Need Help Managing Your Parental Emotions? There's an App for That

...or, at least, there should be soon.

Researchers at University of California San Diego have been developing an app that is designed to suggest helpful strategies for dealing with the frustrations of parenting when you need those strategies most -- in the moment.

Initially tested on parents who have children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the app is teamed up with a sensor that is worn on the wrist. If the sensor detects symptoms of stress in the parent, the parent is notified of suggested strategies ("Fill your lungs with air. Take three full, deep breaths" "You are your child's role model. What do you want to each?" ) via smartphone or tablet. The parents also received regular prompts encouraging them to be mindful of their overall parenting goals: for example, "Be consistent. Be predictable. Be prepared."

Parents who were involved in testing the app found the messages helpful. They particularly appreciated the "in the heat of the moment" parenting prompts. The researchers are now looking at ways to alert parents to early symptoms of stress (so that parents can take immediate action to deal with their rising emotion). They are also pursuing funding that will allow them to make the app more widely available.

So what can you do in the meantime, while you're waiting for technology to catch up with your needs as a parent?

You can develop your own game-plan for dealing with the stress that goes along with being a parent.

  • Identify your big-picture parenting goals, so that your parenting decisions are more conscious and deliberate.
  • Zero in on strategies that help you to deal with stress in the moment (for example, taking deep breaths or reminding yourself of your hopes and dreams for your child).
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to bring down your overall stress level. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and make sure you're fuelling yourself with healthy food and regular servings of fun. 

Teach Kids to Make Amends after a Friendship Fallout

  Soupstock/Veer Images

Soupstock/Veer Images

Is your child feeling badly about himself because of a falling out he had with a sibling or a friend?

You can help him to feel better about himself by encouraging him to take steps to repair the relationship.

Researchers at Baylor University (who reported on their findings in The Journal of Positive Psychology) have discovered that it is easier for us to forgive ourselves for hurting other people if we look for ways to make amends.

Because children are still learning the art of relating to other people, relationship mistakes happen — and children need to know what to do to make things better for themselves and the other person. 

Instead of allowing themselves to be mired in guilt, children should be encouraged to take action to repair the relationship. Depending on the circumstances, that might involve issuing a heartfelt apology or replacing a friend or sibling’s toy if the child lost or broke it. 

Sometimes people feel so badly after they have hurt another person that they can’t let go of negative emotions like guilt. They feel that they deserve to feel badly and, as a result, they become stuck in this negative emotional state. This puts them at risk of experiencing health problems. An inability to self-forgive contribute to depression, anxiety, and a weakened immune system. Also, getting stuck in a state of guilt also does nothing to repair the relationship that has been damaged.

Relationship repair, on the other hand, paves the way to self-forgiveness, leading to much happier and healthier outcomes for all.

Pinocchio Syndrome: What happens when parents lie to kids?

  Veer Images: keng po leung

Veer Images: keng po leung

Children who are lied to are more likely to lie and cheat themselves. That's the word from researchers at the University of California at San Diego, who studied the effects of being lied to by an adult on a group of children, ages three through seven. They discovered that the children who were lied to by one of the researchers were more likely to lie and cheat themselves.

Lying to kids might seem like a convenient parenting shortcut -- a seemingly harmless way to get kids to do what you want them to do quickly and efficiently, but there are actually some hidden perils. If you think about it, you'll realize that it's actually a highly manipulative behaviour that can damage your relationship with your child (you risk having your child lose trust in you) and that can mess with your child's moral compass (that all-important inner voice that helps your child to figure out for herself what's right and what's wrong). 

A better approach (and one that will serve you better over the long run) is to be honest with your child. Sure, you may have to deal with a few more outbursts over the short-run as your child learns to work through his frustration over the issues of the day, but you'll be trading short-term pain for long-term gain. You'll be building up (rather than eroding) your relationship with your child and you'll be helping your child to develop a strong moral compass. Both you and your child will be much better off as a result. And that's no lie.