got hope enough for two. Let me offer faith to you. I know there’s a God in the heavens. And I know that he’ll see you through. And He’s got, he’s got hope and faith in you.”

9-Michelle

The sudden death of my friend Tracy’s little sister, Michelle, inspired this song. I wrote it before I had my own children, but coming from a close family of many siblings I tried to imagine the difficult road ahead in dealing with the loss of a young sister.

10-Sometimes He Calms The Storm

It’s the daily parenting experiences teach me more about the nature of God and his relationship with his children –like when a little one is scared at night and needs comfort. I am starting to see that in every small interaction with my children I am the parent AND the child.

Ask Julie: How Do I Tell My Daughter She was Conceived Before Marriage?

Q: What would be the best age/time/scenario to tell our daughter that she was conceived out of marriage? We are a strong religious family and will teach as we were taught, no sexual relations outside of marriage. How can you get your children to learn from your mistakes instead of hold them against you and use them as excuses to experiment in their own lives? What is the best way to tell her and the rest of the children we have had? It’s something I would rather disclose to her when we choose, rather than have it be something they “figure out” or are told by someone else. Not only that, but I worry that she will think we only got married because of her. This is something I would like to put off as long as possible, but don’t want her to feel we lied or kept things from her. Thanks!!

A: The best way to approach this delicate subject is to first come to terms with your own feelings about conceiving a child before marriage. If you carry shame or guilt, that will likely be passed on to your children. It’s important to work toward forgiving yourself for your actions and developing an ease in talking about your past with your children.

Next, I suggest that you allow the conversations with your children to unfold naturally in the course of daily life. For example, if you’re looking at wedding pictures with your oldest child you might say, “Did you know that you were at our wedding? You were growing inside of me when we got married.” Often, parents think that they need to have a big “sit down – we need to talk” conversation with their child and make an official announcement of family “secrets”. This approach can sometimes be more traumatic than the actual content of the conversation because parents often call an official meeting when the child is in trouble, or the parent is anxious about talking about an uncomfortable subject.

Since I’m not sure how old your daughter is, it’s difficult to give specific advice. However, when your daughter and your other children become teens, the obvious moral issues of your past behavior will come into question by them and require more complex conversations. Again, your comfort level in talking about the fact that you and your husband had sex before marriage will lead the way in the conversations. This conversation is an amazing opportunity to open up important discussions with your teen about repentance, choices and consequences, and how life isn’t as black and white as it is seems in childhood. An important part of the message will be admitting to making a choice that went against your values, that their were consequences, and how you have chosen to handle the the consequences in positive ways. If you’d like to write back with your daughter’s specific age, and a few more details on how you’ve handled this issue so far, I’d be happy to continue this discussion.

Take good care of you and yours!

Send me your love & relationship questions here!

Self & relationship expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is wife of 22 years and mother of 4, a licensed psychotherapist, a popular media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Watch Julie on KSL TV’s Studio 5, listen on B98.7 radio, and read her national advice columns on Psych Central, and Latter-day Woman Magazine.

Your Kids AND Your Marriage – Don’t Neglect Your Marriage: SheKnows

Don’t Neglect Your Marriage

Get some practical tips on how to balance taking care of your children AND your marriage. I was recently interview by SheKnows.com for this article on balancing kids and marriage and it just posted online today. Here are a few snippets from the article (It’s always nice when the writer makes me sound smarter and more articulate than I am).

“The role of ‘mother’ is so loaded with expectations that it’s easy to get lost in the relentless day-to-day demands of motherhood and lose the [other] parts of yourself.”

“A warm, loving marriage relationship helps children feel emotionally safe and provides a template of what a marriage is,” says Hanks. “It gives the child the hope that a wonderful adult life awaits them and that they will be able to give and receive love.”

Click the link below to read the entire article.

“Your Kids AND Your Marriage: Both Are Important”


How do you balance caring for your marriage AND kids???

How To Talk To Your Child About Natural Disasters

I had a great chat with Todd and Erin this morning at B98.7 radio about how to help your child cope with the news coverage about the natural disasters in Japan and the general uncertainty in the world today.  Best part of all was that I got to hold their new baby daughter!

(Click on the link below to open the link in Quicktime)

How to talk with your child about natural disasters

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Self & relationship expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is wife of 22 years and mother of 4, a licensed therapist, a popular media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Listen to Julie’s podcast You and Yours , on B98.7 radio as the Bee’s Family Counselor, and read her national advice columns on Psych Central and Latter-day Woman Magazine

How Old Is Too Old For A Pacifier?: Quoted in LA Times

Yesterday, I was asked to comment as a “family and parenting expert” for an LA Times article on Suri Cruise’s (daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes) still sucking on a pacifier in public at nearly 5 years old…

Read the LA Times Article

Join in the conversation on my Facebook page!

What do you think about 4-5 year olds using pacifiers? I’d love to hear your comments below (email address will be kept private).

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Self & relationship expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is wife of 22 years and mother of 4, a licensed psychotherapist, a popular media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Watch Julie on KSL TV’s Studio 5, listen on B98.7 radio, and read her national advice columns on Psych Central, and Latter-day Woman Magazine.

Ask Julie: How Do I Tell My Daughter About Her Dad’s Past?

Q: I have a 6 1/2 year old daughter. My husband was married and divorced before and has 2 children. We

haven’t told her any lies about anything but we haven’t told her the “whole” story about everything.

I didn’t really think she was old enough to need to know or understand. I also want to preserve her innocence as well as foundation about her parent’s marriage. She is getting older now though, and obviously seeing more; her brothers are rarely with us so she knows they have another mom and things like that. I don’t know what or how to tell her; I am just terrified that it will shatter her reality of what her life is and should be to know her Dad was married to someone else before. I know she doesn’t need any details, but she will be asking more questions, and I really don’t know what to say. I know this was a very long question but any help or advice you could give me would be so appreciated. I wish I could come see you for counseling but I do not have the means to do that. Thank you for your emails and advice that you give out to me and others who are in the same situation.

A:  She may not be as traumatized as you think by knowing that her dad was married before, as long as you and your husband have made peace with his past.

Was there some kind of behavior on her dad’s part that led to the divorce like a affair or addiction or abuse in her dad’s past that you’re trying to shield her from? More important than saying the right things to your daughter is to examine your own feelings about the situation. I wonder if you’re projecting your own fears or insecurities about your husband’s previous marriage and children with another woman onto your daughter. Your daughter will take the emotional cues from you on how to think and feel about this situation. The more you can accept your husband’s past, the better your daughter will be able to accept it and integrate it into her life story in a healthy way.

My advice is for you and your husband to talk to your daughter about his past marriage in an honest, straightforward, and simple way. It might sound something like this, “Dad and I love each other very much and we love you. Before we got married, your Dad was married to ____ and they had your brothers. Their marriage ended. Dad and I found each other and fell in love and had you – one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It might be kind of hard to understand this grown up stuff but if you have any questions about it, you can always come to me and Dad.”

Thanks for your email and feel free to drop me a note and let me know how the conversations go! Take good care of you and yours.

Have a question for me? Send me your family relationship and emotional health questions here!

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Self & relationship expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is wife of 22 years and mother of 4, a licensed therapist, a popular media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Listen to Julie’s podcast You and Yours , on B98.7 radio as the Bee’s Family Counselor, and read her national advice columns on Psych Central, and Latter-day Woman Magazine

How To Stop Overreacting & Keep Your Cool: Studio 5

Over-reacting is when your emotional response doesn’t match the current relationship situation. There are general types two kinds of overreactions: external and internal. External overreactions are visible responses that others can see. For example lashing out in anger, throwing your hands up and walking away from a situation.  Internal overreactions are emotional responses that remain inside of you that others may or may not be aware of.  Examples of internal overreactions are replaying over a situation over and over in your head wondering if you said the right thing, or overanalyzing a comment made by a friend or loved one.

In her book “Stop Overreacting” author Dr. Judith P. Siegel suggests asking yourself the following questions to assess whether you or not you have a problem with overreacting:

Do you often:

  • Regret things you say in the heat of emotion?
  • Lash out at loved ones?
  • Have to apologize to others for your actions or words?
  • Feel surprised at your seemingly uncontrollable reactions?
  • Assume the worst about people and situations?
  • Withdraw when things get emotionally overwhelming?

Dr. Siegel also identifies 4 general triggers for emotional overreactions:

  • Envy – when someone gets something we want and we think we deserve
  • Rejection – humans are hard-wired to need connection and inclusion with others and exclusion triggers same brain receptors as physical pain.
  • Criticism – universal need to be approved of and accepted
  • Control – desire to get what we want and protect what’s important to us

How to stop overreacting:

1-Don’t neglect the basics

Sleep deprivation, going too long without food or water, and feeling overly stressed leave your mind and body vulnerable to exaggerated responses. This seems like a no-brainer, but for many women in the name of “taking care of others” they let their own basic self-care slip and ironically, it is their loved ones who are likely to end up on the receiving end of their emotional overreaction.

2-Tune in & name it

A stiff neck, pit in stomach, pounding heart, tense muscles can all be signs that you’re in danger of overreacting, of being hijacked by your emotions. Becoming more aware of physical cues actually helps you to stay ahead of, and in control of your response. Naming your feeling activate both sides of your brain allowing you to reflect on your situation instead of just reacting to it.

Recently, my teen daughter was expressing some intense hurt feelings about our relationship. While she was talking, I noticed a hot feeling rising in my stomach, and defensive thoughts.  Tuning in to my own body allowed me to slow down my own response so I could hear what she was saying and respond calmly.

3-Breathe before responding

When you feel like flying off the handle take a deep breath. Deep breathing slows down your fight or flight response and allows you to calm your nervous system and choose a more thoughtful and productive response.

Try taking a deep breath next time someone cuts you off in traffic. In my recent Facebook poll, overreacting while driving was the most commonly cited scenario for overreacting. Just imagine if all drivers took a breath before responding making hand-gestures, or yelling obscenities, the world would be a kinder place.

4-Put a positive spin on it

Once you’ve identified what’s going on in your body, you can intervene in your thoughts. When we have intense emotions it’s easy to go to a worst-case scenario as an explanation for whatever you’re reacting to. “They’ve never liked me” or “She always criticizes me”. Watch for all-or-nothing words like “always” and “never” as clues that you’re heading toward a worst-case scenario.

If someone offends you consider the possibility that the insult is not about you. Maybe the neighbor who snapped at you was just given a pay cut at work and feeling discouraged, or the person who cut you off in traffic is rushing to the hospital to see the birth of his first child. Make up a back-story that makes sense and puts a positive spin about whatever is triggering your emotional response.

5-Identify and resolve emotional “leftovers”

Notice patterns in your overreactions. If you find yourself revisiting a feeling or situation over and over again, there is likely a historical component to it that is being triggered that needs to be addressed.

In my therapy practice, I worked with beautiful, smart women who often became tearful and depressed when she heard about friends getting together without her.  She felt extremely insecure and rejected.  Her heightened sensitivity to being excluded by other women in her neighbor, even though she had many friends and was usually included in social gatherings was fueled by emotional “leftovers” in her past. She felt emotionally abandoned by her parents, ostracized by peers when she was young, which heightened her sensitivity to rejection as an adult. Through therapy I helped her to heal the earlier relationship wounds so she can be free to respond more clearly to present social situations.

Not all intense responses are overreactions

It’s important to note that not all intense emotional responses are overreactions. The distinction is whether your response matches the situation. In some instances, a quick and extreme response is necessary to protect our loved ones or ourselves.  I recall a time years ago when my oldest child son was a toddler riding his trike down the street. He was riding ahead of me because I was pregnant and a lot slower than usual. As I noticed a car slowing backing out of a driveway as my son was approaching the driveway I found myself sprinting toward the car, screaming at the top of my lungs with arms flailing frantically as I tried to get the driver’s attention and avoid a horrible tragedy. Luckily, the driver noticed me and stopped her car just short of my son. My exaggerated response was necessary to save his life and was not an overreaction.

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy.  Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.

How to Assess Your Child’s Self-esteem: Studio 5

When to worry about your child and how to help!

Self-esteem, a popular construct used to describe an individual’s inner experience, has two parts: how you define yourself, and how you evaluate yourself. It’s easier to evaluate your own experience than someone else’s subjective experience, even your own child. Here are some signs of healthy self-esteem, some examples of when you should be concerned about your child’s self-esteem, and how you can help them develop healthy self-esteem.

Hallmarks of healthy self-esteem in children and teens:

Competence

is possessing skills to face life challenges at their developmental stage.
Important skills for young children are basic social skills to get along with peers, to work out disagreements, or new activities like to learning to throw a football, or how to read. For adolescents, top skills are having social skills to navigate the complexities dating relationships or development of study skills to succeed in school.

Confidence

is belief in one’s self, one’s abilities, and in one’s experience. The felt assurance he or she is valuable and capable. Confidence is being open to new experiences, and willing to risk looking silly.

For example, my 8-year-old son went skiing for the first time last month. While he was a bit nervous, after only an hour he was skiing without the constant help of my husband. After a few hours was skiing on his own and enjoying himself.

Connection

is the ability to feel close to family and friends, to give and receive affection, to share thoughts and emotions, and to seek comfort and help when distressed. Empathy for others and for their own experiences is easily felt and expressed.
In my therapy practice, I have seen hundreds of children and adolescence who look exceptional on the outside – straight A’s, leaders at school, beautiful, athletic, but who are feeling worthless inside. Parents are baffled by their child’s internal pain because they “look fine” and “have so much going for them”. What many of these parents fail to realize is their child’s need for a genuine emotional connection with their parent and for the skills and permission to say, “I don’t want to play this sport”, or “Dad, it hurts me when you yell at me”, not just praise for their outstanding performance.

Coping skills

are the ability to handle a variety of situations and emotions and to accept and learn from mistakes without self-doubt, self-loathing, and excessive guilt. It’s also the ability to experience a full-range of emotions, find healthy expression of emotions, and to and bounce back from disappointments, and to take responsibility for choices without blaming others.

When should you worry about your child’s self-esteem?

1- Excessive focus on performance

In an effort to build self-esteem, it’s common for parents to push a child to excel in a particular sport, or academic endeavor, musical instrument, or to notice and praise a particular personality trait over and over. If your son’s self-definition is based on being a star baseball player, what happens if he doesn’t make the high school team? If your daughter labels herself as “the smart one” and gets a C in chemistry, it may shake her self-esteem. If your child self identifies himself as “the nice kid”, and then feels intense anger, he may deny the anger instead learning from it and finding a healthy was to express it.

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