Monday, November 1, 2010

How to build your child's confidence

Young teens with low self-confidence can be lonely, awkward with others, sensitive to criticism, and less likely to join activities and form friendships.

Building confidence

Confidence means knowing you are a worthwhile person. Kids learn to be confident by how they are treated in their families: if they are encouraged to speak up and to do things, they come to discover that they are capable. Kids at this age commonly feel gawky and awkward about their physical skills and emotions. They may be afraid to play basketball because they are afraid they can’t make the basket, or not write for the school paper because they fear they aren’t a good writer. Confidence is key to self-esteem, both personal confidence (“I can do this”) and social confidence (“Others like being with me”).

According to the U.S. Department of Education, youth often feel inadequate as they are trying to adapt to their changing bodies and relationships withfriends and family. Young teens with low self-confidence can be lonely, awkward with others, sensitive to criticism, and less likely to join activities and form friendships. This isolates them further and slows their ability to develop a better self-image. Saddled with low self-confidence, when they do make friends, they are more vulnerable to peer pressure. Adolescents who lack confidence may hold back in class or do the opposite—act out to gain attention. At worst, a lack of confidence usually leads to self-destructive behavior and habits—smoking or drug or alcohol use, sexual behavior, or even self-injury.

Teachable moments

Every time your child does something that makes him feel good about himself, make a big deal about it. Say, “That is so terrific! I am so glad you could do that!” Do this even over small things and be very specific. If your daughter combs her hair perfectly every morning, say, “I am so proud that you take such good care of yourself every morning and that I never have to remind you.” If your son puts the top back confidenceon the chocolate milk, say, “You’re so good about being responsible in putting the cap back on the chocolate milk.”

Be very complimentary and supportive. Express care by saying, “I’m glad to see you,” “I love you so much,” “I’m glad you are my child,” or “You can do anything if you want to.” If your child is giving a speech at school, have her practice in front of you and point out all the things she is doing right instead of what is not up to par. That approach of emphasizing the positive builds confidence.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

10 Ways to eat green

You’ve probably heard how America’s infatuation with beef isn’t the best for the environment. The burning of fossil fuels during food production and the emissions associated with livestock and animal waste contribute to our global warming problem. On the other hand, vegetarian diets seem to protect the environment, reducing pollution and emissions in our air and waterways.

If you’d like to adopt a greener diet, but aren’t ready to go total vegetarian, here are ten tips to help.

■ Adapt Your Favorite Recipes. If you just love your grandma’s recipe for beef casserole, try changing it a little. Add chicken instead, or fish, or eventually, even tofu or tempeh.

■ Meatless Monday. Choose one day a week to go meat-free, and use it to explore vegetarian options, like pasta, burritos (beans only), or vegetable stew.

■ Grow Your Own. Consider starting your own garden. Start small, with a 6’ x 6’ space. Vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, and
onions are easiest to grow.

■ Go Local. It’s nice to get bananas year round, but trucking produce out of season puts more emissions into the air. Shop at your
local farmer’s markets and buy produce in season.

■ Pick Your Fish. Fish is great for the brain and the heart, but our penchant for some species is contributing to over-fishing. Some fish have proven to be sustainable, and others not so much. The Alaskan salmon fishery is well managed, but the albacore tuna industry has yet to prove sustainability. When choosing green, go for tilapia, wild salmon, Pacific halibut, and white sea bass, and avoid Chilean sea bass, swordfish, and ahi tuna.

■ Choose Green Beef. When you do eat meat, choose organic, chemical-free options. Look for beef labeled 100% grass-fed/finished.

■ Toss the Packaging. We love the convenience of packaged foods, but those packages end up heaped in our landfills, and they
require lots of energy to produce. Choose whole foods whenever you can and cut down on the boxes and bags.

■ Check the Label. In today’s supermarket, you’ll find more on the label than the nutrition facts. The USDA “certified organic” label means the product maintained organic integrity from farm to table. Others have eco-logos as well, which can signify a more sustainable product or process. Look carefully.

■ Buy Organic. Studies have shown that organic produce has fewer pesticides. Pesticides leak into our waterways, so cutting down on our demand for them can only contribute to a greener world.

■ Banish the Bottles. Those plastic bottles holding water take a lot of energy to make and ship, and are piling up in waste areas. Purchase a reusable bottle and use the tap—buy a filter if you want to be sure it’s free of chemicals.