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Andie M. Vasquez Mental Health

Speaking to Children

by Andie Vazquez

I started an article a while back specifically about how your children hear you speak about your body, and I still will discuss that, but I’d like to expand the horizon a little. 

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Stop occasionally and listen to how your kids speak to themselves and each other. Children hear much more than you think they do. They hear how you speak about your body, they hear how you speak to the other drivers on the highway, they hear how you speak when you are happy and when you are frustrated. Then they will take all this absorbed speech and begin to themselves use it. This is one reason self degrading speech in small kids is alarming because they didn’t manifest the thoughts on their own, they are repeating thoughts they’ve heard verbalized by adults in their life. 

The more I am around a large number of other people’s kids, I am noticing this more. I know I have a different way of speaking than would be common or normal for most kids. And I’ve heard my words wind their way into the kids’ speech. Most modern 5 year olds are not likely to use the word “lollygagging” but the longer the school year has gone on, the more I’ve heard it. A child the other day told me a friend was antagonizing him, a word he had previously asked me the meaning of when I’d used it.

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I’ve also noticed beyond my odd lexicon, they’ve even adopted my speech patterns and habits. I make it a point to praise them when they do well. I am constantly spreading words of encouragement to the students. Gradually, the students have begun praising and encouraging one another, and doing it in the same exact manner in which I do it. They have even begun showing one another their work and congratulating each other on how well they are doing. 

In a more solemn tone, when one friend is upset, I’ve seen them go and comfort their friends more rapidly, and mimic the same movements and tones they see me use when I am comforting a hurting friend. They see every movement I make, and I can see in real time how I am unconsciously imparting myself onto them. 

Many adults are more than likely unaware of how they are affecting their children in how they speak. Particularly when they aren’t speaking to the child. But it is very important to remember that children hear and see much much more than we think they do. Children repeat what they hear. So, perhaps you and your partner discuss current politics at the dinner table, your kids will repeat it at school. If your kids hear you and your partner arguing, they will mimic you when they get into an argument with their friends. This isnt always a negative thing, but it can be. 

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Studies show that children in Elementary school are already showing displeasure in their physical appearance and wish to be more thin. Elementary School. That’s ages 7-11. Preschool teachers have reported children as young as 2-5 developing negative self images. Where are kids that young getting the idea that they are fat and ugly and need to be on diets? Why are such small children so negatively speaking about themselves? They hear it from adults. 

“But I would never tell my child they were fat!!” parents may say. No, I don’t think you do. What I do think is that you probably don’t realize your child hears you speak about yourself. You probably don’t think they notice when you grimace in the mirror. You don’t notice how you talk to yourself in the grocery store about needing to eat healthier because of all that extra weight you’ve put on. They soak in everything. They see your relationship with food, with your body, with your self image. 

How do you react when you are frustrated? I bet your children could tell you. They see that too, and they emulate it. I can see it in the children in the classroom. Do you huff and yell when you are frustrated? Do you give up and say you can’t do it? Kids see how you act when things aren’t going your way, and they see it as a model for their own frustrating situations. 

How you purposely speak to your children is important too. I can tell you exactly which parents make a point to praise their children and compliment them because these are the children that throw praise and compliments around like confetti. I’m glad to say, it’s quite a few of them. Most children I am incontact with are oozing with love and confidence. But the difference is we are very aware of this speech and take care to do it appropriately. It’s the times we aren’t thinking about it that shock us. 

focused students doing homework at home
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Look, I’m not an overflowing well of self confidence. I’ve complained about my tummy pudge. I’ve verbally berated myself for being stupid. I’ve gotten angry at my partner and said mean things I shouldn’t have. None of us are perfect. However, being aware of how much kids recreate their parents behaviour has made me so much more conscious of my own behaviour and speech.

Some of the ways you can help your children in this area is in part the deliberate way you speak to them. When they are really getting on your nerves, how do you respond to them? This will inform them both about your relationship with them and how to respond to others who irritate them. Do you ask them open-ended questions and listen to them answer? This will open the opportunity to discuss big questions and how they view the world. Are you allowing them to engage with the grocery shopping and cooking process? This will help them shape their view of food and health. Do you praise them when they do well or when they do something you ask? This will reinforce positive behaviour and speech. Have you ever sat down with your kids and asked them to tell you a story about their favorite activity and why it’s their favorite? This lets them know their feelings are important and they are valuable. Are you speaking down to them or in a level respectful way? All of these things are things parents can be aware and conscious of when they are speaking directly to their children. All of them will affect how they interact with other people, with you, and how they see themselves. How you are directly speaking to them does make a big difference. How you listen to them is equally as important. 

 

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There are however indirect ways in which our kids absorb our speech and behaviours. These happen when our kids see and hear us talk or act, but we aren’t speaking to them. These may be in how they see us interact with other adults and what we talk about with them. What we do when we get into disagreements with our partner or how we speak to our partners on a daily basis. How we speak to ourselves about ourselves. Are you using positive language to talk about yourself? This isn’t just in regards to physical appearance, though it does apply to that. How do you speak to yourself when you make a mistake? Do you say, “Oh, I’m so dumb!”? This shows them when they mess up, they are dumb, becasue you think you are. How do you speak to yourself when you are struggling with a task? This tells children how you persevere and how they should. Children see how we deal with these situations as well and they will internalize them. 

On the most basic level, the manner in which you speak is being imparted to them. Do you talk in a soft airy voice or a loud booming voice? Are you likely to use the word “jazzed” in common conversation? What word do you say when you stub your toe? I promise your kids notice this and interject it into their speech. Your patterns, syntax and vocabulary are all being heard and emulated by your kids. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. As I mentioned above, the kids in my room are learning new and unusual words from me and expanding their vocabulary and that is good. Your child trying to sound like you when you speak is just a way they look up to you. But it has potential to be dangerous so be careful. I’ve also heard kids call each other cruel names that aren’t normal for 4-6 year olds, or scream and belittle each other when they are mad at one another. We give our kids so much more than we realize just by being our normal selves. That is why it is so important to be sure we are giving them something positive.

teacher talking to the class
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In summary, your kids are watching you and will internalize your behaviors and adopt them. We, as the adults in children’s lives need to be more aware of what we are modeling for them to absorb. We intend to give them good things to copy, but we don’t always achieve that goal. It’s okay. We can all always do better, no matter who you are, so be aware of yourself. And maybe, like myself, this means we need to learn to love and appreciate ourselves a little bit more to be sure we are teaching our kids to love and appreciate themselves. 

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Categories
Physical Health Sophia Pollalis

Let Water be Your Friend

by Sophia Pollalis


Water. We can’t live without it. Our planet (and we) would die if it disappeared. We get excited when we find water or remnants of water on other planets because it means life to us. That should get you excited about water. 

WATER IS LIFE. We are born in it. We bathe in it. We play in it. We are soothed by its sounds. It allows life within it. We utilize it for transportation. We are sustained by its ability to join forces with heat to harden an egg or soften potatoes (which are my favorite). These qualities and uses of water are amazing, but the most important thing we should be doing with it is drinking it.

Water is essential to our bodies. If we don’t drink enough, we die. If we drink too much, we die. There’s a large amount of leeway between those to extremes that allow us to survive, but how much is optimal? For years the general thought was drinking 8 cups of water per day. Some people say, no! You should be drinking so much more! Others said 8 cups was too much.

Created by Cassandra McCoy

We don’t have to figure it out, we have to trust our bodies. Most people can get adequate hydration from drinking when they’re thirsty. The trick is differentiating between hunger and thirst. One thing I have found useful in differentiating this is drinking some water whenever I feel hungry. If that feeling doesn’t come back, I’ve quenched my thirst and I wasn’t actually hungry. The only time not to follow this is if you’re working up a sweat; you need to replace the fluid that you’ve lost1.

What if you don’t like the taste of water or the water quality in your area isn’t good?  Do you have to force yourself to consume it, or buy a bunch of plastic water bottles and “kill the earth”?

Absolutely not!  Water is in our beverages and food already. Our total hydration is calculated through everything we consume, not just water. About 20% of our water intake is provided by food2. Does your kid only like to drink milk? Guess what cows use to make milk?   Do you have an addiction to diet cola that you’re not ready to tackle yet? The first ingredient in soda is water. If eat tons of fruit and veggies that have water in them and I feel hydrated, do I need to drink 4 liters of water on top of this? Only if you want to and you feel it benefits your body. Just remember that anything that isn’t water has other things in it like sugar, calories, preservatives, and other things that aren’t necessarily good for you.

Listen to your body. Trust it. It was created and has evolved to be able to support you.

 Here are some fast facts about water and your body:

1.       Water provides structure to your cells3. Think all the way back to high school biology. Remember looking at cells under a microscope? Remember how uniform and structured they looked? That’s mostly because of water. Think grape versus raisin, or a filled water balloon versus a dead one. Water takes up space. What products do we put on our faces to avoid or fill in wrinkles or on our hands in the winter when they crack? Things that hydrate or bring moisture to our skin.

2.       Water lubricates joints3. Most of the joints in our body are synovial joints, meaning they have a fluid filled sack around them that provides lubrication for movement. Have you ever slid a glass across your table or watched it float around on its own because it’s in a puddle of condensation? Water provides the lubrication that allows to rough surfaces to glide across each other.

3.       Water absorbs heat with minimal temperature change4. This quality is what allows life on this planet to be so adaptable. Water’s high heat capacity, or its ability to absorb heat with minimal temperature change, is due to the chemical structure of water. A water molecule is 2 hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom (H20). In order for the temperature of water to increase, the bond between the hydrogen atoms and oxygen have to break. This takes energy. A lot of energy. Think about boiling water for a big pot of pasta. Even when you have your heat on high, it takes a while.

4.       Water helps remove waste products and transports nutrients throughout the body2,3. Our bodies have built-in detoxification systems (hello liver and kidneys!) that filter our blood of toxins and waste products that our bodies create. Paying attention to the color of your pee is a great way to tell if you’re hydrated enough. Staying hydrated enough also helps your bowels move easier.

5.       Sweating allows diffusion of gases across moist body surfaces5. You have sweat glands all over your body, which allows water to rise to the surface of your skin, moisten the skin, and evaporate. The evaporation removes the water, which removes the heat. Refer to fast fact number 3 about water’s heat capacity.

6.       Water provides a reactive medium within the body6. Our bodies are miraculous in all the things they do. There are millions of chemical reactions taking place inside your body at any given point. Creating energy (adenosine triphosphate or ATP to be technical) is essential to everything we do, and water is a necessary element to its production. Water also provides a medium for solutions to be formed and reactions to take place in.

7.       Muscle weighs more than fat per volume because of its water content7. Water is more dense than fat, therefore people with a higher fat percentage will float. Approximately 10% of fat’s weight is water, while a muscle’s is 73%. In general, women have a higher fat content than men because of our stores of fat, and therefore our water content is slightly lower. Typically, our bodies are made up of 40-70% water. Other factors, such as age and aerobic fitness, can also affect total body water content.

Sources:

  1. https://www.gssiweb.org/en/sports-science-exchange/Article/fluid-intake-strategies-for-optimal-hydration-and-performance-planned-drinking-vs.-drinking-to-thirst
  2. https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/WaterUNM.html
  3. https://www.ibji.com/blog/orthopedic-care/3-awesome-benefits-of-drinking-water/
  4. http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=3440
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/sweating#causes
  6. https://www.rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/cfb/respiration.htm
  7. https://www.hydrationforhealth.com/en/hydration-science/hydration-lab/water-and-hydration-physiological-basis-adults/