Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Skill in Our Kids’ Tech Saturated World

Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Skill in Our Kids’ Tech Saturated World

By Kaitlin Harker 

One of my brothers has always struggled to control his emotions, especially when he gets angry. In fifth grade, he got into a fistfight at his elementary school. He was immediately sent to the principal’s office and he suffered the consequences. When we talked to him about what had happened, he said that he was trying to defend someone who was getting bullied. While my brother was trying to do the right thing, he went about it the wrong way. My brother had not yet learned how to appropriately handle his emotions. Have similar things happened to your children? Have they yelled or said unkind words? Did they not know how to handle or respond to what they were feeling? 

What is Emotional Intelligence? 

Technology has begun to negatively affect how our children learn and exercise emotional intelligence. Video games and social media teach our children that it is okay to lash out, say unkind words, or express negative feelings. Kids’ emotional intelligence is being hindered by screens and other media in our world today. To help combat the technology of today, it is crucial that we teach our children about emotional intelligence. 

According to HelpGuide, an online resource that provides information and resources on mental health, emotional intelligence is, “…the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.” Emotional intelligence is something that all individuals must learn if they are to be successful in relationships and in life. 

Why Should We Promote it in Our Children? 

Along with teaching our children about emotional intelligence, it is important that we promote it in our children’s lives. Teaching and promoting emotional intelligence will help our children to better understand how they are feeling and how to manage those feelings. When situations arise like the example above, our children will be better prepared to handle those experiences appropriately. As we better help our children understand and positively regulate their emotions, they will grow as individuals and learn more about themselves and their emotions. 

How Do We Promote it? 

There are several things that we can do as parents to help our children learn and practice emotional intelligence. Most of these things have to do with helping our children become self-aware. We can ask our children questions that help identify what they are feeling and what is causing that feeling. 

Three questions to ask our children:

  1. How are you feeling today? 
  2. Why are you feeling that way? Did something cause you to feel that way? 
  3. How are we going to handle that emotion(s) today? 

We can also role-play with our children to help prepare them for when difficult situations arise.

Role-Play Guidelines: 

When it comes to role-playing, it is important that you and your child communicate and know that you are going to be acting as a different person. Have your child act as themselves and you will act as another individual. You can act as a student, friend, or sibling. Pretend that something happened and it upset your child. Have them practice talking to you and have them rehearse what they would say. 

Relax and Breathe 

 As parents, we can also teach our children how to relax and breathe through trying situations. These two techniques will help your children calm down and continue forward with a clearer mind. 

  1. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and count to ten. Once you have reached ten, slowly release your breath and open your eyes. Repeat three to five times. 
  2. Start by squeezing your toes and slowly work your way up your body. Squeeze each muscle as you work upwards from your toes. Once your whole body is tense, slowly release from the top of your body to the bottom. Repeat three to five times. 

As we teach our children how to understand their emotions and properly handle them, we are creating stronger, more resilient, and more understanding children. Check out our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child for great activities, discussions, and questions to help you strengthen your child emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually, and intellectually. Another fantastic book is Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age, a fantastic resource with 30 family night discussions. Timely topics include changing technology, AI, social media, healthy sexuality, integrity, overcoming fears, finding real joy, and so much more. 

Citations: 

Segal, Jeanne, et al. “Improving Emotional Intelligence (EQ).” HelpGuide.org, 1 June 2022, 

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/emotional-intelligence-eq.htm.

Kaitlin Harker is a senior at Brigham Young University Idaho and will be graduating next April with a degree in English. She has been married to her best friend for over a year and they have a husky named Osha. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, being outside, and reading mystery novels. 

*There are affiliate links in this article. Any small financial gain from these links goes toward maintaining our website.

Understanding Gender Identity Terminology: A Guide for Parents

Understanding Gender Identity Terminology: A Guide for Parents

With so many different definitions and terminology for gender identity, sexual orientation, and prounouns out there, it can be easy to get lost. You may even wonder if all these identities really mean anything. Whether you agree with the idea of choosing one’s gender or not, it is helpful for every parent to keep up with the concerns, trends, and shifts in societal norms and language.

In The End of Gender written by sex neuroscientist Debroah Soh says, “With the number of genders increasing exponentially by the day, it’s hard to stay on top of things. You’ve likely heard that some people identify as both genders or neither, and that others have a gender that alternates from when they wake up until they go to sleep. One BBC film used to educate school children during healthy class suggests that there are more than 100 gender identities” (Soh, 2021).

You might be wondering, what does gender identity even mean? It’s often described as being a person’s personal sense of one’s own gender. Sometimes, gender identity can correlate with the sex they were assgined at birth (male or female) or sometimes their gender identity can differ from their assigned sex at birth. 

Your children might be more familiar with these terms than you are. In order to be fully inclusive, educated, and up to date, it’s important to do research. Good thing for you, we did all the research and compiled a list of terminology/definitions so you don’t have to!

Remember, gender can be complex and people are defining themselves in new and different ways. To gain a deeper understanding of gender identities, have an open mind and be respectful. Some terms may mean different things to different people. There may be certain terms some people may not like to use/call themselves and some terms that that person would prefer to use/call themselves. You can’t assume someone’s gender identity based on appearance, stereotype, or social norms. If you’re afraid of making a mistake, fear not! If you’re ever wondering what someone would prefer to be called, it is best to ask the person. Basically, by being practical and treating others how you want to be treated everyone can feel respected and supported. 

Let’s start with explaining what each letter means in the abbreviation LGBTQIA+

L – Lesbian =  a female who is sexually/romantically oreinted towards another female.

G – Gay = anyone who is attracted to their same gender at birth.

B – Bisexual = a person who is attracted to both males and females.

T – Trans, Transexual, or Transgender: 

Trans – an inclusive term for anyone whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth.

Transexual – can mean someone transitioning from one sex to another using surgery or medical treatments; not in common usage

Transgender – term for someone who identifies as a different gender than what was assigned on their birth certificate. 

Q – Queer = an inclusive term for every sexual orientation, gender identity, and pronouns. It’s a unique celebration of not molding to social norms

I – Intersex = used for individuals who don’t fit into specific gender norms of woman or man; can also be used for those with internal and external reproductive anatomy that aren’t biologically typical.

A – Asexual = uses for those who don’t feel sexual attraction to either sex or that don’t feel romantic attraction in the typical way.

+ – All other queer communities such as non-binary, genderfluid, pansexual, etc. which will all be described below. 

Gender Identities

Thank you to HealthLine and Penn State University for their helpful guides that helped create this list.

A-D

Agender = refers to those who do not identify as any gender at all

AFAB = Acronym meaning “assigned female at birth.” 

AMAB = Acronym meaning “assigned male at birth.” This is important because many trans people use them as a way to talk about their gender identity without being pinned down to more essentialist narratives about their “sex” or what gender they “used to be”.

Aliagender = A nonbinary gender identity that doesn’t fit into existing gender schemas or constructs.

Androgyne/Androgynous = Someone who has a gender presentation or identity that’s gender-neutral, androgynous, or has both masculine and feminine characteristics.

Aporagender = Both an umbrella term and nonbinary gender identity describing the experience of having a specific gender that’s different from man, woman, or any combination of the two.

Bigender/Trigender/Pangender = People who feel they are two, three, or all genders. They may shift between these genders or be all of them at the same time.

Binarism = Generally, binarism refers to the gender systems and schemas that are based on the existence of two opposing parts, such as man/woman or masculine/feminine. More specifically, binarism is a type of sexism that erases ethnic or culture-specific nonbinary gender roles and identities.

Boi (pronounced boy) = 1. A female-bodied person who expresses or presents themselves in a culturally/stereotypically masculine, particularly boyish way. 2. One who enjoys being perceived as a young male and intentionally identifies with “boy” rather than “man.”

Butch: A masculine gender expression which can be used to describe people of any gender. Butch can also be a gender identity to some.

CAFAB/CAMAB: Coercively assigned female at birth and coercively assigned male at birth respectively. These terms refer to what gender intersex people are assigned at birth and reflect the specific way that intersex people are coerced into one of two limited gender categories which attempt to erase their difference. These terms have been co-opted by trans people but this needs to stop as these are intersex specific terms.

Cisgender = A term used to describe people who exclusively identify with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth. i.e. if they were born female, they identify as female.

Cishet = A term that refers to someone who is both cisgender and heterosexual.

Demiboy = This nonbinary gender identity describes someone who partially identifies with being a boy, man, or masculine. The term demiboy tells you about someone’s gender identity but doesn’t convey any information about the sex or gender assigned to someone at birth. A demiboy can be cisgender or trans.

Demigirl = This nonbinary gender identity describes someone who partially identifies with being a girl, woman, womxn, or feminine. The term demigirl tells you about someone’s gender identity but doesn’t convey any information about the sex or gender assigned to someone at birth. A demigirl can be cisgender or trans.

Demigender = This umbrella term typically includes nonbinary gender identities and uses the prefix “demi-” to indicate the experience of having a partial identification or connection to a particular gender.This may include: demigirl, demiboy, demienby, demitrans.

Demisexual = describes someone who requires an emotional bond to form a sexual attraction.

Dyadic = This describes people who have sex characteristics — such as chromosomes, hormones, internal organs, or anatomy — that can be easily categorized into the binary sex framework of male or female. It means people who aren’t intersex.

E-H

Feminine-of-center = This describes people who experience their gender as feminine or femme. Some feminine-of-center people also identify with the word “woman,” but others don’t. The term feminine-of-center tells you about someone’s gender identity but doesn’t convey any information about the sex or gender assigned to them at birth.

Feminine-presenting = This describes people who have a gender expression or presentation that they or others categorize as feminine. Feminine-presenting is a term that captures the part of someone’s gender that’s shown externally, either through aspects of their style, appearance, physical traits, mannerisms, or body language. This term doesn’t necessarily indicate anything about the way someone identifies their gender or the gender or sex assigned to them at birth.

Femme = This is a label for a gender identity or expression that describes someone with a gender that is or leans toward feminine. Some femmes also identify with the term “woman,” while many others don’t. Femme indicates the way someone experiences or expresses their gender and doesn’t provide any information about the gender or sex assigned to them at birth.

Female-to-male (FTM) = This term is most commonly used to refer to trans males, trans men, and some transmasculine people who were assigned female at birth. It’s important to only use this term if someone wants to be referred to this way, as some trans men and transmasculine people use terms that don’t include or indicate the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender apathetic = This term describes someone who doesn’t strongly identify with any gender or with any gender labels. Some gender apathetic people also use terms that indicate their relationship with the sex or gender assigned to them at birth — such as cis apathetic or trans apathetic — while others don’t. Generally, people who are gender apathetic display an attitude of flexibility, openness, and “not caring” about how gender identity or presentation is perceived and labeled by others.

Gender binary = Also known as gender binarism, this term refers to gender classification systems — whether cultural, legal, structural, or social — that organize gender or sex into two mutually exclusive categories such man/woman or masculine/feminine.

Gender expansive = An umbrella term that’s used to refer to people who subvert or don’t conform to society’s dominant view of gender. This could include trans people, nonbinary people, people who are gender nonconforming, and more.

Genderless = A term very similar to agender but sometimes with more of a focus on not having a gender.

Gender-neutral pronouns = These pronouns aren’t stereotypically or culturally categorized as masculine or feminine or for men or women. Gender-neutral pronouns are used by both cisgender and transgender individuals as a way to affirm and convey important information about who they are and how they want to be referred to.

Examples include:

they/them/theirs

ze/hir/hirs

ze/zir/zirs

xe/xem/xyrs

Gender nonconforming = This term is used to describe people with a gender expression or presentation that’s different from cultural or social stereotypes associated with the person’s perceived or assigned gender or sex. Gender nonconforming isn’t a gender identity, though some people do self-identify using this term. It doesn’t convey any information about the way someone experiences gender internally. More accurately, gender nonconforming is a term used to describe physical traits in relation to socially and culturally defined gender categories. People of any gender — cis, trans, or nonbinary — can be gender nonconforming.

Gender normative = A term used to describe gender traits or identities that are perceived to fall within social norms and expectations.

Gender questioning = A person who’s questioning one or multiple aspects of their gender, such as their gender identity or expression.

Gender variant = Similar to gender nonconforming, gender variant is an umbrella term used to describe people with a gender identity, expression, or presentation that’s different from the perceived social norm or dominant group. Some people dislike this term because of its potential to perpetuate misinformation and negative stigma about noncisgender gender identities and nonconforming presentation being less “normal” or naturally occurring.

Genderfluid = This label is used to describe gender identity or expression. It involves the experience of moving between genders or having a gender that changes over a particular period of time. For example, from moment to moment, day to day, month to month, year to year, or decade to decade.

Genderqueer =This nonbinary gender identity and term describes someone with a gender that can’t be categorized as exclusively man or woman, or exclusively masculine or feminine. People who are genderqueer experience and express gender in different ways. This can include neither, both, or a combination of man, woman, or nonbinary genders.

Gendervoid = A term that describes someone without a gender identity. Although it’s similar to agender, gendervoid is usually associated with a feeling of loss or lack.

Graygender = A gender term that describes someone who experiences ambivalence about gender identity or expression, and doesn’t fully identify with a binary gender that’s exclusively man or woman.

Graysexual = refers to the “gray area” between asexuality and sexuality.

I-P

Intergender: Those who feel their gender identity is between man and woman, both man and woman, or outside of the binary of man and woman. It is sometimes used by intersex people who are also non-binary.

Intersex: A person born with any manner of supposed “ambiguity” in terms of gendered physical characteristics. This can include reproductive organs, genitals, hormones, chromosomes, or any combination thereof.

Masculine-of-center = This term describes people who experience their gender as masculine or masc. Some masculine-of-center people also identify with the word “man,” but many others don’t. The term masculine-of-center tells you about someone’s gender identity but doesn’t convey any information about the sex or gender assigned to them at birth.

Masculine-presenting = This term describes people who have a gender expression or presentation that they or others categorize as masculine. Masculine-presenting captures the part of someone’s gender that’s shown externally, either through aspects of their style, appearance, physical traits, mannerisms, or body language. This term doesn’t necessarily indicate anything about the way someone identifies their gender or the gender or sex assigned to them.

Maverique = This nonbinary gender identity emphasizes the inner experience of gender.

It describes those who experience gender or have a core gender identity that’s independent of existing categories and definitions of gender, man or woman, masculine or feminine, and androgynous or neutral.

Misgender = The act of referring to someone using a gender pronoun or gendered language that’s incorrect, inaccurate, or not inclusive of the person’s actual gender identity. 

Male-to-female (MTF) = This term is most commonly used to refer to trans women and some transfeminine people who were assigned male at birth. It’s important to only use this term if someone prefers to be referred to this way, as some trans women and some transfeminine people prefer to use terms that don’t include or overtly indicate the sex they were assigned at birth.

Multi-gender = This umbrella term is used to describe people who experience more than one gender identity. In some cases, gender fluid may also fall under this umbrella. Other gender labels that fall under the multi-gender umbrella include: bigender, trigender, pangender, and polygender.

Neutrois = This nonbinary identity and umbrella term is used to describe people who have a gender that isn’t exclusively man or woman. Neutrois can be a broader term encompassing other gender identities, such as nonbinary, agender, genderfluid, or genderless.

Non-binary/genderqueer = a term used for those who do not conform to binary gender identities. Also referred to as “enby,” this is a gender identity and umbrella term for gender identities that can’t be exclusively categorized as man or woman. Individuals who are nonbinary can experience gender a variety of ways, including a combination of man and woman, neither man nor woman, or something else altogether. Some nonbinary individuals are trans, while many others don’t. Whether a nonbinary person is also trans typically depends on the extent to which that person identifies, even partially, with the sex and gender assigned to them at birth.

Novigender = People who use this gender identity experience having a gender that can’t be described using existing language due to its complex and unique nature.

Omnigender = A nonbinary gender identity that describes people who experience all or many gender identities on the gender spectrum simultaneously or over time. Similar to pangender.

Pangender = A nonbinary gender identity that describes people who experience all or many gender identities on the gender spectrum simultaneously or over time. Similar to omnigender.

Polygender = This gender identity term describes the experience of having multiple gender identities simultaneously or over time. This term indicates the number of gender identities someone experiences but doesn’t necessarily indicate which genders are included in the given person’s polygender identity.

Pansexual/omnisexual = a term for individuals with desire for all genders and sexes

Polyamorous = a term for those open to multiple consensual romantic or sexual relationships at one time. 

Q-Z

Soft butch =  Both a gender identity and term used to describe the nonconforming gender expression of someone who has some masculine or butch traits, but doesn’t fully fit the stereotypes associated with masculine or butch cisgender lesbians.

Stone butch = Both a gender identity and term used to describe the nonconforming gender expression of someone who embodies traits associated with feminine butchness or stereotypes associated with traditional masculinity.

Stud = A term used by people of color, and primarily by African Americans, referring to people, often women, who are masculine or butch. Though many studs identify as women and with the lesbian community, not all do.

Stealth = To be stealth is to live as the gender you identify as but to not be out as trans, in affect it means passing as cisgender. Often people go stealth for safety reasons or so that they can have things like job and home security, something a lot of trans people don’t have.

Sapiosexual = describes a person who is attracted to intelligence, regardless of a person’s gender identity

Third Gender = In some cultures third (and fourth and so on) genders may be commonly accepted alongside man and woman. Some people in western cultures may identify as third gender as well, however it’s important not to erase the multitudes of genders present in the world.

Transgender or trans = Both an umbrella term including many gender identities and a specific gender identity that describes those with a gender identity that’s different from the gender or sex assigned at birth.

Transmasculine = A gender identity label that conveys the experience of having a masculine gender identity that’s different than the gender or sex that was assigned at birth.

Transfeminine = A gender identity label that conveys the experience of having a feminine gender identity that’s different from the gender or sex that was assigned at birth.

Transsexual = Falling under the transgender umbrella, transsexual is a word that was medically and historically used to indicate a difference between one’s gender identity (i.e., the internal experience of gender) and sex assigned at birth (as male, female, or intersex). Transsexual is often (though not always) used to communicate that one’s experience of gender involves a medical diagnosis or medical changes — such as hormones or surgery — that help alter anatomy and appearance to feel more congruent with gender identity. Due to a fraught history, the word transsexual can be contentious and shouldn’t be used unless someone specifically asks to be referred to this way.

Trigender = This gender identity describes the experience of having three gender identities, simultaneously or over time. This term indicates the number of gender identities someone experiences but doesn’t necessarily indicate which genders are included in a given person’s trigender identity.

Two-spirit = a term used by Native Americans to describe a third gender. The abbreviation for this is 2S. It can mean a person who walks between genders; one who carries the gifts of both males and females, or one who is gender unique. (sometimes 2S is included in the main acronym as LGBTQIA2S+)

In conclusion, it’s important to be educated on these matters and to teach our children to respect members of the LGBTQIA+ community. LGBTQ individuals are a part of our communities and the communities that our children interact in, both off and online. We all know someone who is part of the LGBTQ community and so do our children. As a result, we need to examine our own feelings and possible prejudices and be ready to deal with them. It is important that we make sure we are the ones to directly teach our children, often through a combination of discussion and example. Remember that action reinforces conversations. Our children watch us and hear us. It is crucial that our words of love, and understanding for all people be matched with our actual words and behaviors!

If you need help starting conversations with your children about gender identities, check out our ebooks, Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age or 30 Days of Sex Talks: Empowering Your Child with Knowledge of Sexual Intimacy

All of our books are available here on our website and on Amazon!

Emie Marulanda is a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho who is currently studying Marriage and Family Studies. She is passionate about empowering parents to empower their kids for a bright, healthy future.

Citations:

Soh, D. (2021). The End of Gender: Debunking the Myths about Sex and Identity in Our Society. Page 68-82

Abrams, M. (2022, February 9). 68 Terms that Describe Gender Identity and Expression. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/different-genders 

Penn State University. (2021). Gender diversity terminology. Penn State Student Affairs. Retrieved from https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/csgd/explore-lgbtq-resources/identity-based/gender-terms 

How to Make Your Home a Safe Space

How to Make Your Home a Safe Space

By Kaitlin Harker 

As my husband and I have planned for our future, we have decided that we want our house to be the house where our children can invite their friends over, have snacks, and have fun activities to participate in. I am sure that most parents feel this way and strive to do the same.

However, it can sometimes be tough to create a safe and fun space when new technology often presents many different kinds of dangers. These can very quickly take away from the safe space you’re trying to create. But there are plenty of simple, meaningful things we can do to create a warm, inviting safe space for our families and friends.

Making Your Home Physically Safe

There are a few things that go into making your home physically safe and things that can differ when it comes to age ranges. 

  • For younger children, ensure that any sharp or potentially dangerous objects are put away and are out of reach. 
  • For older children, be aware of what activities they are choosing to do with one another. For instance, if they are jumping on the trampoline, we can monitor and ensure that no one is getting hurt. 
  • For both age groups, technology can be dangerous. We need to be aware of what our children are doing on their electronic devices, whether it be watching, listening, or playing. Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good is a great book to help our children learn about being safe and using tech in a positive way. 
  • Along with technology, we need to ensure that whatever we are watching or listening to is appropriate as well. We need to set examples for our children and their friends. 
  • No matter the age, children always want snacks and water so make sure to have those handy. 

Making Your Home Mentally and Emotionally Safe

When it comes to making your home mentally and emotionally safe, it is important to be loving and supportive. 

  • Listen to your child. Be aware of their thoughts and feelings towards their friends. 
  • Be supportive of their decision to either have someone over or not have someone over. If they are inviting someone over who might not be a great influence on them, then talk to them about that and explain where you are coming from. 
  • Be kind to their friends and help them feel welcome
  • Help your child’s friends know that your house is a safe space. If they need to talk or cry, they are welcome to feel their emotions. You can also tell your child’s friends that if they ever feel unsafe, they can say that. 

Ways to Make It Easier 

  • When scheduling for friends to hang out, plan in advance. 
  • Always have some easy, healthy snacks ready to go. For example, keeping apples in the fridge or bananas on the counter. 
  • Invest in or come up with fun, movable activities. Examples of this could be jumping on the trampoline, playing with bubbles, painting, or playing jump rope or hopscotch. You can find more activities here.

A key thing to remember is that we can include our children in the choices we make. We can ask them for ideas and suggestions on how we can better create a safer environment. Including our children in these decisions, provides them with agency and shows that we trust them. Creating a safe home, physically and mentally, can be done in several different ways, but has some of the same points. For more ideas to help you with this and many other timely issues, check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age.

All of our books are available on our website and Amazon.

Kaitlin Harker is a senior at Brigham Young University Idaho and will be graduating next April with a degree in English. She has been married to her best friend for a year and they have a husky named Osha. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, being outside, and reading mystery novels. 

*There are affiliate links in this article. Any small financial gain from these links goes toward maintaining this website.

What Social Media is Doing to Your Child’s Body Image: A Therapist’s Perspective

What Social Media is Doing to Your Child’s Body Image: A Therapist’s Perspective

By Mackenzie Nelson

I’m a pretty level-headed person, but if I’m not careful, frequently viewing certain social media content, albeit harmless in nature, can have a very negative effect on me. It becomes easier, even natural, for me to compare myself to those I see online and then have negative feelings about myself.

If seemingly harmless social media content can have such an effect on a grown woman, how much more can it affect teenagers and kids whose brains are still developing?!

I recently interviewed a friend of mine, Dr. Lauren A. Barnes, who treats individuals with body image and eating disorders. She explained, “There is so much in our culture that is telling us ‘You’re not good enough because ___ with your body.’” No body type or individual is excluded from this. I asked her to share some of the underlying issues of body image and eating disorders. Lack of self-worth, self-confidence, or not feeling loved were the main culprits. Ultimately, people wish to alter their bodies because they want to feel loved and accepted. “We want to be connected with people,” Barnes said. 

Dr. Barnes expressed that social media has had a substantial negative impact on self-esteem and body image, stating, “Social media is basically a bragging platform. People need to celebrate and share good things, but how often are you seeing the other side of that?” 

She pointed out that those who passively scroll and lurk can have a 33% increase in depressive symptoms. She explained further, “So passive use of social media, and especially not being intentional about who you follow or what you see, is not going to be helpful.” Barnes gives all of her eating disorder/body image clients homework to go through and edit the social media accounts they follow. “It’s really important to curate your social media so it’s helping you to feel better.” She continued, “Research in general shows that there are some people who very purposefully and intentionally use social media, and they’ve curated their feeds in a way that helps them feel better.” 

When discussing social media, Dr. Barnes asks her clients if they want to have public or private platforms. If they wish to have public platforms, they need to expect fewer deepened connections. She explained that we form connections when we have higher levels of closeness and vulnerability with people. So, as exciting as it may be to follow countless profiles and have hundreds or even thousands of followers, they can expect to feel lower levels of closeness and less fulfilling connections with their followers.

Dr. Barnes suggests age appropriateness for introducing social media to each individual kid. She said, “Parents and their kids need to talk about when social media happens,” and ask questions like, “what are we doing on here, how are we feeling, etc.?”

If your child or teen is asking to use social media, here are a few things to consider:

  • Is your child developmentally ready for the responsibility that social media requires?

Social media can have a strong influence on your child, for better or for worse. Talk to your child about the powerful effects social media can have on them mentally, physically, and socially. (And understand that most teens, even the best and brightest, do not have fully developed brains and are thus not truly ready for social media.)

  • Empower your child by teaching them how to read between the lines of all types of media

Petra’s Power to See is a great book to read to your kids as you teach them about media literacy.

  • What is the current state of your child’s body image? 

Body comparisons are made so much easier when they have access to social media. Focus on ways that you can help instill a healthy body image in your child. Check out these two unique books for thought-provoking discussions–Messages About Me: Wade’s Story, A Boy’s Quest for a Healthy Body Image, and a Messages About Me: A Girl’s Journey to Healthy Body Image.

If you choose to allow your child or teen to use social media:

  • Teach the importance of using social media intentionally. 

This means having a purpose and avoiding mindless scrolling. It also means setting time limits, curating your social media feeds, and only viewing content that makes you feel better. (But be aware that most teens–and adults– are ill-equipped to be truly intentional about their social media use.)

Teach your kids ways that they can use social media to help and uplift others.

It is so important to have a line of open communication with your child or teen. Discuss on a regular basis what they see on social media and how it makes them feel, whether it’s through their own social media accounts or a friend’s account. Being your child’s closest ally is their best defense against negative influences, on and off-line.

For more tips on helping your child understand body image, check out our many resources including, A Lesson About Healthy Body Image.

All of our books are available on our website and Amazon.

Mackenzie Nelson received her Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from BYU Idaho, and she is passionate about promoting the family. She and her husband of 14 years have three children. She is a homeschool mom, a painter, and she loves to grow plants, exercise and organize. 

Dr. Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical Training for BYU’s Marriage & Family Therapy graduate programs. She also maintains a small private practice. She has researched and presented on family implicit rules in eating disordered and non-eating disordered families as well as other family system dynamics related to economic distress, division of labor, parenting involvement, and marital relationships. She is happily married to Aaron Barnes and they have two very lively, young children.

Citations:

Lauren Barnes. BYU FHSS Faculty. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2022, from https://fhssfaculty.byu.edu/directory/lauren-barnes

*There are affiliate links in this article. Any small financial gain from these links goes toward maintaining this website.

Common Questions Kids Ask About Sex (And How to Answer)

Common Questions Kids Ask About Sex (And How to Answer)

By Kaitlin Harker and Dina Alexander, MS

Kids are curious. They hear things on the playground, from older siblings, and from you. Our children seem to always be listening, even when we might not think they are. This often leads to some exciting questions. And this is a good thing!

We want our kids to be curious about life, and we want them to ask us their questions. However, talking to our children about sex and questions that surround sex can sometimes be scary or nerve-wracking. 

The following questions below are commonly asked by children. There is a simple answer and more complete answer provided for you to use depending on the maturity, age, and personal experiences of your child. You know and love your child more than anyone else. Start simply and then use your wisdom and knowledge of each of your kids to decide what they are ready for.

Be honest and answer your child’s questions calmly and matter-of-factly. This way, they know they can trust you and be comfortable coming to you with future questions. Remember to be positive and encourage your child to come to you first! It’s important that you are the one to answer your child’s questions about sexual intimacy so that they do not seek answers from friends or the internet. Looking up innocent terms online like “vagina” or “sex” usually leads to a false narrative, unhealthy answers, or damaging pornography.

Here are some of the most common questions kids ask about sex.

Why do boys have a penis? Why do girls have a vagina?

Simple Answer: Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina because they were meant to fit together. 

More Complete Answer: A boy has a penis so that when he becomes a man, he can use his penis to deliver sperm into a woman’s body. Then she can become pregnant and have a baby. 

*Whether you believe in evolution or creation, you understand that biologically men and women are meant to fit together to perpetuate our species. Don’t be afraid to be honest about biology and nature.

What is sex? 

Before you answer this question, make sure your child and you are on the same page by asking your child what they already know about the word “sex.” If your child seems ready (perhaps they mention that kids have been talking about sex on the playground or they ask more specific questions), start with a simple answer. You may wish to speak in the abstract. You could say something like this: “A man and a woman each have body parts that fit together…” 

For a more complete answer, describe sexual intercourse. Here are the basics: a man places his erect penis into the vagina of his partner. She may help direct him to make insertion easier. One or both partners may thrust rhythmically until the man or both of them orgasm. (You may want to add that most women need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, not just penile insertion.)

You may also wish to talk about the intimate, bonding experience sex can be. Feel free to add your personal values about sex as well: how old a person should be before having sex, the importance of safe sex, sex in a committed relationship versus hook-up sex, etc.

What’s an orgasm?

Simple Answer: They are good feelings in the genital area–and sometimes beyond that physical area. Both men and women can have them. 

More Complete Answer: When a man has an orgasm it feels warm and tingly and semen with sperm will come out of his penis. This is called “ejaculation.” When a woman has an orgasm it will feel warm and tingly in her vulva area as well. Her vagina will lubricate itself. This is often referred to as “getting wet.”

Why do people want to have sex?

Simple Answer: Wanting to have sex is a natural desire, and a way for adults in a committed relationship to express their love.

More Complete Answer: The desire to have sex is natural in both men and women. When men and women have sex, it’s a fun activity and they are able to express their love for one another. During sex, there are also certain hormones that are released that help adults feel good and feel bonded to one another. 

Does sex hurt?

Simple Answer: Sex is meant to be an enjoyable experience between grown-ups. 

More Complete Answer: (Ask your child questions to understand the context of their question) Perhaps they saw an inappropriate scene on TV or had a frightening experience. Gently draw out their concerns. Explain that sex, sexual touching, kissing, hugging, and caressing should happen only when both people want it, when it feels good to them, and both have given full consent. No one should force someone else to do these things. Explain to your child if they are ever in a situation where someone hurts them, they can speak up and make the other person stop. Instruct them to then tell you or another adult they trust if something like this happens to them.

How does the baby get inside a woman? 

Simple Answer: When a man ejaculates, sperm goes into the woman’s vagina. From there, the sperm swim to the cervix and up the fallopian tube to the egg. The egg becomes fertilized and the baby’s sex is set. 

More Complete Answer: When a man ejaculates, millions of sperm are propelled into the vagina. From there, the sperm must swim through the vagina to the cervix and up the fallopian tube. Only a few dozen sperm may actually make it to the egg. The fastest and strongest sperm can make the trip in around 45 minutes, but fertilization can occur up to a week after sex. Once the sperm reaches the egg, it begins a frantic effort to get through the cell wall. The first one that breaks through causes a cellular reaction which makes the fertilized egg impenetrable to any other sperm. The fertilized egg becomes an embryo. At the moment of fertilization, the baby’s genes and sex are determined. If the sperm has a Y chromosome, the baby will be a boy. If it has an X chromosome, the baby will be a girl. The fertilized egg stays in the fallopian tube for about 3 to 4 days, but within 24 hours of being fertilized, it quickly starts dividing into many cells. It keeps dividing as it moves slowly through the fallopian tube to the uterus. Its next job is to attach to the lining of the uterus. This is called implantation. The embryo or fetus grows and develops inside a woman’s uterus during pregnancy.

Do you and Dad have sex?

Simple Answer: Yes, we do. It is a time for Mom and Dad to express love and feel close to one another. It is very special to us. 

More Complete Answer: A healthy part of a committed relationship, such as marriage, includes expressing love through having sex. We are able to feel close to one another and enjoy our time together.

*A common follow-up question from kids is to ask how often you are having sex. Feel free to tell your kids that is a question you are not willing to answer.

What’s pornography?

Simple Answer: It’s pictures or videos of naked people. 

More Complete Answer: Porn is pictures or videos of people engaged in sexual activity. In it, sex and bodies are commodified, or turned into a product, for the sole purpose of making money. The most common form of pornography is online porn. 

In porn, the actors and actresses are behaving in a way to sexually arouse the viewer, not each other. They are usually acting like everything they are doing is exciting or arousing. But remember, they are acting. Most kids think that if they copy the things in porn they will have fun, amazing sex lives. But this is not the case. What you see in porn is fake, selfish, devoid of intimacy, and sometimes cruel.

*A great resource to learn more about how to talk to your kids about pornography is: How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography.

Is it as easy to have an orgasm in real life as it is in movies and pornography? 

Simple answer: No. In movies and porn, people are acting.

More Complete Answer: There are many factors that play into an orgasm. There typically needs to be clitoral stimulation for women. There are also factors dependent on age, experience, the stress in a person’s life, and how the relationship is going. There are a lot of factors that play into having an orgasm, especially for women.

As you talk about sex to your children and answer these questions, remember to be frank, honest, and calm. Sex is an amazing, natural part of life and it’s normal for your children to be curious about it. Be positive to your children as you talk to them about sex, but also explain that it is their body and their choice. 

Looking for more help? Check out our 30 Days series. Each book has 30 lessons with simple talking points and engaging questions to facilitate meaningful discussions about sex.

30 Days of Sex Talks: Ages 3-7

30 Days of Sex Talks: Ages 8-11 

30 Days of Sex Talks: Ages 12+

All of our books are available here on our website and on Amazon!

Kaitlin Harker is a junior at Brigham Young University and will be graduating next April with a degree in English. She has been married to her best friend for almost a year and they have a husky named Osha. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, being outside, and reading mystery novels. 

Dina Alexander is the founder and CEO of Educate and Empower Kids. She is the creator of Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. She received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and her bachelors from Brigham Young University. She tries to be a great mom and loves spending time with her husband and three kids. She lives in New Mexico.

*There are affiliate links in this post. Any funds received from this go toward maintaining our website.

Why A Family Tech Detox is Just What the Doctor Ordered

Why A Family Tech Detox is Just What the Doctor Ordered

By Mariana Pacheco

One of the most popular health trends in the past few years is detoxing. We hear about detox diets, teas, programs, and even detox retreats. Detoxing is the elimination of toxins that have accumulated in the body, due to poor eating habits and lifestyle choices that have left a person sick and with no energy.

In a recent interview, Dr. Andrea Silva, a family psychologist of 11 years, spoke about how kids today are urgently needing to detox as well, but from technology. She spoke to me about how kids are overdosing on technology, which causes them to become more anti-social, depressed, apathetic, and unable to hold conversations or play for longer periods of time.

To Dr. Silva, cellphones and tablets are the worst babysitters ever invented. “Even the television was a better babysitter a few years ago.” She explained that with television, families would usually sit together to watch something, and have discussions about what was happening on the screen. With cellphones and tablets, however, something that used to be collective has become individualized. When kids watch something on that tiny screen, they are isolated and enter a passive mode. There are no discussions; they’re just absorbing everything. 

This can be really dangerous since childhood is the time when the brain, body, and psyche are forming. Whatever they experience now will affect them in the future and what kind of adults they become.

Healthy Screen Time Advice

When asked about what would be considered a healthy amount of screen time, Dr. Silva replied that it depends on each age group. When kids are playing, whether it be with friends or by themselves, they are using their imagination to build stories. When they’re in front of screens they are merely spectators, and that has different consequences for different age groups. 

From 0-3 years of age, children shouldn’t spend any time on screens. During this time, kids are acquiring language skills and becoming aware of their own bodies. When kids this age spend too much time on screens, they don’t get enough of the necessary stimuli to fully develop in these areas. Interaction with other people is essential during this time period.

From 3-10 years of age, it’s time for kids to play pretend and fully engage with their imagination. “Playing is extremely complex if you come to think of it. The child needs to come up with a sequence, share what they imagined with their playmates, and together they negotiate what will happen as they all enter the imaginary world they are creating together. When they play online, none of that happens,” Dr. Silva explained. The scenery, the storyline, the characters, they all come ready. What children develop when they use their imagination during playtime will help them as they get older with reading interpretation, writing, and social skills. Different studies suggest varying amounts of time for kids in this age group, but Dr. Silva believes a good question to ask is this: “What is this taking place of?” If your child is spending 2 hours a day on a screen, and that time could be used together as a family at the end of the day, you are losing precious time.

How can you help your child detox from technology? Here are 5 steps:

  1. Set a specific time. Zero time during the week and a lot of time on the weekends is not recommended. Find balance. Short periods of time each day (15-20 minutes) at the same time each day can help your child understand when screen time is over.
  2. Reducing screen time works better when you have something fun for them to do afterward. Think about yourself: what is your reaction when you have to turn off Netflix and go clean the house? Kids work the same way, and it will be a lot easier for them if they know screen time is over, but they have something enjoyable coming up next.
  3. Bring things they like to see on the screen to the real world. Here are a few ideas to get you started: come up with a game based on a cartoon they like, draw a comic book using their favorite game as inspiration, or create characters using Legos or playdough.
  4. Let your house be “playable.” Create a space where your child can play, laugh, have their toys out, jump, roll, and explore safely. Having a space where there are a lot of rules and “don’t touch that” commands limit the possibilities your child has of playing or being creative outside of screens. 
  5. Talk to your kids. If you want your child to spend less time in front of screens, spend time with them and tell them why. Explain to them the reasons. Children understand so much more than we give them credit for, and they are more likely to comply if you take the time to explain the rationale behind a rule.

Remember, if your child is used to spending a lot of time on screens, they might be resistant to change, and this can take a little more work. Consistency is key, and being an example to your child (by spending less time on screens yourself) will also help during this process.

Talking about technology, limits, and how to best use phones can be overwhelming. Try Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good to help you have great conversations! An engaging story with a super helpful workbook, Noah’s New Phone is a great investment in your kids’ futures!

All of our books are available on our website and Amazon.

Mariana Pacheco graduated in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University- Idaho. She’s married and has an 8-year-old son and a 7-year-old golden retriever. She has been working as a cultural educator for the past 4 years: she teaches kids and teens social-emotional skills through stories, activities, art, and games.

Andrea Silva earned her Psychology degree at Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil. She has been working as a family psychologist for 11 years and is also an Ayurveda practitioner since 2008. She is married and the mother of 2 girls who are in middle and high school. She actively participates in her daughters’ school’s parent-teacher association, helping bring more awareness about the impacts of technology, preventing bullying, and creating a more balanced and healthy school life for kids.

*There are affiliate links in this article. Any small financial gain from these links goes toward maintaining this website.

Sibling Rivalry: The Good, bad, and the In-between

Sibling Rivalry: The Good, bad, and the In-between

By Kaitlin Harker 

“Mom!” your oldest child yells, “Jacob took my video game!” You run into the living room to see what is going on. Once again, they are fighting over the video game they were supposed to be sharing. With a sigh of exhaustion, you talk to your sons about the importance of taking turns and sharing. 

What is Sibling Rivalry? 

Sibling rivalry occurs when there is competition, jealousy, and fighting between siblings. It is extremely common in most families. Sibling rivalry has both positive and negative effects. Some of the positive impacts of sibling rivalry are that children can learn more about communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. Sibling rivalry has positive effects when parents respond in appropriate ways. When they do not, the negative effects come into play. It can be detrimental to your children’s relationships with one another. It can lead to your children harboring feelings of jealousy and resentment toward each other. 

Technology and Sibling Rivalries

We’ve all seen how technologies such as social media, video games, or excessive internet use can contribute to sibling rivalries. Because of their addictive nature, it increases sibling rivalry as children fight over who uses the computer, chooses the television show, or plays a video game. One study found such changes in children who have excess mobile phone usage, which included an increase in obstinate behavior and a low tolerance for others’ idiosyncrasies. Perhaps the most concerning finding was that the majority of children in the study lost interest in just about every other activity except those involving their mobile phones (Aleem et al., 2021).

In my own home, I have watched as my brothers spend countless hours playing video games. Once they get off, it is almost like they forgot how to interact with other people. They begin to fight and argue. They copy the violent, physical actions seen in their games and normally end up irritating or even hurting each other. Along with increasing sibling rivalries, technology is also causing children to become disconnected and detached from their families as they spend more time on games or on the internet. They forget how to interact with others in real life. 

Let’s learn more about the factors that play into sibling rivalry and how we can help our children work together and not against each other. 

Factors that play into Sibling Rivalry: 

  • Children are going through developmental stages and trying to find out who they are as an individual. They are trying to figure out what they like, what they dislike, and who they want to be friends with. 
  • Children feel that they are getting unequal amounts of attention compared to their siblings. They may not know how to get attention in a positive way, so they resort to fighting with their siblings to get attention from them or from you. 
  • How parents treat their children and react to conflict. If a response to conflict in your home is fighting and aggression, then your children are more likely to resort to that same reaction.
  • Stress in both the parents’ and children’s lives. Stress can decrease the amount of time parents and children spend together. It can also decrease everyone’s ability to handle conflict and tolerate frustration (Ryckman 2022).

Ways to Help Your Children Get Along Better: 

  • Don’t play favorites. Do your best to be fair regarding what your children don’t and do have. 
  • Try not to compare your children. Praise each child for who they are, their uniqueness, and their individual efforts. Help them find activities and hobbies that they enjoy that are not screen-related. 
  • Teach your children positive ways to get attention (Ryckman 2022). An example of this could be teaching your child how to share their toys with a sibling and play together. An example for an older child could be teaching them a proper way to ask for attention or ask for time to talk with you. To illustrate: “Mom, could I talk with you for a few minutes?” or “Dad, could we go shoot hoops?” 
  • Find games and activities that you can play as a family. Get involved in these experiences. Don’t simply send your kids to play on their own. If the only activity you can do together must be screen-related, try these family-friendly video games: The Jackbox Party Pack, Super Mario, Overcooked, and Lego Star Wars (Boulter 2018). 

There are powerful, yet simple things we can do today to help each of our children feel loved and valued. As we spend time with each of our kids, help them to see their individual worth, and avoid comparing them to one another, we can help our kids get along better with each other, and create deeper connections within our family.

For an amazing book that will build closeness through meaningful discussions, thoughtful questions, and compelling activities, check out our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child. Our book Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age, is also a fantastic resource with 30 family night discussions. Timely topics include: changing technology, AI, social media, healthy sexuality, integrity, overcoming fears, finding real joy, and so much more. 

All of our books are available here on our website and on Amazon!

Kaitlin Harker is a junior at Brigham Young University and will be graduating next April with a degree in English. She has been married to her best friend for almost a year and they have a husky named Osha. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, being outside, and reading mystery novels. 

Citations:

Aleem, N., Abro, M. R., Imam, I., & Gillani, A. H. (2021). Cell Phone Addiction in Children and Its Impacts on Their Psychology: A Cognitive Analysis of Children in Pakistan. Ilkogretim Online, 20(2), 955–962.

Sydney Ryckman. (2022, February). Sibling Rivalry. Sibling Rivalry | CS Mott Children’s Hospital | Michigan Medicine. Retrieved July 2, 2022, from https://www.mottchildren.org/posts/your-child/sibling-rivalry 

Boulter, M. (2018, January 5). 10 video games you can play with your family. PBS. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/10-video-games-you-can-play-with-your-family 

*There are affiliate links in this article. Any small financial gain from these links goes toward maintaining this website.

The Most Dangerous Apps of 2022

The Most Dangerous Apps of 2022

By Kim Yerkes

Last summer my nieces and nephews introduced me to TikTok. I love laughing and I enjoyed watching the funny videos. I even started a TikTok for my dog that summer. After a couple months, my kids started to watch a handful of videos with me while we ate breakfast. At first it was fun and the kids loved it, then I started to notice a trend. The f-word–which was not common at first–started to show up in the videos. I stopped watching videos with my kids. Every time I heard a swear word I would immediately go to the next video. I also put on the “restricted use” parent control, and it still didn’t fix the problem. After a couple failed attempts, I gave up on the app. You may have faced a similar situation, after using an app, you slowly realize the dangers. At first it seems fun and entertaining, but then you see a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  

How do we protect our kids when the world around us is desensitized? 

First, we must understand that apps are created to entertain us for the purpose of making money for those who develop the app. They’re not created with the intent to uplift or protect our families and children. Many parents feel overwhelmed trying to figure out which apps are safe and which are dangerous to the mental and intellectual health of their families.

When you’re unfamiliar with an app, take a moment to research what the app is, before you let your kids download it. Use the lessons, free ebooks, and articles on this website to help you navigate these rough waters:  The Most Dangerous Apps of 2019, The Most Dangerous Apps of 2020 and The Most Dangerous Apps of 2021. .

As we explore the most dangerous apps of 2022, you will notice that one of the biggest concerns we have is that there is no way for current monitoring software or hardware to truly filter or stop the sexualized, pornographic, or violent content on several of these apps.

TikTok – Where to start? The first concern we have is that TikTok has no filters for language. Swearing is very common, including the f-word. The opinions expressed on TikTok can be extreme and are never fact checked. This can lead to untrue and misleading information. Sexual content is a huge concern and videos can be explicit and pornographic. What you see on TikTok is decided by an algorithm. It will push content that does well and is popular. The majority of TikTok users are adults; because of this, adult themes are more common. It doesn’t allow the person viewing the content to choose what comes next or give the option to stop certain posts from showing up. The biggest problem we have with TikTok is that it is a massive time waster, an hour can go by in a blink of an eye. Plus, it conditions a child’s brain to tolerate and then crave overstimulation for long periods of time.

Twitch is a social media gaming app. Users can view game play and can post their own content. A couple things to watch out for include, the live streaming option and the chat option. Anything can happen on a live video, including graphic sexual acts. An example of this is a current trend called hot tub streamers, half naked women who float while playing video games. There is no way to filter the content that is live. The app is interactive which means that anyone could be chatting with your child. This makes it a place for predators to groom kids.

Discord is a gaming app that allows video sharing and video chat. Bullying is a problem on Discord. Some of the bigger problems include suicidal ideation, hate speech, graphic images and large amounts of swearing. The chat option also allows predators to have access to kids. The app is not made for kids and states that a user needs to be at least 13 to join. Discord is on the National Center on Sexual Expoitation Dirty Dozen List for 2022.

Instagram has a search feature that can be used to search explicit content. Hashtags on family or fitness accounts can also lead to photo’s and videos that are pornographic. There is a new “reels” feature that is similar to TikTok, and poses the same risks. A vanishing mode has been added recently to make pictures and videos disappear. It can only be used one on one and is dangerous for kids who are targeted by sexual predators. The vanishing option has also been linked to hate speech and bullying. There are also self-harm groups that teach kids how to abuse their bodies and how to get away with their destructive behavior. 

Snapchat is well known with teens and parents. The feature of disappearing pictures made it popular. Many kids send pictures assuming they are not permanent. Unfortunately, screenshots make the pictures just as permanent as any other app. The trend is to take a screenshot of the picture before it disappears, especially if it has nudity. Another option on the app is Snap Map. If your child makes a friend on SnapChat their “friend” can connect with them on Snap Map, which gives predators their exact location.  

Hoop is a dating app that connects to SnapChat and allows 12 + teenagers to swipe on pictures that they like. The feature is similar to the Tinder app for adults. The only purpose of the app is to meet new people and friend them on SnapChat. This leads to problems with fraud and sexual predators. Just like adult dating apps there is no way to ensure that a stranger is who they say they are.

Twitter is often used to view pornography. Anyone can search for pornography with the search engine and it will bring up graphic videos and pictures. It seems less threatening than apps like YouTube to parents and this could be a reason why teenagers use it to view porn. It is less likely that their parents will check their browser history. The app is a prime spot for trolling from strangers. Twitter is also a place for predators to groom children and is on the National Center on Sexual Expoitation Dirty Dozen List for 2022.

Youtube is a well-known app that gives kids access to whatever type of entertainment they are interested in. Just like any search engine, it can find any video content you ask for. Kids can find pornography, violence, drug use, self-harm, bad role models and much more. 

Askfm is a bullying nightmare. Since the app  allows teens to ask questions anonymously, the questions are often sexual, inappropriate, and confrontational. The questions and answers are often used to express hate speech, slander and gossip. They ask questions like, “Who is the ugliest person in our grade?” or “Does everyone agree that this person should jump off a cliff?” The bullying has been so bad that the app has been linked to multiple teen suicides and poses a risk for mental health. Askfm is also  connected to other social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter and negative comments can be seen on connected accounts. 

GalleryVault and other vault apps hide photos and videos. One of the scarier options on the GalleryVault app is that it gives the user access to a secret web browser. It also alerts the user if someone attempts to break into the app. This app is extremely dangerous for kids because parents will not be able to see the hidden photos, videos and browser history. There are many versions of vault apps. 

Some vault apps look like standard phone apps, like a calculator. The apps are similar in that they hide video and picture content and have a logo that looks innocent. Make sure that the app you approve on your kids’ phone is really a legitimate app. This is a common way for kids to hide pornographic content from their parents. 

As I researched the information on this list, I felt discouraged at first. I have three kids, ages 10, 12 and 15. I’m realizing as they get older that raising emotionally healthy kids is a lot more complicated than I anticipated. If you feel this way, you’re not alone. The good news is that with information comes the power to protect our kids! 

To get started, consider downloading our free ebook Being Smart and Kind Online: A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship and A Family’s Guide to Digital Media. The eBooks will help your family understand various online dangers, how media can negatively impact our thoughts, lessons on how to be safe online, and help you strategize how to tackle these topics.

To start the conversation about media use with younger kids try the book, Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, A guide to help kids decode media messages. Included are thoughtful conversation starters, fun workbooks, simple activities, a family guide, and more. The earlier we start talking about healthy rules and guidelines the better. We can raise emotionally healthy kids together!

All of our books are available on our website and Amazon.

Kimberly Yerkes is currently earning her bachelor’s degree in marriage and family studies at BYU-Idaho. She’s been married for 19 years to her best friend and the boy next door, Josh. They have three kids, ages 10-15. Her family loves to ski, play tennis, play football, hike, read, and perform all kinds of music. Kimberly is a classically trained singer, and her kids found a love for many different instruments. They love to perform as a family in church and at retirement homes in their community. Her family is her greatest joy, and raising emotionally healthy kids is her passion.

Empower Your Child Today Through Positive Self-Talk and Affirmations

Empower Your Child Today Through Positive Self-Talk and Affirmations

By Emie Marulanda

Your children will struggle with their self-image at some time in their lives. They might feel unhappy with their body image or that they always have to live up to others expectations. They might compare themselves to others or to what they see in the media. They might feel like their problems aren’t normal or that they are to blame for all their problems, like everything is their fault. They might have a hard time making friends or feel like they have no friends, i.e. no sense of belonging. They might feel the need for constant validation/approval or a need to prove that they are better than others. No matter what stage of life they are at, they will seek for a sense of belonging to family and peers. 

So, how do we address this?

You can nourish your child’s self-concept by being specific in your praise. Compliment them! “Focus not just on appearance, but on personality traits, on intelligence, kindness, work ethic, and so forth” (Parker, 2021). Be receptive to your child’s or teen’s interests. Inspire them to keep doing what they enjoy even if they struggle or make mistakes. Help them realize that attempting something is even more significant than really completing it. The most crucial of these is probably to promote daily affirmations and positive self-talk!

Here is a helpful list of positive affirmations to share with your child:

  • I am liked and accepted.
  • I am capable of success. My capacity for success is limitless.
  • I deserve to be successful.
  • I am not responsible for others’ reactions, emotions, or actions.
  • I am not made to please other people. 
  • I will not let people take advantage of me.
  • I will not apologize for expressing my feelings. 
  • I give myself permission to let go of this I can’t control.
  • I am not afraid of what I want to accomplish today.
  • I am worthy of love, peace, happiness, and belonging.
  • I am loved. I am valued. People in my life value my presence.
  • I am proud of who I am becoming.
  • My problems are valid and normal. I accept my struggle and will get through it.
  • I am committed to my path, with or without others.
  • I am unique, powerful, and worthy.
  • I own my power and I take up the space I deserve.
  • It is my right to accept and believe in myself. 
  • I have the tools within me to get me through this.
  • I am healthy, fit, and full of self-confidence.
  • I like the way I look and I love the body that I was given.
  • I am important.
  • I fully accept myself and love myself deeply.
  • I am strong and resilient. I can handle difficult situations.
  • I am not controlled by the opinions of others. 

Parents, I implore you to print out these encouraging statements and place them somewhere you and your kids will frequently encounter them. 

You can print many copies and place them in various frequently visited locations. For my own benefit, I had it put on my office desk, where I often read them. It’s especially useful when I’m having a bad day or finding it difficult to stay motivated. When I remind myself to love and accept myself every day, I can clearly tell a change in my life. It gives you power! Give your kids the chance to regularly compliment themselves and speak positively to themselves as a favor. It will lead to them having a higher sense of self and more self-confidence.

For amazing activities and discussions about positive self-talk, check out our book 30 Days to A Stronger Child. Ready to chat with your kids about healthy body image? Check out our books: Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story, A Girl’s Journey to Healthy Body Image and Message About Me: Wade’s Story, A Boy’s Quest To Healthy Body Image for a great story, discussion questions, and activities to build up your child while you journey to build yourself up as well.

All of our books are available on our website and Amazon.

Emie Marulanda is  currently a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho pursuing her Marriage and Family Studies degree. She is passionate about empowering parents to empower their kids for a bright, healthy future. 

Citations:

Alexander, D. (2020, October 25). Lesson: Learning Positive Self-Talk. Educate Empower Kids. Retrieved from https://educateempowerkids.org/lesson-learning-positive-self-talk/ 

Parker, K. (2021, July 27). Building A Better BodyImage: 4 Ways to Boost Yours and Your Kids’ Self-Worth. Educate Empower Kids. Retrieved from https://educateempowerkids.org/building-a-better-body-image-4-ways-to-boost-yours-and-your-kids-self-worth/ 

Encyclopedia of Children’s Health. (2022). Self-esteem. Retrieved June 10, 2022, from http://www.healthofchildren.com/S/Self-Esteem.html#:~:text=Children%20who%20have%20high%20self,the%20world%20and%20their%20life. 

Simple and Amazing Strategies for Your Child’s Anxiety

Simple and Amazing Strategies for Your Child’s Anxiety

By Kaitlin Harker

You and your family are walking into a crowded restaurant and are planning on having a good time and just relaxing. Then, your child’s hands start shaking, they go a little pale, and they begin to have trouble breathing. Perhaps these same signs occur before they take a test or have a performance. Maybe they just occur out of the blue and you don’t know how to react. 

What is Anxiety? 

According to the American Psychological Association, “Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure” (2022). We can see these symptoms becoming more common in our children and youth today. They are being held to unrealistic expectations of perfection and facing new trials and challenges that most of us have never faced.  Our children feel pressure from almost everyone around them, from teachers, peers, parents, and siblings. Some of these major sources of pressure come from social media platforms, something that we as parents did not have to face growing up. Social media exposes our children to unrealistic, edited ideals which give our children the impression that they aren’t good enough. Sometimes that pressure can be overwhelming and our children might not know how to react. Thankfully, there are things that we can teach our children about their emotions and how to work through them. 

Three Things We Can Teach Our Children 

Having feelings is normal and our children should not feel guilty for having certain feelings. Everyone feels some anxiety at one point or another and that is okay. Let your children know that you are a safe person, someone that they can always come and talk to. Coming up with a code word for when they are feeling anxious and need to take a break from the activity or environment they are in is a smart choice too. Ensure that the code word is something that both you and your child know and can easily pronounce. 

  1. Having feelings is normal 
  1. You are a safe person for your child 
  1. Come up with a code word that both you and your child can use 

Identify the Triggers and Work with Them 

A trigger is an event or situation that causes an individual’s anxiety to be increased. It is something that causes our children’s stress levels to rise. Examples of this could be crowded spaces, a presentation that they have to give, seeing a certain individual, or taking a test. 

  • Ask your child what is making them feel stressed 
  • Ask your child why this idea/object/person etc. is making them stressed? Why is it causing them to feel scared or nervous? 
  • Come up with a game plan for the next time that they encounter that trigger 

Coping Techniques and Strategies 

The following coping techniques from Blisslove Counseling and Consulting can be used to help ground yourself or your child. They are simple techniques that can be done anywhere.

  1. Five Senses 
  • First, identify five things you can see. 
  • Second, identify four things that you can touch. 
  • Third, identify three things that you can hear. 
  • Fourth, identify two things that you can smell. 
  • Fifth, identify one thing you can taste. 
  1. Earth, Wind, Water, Fire 
  • Sit down, close your eyes, and firmly plant your feet on the ground. Push into the ground as much as you can. 
  • Take a deep breath in and then release it. Do this again. 
  • Pretend that you are biting into a juicy lime or lemon. 
  • Finally, open your eyes and find something that is bright orange, yellow, or red, something that resembles fire. 

As you and your child learn more about anxiety and what causes it, it can become more manageable. Along with this, children can begin to feel safer and more stable as they face anxiety triggers and are able to use their new coping skills. As a parent, it is important to practice these coping skills with your children so that you are able to help them calm down. 

Other Resources 

For more information on how to help your students manage their anxiety, check out this online lesson: Master of Their Body. This lesson helps children to learn that they can be in control of their own bodies and what happens to them. Another great resource would be 30 Days To A Stronger Child. Full of great lessons with engaging discussion points and meaningful questions, your child will develop the qualities to live a healthy, strong, and balanced life. 

All of our books are available here on our website and on Amazon!

Kaitlin Harker is a junior at Brigham Young University and will be graduating next April with a degree in English. She has been married to her best friend for ten months, and they have a husky named Osha. In her free time, Kaitlin enjoys hiking, being outside, and reading mystery novels. 

Citations: 

American Psychological Association. (2022). Anxiety. American Psychological Association. Retrieved June 25, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety 

Thomas-DeWildt, S. (2008). Find Your Bliss. Retrieved July 8, 2022, from https://blissloveaz.org/ 

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