Stressed? Science Says Smell THIS!

Mamas—raise your hand if you’ve found yourself stressed out in the last week? Day? Hour?

Ha! Ladies, I know my audience, and I’m thinking pretty much every hand is up right now. (If not, I’d love to know your secret. Let’s talk. Like, really.)

Well, for starters, know that if you’re feeling the stress, you’re not alone. And secondly, you’ll be happy to know that the antidote no longer requires a trip to the rose garden…though that probably wouldn’t hurt.

A recent study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports that a woman’s stress level can drop when she takes a whiff of her romantic partner’s t-shirt.

Researchers studied 96 opposite-sex couples and had the men wear the same t-shirt for 24 hours with no deodorant or scented body products to interfere with their natural scents. The t-shirts were then frozen to preserve the smells, and later presented to the women in a series of experiments. Some women were given the t-shirt of a stranger to smell, others their own romantic partner’s. The women were then given mock job interviews and difficult math problems to solve in order to raise stress levels.

After the “tests” were performed, the women were asked to rate their own stress levels and provide saliva samples in order to measure cortisol (a stress hormone) levels. Unsurprisingly, the women who were provided with the shirts of their partners had lower overall stress levels than those of their counterparts in the study, suggesting that the familiar scent of a loved one can create a sense of safety and calm, even during a stressful situation.

So, the next time you find yourself worrying over that mountain of unwashed laundry, just stop and…well, smell the dirty laundry.

 

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Science Says: Less Is More In Toyland

Picture this:

Your three small children are quietly playing side by side with a transformer, plastic pony, and a set of plush blocks, respectively. They’re focused and quiet, happy to enjoy their activities, occasionally sharing in an imaginative transformer+pony+block merger.

Now open your eyes and scan the kids’ actual toy room. The horror! Toy boxes overflowing with dozens of dolls, trucks, and buzzing whoozawhatsits long since forgotten, broken, or traded in for the latest favorites. A fresh fight breaks out as you attempt to clean up battle wounds from the last one. Another child cries out in boredom because there is NOTHING TO PLAY WITH IN HERE!

Okay, okay…maybe it’s not that bad at your house. But that first image we conjured? Looks like it’s a real possibility according to research done at the University of Toledo.

In the study conducted, researchers observed 36 children in a room where some were given 16 toys and others were given only four. They observed that the toddlers with fewer toys played longer and with more creative exploration with a single toy than the kids who were provided with 16 toys. The study further noted that extended focus on one toy allows for a variety of ways to play with that toy, which reflects cognition, perception, coordination, and ideation—all important developmental qualities.

The discussion of the study also stated that “an environment that presents fewer distractions may provide toddlers the opportunity to exercise their intrinsic attention capabilities.” And in a world where an increasing number of children are being labeled with attention deficit disorders, it may be worth noting that attention is a muscle-like quality with the ability to be strengthened based on a more, shall we say, boring play room.

It’s never too late to pare down and let the kiddos focus on more fun! Plus, you can always gather up some of those toys for donation and kill two birds with one perfect stone.

 

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The One Question Your Child Secretly Wants You To Answer

Unless you tell your children what you believe about them— what you think their talents are, what their character is like, what you expect of them—you might be surprised what they think.

I was giving Quinn a check-up for kindergarten. He said his dad was overseas fighting in a war and that he missed him terribly, and couldn’t wait for him to come home. He was proud of his dad and tried to describe his uniform for me.

“My Dad really misses me,” he said. “He’s proud of me and says I need to be the man of the house while he’s gone. My mom says I don’t, but I believe my Dad. He’s tough, you know, and when he comes home he’s gonna take me hunting. But I have to be twelve to shoot a gun, he says, because I’m too young now.” Quinn talked rapidly and his voice seemed strained.

“Yup. My dad told me that I’m the smartest kid he’s ever known. He’s right, you know. I am smart. I read every day because I know that when my dad gets home he’s going to want me to read with him.”

I asked Quinn to get a book from the waiting room to show me how well he could read. When he stepped out, I asked his mother about his dad. “He’s in jail,” she started. Then she broke down crying. “He never calls. He doesn’t write either. He got busted for drunk driving and was so humiliated he couldn’t bear to tell Quinn where he went. We told him that dad had work to do far away. Quinn turned that into he was overseas fighting a war. I just didn’t have the heart to correct him.”

Children have vivid imaginations and at six, which was Quinn’s age, it’s not unusual for them to create an imaginary friend. In Quinn’s case he was creating an imaginary father to make up for the absence of a real one. It was okay for the moment, but eventually he would, gently, have to be told the truth. Neither his mom nor I looked forward to that moment.

father and son communicate with child

Quinn imagined what his father believed about him—and maybe he was right, maybe his father did think he was the smartest boy on the planet; maybe he had told Quinn so earlier. The important thing was that Quinn was sustained by his belief that his father was proud of him, and believed him to be strong and smart.

Quinn’s father was set to be released from jail in the next few months. My hope was that he would reaffirm his son’s faith in what his dad believed about him. That would make the transition much easier.

The academic research has shown us that kids who have good communication with their fathers are much less likely to have trouble with drugs, alcohol, or depression. It seems as though dads have a unique power to boost their children’s sense of self-worth, of being grounded, and of belonging, which acts as a shield not just against drugs, alcohol, and depression, but, what is often related, teenage sexual activity.

Here’s how you can help fill that need.

1. Communicate simple truth.

Kids see right through platitudes and hype. It’s no good getting C’s in school and having your father boast that you are one of the smartest kids in the class, if you still can’t get your grades up, no matter how much you apply yourself. So praise needs to be honest. If your child is getting C’s and that’s the best he can do, tell him that’s fine, that you admire his tenacity for working so hard, and help him discover the subjects or practical skills at which he can excel, while he hammers out his C’s in Calculus or English.

As a parent you should be positive—and never talk critically of your children to other people—but you also want to be truthful. Your kids will appreciate that—and appreciate that C’s in math don’t spell the end of your affection for them or mean that they’re mediocre in everything, or for that matter that with enough effort and time they can’t improve in math!

2. Praise their Character not the stuff they do.

Kids want to know what you think they’re made of deep down. So tell them, “I believe that you are courageous, strong, patient, committed, hard- working, chivalrous,” or whatever the case may be.

child parent communication

3. Let them catch you talking about them.

When I was rejected from every medical school I applied to at twenty-one, I thought my life was over. I thought I was too stupid to go and that’s why I was rejected. One day I overheard my father talking on the phone to a friend and telling him that I would be going to medical school in the very near future. I was stunned. In that moment, my life changed. I was filled with the deep knowledge that my dad believed I could succeed in medical school. That was it. I was going. Period. That overheard conversation meant nothing to my father; it meant everything to me.
When you really believe in your kids, they’ll hear it in your voice. If they hear you talking about your belief in their goodness, perseverance, or courage, they will believe it—and it might just change their lives.

4. Take advantage of their failure.

The very best time to communicate sincere belief in your son or daughter is during a time when they feel they have failed. Then, their self-esteem is low, they are thinking that they are worthless, dumb, incapable. That is the perfect time for you to step in with a smile and say, “I don’t care what just happened on the field, I don’t care that you just flunked your exam, I know what you are made of and I believe in you. So stand up again and get back at it.” These are words that change your kids’ lives.

*This is excerpt from Meg Meeker’s brand new book Amazon Best Selling book HERO: Being the strong father your children need.

 

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Meg Meeker is a New York Times bestselling author who writes with the know-how of a pediatrician and the big heart of a mother because she has spent the last 30 years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine. Her work with the NFL, the United Nations, and countless families over the years has served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know and Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men. You can pick up your copies on Amazon or at MegMeekerMD.com

Dr. Meg is a parent and has spoken nationally on parenting issues, including personal appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and television programs including The Today Show, Dateline with Katie Couric, Fox and Friends, The Dave Ramsey Show, The Laura Ingraham Show, NPR, Oprah Radio, The World Over with Raymond Arroyo and more.

Parenting ADHD: 6 Things I Wish I Had Known

My oldest has ADHD.  We hit eight years old and man did I need help parenting a child with ADHD.  I reached out to other moms but all shared a resounding “I’m just trying to survive” mentality. Parenting ADHD is difficult. Four years later, here are six things (from one struggling mom to another) that I wish I had known when parenting a child with ADHD.

Parenting ADHD Success

1. ENGAGE WITH THE SCHOOL

My hubby and I did not communicate with the school too much about our son and his ADHD. Conversations started to become more frequent than one would like in 2nd grade and by the time he was officially diagnosed in 3rd grade, we didn’t want to give teachers a pre-set idea of who/what he was. Bad idea. Before I knew better, I shared my concern about telling them he was ADHD with my close friend; their reply was, “Either they have the stigma of ADHD, or the stigma of the bad kid.”  Ugh! They were right.  

I became forced myself to be brave. I started the conversation with my son’s educators right from the start, sharing behaviors I knew would be distracting, my expectations of him in the classroom and concerns about his education and abilities.  You would be surprised what lines of communications this opens; and with parenting ADHD, communication is vital. This quickly places you and the educators on the same page and teaches them that you are open and an ally.  If this doesn’t happen — find a new teacher! Educators will make or break your child’s success in school.

2. SPEAK POSITIVELY ABOUT YOUR CHILD TO OTHERS

As we sat in our teacher’s meeting with two teachers, two counselors, one special education teacher, the hubs and me — totally not overwhelming, right? [Super Huge Eyeroll] I listened to an obviously frustrated teacher tell me all the things my son was doing that he shouldn’t be doing. Umm…yeah…I know. I get it. No, really. I super get this.  Uh-huh…yeah…right…yes, he does that…and that…and that…STOP TALKING! It was new to her and it is frustrating. However, she just kept rehashing everything he did wrong, repeatedly. We tried to give them some insight into our son but I could tell the frustrations were too raw. It’s important to realize that parenting ADHD includes including others in the process. 

By the next meeting my husband and I consciously chose to make sure the team we were meeting with knew all the amazing cool things about my son. He is a whiz in science, he loves helping people, he is hilarious, he is amusingly sarcastic, and so much more! We watched their conversations about our real-life-son, not just the frustrating student, change before our eyes. This frustrated teacher started complimenting my son at school on his science scores and laughing with him.  Don’t forget: they see hundreds of kids a day. Chances are your ADHD child is getting under their skin. Change their mindset from obnoxious pupil to a real human-child that has feelings and is amazing.  Make. Them. See.

Parenting ADHD Help

 

SEE MORE:  4 Ways to Measure Kids’ Success That Have NOTHING To Do With Grades

 

3. EMOTIONS RUN DEEP

ADHD kids feel. They feel emotion deep in their soul and sometimes you would never know.  Understood.org says, “Kids with ADHD don’t have different emotions from most of their peers. They feel hurt, anger, sadness, discouragement, laziness and worry just like everyone else does. What is different for many kids with ADHD is that these feelings seem to be more frequent and intense. They also seem to last longer. And they get in the way of everyday life.”

Take the time to ask your child about their feelings, with open-ended questions. Pay attention to their body language and demeanor. Once their emotions overflow, sometimes it is hard to have a logical conversation with them. Have patience and understanding; acknowledge their feelings and try to redirect the negative emotions when possible. Parenting ADHD is about listening and engaging with your child.

4. SHAMING: DON’T DO IT

Most of us in the trenches of ADHD never intend to shame our child. We are overwhelmed and frustrated; our tongues drip a little looser than we’d like.  Shaming can be as innocent as saying, “Your 5-year-old little brother has his shoes on, why on earth don’t you?”. This makes them feel less than and you are essentially comparing their behaviors. Comparison brings nothing but hurt feelings and resentment.

We also had to engage a strict hand with the non-ADHD siblings. We started noticing them saying things like, “You’re being so crazy!! Go take your pill!”. This will not fly in our house and we put our foot down hard when we hear it. Shaming is never a useful tool in parenting, but when it involves a child with ADHD, it can make a child already prone to depression and anxiety feel more shamed and inadequate. Parenting ADHD is about awareness of everyone involved: parent, child and siblings.

5. LYING WILL HAPPEN

It is going to happen…a lot. You cannot realistically punish them every single time they lie (yes, it happens that much). Prepare yourself for this quirk and decide how it will be handled.  If the lie is significant (depending on any number of factors) a consequence follows. However, if it is a little thing here or there, we express our disappointment that they lied and it is not acceptable and move on. We finally hit a stride where a lie comes out and is quickly followed up with the truth and an apology. It’s only taken 4+ years of pulling my hair out. [insert more patience here]

 

SEE MORE:  How It Really Feels Being The Mom Of A Bullied Kid

 

Parenting ADHD Advice

6. GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO SUCCEED

This is huge!! ADHD kids are insanely intelligent, smart, creative, funny, loveable and the list goes on. Sometimes their impulses get the better of them. If you think you’re frustrated, just imagine being them. Take EVERY SINGLE CHANCE to point out their successes and moments that make you proud. Did they hang their backpack up right after school? Make sure you say “Hey…thanks for getting your backpack put away. That was super helpful.” The small thank-you will do wonders for their self-esteem and remind you how fantastic your child is. Know they are a great pancake chef? Ask them to make the family breakfast! School and life are hard. They have a lot more hurdles than the average child; give them a chance to do things right and be rewarded.

Parenting ADHD comes with extra trials, but we learn so much if we take the time to understand our ADHD child and how to help them be successful. These six things are the first items I think of when people ask me about parenting ADHD. I wish I would have known these from the start, but I’m learning and still making mistakes too. Hopefully my mistakes can give you a leg up when parenting your child with ADHD. They’re some of the raddest people I know.


Looking for additional resources? A few of my favorite ADHD websites are:

http://www.additudemag.com

http://www.understood.org

https://add.org/

Parenting ADHD with Love

 

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Please Accept Me!

I’m not sure what the chances are, but, “Boy, do I ever like that Muffy Mead-Ferro” is what I hope will be going through your mind by the time you get to the end of this column. Ideally, you’ll be thinking how much you enjoyed my observations, what excellent points I made, and how wonderful it would be if only I could be at every party you ever throw from this day forward.

Because you see, one of my most compelling motivations in life is being accepted by others. I can’t help it; I’m a member of a species Aristotle referred to as “the social animal,” and it’s how I’m wired. For good reason, of course. Being accepted by others, also known as being popular, is an important survival mechanism for humans and many other species because group living provides protection from predators, sharing of labor and resources, and of course, it encourages reproduction.

Please Accept Me

And this explains why my daughter Belle, just nearing the end of fifth grade, is so focused on who does and doesn’t like her at school. And sometimes, it seems, on very little else. Just about to turn 11, she seems to have entered a phase where her familial relationships, while solid, are no longer the ones she cares about most. When we’re on a trip, she wants to buy little souvenirs for her friends. As the weekend approaches, she wants to make sure she has at least two social activities on her calendar. When we plan family activities, she often asks to have one of her friends along – otherwise she won’t enjoy herself all that much. And then there’s the phone. Oh my gosh, Belle’s an Olympic-caliber endurance athlete on the phone.

Based on what I’ve already said about human hard-wiring I can hardly blame her for being concerned about her social status. And yet I’m hoping she’ll rise above it, too. My biggest problem with the quest to be popular is that a lot of it seems to boil down to conformity, or at least that’s how I remember it. As I recall from Junior High School, most people who really stuck out as different weren’t popular. And one of the things that’s always been important to me in my children’s development has been an ability to think for themselves, and being in the habit of doing so. I don’t want them to make life choices in an effort to simply follow the herd. The herd tells you the right clothes to wear, the right music to like, and the right slang to use. The herd mentality might be useful for the purposes of migration but not for thinking of new ideas.

Besides, although I agree that much of our happiness comes from relationships with other people, the person who independently chooses their own path and thinks their own thoughts can end up being the most popular, and happiest, of all. The independent thinker is a leader, not a follower. And it’s the independent thinker who has the greatest capacity to change the world for the better.

I realize, however, that no amount of pontificating by me on this issue is going to change Belle’s focus on who, this month, is her BFF. So I’ll just have to hope that over the long haul she strikes a balance and finds that she only needs a few loyal friends, not fifty. That no matter what she does, some people won’t like her, and life will go on. And that if she makes her own road through life based on her own ideas and beliefs, she’ll tend to attract people with whom she’s truly compatible.

By Muffy Mead Ferro

I grew up on a cattle ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. After spending nearly 20 years working as a copywriter in advertising, my first book, Confessions of a Slacker Mom, came out in spring of 2004 and made the San Francisco Chronicle’s best-seller list. My second book, Confessions of a Slacker Wife, was released in spring of 2005.