Q: I am SO sick of all the negative news in the world. Day in, day out -- it never ends. I'm trying to find ways to shift my thinking to positive things. Can you offer any suggestions?
Jim: It'll probably come as no surprise that exposure to bad news can have a cumulative negative effect on people. Studies show that stories featuring violence or tragedy elevate a person's stress, anxiety and sadness. Add to that the sheer amount of information we're exposed to through newspapers and TV, the internet and social media, and we're virtually drowning in negativity.
So, what's the remedy? Well, we don't have to stick our heads in the sand and ignore what's going on in the world. But since we can't stop the bad news, maybe we can be good news right where we live.
I'd suggest trying to be a bright light in the middle of the darkness around you. In other words, volunteer a few minutes of your time to bring good news to people right there in your own neighborhood. Look for a way you can help someone else, and then just step up to do it.
It'll be an encouragement for you and others. Investing in your community will offer you a sense of purpose and well-being that comes from helping others. But it'll also make your neighborhood a more positive place to live. The opportunities to lend a hand are all around you -- from coaching Little League to shoveling an older neighbor's driveway after a snowstorm. Home-baked cookies are always a win. Something as simple as a smile and a wave can lift someone else's spirits... and maybe even start to build a bridge. You just have to look for ways to be "good news" to others right in your neighborhood.
Q: How can I avoid arguing with my child over homework? He absolutely hates doing his assignments!
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: When kids get emotional about their homework, it can be frustrating for parents, too. For peace to prevail, two things are important. First, parents need to understand what kids are really saying about their homework. Statements like "I hate spelling" really translate into "I feel dumb," or "I'm not like the other kids." When you grasp the reality of their insecurity and frustration, their emotional reactions make more sense.
Second, you must get a handle on how your child's homework frustration impacts you. Emotions are triggered fast in these situations, and misunderstandings can quickly spiral into disconnection between parents and children.
You get to set the tone and model self-control to help your children find their footing. Kids who lash out about homework have let their emotions overcome their thinking. It's up to you to help them feel more grounded.
Difficulty with homework challenges a child's self-confidence. When that happens, approach your son with compassion rather than defensiveness.
Here are some ways to help ease the stress of homework:
Encourage mental breaks. If your child is stuck, have them take a 5-minute timeout from their work.
Emphasize small, attainable goals. Help your son focus on incremental milestones rather than obsessing about the finish line.
Create a comfortable environment. For some kids, that might involve background music or a heater in the winter. Ask your child to help you come up with ideas to make study space ideal for concentrating.
Be available and patient. Just because your child may be "emotionally off" doesn't mean you need to be.
Celebrate at the end of the week -- maybe with ice cream, a hike, a movie or a special game -- when your child has owned homework time well.
For more parenting tips, see FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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