Resilience is the ability to overcome difficulties and return to a homeostatic state, i.e. return to a state of balance, in the face of adversities – and it can be developed from childhood. In our adult life, resilience is important to overcome life’s obstacles in a clever and kind way to yourself.
The story Fatima, from Truth and Tales, tells the life of Fatima, the main character who goes through many hurdles but always picks herself up and dusts herself off to continue on her path. The story doesn’t talk about resilience in itself, but it’s one of Fatima’s predominant traits, showing how she handles hard times, tragedies and frustrations while persisting to pursue her goals at the same time.
Let’s understand more about resilience? We have based our article on several materials from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child.
Resilience can be defined as “a good outcome in the face of adversity”. Linda C. Mayes is a professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology in the Yale School of Medicine. Linda defines resilience as the “ability or set of capacities for positive adaptation, allowing you to keep in balance”.
We are all born with the ability to be resilient, but since it’s a skill, it needs to be developed. Resilience is built over time just like our brain’s architecture is formed. It’s an individual skill, but it requires interaction between people and the child and the overall community. Resilience needs several factors in order to be developed: responsive relationships, safe community, qualified parents or legal guardians, healthy diets, etc.
:: Read Also: School Adaptation: How to Prepare Kids and Parents ::
To understand the development of resilience in a more precise way, let’s imagine a seesaw whose base, which is usually fixed in the center, can now move and slide to the left or to the right. On one side of the seesaw, there are protective experiences and skills to face challenges (which help us overcome periods of stress); on the other side, there are adversities.
Resilience is evident when the child’s health and development tend to yield positive outcomes, even when a load of factors is piled on top of the adversities side of the seesaw. Over time, the cumulative positive impacts of our life experiences and our ability to face challenges are able to move the position of the seesaw’s base, which starts to slide closer to the adversity side, making it easier to reach positive outcomes.
The most common factor for kids to develop resilience is by having at least one stable and committed relationship with their parents, caregivers or other adults. These relationships provide the base, protection and everything that is necessary to develop the responsive ability according to the moment’s need. This alleviates the kids’ halt in development.
They also build key abilities – such as to plan, monitor and regulate behaviors – which allow children to respond adaptively to adversities and, still, prosper. This combination of supportive relationships, the development of adaptive skills and positive experiences are the foundations of resilience.
Kids who handle difficulties well are usually resilient to adversity and have strong relationships with important adults in their family and in the community where they live. Resilience is the outcome of a combination of protection factors. Alone, not even individual traits or social environments can guarantee positive outcomes for children who go through long periods of toxic stress. It’s the interaction between biology and the environment that builds the kids’ ability to handle adversity and overcome threats and guides them towards a healthy development.
The abilities related to resilience can be strengthened at any age. The brain and other biological systems are more adaptable in the beginning of life. While its development establishes the bases for a wide range of resilient behaviors, it’s never too late to build resilience.
Activities that promote health and are age appropriate can significantly improve the chances of recovery of an individual whose experiences are stress-inducing.
For example, regular physical exercise, stress-reducing practices, and activities that actively build executive functioning and self-regulating skills improve both children and adults’ ability to handle, adapt to, and even prevent the adversities that can happen throughout life.
Adults who strengthen these skills in themselves may even serve as role models and show healthy behaviors in a more effective way to their kids, thus improving the next generation’s resilience.
In the face of the mishaps that occurred throughout Fatima’s life – which is a character from one of the Truth and Tales’ stories – many people can interpret that she is a poor thing persecuted by bad luck and a victim of so many tragedies. However, Fatima demonstrates a lot of power and wisdom by facing and overcoming these obstacles. Her ability to bounce back from all the challenges, despite the pain, exhaustion and adversity, is the result of resilience.
Stories that are filled with challenges and frustrations are important for kids to have contact with adversity without living them in their own skin. This helps to prepare them to face challenging situations in the context of their own lives.
Text: Luisa Scherer
Translation: Mariana Gruber
Resilence – Center on the Developing Child – Harvard University
In Brief: What is Resilience? – Center on the Developing CHild – Harvard University
Stress and Resilience: How Toxic Stress Affects Us, and What We Can Do About It – Center on the Developing Child – Harvard University
The word empathy has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years and, because of this, you must have heard of this expression. However, despite its new-found popularity, have you ever wondered what it means?
Have you ever questioned how is it possible to develop empathy and from which age does it start to manifest?
We can feel empathy in several situations from an early age. When we come across completely different realities from ours, such as when we see someone being insulted by someone else or going through a situation that causes someone some kind of discomfort, we feel empathy. You can do this exercise and try to remember situations that made you feel empathy.
According to the University of Cambridge’s dictionary definition of empathy, it is “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation”.
The Greater Good magazine, from the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) from Berkeley, published an article in which it pointed out that “emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling”.
Feeling empathy is an emotional and cognitive experience. The emotional components of empathy are the first to emerge in the human being. Babies immediately start to reflect on the emotional states and the facial expressions of the people around them. Thanks to mirror neurons, babies as young as 18 hours usually show some response capacity regarding other babies in danger. We don’t teach babies how to do that; they are born programmed to map other people’s experiences onto their own brains and bodies.
According to Lawrence Kutner, North-American child psychologist and author of six books, kids as young as 2 years old might see their mothers crying, for example, and move to offer her what they have in hand, such as a toy or food. However, in the face of this action, it isn’t clear whether the 2-year-old kid recognizes their mother’s feeling as she cries.
The author writes, “By the time a child is about 4 years old, he begins to associate his emotions with the feelings of others. While one child says he has a stomachache, some 4-year-olds may come over and comfort him. Others, much to the bewilderment and horror of parents and teachers, will walk over to the child and punch him in the stomach.”
“Yet in each case the healthy child is demonstrating his empathy for the one who is ill. The aggressive child does not know what to do with the skill he’s been developing. The other child’s pain makes him feel uncomfortable. Instead of running away or rubbing his own stomach, as he might have done a year earlier, he feels frustrated and lashes out.”
Making Caring Common, an initiative from the University of Harvard, posted some tips for cultivating empathy:
1. “Empathize with your child and model empathy for others.”
Children learn empathy both from watching us and from experiencing our empathy for them. When we empathize with our children they develop trusting, secure attachments with us.
Those attachments are key to their wanting to adopt our values and to model our behavior, and therefore to building their empathy for others.”
2. “Provide opportunities for children to practice empathy.“
Children are born with the capacity for empathy, but it needs to be nurtured throughout their lives. Learning empathy is in certain respects like learning a language or a sport. It requires practice and guidance.
Regularly considering other people’s perspectives and circumstances helps make empathy a natural reflex and, through trial and error, helps children get better at tuning into others’ feelings and perspectives.”
3. “Expand your child’s circle of concern.”
As parents and caretakers, it’s not only important that we model appreciation for many types of people. It’s important that we guide children in understanding and caring for many kinds of people who are different from them and who may be facing challenges very different from their own challenges.”
4. “Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively.” Often when children don’t express empathy it’s not because they don’t have it. It’s because some feeling or image is blocking their empathy. Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed, for example, by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.
Helping children manage these negative feelings as well as stereotypes and prejudices about others is often what “releases” their empathy.”
According to psychologist, researcher and author Daniel Goleman, who wrote to Harvard Business Review about the subject, there are three types of empathy:
He reached these definitions based on research done by the Harvard Medical School. These studies also present the existence of a social brain, which can be explained as parts of the brains that interact in order for us to engage with one another.
The psychologist explains that the social brain isn’t made of one small part of the human brain, since varied parts of the brain interact to perform the functions involved in social coexistence. The term “social brain” encompasses several active parts that cover the entire human brain. These active parts are implied in the actions we execute when we interact with other people.
According to the researcher and author, these three types of empathy directly related to the social brain are paramount for communication in different types of environments, whether that’s at work, at home or in school. “When two people are in such a state, giving each other their full attention, it creates a feeling of well-being and makes space so that exchanges can happen, since they’re feeling safe and supported,” he states.
The author reiterates that our ability to truly connect with people, regardless of the situation, is extremely important for us to understand what others are telling us and what they feel. In order to improve this connection you need to know how to listen to others and ask questions.
Daniel Goleman states: “I literally feel your pain. My brain patterns match up with yours when I listen to you tell a gripping story.”
One study coordinated by Helen Riess together with other doctors from the Massachusetts General Hospital suggested that emotional empathy can be developed.
To reach this conclusion, the doctor created a program that taught other doctors how to concentrate and breathe deeply through the diaphragm in order to observe interactions. “Suspending your own involvement to observe what is happening allows you to interact with “conscious awareness”, without being completely reactive”, affirmed Dr. Riess.
She states in the research that if a doctor notices she is feeling annoyed, for example, it may be a sign that the patient is also feeling disturbed.
:: Read Also: What is Homeostasis? ::
Michelle Borba, an educator, parenting child expert and author of more than 20 books, in an interview to Revista Crescer explained that “the last scientific discoveries have shown that the ability to be empathetic positively affects healthy and finances, brings happiness and contributes to the satisfaction that relationships offer, in addition to increasing the ability to overcome adversities in the future. Empathy also prepares kids to live in a globalized world and provides them with a boost to do better career-wise.”
In her book Unselfie, Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, the author dedicates an entire chapter to the importance of kids being in contact with literature.
According to her, “Books have the power to transport kids to other worlds and transform their hearts. Books can be portals to understanding distinct universes and points of view, helping our kids to be more open to differences and to cultivate new perspectives. We always feel what the characters feel. It’s like walking in their skins – emotionally, at least – identifying ourselves with their discomforts and feeling their pains. (…) That is why we need to find time for kids to read and put them in contact with books.”
By reading or listening to stories, kids can broaden their perceptions regarding their own lives and, therefore, experience empathy. Our app Truth and Tales also shares this vision since it encourages kids and adults to perceive themselves more and more. By doing so better, we can also see others more easily and, that way, be more empathetic.
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Empathy is popular right now and we can see it being mentioned in several lectures of the most varied genres. People claim it’s the “skill of the future”. Despite many talking about empathy, however, in practice, most still confuse it with sympathy.
As it was said in the article above, we feel empathy when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes – when we are able to see the situation from someone else’s perspective. It’s the ability to experience the same feelings as others.
Sympathy, on the other hand, isn’t a shared experience. Sympathy concerns our own feelings from our own judgment of a situation. To feel sympathy is to express that, despite not knowing what the other person is going through, you feel for them.
For empathy to occur, a connection between two people is indispensable, whether they know each other or not. In a world where online connection is getting easier and easier, physical ones are getting lost. We advise, therefore, that you spend some quality time with your kids away from screens and the internet.
Truth and Tales, our original app, develops empathy through interactive kids stories. This is done through the customization of the main characters, which allows kids to choose the character’s skin, eye and hair color, the hairstyle, the clothes, the accessories, etc.
Kids could come up with the craziest combinations, but they usually put together characters whose physical traits are similar to themselves. That makes it easier for kids to put themselves in the character’s shoes, thus developing empathy.
Roblox is a virtual platform that makes many possibilities available to users, from creating new games to playing other users’ productions.
According to a report published by Roblox Corporation this year in August, the platform has reached the mark of having 48 million active users playing daily. This number is expressive not only in terms of the quantity of players, but also in the hours that players spend connected to the platform: more than 4 billion hours were spent playing during the analyzed period.
This universe of possibilities has attracted many kids – as well as parents’ attention. We have already written a complete guide for parents to help them pay attention to certain aspects of Roblox when their kids are playing it.
In this article, we are going to talk about how to make your kid’s experience safer and understand a little more about how the platform works.
Roblox offers some parental control possibilities, such as limiting chat functions, account restrictions (so that the user can access only Roblox’s curated content) and age visibility, which determines the settings for kids.
Click on the security option within settings. Next to account restrictions, switch the button position to activate the restrictions. The button will turn green and the following message will appear on the screen: “Account restrictions are currently enabled”. This means you have successfully enabled account restrictions.
By doing so, no other user can send you messages, either in the Roblox app or in the game, in addition to preventing the account from being found by its phone number. All these settings can be adjusted individually, as soon as the restrictions are activated.
Blocking users is very simple: you must simply open the profile of the user you wish to block and click on the three dots on the top right corner where there is the username and friends information. A menu of options will appear on screen and among them there will be the option to “block user”. By selecting it, you block the user.
There is also the option of blocking users inside the games. In the list in the top right corner of the game screen there is a list of players, select the profile you wish to block and a menu will be displayed on the screen. After that, choose the option: block user. It is also possible to report abuse directly in the same menu, by clicking on report abuse.
It’s necessary to report abuse through this button when some user uses inappropriate language or addresses other players in a threatening or intimidating way.
Roblox offers kids parents another safety possibility: the creation of a PIN number associated with the guardian’s email address to block user settings. To activate it, you need to click on the gear icon on Roblox’s home page and then choose settings.
After doing so, type the guardian’s email address and the kid’s account password in the corresponding fields. Then, click on add email. A confirmation email will be sent to the given email address. After the confirmation process is complete, you need to refresh the settings page to activate the PIN number. Then, to activate it, click on account PIN. Once it’s activated, every setup in the future will be activated only after the password is typed in. The settings are now blocked by the PIN number.
:: You can also read: The importance of make-believe, lies and imagination in childhood ::
Now that you already know how to keep your kids safe on Roblox, we are going to explain how the game works, so that you can talk to your kids and be a part of their online life as well.
How does game creation happen on Roblox?
Before anything else you need to create an account on Roblox’s main page. After that, you will already have access to your main profile, where you can change your personal information, send and receive messages, change your profile picture and create your own games.
To start creating games, you need to download the program Roblox Studio. This program is what makes it possible to create games with the available objects and map models, which later can be published in your profile within Roblox.
Once Roblox Studio is downloaded, in the creation start menu there are the map options, where it is also possible to choose a theme or gameplay map. Players who are new to the platform can choose the gameplay option, since the game’s visuals and rules will already be established. The gameplay mode offers seven available models: Racing, Obby, Line Runner, Infinite Runner, Capture The Flag, Team/FFA Arena and Combat. Some edits are allowed, such as changing objects, switching the background between day and night and customizing the avatar. In the lateral tab, located in the left part of the screen, there are buttons to create a new map or visualize already existing ones.
After selecting the game option, it is possible to change elements within the game, such as objects and the avatar, by clicking on the “toolbox”. At this stage, it’s possible to style the game according to how the player had pictured it. To do so, the user must enable the toolbox on the left part of the screen. With it, the player can add objects and choose where to place them. If you want to alter the object surface or add effects, you must simply click on “model”.
In the theme option, the user can create a game from already existing terrains, with the following available themes: Baseplate, Flat Terrain, Village, Castle, Suburban and Racing.
By selecting this option, the elements of each terrain are filled automatically according to their own traits. Despite that, the elements can also be altered.
To those who have previous knowledge of game creation, Roblox Studio also offers the option to create a game from scratch. To do so, you should choose the base plate map, which is a blank map mode. After selecting this mode, the user can choose a terrain and, then, select the game’s objects, characters, visual and sound effects, and rules. This mode also allows the player to create gameplay mechanics with programming, especially HTML. There is the plugins tab, which offers a system to those familiar with programming and makes a more autonomous creation possible.
Kids who have learnt or are learning programming and coding can benefit a lot from this Roblox mode.
Testing the game created on Roblox Studio is an extremely important part of the creation process. In order to do that, click on the top of the Roblox Studio window and open the toolbar called testing and then play. Now it’s possible to walk with your character through the map, observing the game from a wider point of view. To leave player mode you need to simply click on stop. By doing so, the user will go back to editing mode.
Putting objects in non-strategic places – which hinder movement within the game – is one of the most frequent errors. That is why testing the game is extremely important, since that is the only way such errors can be fixed.
Don’t forget to save the game:
After following these steps, it’s time to save the game. And, similarly to other types of work that use programs, saving a copy is key. To do that, you need to click on file and then save.
Now that a copy has been saved, it’s time to publish the game. On the top menu, on the file tab, the user must click on the option “publish to Roblox”. The next screen will ask you to choose a genre for the game, whether it will be private or public, and other details such as the name and the devices it will be available to play. After that, you can simply click on create for the game to go online!
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Roblox is an amazing tool and it can be very beneficial for kids. We can start by considering it’s an active activity in which kids can create new things instead of only consuming content passively (of which watching a video is a good example).
With Roblox, kids have access to games created by other users, which is an incentive for them to create their own games. The game creation process involves much more than programming. You need to think about the goal of the game, its format, characters, rules, all of its visuals, and, of course, in the technical aspects of it, which is programming in itself. All of this requires organization and focus.
By building a simple game, kids develop many skills like planning, organization, and storytelling skills; and the ability to see a project from a broader point of view and, right afterward, move on to an activity in which they need to focus in only one aspect (we call this global and focal attention) – in addition to a lot of creativity.
However, it’s a platform to which many people have simultaneous online access – and there’s a chat feature. All the games and platforms that have chats and kids using them must trigger a warning light on a parent’s mind. This is because ill-intentioned people can make contact with kids and try to take advantage of them somehow.
Therefore, read about Roblox (and all the games and apps your kids have), understand how it works and keep yourself informed about parental controls in order to activate whatever is necessary to protect them within the platform.
The information that classical music is good for babies has circled the web and parents’ group chats. But are the benefits real? We do not know whether it is classical music specifically. However, a study by the Geneva University Hospitals has proved premature infants have better brain development when they listen to a specific type of music.
Premature babies who were exposed to music in intensive care units developed their brain networks more effectively, leading to a functional brain architecture more similar to term newborn babies.
In some areas of infant brains exposed to music, larger development was detected. This had an impact on sensory perception, on attention mechanisms which are helpful to the learning process related to cognitive and perceptive development, on affective and emotional processing, and on cognitive and behavioral responses.
The study was developed by researchers from the University of Geneva and published in June 2019 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), one of the world’s most-cited scientific journals.
Overall, 45 babies participated in the research: 16 term newborn babies (i.e. babies who were not born prematurely) and 29 preterm infants, newly born in the ICU environments of the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG).
Of 29 premature babies, 15 were in the control group which had no music intervention and 14 were in the one which had.
According to the article “Music in premature infants enhances high-level cognitive brain networks”, written based on the study’s results, premature babies exposed to a certain type of music had significant enhancement in the development of their brain networks in relation to the preterm babies who had no contact with the music.
The brains of premature babies are not fully developed yet because of their shorter pregnancy period. For this reason, babies need to spend some time in an ICU incubator to continue developing.
Despite simulating the environment of the uterus, incubators are found lacking in terms of development. According to Petra Huppi, the professor leading the UNIGE’s Faculty of Medicine’s research and head of HUG’s Development and Growth Division, “The brain’s immaturity, combined with a disturbing sensory environment, explains why the neural networks do not develop properly.”
:: You can also read: The benefits of rhymes when learning to read ::
The premature babies from the study had contact with music composed exclusively for them. The specific instruments that were used, such as a harp, bells, and a pungi, had already produced brain and behavioral responses in premature newborns in a previous study.
The music was divided into three tracks in order to adapt to the babies’ vigilance state: one that helped awake the babies; another which interacted with them while they were alert; and a third one that helped put them to sleep.
Written by Luisa Scherer
Translated by Mariana Gruber
You must have heard this sentence before: “the human body is a perfect machine”. But did you ever stop to think about what guarantees our perfect functioning considering how complexly we are built? When we feel goosebumps on our skin from the cold or when we sweat after practicing physical activities, these are physiological responses whose goal is to keep our body’s internal temperature in balance. It is through this matter that we can touch on the subject of homeostasis, which acts on maintaining the balance of our body’s functioning.
The human body needs to be in balance in order to guarantee its functioning.
In an interview to UOL, Nicolle Queiroz, a cardiologist and professor of the Medical School of the Universidade de Santo Amaro (Unisa), in Brazil, explains that sweat, for example, is part of a mechanism called homeostasis, which is responsible for regulating body temperature so that all body functions happen seamlessly.
Professor Kelvin S. Rodolfo from the University of Illinois starts an interview with Scientific American by explaining what homeostasis is according to the word’s meaning. “Homeostasis, from the Greek words for “same” and “steady,” refers to any process that living things use to actively maintain fairly stable conditions necessary for survival”.
The term was coined in 1930 by the physician Walter Cannon. His book, The Wisdom of the Body, describes how the human body maintains steady levels of temperature and other vital conditions such as the water, salt, sugar, protein, fat, calcium and oxygen contents of the blood. Similar processes dynamically maintain steady-state conditions in the Earth’s environment.”
Moreover, PhD professor Ismar A. de Moraes’s explanation about the concept of homeostasis revives the one created by Claude Bernard, a famous French physiologist:
“All vital mechanisms, despite their diversity, have only one function: to keep the life conditions of an internal environment constant.”
Ismar states that we must understand homeostasis as an organism’s tendency to maintain its internal conditions always within normal or physiological parameters. According to their position on the evolutionary scale, living beings may present a bigger or smaller ability to adapt to their environment.
“Each moment in which there is a tendency to imbalance, the homeostatic mechanisms will show up in order to ensure regulation or the return to normality. This applies, among others, to the regulation of the body’s pH as well as to thermoregulation and circulation,” he writes.
:: Read Also: Stories with humor are beneficial to the brain and to cognitive development ::
Homeostasis acts mainly in the functioning of the nervous and endocrine systems. The nervous system coordinates bodily functions and the endocrine system indicates “what must be done” for each organ.
If a system is under conditions that provoke alterations, it then faces instabilities – and its tendency is to act in order to combat such alterations. Homeostasis has a fundamental role in this process.
Professor Kelvin S. Rodolfo also mentions the importance of the human body’s temperature control processes. “For example, the human body uses a number of processes to control its temperature, keeping it close to an average value or norm of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the most obvious physical responses to overheating is sweating, which cools the body by making more moisture on the skin available for evaporation. On the other hand, the body reduces heat-loss in cold surroundings by sweating less and reducing blood circulation to the skin. Thus, any change that either raises or lowers the normal temperature automatically triggers a counteracting, opposite or negative feedback . Here, negative merely means opposite, not bad; in fact, it operates for our well being in this example. ”
He emphasizes that “homeostatic reactions are inevitable and automatic if the system is functioning properly, and that a steady state or homeostasis may be maintained by many systems operating together. For example, flushing is another of the body’s automatic responses to heating: the skin reddens because its small blood vessels automatically expand to bring more heated blood close to the surface where it can cool. Shivering is another response to chilling: the involuntary movements burn body tissue to produce more body heat.”
Kelvin S. Rodolfo explains furthermore that oscillation is a common and necessary behavior of many systems and that they themselves promote such oscillations above and below the equilibrium level.
Homeostatic systems evolved throughout the years to help the body maintain its ideal functions in different environments and situations. But beyond that, according to an article published in 2013 by the National Library of Medicine (National Center for Biotechnology Information), a group of scientists theorized that homeostasis mainly provides a “quiet background” for cells, tissues and organs to communicate with one another. The theory proposes that homeostasis makes it easier for organisms to extract important information from the environment and to transmit it between different parts of the body.
Moving slightly away from the explanations of homeostasis in the body, professor Kelvin S. Rodolfo says that homeostasis has also found useful applications in the social sciences. “It refers to how a person under conflicting stresses and motivations can maintain a stable psychological condition. A society homeostatically maintains its stability despite competing political, economic and cultural factors. A good example is the law of supply and demand, whereby the interaction of supply and demand keeps market prices reasonably stable.”
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
The body needs to return to homeostasis when it encounters a stress factor. When we think about this stress factor, we usually think of a flu that weakens our bodies or makes it feverish in order to combat an infection; or we think of a freezing-cold day and clothes that are not warm enough, thus our bodies shiver uncontrollably in order to generate heat and avoid lowering its temperature.
However, there’s also psychological stress: when we are overloaded or concerned about something. Our bodies have a series of responses in the face of stress and each person reacts differently. Some people sleep, others crave sweets; some lose all appetite, others feel constipated – or need to visit the toilet five times a day. All of this is our body showing us that there is an imbalance that may be emotional.
Kids can also be stressed and have responses such as a lack of appetite, sleep deregulation or irritability. You need to stay alert and seek the help of pediatricians and therapists in case one of these warning signs is identified.
Truth and Tales, our children’s well-being app, relies on some activities that may help kids return to their homeostatic state. The interactive stories and audiobooks are Teaching Stories, ancient stories structured in a way that improves neuroplasticity and provides space to develop finer skills, such as focus and attention.
We also offer physical activities that integrate the body and mind and help restore homeostasis. In a playful and fun way, kids are given space to notice their bodies and their feelings, placing their attention back on themselves.
When we offer to help someone or look at someone else with compassion and decide to do something about it, we are practicing genuine kindness.
Such acts which can go unnoticed in our day-to-day lives are beneficial not only to others but also ourselves. Do you know that feeling that you feel after you do something kind? It’s part of the effects caused by genuine kindness in our brains.
In 2018, a group of British researchers from the University of Sussex stated that acts of generosity activate brain regions associated with reward.
The study analyzed 1,150 participants whose brains were scanned through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) throughout a 10-year period, but the analysis had a particular aspect: it compared between altruistic and strategic giving – i.e. attitudes aimed at getting something in return or receiving some kind of recognition.
“This major study sparks questions about people having different motivations to give to others: clear self-interest versus the warm glow of altruism,” said the research leader Dr. Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn in a statement released right after the study was published.
He continued, “The decision to share resources is a cornerstone of any cooperative society. We know that people can choose to be kind because they like feeling like they are a ‘good person’, but also that people can choose to be kind when they think there might be something ‘in it’ for them such as a returned favour or improved reputation.”
The researchers found out that “strategic decisions showed greater activity in striatal regions than altruistic choices”, which are those from which nothing is expected in return. The striatum acts on nondeclarative or implicit memory, which is the subconscious memory and certain skills such as riding a bike or ice skating. In other words, activities we do “without thinking”.
On the other hand, “altruistic giving, more than strategic, activated subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC). Studies showed that “the mean gray matter volume of this “subgenual” ACC (sgACC) cortex is abnormally reduced in subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder, irrespective of mood state.
Ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is involved during generous decisions and is responsible for differentiating between these two types of kindness. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex participates in the processing of risk and fear, since it plays an important role in the regulation of amygdala activity. The vmPFC is also important to inhibit emotional responses and to the process of decision-making and self-control, in addition to being involved in our sense of morality.
In other words, people who practice genuine kindness activate more of the part of the brain that regulates the amygdala – thus maintaining stress levels in balance. By practicing genuine kindness, the brain also operates in regions that, if rarely active, are related to depression and bipolar disorder. Therefore, after such analyses, the researchers concluded that it’s much more pleasurable when we act in a selflessly kind manner.
By researching about the effects of kindness in our brains, we came across the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a non-profit organization that invests resources into turning kindness into something widely practiced by people, whether at home, in school or at work. This initiative is based on scientific research that proves we can live better by practicing kindness.
Other proved functions that involve practicing kindness:
Kindness Increases the Love Hormone:
Oxytocin, the love hormone, is released when we practice acts of kindness. This release helps to reduce arterial pressure and to improve the heart’s overall health – Natalie Angier, The New York Times.
Half the participants of one study felt strengthened and more energetic after helping others. Some reported that they also felt calmer and less depressed – Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center.
:: Read Also: What is Cognitive Development? ::
A study by Dr. Lynn Alden, professor from the University of British Columbia and by the psychologist Dr. Jennifer Trew indicates that social anxiety can be reduced by practicing genuine kindness.
The authors of the study recruited 115 undergraduate students who presented high levels of social anxiety. These participants were split randomly into three groups for an intervention that lasted four weeks.
One of the groups was encouraged to carry out acts of kindness; another group was exposed to social interactions; and the third group got no instructions, all they were asked to do was to keep a record of their routines. The results showed that a greater reduction in the desire to avoid social interactions was observed amongst the individuals who were encouraged to do acts of kindness.
“The main goal of social anxiety treatment is to increase involvement in social situations, which socially anxious individuals tend to avoid. The exercises of social exposure may be improved by encouraging anxious individuals to focus on loving actions. Therefore, opening the door to a neighbor who’s pushing a baby stroller, thanking the cashiers at the grocery store for their help or offering coffee to a colleague can be good ways for them to start their social exposure,” reported the professor.
Professor Lynn Alden also explained that acts of kindness may help someone who is socially anxious face the fear of being negatively assessed by others, promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of how people will react to them.
“We discovered that any kind act seemed to have the same benefit, even small gestures such as opening the door to someone or saying “thank you” to the bus driver. Kindness doesn’t need to involve money or long efforts, although some of our participants did that. Kindness didn’t even need to be “face to face”. For example, acts of kindness can include donating to charity or adding a coin to someone else’s parking meter when you notice it is blinking. Studies by other researchers have suggested that it is important for the kind act to be done by and of itself, and that it doesn’t look coerced or for the giver’s own personal gain. Aside from that, everything counts”
Oxytocin, a hormone produced through emotional heat, acts in the reduction of the body’s levels of free radicals and the inflammation of the cardiovascular system. This way, it slows aging at its root. Free radicals and the inflammation of the cardiovascular system play an important role and we can therefore say that kindness is also good for the heart.
Some scientific journals have already published studies about the strong link between compassion and vagus nerve activity. The vagus nerve, in addition to regulating the heart rate, is also responsible for controlling the body’s inflammation levels.
One study analyzed the Tibetan buddhists’ meditation and found that kindness and compassion help reduce body inflammation, probably due to their effects on the vagus nerve.
These analyzes are present in the book “The Five Side Effects of Kindness: This Book Will Make You Feel Better, Be Happier & Live Longer” written by Dr. David R. Hamilton, who has a PhD in Organic Chemistry and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for several years developing drugs for treating cardiovascular diseases.
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
All this information refers to genuine kindness. “Genuine” means pure, real, true. It’s important to take this into consideration because no one can demand acts of genuine kindness from others. These actions happen spontaneously, from the heart.
⚠️ Dear parents: being an example really is a way to show kids how doing good is good for you – however, forcing this type of situation is not the solution.
If you are not having a good day, don’t force yourself to do anything that you don’t want to do in order to “be a good example for your kids”.
This won’t be good neither to you nor to your little ones. In addition, avoid demanding good deeds from your kids. No one is going to stop being a good person just because they didn’t hold the door to let someone in.
Allow these qualities to manifest of their own accord, without effort or encouragement. The beauty and the benefits of genuine kindness are in letting it manifest itself spontaneously. Don’t worry about “being kind” or “teaching your kids to be kind”. There is kindness inside everyone, you must simply perceive it and allow it to manifest.
The term cognitive development is frequently used by therapists, doctors and educators. We have also used those two words together in a lot of content published here in our blog. But do you know what it means?
In an interview from December 2019 for the Maria Cecília Souto Vidigal Foundation — which has worked for the cause of early childhood and the first stages of child development since 2007 — doctor Drauzio Varella explained a little about cognitive development.
“We are born with our entire neurological equipment set up, but not ready: our brain is a miniature of the adult brain, i.e. morphologically speaking, the shape is well-established. However, what allows for the development of cognitive activities isn’t brain shape but the neurons. It is the links between them, because it is through them that information is communicated, through these established connections. If you stimulate these connections with games, made-up stories and by reading to children, they will start to develop their cognitive ability based on the stimuli of synapse formation, which is the interaction between neurons,” he explained.
In order to explain these connections that happen in our brains a little further, we will present three core concepts of early childhood development, developed by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child from Harvard University.
These three concepts show how the advancement of neuroscience, molecular biology and genomics offers a much more thorough understanding of how our first experiences are built in our bodies and brains, for better or worse.
The experiences lived by children during their first years of life have a lifelong impact on their brain architecture and development. Genes represent the diagram to be performed, but experiences shape the process that will define whether the brain will build a strong or weak foundation for learning, behavior and health throughout their lives.
During this important stage of development, billions of brain cells called neurons send electrical signals that communicate among themselves. These connections build the circuits that establish the brain’s basic architecture. Circuits and connections are multiplied quickly and are strengthened by their frequent use.
Our experiences and the environment we live in determine which circuits and connections will be used more. The most frequently used connections get stronger and become permanent, whereas rarely used connections disappear through a normal process called pruning. Simple circuits are built first, forming the foundation upon which more complex ones will be built later.
It is through this process that neurons build circuits and connections for emotions, motor skills, behavior control, logic, language and memory. All of this happens during the early stages of development.
With repeated use, the circuits become more efficient and connect to other areas of the brain more quickly. Despite originating from specific areas of the brain, the circuits are interconnected and there cannot be one type of skill without others that complement it. It is similar to building a house, everything is connected, and whichever comes first builds the foundation for what will come later.
A solid architecture of the brain is shaped through the serve and return interaction between the child and the adult. In this game of development, the neurons create new connections in the brain as the child instinctively makes face expressions, sounds, and gestures, and the adult reacts in a very significant way and with a focus on the child’s action.
This starts quite early in life, when babies try to express themselves and the adults interact by calling the babies’ attention to their faces or hands. This interaction shapes the foundations of the brain circuitry upon which all future development will take place.
The serve and return interaction helps to create connections by means of the neurons from all brain areas, establishing the emotional and cognitive skills that children need to live. For example: language and literacy skills are formed when a baby sees an object and the adult utters its name. This builds connections inside the baby’s brain between the specific sounds and their corresponding objects.
Later, adults show to kids that such objects and sounds can also be represented by marks on a page. With the adults’ constant support, children learn to decipher the writing and, then, to write themselves. Each stage is built from the previous one.
Ensuring children’s caregivers are involved in the serve and return interaction from their first few months is to promote the construction of a solid foundation in the brain for learning, behavior and health — for the rest of their lives.
:: You can aldo read: Physical activity, games and lots of fun: Health for our children! ::
Learning to deal with stress is an important part of healthy development. When we experience stress, our response system is activated, the body and brain become alert, adrenaline takes over and heart rate increases, as well as the stress hormone levels.
Stress is relieved when children get the nurturing support they need from an adult. Their bodies react to the adult’s response and slow down, returning to homeostasis in no time. In severe situations, such as continuous abuse and negligence or when there is no nurturing adult to soften the impacts of stress, the response to stress remains activated. Even when there is no apparent physical damage, the prolonged lack of care and attention on the part of the adults is able to activate the stress response system.
The constant stress response activation overwhelms the developing systems. As a result, there are serious long term consequences for the children, and this process is known as toxic stress. Over time it results in a stress response system that is permanently on alert.
Science shows that the prolonged activation of stress hormones during early childhood can reduce the number of neuron connections in these important regions of the brain in a period that children should be developing new connections. Toxic stress can be avoided if we ensure that children grow up and develop in warm, reliable and stimulating environments.
When questioned about early childhood development and lifelong health on The Brain Architects Podcast by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, the center director, Dr. Jack Shonkoff, explains that one of the new science’s most important messages compels us to connect the brain to the rest of the body. “Because what happens early on is not only important for learning and social and emotional development and school achievement, but it’s an important influence on your physical and mental health for the rest of your life. .”
Jack also says that there are no perfect brains or immunological systems. “How we grow up, how we learn, what our health is like is related to the interaction between how we are individually wired to begin with and what our life experiences are about. And the important part of our life experiences, the most important, is the environment of relationships that we grow up in. And then also of importance is the physical environment in which we grow up. How safe is it? How protected or exposed are we to toxic substances in the environment, lead, mercury? How much space do we have to move around? So all of these things together, interacting with how everybody is unique from a genetic point of view results in a wide, wide range of normal development.”
In order to understand how pedagogy explains cognitive development, we talked to Carol Mota, who is an educator, clinical psychopedagogue, and author of the book “Autism in Children’s Education: an Outlook on Social Interaction and School Inclusion” (loosely translated). She explained that play is the best way to stimulate this development.
“As children play, they are continuously learning. When they play by exploring a specific toy that involves spatial or sensory matters, for instance, their logical thinking and memory are stimulated,” she said.
“While playing amongst themselves, they are also learning a way to engage with others, which in turn expands their cognitive processes. We need to think that, even though cognitive processes exist, they don’t expand outside a cultural context of social interaction. It is by interacting with others, with an interactive exchange between pairs, between children and adults, that kids take ownership of new skills,” explained the educator.
Carol highlighted that, more than games that stimulate logical reasoning, what is key and most important is the social interaction that happens during these moments.
“Social interaction and interactive exchange: that is how we are going to approach these matters in a more significant way. As we interact, communicate and talk to each other, we need to reflect about our behavior, we need to think about which answer to give to specific questions. When we reflect and formulate questions, our cognitive processes are active and it is in this dialogue between me and the other person that these processes expand, and that cognitive development starts to emerge.”
“It is through play that children will learn how to use their bodies, from the contact with different languages that may involve music, visual arts, etc. Therefore, children will get to know others and the world through several different perspectives, which helps to develop cognitive skills,” said the psychopedagogue.
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Mental health problems during childhood are more common than we imagine. About six to seventeen percent of children and teenagers are affected by anxiety disorder or depression. Research has identified that many children and teenagers with an anxiety disorder showed cognitive distortions, which are characterized by negative thinking patterns — in other words: when the repetitive exposure to derogatory and negative content has a negative impact on thoughts, emotions, and behaviors — affecting their well-being, the way they see the world, and their adaptive functioning.
According to this article, these cognitive distortions are the result of negative thinking patterns. When this negativity in the way of thinking becomes a pattern as early as childhood, it directs how information and events are interpreted throughout one person’s life.
Negative thoughts are common and everyone has them, from kids to adults. But you need to be careful so that this does not become so recurrent to the point of becoming a pattern, especially during childhood.
If you notice your kids are having cognitive distortions — if their thoughts are inflexible, their expectations are chronically negative, or their feelings are too strong for them to reflect on their thinking patterns, it is time to look for the help of specialists. Kids who are suffering with this in a way that their routines, behavior and perspectives of the world are affected need to be monitored by a professional.
What is it: It is seeing things in only two ways, categories or possibilities, therefore thinking that they are either good or bad, black or white, without any gray area in between. It is a common distortion that makes you think — and then feel — that if something is not everything you want, then you do not want any of it. It is also thinking that you must perform excellently at everything (perfectionism) — otherwise you have failed miserably.
Examples: “I did not get into my first-choice university, therefore all my hopes are lost.” Or: “if I don’t get a 10 on that test, I have completely failed.”
What is it: It is believing that, because you feel something, it must be true, even if there is no other evidence to support it aside from this feeling.
Examples: “I feel alone, therefore no one likes me.” Or: “I’m afraid of elevators, and that is why elevators are dangerous.”
What is it: It is talking about a negative detail or event related to a situation and turning it into an universal pattern which is true about your entire life.
Examples: “Someone does not want to hang out with me. No one ever wants to hang out with me!” Or: “I messed up a chemistry experiment today. I never do anything right!”
What is it: It is putting a negative label on yourself — or others — so that you no longer see the person behind the label. When you reduce someone to this kind of thought, your understanding becomes so rigid that there is no more space for you to see yourself or someone else in a different way.
Examples: “I fell today at soccer, trying to score. I’m so clumsy!” Or: “I didn’t have anything to add to this conversation. I’m so boring!”
What is it: It is predicting something will happen in a negative way. This can turn into a negative way of seeing the future and can impact behavior, increasing the chances of your negative predictions happening.
Examples: “I know I’m going to fail this test”; and then you get nervous and your performance deteriorates. Or: “If I talk to this person, they won’t talk to me or accept me”; and then you don’t talk to them or have the chance to connect with someone whom you want to get to know better or who could help you.
What is it: It is assuming that you know and understand what other people are thinking, and usually, being sure that it reflects badly on you.
Examples: “I am talking to someone else and they don’t seem to be paying attention. I’m sure they don’t like me”; and, actually, you don’t know what the other person is thinking: for example, they may only be distracted or worried about something completely unrelated to you and are finding it hard to focus.
What is it: It is distorting a problem or something negative out of proportion.
Example: “This party is going to be the worst experience ever!”
What is it: It is minimizing something positive that happened so that it “does not count” as a good thing or a pleasant experience in your life. It dismisses any evidence that goes against your negative vision of yourself or of a situation.
Examples: “I did well in the exam, but that was pure luck.” Or someone says: “I love going out with you!” But you think: “They were only being polite, they didn’t mean to say that.”
What is it: It is seeing only the negative side instead of the positive or all the aspects of an experience.
Examples: You write an article for a teacher and they give you a lot of positive feedback — but you wrote someone’s name wrong. All that you can think of is the wrong name. Or you have many positive conversations throughout the day and in one of them you say something slightly awkward. Appalled, you focus only on the embarrassing thing you said, forgetting all the other nice interactions you had that day.
What is it: It is making everything become about you when it is not. That includes blaming yourself even for things beyond your control and taking things personally when they don’t mean to be harmful to you.
Examples: “If I wasn’t such a burden to my parents, maybe they wouldn’t be getting a divorce.” Or: “How dare that person walk in front of me, that is so disrespectful!” When the person simply didn’t see you and cutting in front of you was merely a distraction.
What is it: It is thinking “should” and “must” (and the opposites “shouldn’t and “can’t”).
Examples: “I should present my school work in class without feeling anxious. What is wrong with me?” However, thinking like that at the height of your anxiety will only make you even more nervous regarding said presentation!
:: Read Also: My kid is shy and an introvert. What now? ::
Going to therapy can help! Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to identify, challenge and restructure these thoughts.
For actions beyond therapy, it is important for you to start observing, identifying and recognizing your own negative thinking patterns. For example, if your kids have anxiety, you may end up personalizing it, blaming yourself and labeling yourself as a “terrible parent”. Always remember that it is a cognitive distortion, which is reversible, and avoid judging both yourself and, mainly, your kids.
In order to help kids learn about cognitive distortions, you can explain them with fun cards or a game of questions and answers. It is important to keep this team work lighthearted, without putting too much pressure on yourselves, and to be careful so as not to invalidate your kids and tell them what they are feeling — even by accident — or tell them these negative thoughts are “wrong” or “unreasonable”. Even if they are, we cannot assume children are ready to handle them and see them this way. Each person has their own time, including (and especially) kids.
An important reminder is that, if you notice your kids are having too many inflexible thoughts and putting too much pressure on themselves, or that their expectations are almost always negative, it is time to seek the help of a pediatrician, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.
Written by Luisa Scherer
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Carol is a physical therapist and 6-year-old Pedro and 2-year-old Clara’s mother. She is in lockdown with her family, without being allowed to leave her apartment (literally!) since her building has been closed by the Civil Defense, and she has had to get creative in order to make her children practise physical activity.
Children are a source of energy and life! It is in their nature to be in motion and in creativity. To stimulate and support this nature can be a huge incentive to the promotion and development of health in children and teenagers.
The practice of physical activities during childhood and teenage years helps to readjust the energy balance and to prevent obesity, improves blood circulation and the oxygenation of the body and the brain, boosts the metabolism, reinforces the immune system, improves cognition, self-esteem and the feeling of well-being.
Physical activity develops muscle strength, flexibility and endurance, improves motor coordination, stimulates bone metabolism, increases breathing and heart capacity, and lifts the mood, in both the short and long term.
Being physically active everyday is important for the promotion of integral health in children and teenagers, and it is fundamental that activities are enjoyable and adequate for the individual state of growth of each child and teenager.
According to the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics, physical activity can be stimulated in children’s lives from their first year of life. Rolling over, crawling, walking, running, jumping and other types of exercise bring numerous health benefits.
In times of technological advances and wide availability of virtual games, tablets and videogames, the practice of physical activity can fall by the wayside. Children usually mirror and are inspired by the actions and life habits of their parents or the adults surrounding them and, because of that, we need to be careful with what we want to pass on to our children and teenagers.
Following a healthy routine with the incentive of good eating habits, meditation and physical exercise at home so the little ones keep being active is very important to promote healthy growth and development.
But what should be done, and how should it be done, when there are strenuous work hours, so little time and a thousand things to handle? And furthermore: what about when you are in lockdown, without being able to leave the house, and with two children in an apartment?
It’s okay, mom and dad, we are in this together! There are days in which we look like a family of athletes, but there are days in which everything becomes a mess! Relax, it’s one day at a time until it turns into a pleasant routine.
We can create a favourable and attractive environment to the practice of physical activities with children. Anything goes! You can play around, dance, play games, throw a party, put on music – the important thing is to let them do the activity freely and at ease.
Determining a time of the day to carry out the physical activity is quite interesting and it works. For instance, at 10 o’clock in the morning we gathered in the living room and called out for the exercise hour. We put on a nice song that the children like and watched how they reacted. And then we proposed a series of exercises to them and we all executed them.
These workouts usually last from 10 to 15 minutes, and involve jumping jacks, squats and push-ups. Our children more often than not mimic us doing these exercises and gradually get in the mood! From then on, we let their imagination and creativity run freely! Sometimes it turns into a mess, at others we manage to do it and create super fun exercises!
It is important to guide them while also being attentive to the flow, to what the children want to tell and show us! They will often have much cooler and fun ideas and inventions than the ones we want to propose to them!
There are a lot of games we can create in form of exercise! If we make room for physical activity in our routines and bring our children with us, what is supposed to be an important benefit to our health also becomes a moment of love, joyfulness and bonding!
Share the activities you do at home with us on instagram! Just tag @truthandtales.app
The father figure is changing and it is no longer seen as the family provider. Domestic chores are increasingly being shared equally and so are the parents’ responsibilities. Nowadays, the mother is not the only one responsible for the raising and rearing of a child. The father figure is just as important as the mother, and a good relationship between the child and the father figure has countless positive benefits to kids’ lives.
The mother is more present in the first few years of a child’s life — after all, she is the one who breastfeeds. When they are babies, kids see themselves and their mothers as one thing, and overtime they start to perceive there is a separation between them. The father is part of this process. This figure shows the world to the child and motivates them to explore it, even if unconsciously.
An article published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychopedagogy explains the importance of this parent figure. “The role of the father in child development and the interaction between father and child is one of the decisive factors to social and cognitive development, facilitating the child’s learning ability and integration into the community.” The article also explains that the connection between father and child is reflected later on in their adult lives, in their psycho-affective constructions, and by having an impact on their social relationships.
A good relationship between the child and this figure also affects the way kids act when they come across challenges, and they tend to be less aggressive.
Psychologist Márcia Orsi explained in an interview to Pais&Filhos magazine that “research has shown that the father figure makes the entrance into social relations safer for the child.” This parent figure is indispensable to establish boundaries, an important factor of the child’s character-building process.
Kids need quality attention from their fathers or father figures. Girls and boys need love, care, and affection. That is why having alone-time with them is incredibly healthy for the child. Reading stories, visiting parks, going to the movies, teaching how to ride a bike, etc., are activities that create memories together and help children see themselves in the world.
:: You can also read: What is Cognitive Development? ::
Written by Luisa Scherer
Translated by Mariana Gruber