Happy Holidays! Is it all about the Presents?

Happy Holidays! Is it all about the Presents?

Holidays, snow, decorated trees, family gatherings… and presents of course! It’s one of the loveliest times of the year, a picture many of us are familiar with.

We devote weeks to preparing, carefully planning the perfect, age-appropriate, intellectually stimulating, exciting, surprising, you-name-it gifts for our children. Unfortunately, the novelty soon wears off the best of presents, and all too quickly, with so many others to play with, many are forgotten.

So, how many toys should we really be giving our children?

Experts hesitate to put a number on the amount of toys children should have, however it is generally agreed that fewer toys are better than too many.

Through play children learn to interpret the world around them, enriching the development of their cognitive, emotional, social, and physical skills, and ultimately their well-being. An article published in 2017 in the journal, Infant Behaviour and Development states that “When given only four toys to play with, the children played with each for twice as long, thinking up more uses for each toy and lengthening and expanding their games, allowing for better focus to explore and play more creatively—qualities that benefit children in the long term”.

Children that have fewer toys to play with are obligated to use their imagination more. As a result, they are presented with the opportunity to look for and develop new skills and talents. Furthermore, when kids have too many toys, they give up too quickly on a toy that challenges them, replacing it instead with an easier option. In the process, they miss out on the opportunity to learn patience and determination. Those with fewer toys learn to take better care of their things, they also tend to spend more time reading, writing and creating.

Having fewer toys sets the tone for healthier habits, as children who enjoy an abundance of possessions give less value to the things they have and also tend to be less inclined to share.

The Holidays present an opportunity to spend quality time with family

Kathy Sylva, a professor of educational psychology at Oxford University studied 3,000 children from the ages of three to five and found that “those children with fewer toys, whose parents spend more time interacting with them, surpass kids with greater means for personal computers, video games etc., in several areas of emotional and social development.” The reality is that the positive effects a parent’s direct engagement seems to beat any toy or screen.

Happiness is derived from experiences, not things - let’s spend more time playing with our children!

Researchers from Cornell University found that, “People are more grateful, and even more generous, when they enjoy experiences rather than material gifts”.

Experiences can be far more enriching for kids than toys can. So, let’s use the money we might have spent on extra toys for a trip to a theme park, a local market, the cinema to see their favourite movie, the zoo, the aquarium, or picnic in the park.

Memories of the experiences children enjoy last much longer than the excitement of the toys they receive during the holidays.

Happiness is derived from experiences, not things - let’s spend more time playing with our children!

Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Child, adolescent, adult and couples therapist
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Get to Know Child Psychologist and School Counsellor Itxaso Cembrero

Get to Know Child Psychologist and School Counsellor Itxaso Cembrero

Interview with Itxaso Cembrero on her daily activities at Kings as a school counsellor

What does a typical day look like for you?

Although every day at Kings College is different, my day starts at 8:00 answering emails, meeting with parents and school staff. Later on I start seeing the children that have an assigned time for their sessions as they require behavioural, emotional, or social support. When I’m not in session with children, I use the time to carry out psychoeducational evaluations, observe and update the school’s programme, iSAMS.

What are the primary concerns that you address at school?

Emotional concerns: fears/ worries, loneliness, difficulties adapting to a new environment, self-esteem issues, stress management, anger management and separation anxiety and anxiety in general.

Behavioural concerns: organization difficulties, tantrums, attention seeking behaviours, potty training, attention difficulties, and defiant behaviour amongst others.

Social concerns: friendship issues, social skills, and inadequate interactions.

What types of diagnoses do you make?

When doing psychoeducational evaluations alongside with the speech and language therapists we diagnose a variety of learning difficulties, the most common being: dyslexia and dysgraphia. When there is a concern regarding the children’s executive functioning, specific attention tests are also administered in order to rule in or out an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I also take into consideration and evaluate if a possible emotional or social difficulty may better account for the child’s difficulties. If the concern is more related to a developmental issue, the children are referred to an external team that have specific tests that determine the child’s developmental stage.

Do you treat children with anxiety or emotional problems as well?

I am a clinical psychologist and at school I do work with children who go through emotional difficulties and/or anxiety. However it is important to mention that when these symptoms appear in an intense and frequent manner, we encourage the family to see a therapist outside of school. When the family gives their consent for school to be in contact with the external professional, we all work towards the same goals and the child’s improvement is significant. Even if the child is seeing an external professional, I am always available may the child need support inside school.

What is your communication with teachers like?

I have a very close relationship with all the teachers and as a result we communicate on a daily basis. We have weekly meetings to monitor the children’s progress and together decide what the best next steps are. When the child is receiving external support, the teacher and I have frequent meetings with them so that we are all working on the same goals.

What is your communication with parents like?

Before I start working with a student, I always get in contact with his/her parents so they can give me their valuable feedback regarding their child. After this, they are free to communicate via email or in person for any doubts or comments they wish to make. Depending on each child, I try to have a weekly, monthly or trimester meetings so that progress can be assessed.

How do you incorporate their observations into your work with students?

As parents they have a vast knowledge about their children, so their observations are vital for my work with them. It is important for me to know any change in behaviour or mood so that I can give the child and parents adequate strategies.

Do you refer students to outside services?

Yes. When I observe that the difficulties the child has, are more related to physical causes, I refer them to occupational therapists, behavioural optometrists, neurologists etc. On the other hand, as mentioned before, when the behaviours the child is showing are of a high intensity and frequency I usually refer them to an external psychologist. This allows one hour sessions to be provided once or twice a week with the children and family if needed.

Are you an active figure inside classrooms?

Once the difficulties have been detected or the concerns have been made explicit, I observe children in the classroom so I can provide specific strategies from which the child benefits from. I also participate in learning walks that allow me to see if the accommodations that have been implemented are useful or if they need to be modified. Furthermore, in some occasions I have worked with children inside the classroom to help them become more functional (socially, emotionally and academically).

What is your role within the school staff?

My role is to make sure children are as happy as possible within the school environment. As teachers spend the most time with children on a regular basis, I try to guide them and help them with all the difficulties that may arise inside and outside the classroom. With the collaboration of the speech and language therapist we make sure the teachers are aware and understand the difficulties each child has so that with their expertise they can best support the student.

Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Child, adolescent, adult and couples therapist
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Is my child addicted to the phone?

Is my child addicted to the phone?

It is very probable that the mobile phone is the technology that has most changed the lives of families, for which we should stop and think about the impact that technology of information and communication (ICT) has on our children.

When we talk about information and communication technology, we usually refer to those technologies that allow us to transmit, process and spread information instantly.

We have all incorporated the use of ICT into our daily lives, as a tool of interaction, socialization, work, amusement and learning. However, it is in adolescence where the increase of usage is most noticeable. The content of ICT has become an element of interaction and socialization, principally among peers, owing to shared affections for certain activities such as music, fashion and film among things. Further, this allows them to exchange information like: interesting web pages, bloggers, tricks to use in certain video games, etc.

ICT and the mobile phone in particular grant multiple opportunities and benefits; for example they favor social relations, cooperative learning, the development of new abilities, new forms of construction of knowledge, and the development of creative capacities, communication and reasoning. In the family atmosphere, a new space opens for participation in family. In this way ICT well-used can be a channel of communication between family members. For example when the parents often travel, one way to communicate with them is through Facetime, Skype or similar platforms.

So, with so many benefits, how do we get addicted to mobile phones? Who are the most vulnerable?

Who is most at risk of suffering mobile phone addiction?

Determined psychological variables can influence the greater or lesser predisposition or vulnerability to becoming addicted to new technologies. Some of these variables are: impulsiveness, low self-esteem, low mood, inadequate confrontational strategies, need for affection or a poor network of social support.

Youth and adolescents are the most vulnerable and for various reasons. They are have grown up with the newest technologies and see the use of such as normal and necessary; they have easy access to devices; the life stage that they are experiencing is characterized by the search of feelings and identity and as such are greatly influenced by their peer group.

Mobile addiction?

Adolescents place fundamental values in new technologies and internet, as a sign of identity and status, and the use of these has become a priority in their lives. It is here where we begin to see the following signs:

  • Loss of control

  • Loss of privacy

  • Dependence: need or intense impulse to conduct the behavior

  • A rising tension until able to perform the behavior, characterized by different alterations of mood (anxiety, depression, irritability,...), cognitive (effects on concentration) and sleep patterns

  • Grave interference in daily life and interactions

With respect to factors that favor addictive qualities, they are the ease of access and availability, the experience of time distortion during connectivity, perception of anonymity and a feeling of inhibition that allows the possibility of representing different roles or revealing uncomfortable or hidden aspects of oneself without risks.

When using the mobile phone just to use it, the aforementioned symptoms appear.

Having arrived to this point, the daily life of an adolescent can be affected on different levels, starting with a loss in interest, passed up in favor of the mobile phone. The adolescent will start to reduce social relations, to have problems with studies or work and to use the mobile more and more.

How do I know if my child presents behaviors that could be related to mobile addiction?

  • Loss of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed and were gratifying

  • Excessive preoccupation to use the mobile which interferes with daily routines

  • Depressive mood, irritable, restlessness and lack of concentration, changes in sleep patterns

  • Changes in academic performance, loss of friendships

  • Denying or hiding behavior, connecting in private and losing the notion of time during use

What can I do to help my child?

It is of vital importance to work on the emotional and communicative bonds in the family.

The more the adolescent gets to know himself and is capable of expressing feelings and worries with confidence of being heard and accepted as they are, they will have more ability to tolerate frustrations and resolve conflicts. They will know how to ask for help at home if they need it because they will feel a climate of confidence and support to help them talk.

Alternative activities

Planning alternative activities that are incompatible with mobile use is a good strategy to reduce the quantity of hours dedicated to the mobile. Good options for activities are those that imply relation with others that are enjoyable, cultural or sporty, outdoors, etc.

  • Impress upon your child from a young age the importance of spending time with friends doing activities that do not include the use of modern technology.

  • Observe the mobile use of your child to make it a process of usage and learning at the same time.

  • Agree upon some rules regarding times, places, content and forms of use.

  • Enforce a monthly limit on time spent on the mobile phone and ensure your child is responsible for some coverage of mobile costs.

  • Reason with your child some respectful rules regarding third parties and content, photos and videos, sharing images with other people, and of course, not distributing content of others without authorization of use that could irreversibly damage the image of someone

  • Ask your child to turn off the mobile phone when they do not need it or should not use it, for example while studying, in school or while eating or sleeping.

  • Teaching by example is very important. Children replicate the behaviors of their parents. Our children should see us, as adults, making rational use of the mobile phone and following the same rules.

Technology is undoubtedly going to play an irreplaceable role in our lives from here on out. However by making ourselves and our children aware of the use and implanting responsible and reasonable practices we can ensure the maintenance of a healthy & beneficial relationship with these helpful technologies. If you think you or your child is having troubles with technology addiction, Sinews is happy to offer counseling and steps to change this relationship.

Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Child, adolescent, adult and couples therapist
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Papá y Mamá se divorcian

Papá y Mamá se divorcian

El número de separaciones en nuestro país ha aumentado exponencialmente a lo largo de los últimos años y las principales víctimas de todo proceso de ruptura son los hijos, en especial, los más pequeños.

Todo divorcio tiene repercusiones sobre los niños implicados. Las reacciones y sentimientos de cada niño al divorcio de sus padres depende de su nivel de desarrollo, su personalidad y temperamento, sus estilos de aprendizaje, sus fortalezas y debilidades particulares, sus necesidades únicas, explicaciones recibidas, continuidad de la relación con ambos progenitores, acuerdos o desacuerdos entre los padres, grado de hostilidad entre los mismos y la intervención de otros adultos o sistemas.

¿Cómo afecta el divorcio a mi hijo?

El divorcio, siempre produce un alto impacto emocional en los hijos. Atenuar este impacto para que sus consecuencias no acarreen un daño irreversible en su desarrollo psico- evolutivo, así como, alcanzar una reorganización familiar viable, es crucial para los niños. Por tanto, es importante conocer los cambios que se pueden producir.

Niños de 2 a 6 años

En los más pequeños son habituales conductas regresivas como volverse a hacer pipí en la cama, chuparse el dedo, querer dormir con los padres, miedos, ansiedad, etc. También rabietas, necesidad de llamar la atención constantemente, y ansiedad de separación (al dejarlo en el colegio). Podemos observar también una vinculación excesiva normalmente con la madre que se ve desbordada y no entiende lo que pasa. En ocasiones, el niño puede pasar de la agresividad al menosprecio, o a la búsqueda de un afecto incondicional (abrazos, besos, promesas de que se portará bien, etc.). También nos podemos encontrar con alteraciones en el patrón de la comida y el sueño, quejas somáticas (dolor de cabeza, estómago etc. no justificadas), apatía, introversión, mutismo ante nuevas personas, y dificultad para relacionarse o jugar.

Niños de 7 a 12

En esta franja de edad, los niños ya disponen de mayores recursos verbales lo que en cierto modo les ayuda a exteriorizar sus sentimientos. Pueden seguir presentes los diferentes síntomas antes expuestos, y además pueden presentar comportamientos y conductas de recriminación a los padres con la esperanza de intentar unirlos de nuevo si siguen sin aceptar la situación. Asimismo, pueden aparecer conductas manipulativas, de menosprecio o rencor a alguna de las figuras paternas, y esto se agravará según las actitudes que tomen los adultos que rodean al niño. Sentimientos de culpa, conductas de riesgo, baja autoestima, dificultades en las relaciones con sus iguales, baja tolerancia a la frustración, y agresividad son otros síntomas que pueden estar presentes en esta etapa. Pueden aumentar la hiperactividad e impulsividad, y puede también aparecer un deterioro en el rendimiento escolar. Niños que habitualmente eran buenos estudiantes pueden empezar a tener dificultades.


Durante esta etapa, los jóvenes que afrontan la separación de los padres pueden incrementar sus conductas de riesgo (alcohol, drogas y otras sustancias).  En las niñas parece que hay un mayor riesgo de que se produzcan, en algunos casos, precocidad o promiscuidad en las relaciones sexuales. Asimismo puede aparece la necesidad de vincularse afectivamente a una pareja pero con poca capacidad para mantener una relación estable y equilibrada, así como dificultades en las relaciones con los iguales y poca capacidad para la resolución de conflictos de forma dialogante. También son comunes una baja autoestima, baja tolerancia a la frustración y agresividad.

Cosas a evitar

El divorcio disuelve el vinculo conyugal que une legalmente a los esposos, pero conserva el vinculo parental que los une cómo padres. Los hijos no quieren perder a ninguno de sus progenitores, por lo tanto, tienen que sentirse seguros que no perderán sus presencias ni sus cuidados. Para esto, debemos tratar de evitar pedirle a los niños que escojan entre sus padres; pedirle a los niños que asuman una posición en cuanto al conflicto entre los padres; hablar mal del otro padre; ventilar las frustraciones en los niños; volvernos a los niños en busca de apoyo o guía; exponer a los niños a las discusiones; usar a los niños de mensajeros; usar a los niños de espías; decirle a los niños cómo deben sentirse; negar o descontar los sentimientos de los niños; pedirle a los niños que guarden nuestros secretos; descuidar las necesidades de los niños; exigirle demasiado a los niños; expresar la ira inapropiadamente; y expresar amargura, falta de respeto, u hostilidad hacia el otro padre.

Pautas de actuación para padres que se separan

  • Los padres deben ayudar a los hijos a que entiendan que sus hábitos de vida van a cambiar y que tendrán que construir sus nuevas rutinas. Los niños deben acostumbrarse a disponer de uno u otro, en casas y ocasiones distintas. La normalidad en la vida de los padres provoca normalidad en la vida de los hijos.
  • Los padres deben ayudar a sus hijos a que comprendan que sentimientos como la inseguridad, el miedo o el desánimo pueden aparecer y cómo pueden controlarlos. Los padres deben encauzar sus propios sentimientos para así poder ayudar luego a sus hijos a hacer lo mismo.
  • Los padres deben dejar claro a sus hijos que siempre van a estar para ellos. Los padres se divorcian, los hijos no.
  • Los progenitores que tras la separación se ven obligados a asumir tareas y responsabilidades que antes nunca habían tenido, e incluso limitaciones económicas, deben ser conscientes de que lo que sus hijos más necesitan es su atención, apoyo, presencia, afecto y amor. También debemos tener en cuenta que ahora no se trata de volcarse en exceso en los hijos ni tampoco dejarles hacer lo que quieran.
  • Los padres deben hablar con sus hijos sobre su separación sin dar demasiadas explicaciones y sin atribuir culpables. Lo importante es que los niños sepan que sus padres seguirán a su lado y que podrán disponer de ellos cuando lo necesiten.
  • Los padres deben evitar enfrentamientos entre ellos mismos. Vivir enfrentado obliga a odiar y el odio no aporta nada a los niños. Deben evitar ejercer demasiada presión a los hijos, impidiéndoles, por ejemplo, que tengan algún tipo de relación con la nueva pareja de su ex pareja o hablarle mal del otro conyugue.

Preguntas frecuentes y guías para su contestación

¿Por qué se va papá de casa?
Es importante contestar a sus preguntas de la forma más objetiva posible. Los reproches y las acusaciones al otro progenitor afectan a los niños porque les suponen un conflicto de lealtad. Para ellos, es mucho más importante saber las consecuencias concretas de la separación: ¿Dónde va a vivir papá? ¿Cuándo y cada cuánto tiempo le puedo ver?
Tiene ahora papá otra familia?
A veces los niños se sienten desplazados por motivos justificados. Cuando el padre o la madre inicia una nueva relación o incluso tiene otro hijo, la familia “anterior” ya no ocupa el primer plano. En esta situación, la sinceridad también es crucial. Aunque esta experiencia puede resultar dolorosa para todos, abstengámonos de acusaciones y juicios

Mamá, ¿tú también te vas a ir?
Para fomentar la confianza, los pequeños gestos cotidianos son importantes: ser puntual al recogerle de la guardería, cumplir las promesas (“este fin de semana iremos al parque de atracciones”), respetar los acuerdos de visitas. Cuanto más se pueda fiar el niño de la palabra de sus padres, más seguro se sentirá.
¿Cuándo vuelve papá a casa?
La sinceridad es muy importante. Las afirmaciones como “quizá papá vuelva un día” refuerzan el caos interior de los niños, porque así nunca abandonan la esperanza de que un día todo pueda volver a ser como antes, y no asumen la nueva situación.
¿Por qué estás tan triste?
Lo mejor es ser honestos y admitir que no estamos pasando el mejor momento de nuestra vida. También hay que esforzarse por no ahogarnos en la autocompasión. La sensación de que papá o mamá están desamparados y necesitan consuelo supera a cualquier niño. Los padres pueden y deben vivir y expresar sus emociones con toda franqueza en un entorno adulto, pero no es conveniente transmitirlas de forma tan explícita en las conversaciones con los hijos.

Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Child, adolescent, adult and couples therapist
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Overprotective parents, insecure children

Overprotective parents, insecure children

When most of today’s parents learned to ride a bike, they just got on one and started pedaling. That was it. Nowadays, kids are taught differently: they get the bike but also a helmet, some elbow pads, knee pads, gloves, etc. This is a very noble and positive mentality, right? So, where is the problem?

Every child needs their parent’s protection against certain dangers they will encounter in their lives but when that protection becomes a bubble that isolates them from the majority of the things that happen outside then it becomes overprotection.

Overprotective parents are those who are continuously trying to prevent their children from being exposed to conflict, or situations that are distressing or painful. These parents tend to be excessively cautious with their children and often feel overly responsible about what might happen to them. They want to prevent their child from suffering, having a bad time, or having to go through many of the things they went through in their own childhood or adolescence. These good intentions lead them to deprive their children of a proper learning experience since it does not provide them with a chance to deal with the difficulties that are inherent to their age where they could extract resources and strategies that would aid them in their future.

Let’s see some possible consequences of overprotection:

Learning difficulties and implementation of social skills

Considering that throughout their life, their mother, father or both, have not allowed them to solve their own problems because they have already solved them for them, these children do not learn problem-solving skills which are something necessary for interpersonal relationships. This usually leads them to have negative experiences with maintaining/keeping friendships. They often have the feeling of barely having good friends; they may suffer many disappointments with friends and not know exactly why. This eventually leads to lower self-esteem.

Difficulty in making decisions for themselves

These children often become very hesitant when making decisions. They feel insecure about whether they will make the right decision or not. They feel insecure about the possible consequences of a particular decision.. This fear of the impact of the decision then causes delay in the decision-making process, along with all the anguish and discomfort that indecision brings with it. This also contributes to a further decline in their self-esteem by not being able to make decisions that, according to what they observe, may be easy for others. Delaying such decisions makes self-esteem decline even further since they are not seeing the results of their actions and therefore they continue to see themselves as an invalid person incapable of taking action.

Search for security in the other

Since these children have learned and gotten used to other people solving their problems and show many difficulties in making decisions and taking action, they tend to rely on others to make decisions for them. They feel insecure and unable to do so by themselves, and need someone to protect them and give them a sense of safety. They may therefore maintain relationships with people who do not offer them anything more than merely solving their problems for them and making them feel protected.

Give up easily

These individuals tend to give up too soon. When faced with any difficulty that they don’t know how to face, they prefer not to deal with it and avoid it instead of getting to work and find possible solutions. They feel incapable of doing anything and at the same time, they are afraid of making mistakes so often they do not even try, and in so avoid failure.

Low self esteem

As we have been pointing out, one of the most important consequences is the low self-esteem, feeling unable to do anything good for and by themselves. For a long time, even years, the child has not been able to test his/her personal competence and skills. Maybe they have tried to make their own decisions and carry them out, but excessive paternal/maternal overprotection has led them to not to see the results of that decision making. Often, excessive parent recommendations to be cautious lead the child to be exposed to a lot of criticism, which can further this negative self- concept. The child lacks the external positive assessment of their behaviors and decisions, but also lacks the self-appraisal about these behaviors and decisions, this is a key aspect to develop a self-concept and a healthy self-esteem. When we overprotect our children we are giving them several subliminal messages: “You are not capable”; “You can’t do it”; “You cannot rely entirely on yourself”. There are parents who prefer to hide information from their children for fear of suffering or frustration. Children need to be able to take charge of situations, always tailored to their capacities consistent with their age. We must gradually teach them how to manage the limitations, doubts, and small frustrations that come with everyday life so that they can develop coping resources. On the contrary we are exposing them to difficult situations without tools of their own which at critical moments can lead them to an unstructured state. In many cases, parents also are ahead of their children because they can do it faster and better but we must remember that learning requires patience and time and effort is a basic stone for them to learn about themselves, how the environment that surrounds them works, and thus feel capable/empowered.

Parental overprotection during childhood has its most severe consequences during youth and especially in adolescence. At this age the child has to start accepting his/her own identity for the first time and face situations that they have to solve by themselves, , and become part of a society that is going to require everything that he/she is capable of giving, but if the child has been overprotected throughout their life then when the become a teenager it is unlikely that they will be able to assume his/her responsibilities and adopt the role that corresponds. It is in this moment that stressful episodes, anxiety, etc., may occur.

Therefore, in order to not pass on our own fears to our children and avoid overprotection, I leave you with some tips that might be helpful:

  • When the child asks us for help, it is essential to give suggestions for how to solve the problem him or herself with his or her own resources and of course to not judge the solution they ultimately arrive at.
  • It is normal for children to make mistakes, so it’s important to not get ahead of ourselves and try to avoid this from happening Instead, it is important to help them see that each time they do things better.
  • Have patience. You need to take the necessary time to allow the child to develop on their own.
  • You should explain to your child the reasons behind your actions, so that he / she can act independently, even if there is no adult at his / her side show him / her how to do so.
  • Do not try to prevent them from making reasonable sacrifices. The child can perfectly well assist in household chores like setting the table, making the bed, picking up his / her room, taking out the trash or learning not to give too much importance to an uncomfortable situation.
  • If your child is shy, try to encourage him /her to go out of the house more often, to expand their circle of friends more, to share things etc., not by forcing them, but rather giving him / her ideas.
  • In situations that they might find difficult, it is important to ensure they do not avoid them, but rather, we must prepare them by dialoguing with them.
  • We must protect them from the real dangers, but not to the extreme of making them fearful people.

Children need to test, taste their success, try to improve and achieve difficult goals, compete, overcome their failures, and to understand the feelings of others. We must prepare them so they can participate in society and for this we must not minimize the realities of daily life. . We have to let them discover the meaning of triumphs, disappointments, of joys and sorrows, both their own and those of others.

Preventing children from suffering by solving their problems, when they could solve them by themselves, makes children feel good and secure in the short term, but it’s only a temporary relief. As we have seen, this situation only makes their parent’s fears about the suffering of their children become a reality in a long term.

Protecting our children means letting them make mistakes and experience any suffering that comes as a consequence, while all the while ensuring they know that their parents are there to help and support.

Therefore, let’s not Overprotect our children, let’s Protect them.

Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Child, adolescent, adult and couples therapist
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

What is bullying, why does it happen and how can we help our children?

What is bullying, why does it happen and how can we help our children?

When we hear the word “bully”, the usual visual picture of an older kid picking on a smaller or younger child appears in the mind. This is most certainly true, but bullying encompasses much more than that.
So, when does bullying start and what is it really about? Actually bullying starts as soon as kids begin to socialize. So, research indicates that bullying behaviour can start as early as age 3. While it's hard to know exactly why some children become bullies and others don't, there is evidence to suggest that some children are genetically predisposed toward being aggressive. Research also shows that children who are exposed to aggression on a consistent basis may imitate the behaviour they observe. Most children learn to control their anger and fighting instincts, as they grow older, but not the bully.

You feel identified? If so, this is what you can do.

Bullying can consist of any action that is used to hurt another child repeatedly and without cause (Olweus, 1993). In order for a bullying situation to occur there must be three conditions present:

First, there is a desire, on the part of the bully, to inflect some kind of physical or emotional pain.

Second, there must be a difference in power between the individuals involved, whether it is physical power, or the power to exclude another from the social grouping.

Third, the behaviour should be repeated.

As parents, if we want to know if our children are being bullied, we should first know the different forms it can have. There are different types of bullying:

  • Physical: the most commonly known forms include hitting, kicking, tripping/pushing, making mean or rude hand gestures, spitting, pushing, and taking personal belongings.
  • Verbal: includes taunting, malicious teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, threatening to cause harm and making threats.
  • Psychological: involves spreading rumors, manipulating social relationships, engaging in social exclusion, extortion, intimidation, and embarrassing someone in public.
  • Cyberbullying: Although this type of bullying is fairly recent, we should be aware of it, as it’s become more popular among teenagers. It is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It is very important to mention that it has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. If adults become involved, it is no longer cyberbullying. It starts to become cyber-harassment or cyberstalking.

Why are children bullied?

As above mentioned, children are bullied because the bully wants to gain power over another person. There can be many reasons that a child will be targeted, but usually the kids being bullied have done nothing to cause the bullying.

Why are some children bullied and others not?

Most children are approached by a bully early in their school career, and/or when they change schools. It is often the child's reaction to that first encounter with being bullied which determines whether or not he/she will be approached again. Some children, because of their looks, their temperament, their language or their disposition, display what we call “vulnerable behaviours”. Children who are victimized tend to display these "vulnerable behaviours".
However, we not only have to focus on the victim, but also on the bully himself. Bullying is a learned behaviour, and most bullies are, or have been victims as well. In most cases, they are looking to be able to gain some control in some part of their lives, wanting to look tough, to be popular, or out of jealousy. They often have greater than average aggressive behaviour patterns, low self- esteem, insecurity, and a refusal to accept responsability for his/her actions.

How could I know if my child is being bullied?

If your child is brave enough to tell you he is being bullied, then you have to assume he’s telling you the truth and act on it. However, this does’nt always happen. A child may indicate by their behaviour that he or she is being bullied. Therefore, as parents we always have to pay close attention to the behaviour patterns of our children so that when changes occur we can notice them. You may notice some changes in his or her behaviour, including:

  • Unwillingness to go to school
  • Decline to take part in school activities
  • Starting to withdraw from social situations
  • Act fearful
  • Show unusual damage to clothing or belongings
  • Feeling unwell, often with a headache
  • Begin to lose friends
  • Lower grades in school
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression towards you or others in your family
  • Irritability
  • Bedwetting

Carefull, there could also be other reasons for these signs, so try to avoid jumping to conclusions. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there anything else bothering my child?
  • Have there been changes at home like a new baby, or divorce or separation?

If there have not been any other changes and you suspect bullying may be the cause of the distress and anxiety, it is important to try and act as early as you can.

What can we do?

Being bullied can knock anybody’s confidence. A single insult can stay with you for a long time, to the point where you start believing that what the bullies say about you is true, it isn't.

Here are some things we could do:

  • There are some simple tools our children can use to stop the bullying cycle. We can teach them to use the bullies’ arguments against him. For instance, if a bully says to a child, “Hey, I saw you trying to play football today. You are the worst! Everyone was laughing at you!” The victim can avoid giving any power back to the bully by replying, “Yeah, I guess I’m not great at it. Are you any good?” The bully might reply, “I’m better than you!” The victim can say, “That’s cool. Do you practice a lot? Do you play on a team?” The bully might tease a bit more, but basically he has lost his power to control in this situation and ultimately he will seek out a new victim. While this is a very simplified example, the basic foundation is that the victim of bullying must avoid giving his/her power away and after a very short time the bully will get tired and stop bothering him.
  • Another tool we could use is engaging Friends to be bystanders or witnessess. All it takes is for other children to literally step up and stand next to a victim to make a bully think twice about his actions.
  • It is also very important to encourage your child to speak out. Not only for him, but also for his peers.
  • Believe what your child tells you; let them know you trust them and that they can count on you. This way you can teach them how to effectively solve a problem. It is very important to let your child come up with his/her own ideas. For example, ask your child questions like: “What do you think you can say next time? or, What do you think might work?”. Once he gives you an answer, you could ask him: “What do you think is going to happen if you do that?”. This way you can guide them in order to help him reach the best way to behave in such situations.
  • Never forget that the best strategy to address the problem is prevention. Trust your child, teach him good copying strategies, how to handle his emotions and make him respect others and himself.

Lastly, if you notice that you child’s behaviour is getting worse, and the bullying is still not stopping, you can ask the school counselor, the teachers and/or a psychologist for help.

Itxaso Cembrero carries out psychotherapy with children and adolescents in English and in Spanish. She currently works in both SINEWS´s headquarters, in Zurbano 34 and in La Moraleja. She has had specialized training in bullying and attends Schools and Parent´s Associations to give talks.

In order to schedule an appointment with her, You can call 917001979

Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Child, adolescent, adult and couples therapist
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

¡Mamá, Papá, Tengo miedo!. Los miedos infantiles

¡Mamá, Papá, Tengo miedo!. Los miedos infantiles

Tener miedo es algo común en los niños. El miedo es una de las emociones más básicas del ser humano. Tanto los niños como los adultos los sufrimos en algún momento de nuestras vidas, sin el miedo no habríamos sobrevivido como especie y no existiríamos hoy en día. En realidad su función es adaptativa, ya que actúa como una alarma que nos indica que nos salvemos del peligro. Lo que pasa a veces es que el miedo no es real, o no responde a una amenaza física verdadera, sino que lo generamos en nuestro cerebro.

Los miedos de los niños son evolutivos, es decir, van cambiando según la edad del niño. La clave está en aprender a superarlos cada uno en su momento y a la edad a la que aparecen, evitando que se queden estancados y que el niño vaya acumulando miedos a lo largo de su crecimiento.

¿Cuándo se considera normal que aparezcan los miedos?

Normalmente hablamos de la aparición de los miedos infantiles a los dos años, porque a esta edad cobran protagonismo la fantasía y la imaginación de los pequeños; pero eso no quiere decir que los niños no tengan miedos antes.

Con un año, la mayoría de sus temores tienen que ver con el miedo a que les abandonen, miedo a los extraños o desconocidos, y sobresaltos bruscos. Entre los dos y los cuatro años predominan el temor a los animales, la oscuridad, máscaras y disfraces, y a perder de vista a los padres. Entre los cuatro y los seis años se mantiene el miedo a la oscuridad y a los animales, y aparecen los miedos a las catástrofes, al dolor, a la sangre y a los seres imaginarios. Entre los seis y los nueve años el niño suele tener miedo a los incendios, a los accidentes, a las enfermedades o a conflictos con sus mayores, y comienzan las incertidumbres con respecto al ciclo de la vida y la muerte. A partir de los 12 años vienen los temores relacionados con su propia autoestima personal, los exámenes escolares, las heridas y la muerte de seres queridos.

¿Cómo podemos ayudar a nuestros hijos a superar el miedo?

La sociedad actual huye del miedo. No sabe cómo enfrentarse a él ni aplacarlo y lo ignora. Estamos habituados a escuchar que “los valientes no tienen miedo”, “los niños no lloran” u otro tipo de frases en las que le miedo es ridiculizado. Pero si no lo aceptamos, ¿cómo podemos combatirlo?
Muchos niños se asustan de lo que no conocen y solo se sienten seguros con papá y mamá. Por tanto, vuestro apoyo, proximidad y consuelo son las mejores herramientas para que superen sus miedos.

Consejos para ayudar a su hijo a superar el miedo:

La evitación es la peor de las respuestas, porque si se evita el miedo, se aparca el tema y nunca se crean estrategias para superarlo. Por eso, no podemos permitir que los niños eviten la situación del miedo, tenemos que enfrentarles poquito a poco, dándoles recursos, dándoles pequeñas técnicas, con un adulto al lado, que les sirva de referencia, que les ofrezca seguridad, pero nunca fomentar la evitación. Por ejemplo, si el pequeño teme a los perros, no los evites siempre cuando os crucéis uno por la calle.

Aquí tenéis algunas estrategias:

  • Es fundamental, antes que nada, no reñirles ni obligarles a cambiar de actitud. Si un pequeño tiene miedo es importante que no le hagas sentir mal por ello, y explicarle que el miedo es normal en ciertas situaciones. Por extraño que te parezca su miedo nunca lo ridiculices.
  • Escucha a tu hijo, permitiéndole que exprese todos sus miedos.
  • Réstales importancia pero sin ignorarlas.
  • Transmítele afecto, protección, tranquilidad y confianza. De esa forma, tu hijo te contará sus miedos y podrás ayudarlo a que los supere y crezca más seguro de sí mismo.
  • Enfréntate al problema con tu hijo. Cuando él no sea capaz de hacer algo solo, intenta hacerlo con él para que pueda comprobar que no pasa nada. Si por ejemplo, él no quiere entrar a oscuras en su habitación, dale la mano y entra con él.
  • No pierdas la oportunidad de enseñar a tu hijo cómo otras personas actúan con confianza en aquellas situaciones que él teme. Si tu hijo ve a otro niño tocar un perro puede que le ayude a perder el miedo a los animales.
  • Cuando tu hijo esté pasando por una situación de miedo, trata de distraerle con juegos, pero cuéntale siempre la verdad. A veces es lo desconocido y la falta de información lo que provoca los temores a tu hijo. Si él se asusta con los cuentos de ogros, brujas, etc., dile que todos los personajes no existen en la realidad y que viven solamente en los cuentos, y en las películas.
  • Comunícate con él y analizad juntos la situación con naturalidad.
  • Ayúdale a que él mismo evalúe su nivel de miedo y proporciónale estrategias para que, poco a poco, vaya venciéndolo (respirar profundamente, pensar en cosas agradables, recordar por qué está fuera de peligro, etc.).
  • Si estas estrategias no funcionan, y el miedo aparenta estar fuera de todo control o las reacciones son desmesuradas, es el momento de pedir ayuda profesional a un psicólogo.

«El miedo parece existir tan sólo para ser superado, y es precisamente esta superación la que le permite al niño crecer y adquirir la autonomía que le servirá para la vida adulta» JAN-UWE RODGE

Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Child, adolescent, adult and couples therapist
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

How Can We Better Teach Our Children Values

How Can We Better Teach Our Children Values

“Don’t do as I do, do as I say»

During children’s first approximately six to eight years, they are open to parental input, however, as children grow older, peers, television, computers, video games, and other media will become more influential. As a parent, you will still be a significant influence, but it is much more challenging to effectively communicate good values among the cyclone of contemporary media messages. Children learn what they live, so if you live your values, your kids are likely to as well.

Most parents recognize the need for their children to have right values. But how do you teach them?

Raising children with values is very important. They are the foundation of all that children come to believe and who they become. Values act as the signposts in the direction that your children’s live ahead.

One of the most important things you can do is set a good example for your children. They learn from seeing how you treat them, by overhearing your interactions with others and observing what you do in different situations throughout the day. If you want your children to exhibit values like honesty, self-respect and compassion, then you need to show these qualities yourself.

Children are like sponges. They observe and soak up everything there is in their environment, mainly though sight and hearing. The majority of their words and behaviours stem from mimicking their parents or other adults around them. All the teaching can be undone if your children watch you behave in ways that contradict what you´ve said.

Six practical guidelines to teach values to your children

  • As parents, we should first think of what we really want our children to learn. Therefore, we should try to determine what values we really want to teach them. In order to help yourself, try making a list of your top ten priorities for your family.
  • Set rules around your values. For example, if having family time is important to you at diner, don´t allow interruptions such as phone calls for either you or your children.
  • Emphasize your actions with your words. Talk to your child how you feel after, for example helping an old lady cross the road. This will very likely encourage your children to help others whenever they can.
  • Look for teaching opportunities. Be on the lookout for those teaching moments, and be aware that you are your child´s best example. Almost every day something happens that can provide you with an opportunity to teach your kids about values. Use these incidents as conversation starters. For example, keep alert for stories from real life, books, and TV shows that illustrate a value that you think is important, and discuss it with your child. Communication is the key!
  • Teach your child to prioritize. For example, if your family is in a stressful situation and your seven year old is being inappropriately demanding, you may want to ask him what he thinks is more important right now. It is vital that you ask this question without instilling guilt or being demanding. The key is to make your child think about what is really more important at that instant.
  • It is also very important as parents, to ask ourselves: are my actions congruent with my talk? Am I sending a clear message? Are my actions congruent with my talk?

As a result, regardless of what you consciously teach them, your children will emerge from childhood with clear views on what their parents really value, and with a well-developed value system of their own.
Raising kids is one of the toughest and most fulfilling jobs in the world. As parents, it requires a lot of patience to teach children right from wrong, how to respect others, how to share and be fair, how to take responsibility. Nevertheless, parents, please be proactive, You can make a difference in the life of Your kids!

Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Child, adolescent, adult and couples therapist
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Benefits of having pets in children’s social-emotional development

Benefits of having pets in children’s social-emotional development

Did you know that pets help your children develop better? Pets are not only a source of entertainment; they also encourage and facilitate your child’s social and emotional growth.

Whether it is a turtle or gold fish, a dog, cat, a bird or a horse, children enjoy the companionship offered by animals. A child’s social and emotional development can all be encouraged by interaction with the family pet. In new research into the bonds between humans and animals, therapists are discovering that pets provide psychological benefits that will be very important for the individual in later life.

A good relationship with a pet can help in developing non-verbal communication and compassion. Being able to read nonverbal behaviour enhances communication in humans. Teaching children to stay alert, and respond appropriately to a pet’s nonverbal behaviour develops observation skills and teaches them to take into account others preferences.

Children also learn that pets deserve respectful treatment, just as they do. Parents and children frequently share in taking care of the pet, which suggests that youngsters learn at an early age how to care for and nurture a dependent animal. They’ll realise that all living things have needs and feelings and that animals, like humans, get hungry, thirsty and tired. Sometimes they feel like playing, sometimes they don’t and just like children they get scared by loud noises. When a child knows a pet depends on them for the vitals of life (food, water, shelter) it encourages the child to feel accountability and helps develop a conscience and sense of responsibility.

Furthermore, children are usually receivers of care, so having pets puts them in the position of the caregiver. They learn to anticipate, recognise, and respond to their pet’s needs. For example, at the vet’s office children become sensitive to their pet’s fear and anxiety and being able to soothe these feelings prompts children to develop loving and kind behaviours. These acquired abilities, will then promote healthy and caring social interactions.

Pets can also facilitate other aspects of emotional development such as self-esteem, self- confidence and empathy as animals accept us for who we are. When a child is attached to a dog or cat, they learn to express themselves in more ways and they learn to relate better. When we communicate or interact with animals, we often make assumptions based on animal’s behaviours in order to interpret their responses. These experiences significantly contribute to the development of children’s empathy. They develop the ability to understand the thoughts, actions, and intentions of the animals, especially when these differ from one’s own. Children develop the ability to predict or explain others actions and to make attributions to another’s intentions. An animal’s inability to speak forces children to evaluate what animals are experiencing (e.g., thinking, feeling) and what their needs are through interpreting their behaviours and projecting how they themselves might feel. By interacting with and caring for animals, children learn to interpret non-verbal signals based on observed behaviours and the context.

Lastly, pets also help children learn and accept the cycles of life. The declining health or accidental death of a pet is often the first time children face the reality of mortality. Due to children’s limited experience, and intellectual development, many children believe death is temporary or reversible. The loss of a pet presents the irrefutable fact that life does end, no matter how much we wish it weren’t true. Learning that they will survive the grieving process, and that love is not lost if memories remain can help to positively set children up for any future experience of loss.

Pets can greatly influence how we feel about ourselves and life in general. They are teachers and healers of extraordinary talent. However, despite the many wonderful benefits pets bring, it would be important for the families not to jump in without careful thought and sit down and decide together if they truly have the time, space, finance, and lifestyle to properly care for a pet. Once this is decided, off to the pet shop!

Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Itxaso Cembrero Tercero
Child, adolescent, adult and couples therapist
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé