Shimikang – Page 6 – Dr. Shimi Kang MD.

Blog

Guiding Principles Of Parenting The Dolphin Way

Dr. Shimi Kang, author of The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids-Without Turning into a Tiger, advocates these seven guiding principles of parenting the Dolphin Way.

Click here to see online article

In her upcoming book The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids-Without Turning into a Tiger (Tarcher, Penguin May 2014), Dr. Shimi Kang advocates parenting the Dolphin Way. These are the seven guiding princples.

1) All parents love their children, but not all are bonded to their children. Bonding means seeing and knowing your children for who they really are as individuals. Dolphin parents know that the most The Dolphin Wayeffective and powerful parenting tool is a strong bond.

2) Dolphin parents have the highest of expectations for our children and we intend to guide them towards health, happiness, and success.

3) Dolphin parents are not controlling Tiger parents, nor are we permissive spineless Jellyfish. We recognize we are authority figures and use guidance, role modeling, and a balanced lifestyle to ensure the development of internal motivation and independence.

4) Dolphin parents do not live in fear of modern day pressures and we do not over-gather, over-protect, and over-compete. We believe life is a journey through ever-changing waters and use P.O.D. to navigate the challenges and opportunities of an evolving 21st century.

5) Dolphin parents know that health always comes first and thus we make a balanced lifestyle a priority. We do not compromise health for anything.

6) Dolphin parents are holistic in our parenting. We look inward for answers and use our parental instincts but we also we seek knowledge and learn from others.

7) Dolphin parents value IQ, EQ and especially CQ. CQ is the integration of IQ and EQ and are the core 21st century skills of creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking – all needed to constantly adapt for lifelong health, happiness, and success.

Guiding Children Towards Healthy Friendships the Dolphin Way

“I have no friends.” This is what Alan, a 10 year old patient of mine said to me. However, after speaking to his mother, I realized he had plenty of other children who wanted to play and spend time with him. His problem was not that he didn’t have friends; it was his perception of not having enough friends. Interestingly, this is something many kids (and adults) often feel. We are hardwired to desire and acquire friends as being well-supported socially is good for our survival. Thus, friendships are really important for people of all ages – children and adults alike. Parents can certainly help kids with the ups and downs of friendships.

Friendships will change over time depending on the age of your child. In young children, parents can easily decide who their children see and don’t see. Older children begin to manage friendships themselves and their social relationships become more complex with the pressure to be like everyone else constantly escalating. Parents of teens have less control over their children’s friendships and many teenagers become especially interested in friends.

In their child’s friendships, parents are smart to get involved – but not too involved. It is a good idea to know who your child is friends with, what drew your child to that friend, what hobbies they share, and if possible – get to know that child’s parents too. Come from a place of curiosity and interest, not suspicion or judgment.

Encourage diverse friendships that will expose your child to new interests and ideas. In fact, a study in the Journal of Child Development, found that diverse friendships cause children to feel safer in school and have more positive views about others. Support your child’s friends to spend time at your house where you can be aware of their activities and interests. Remember kids can still have fun even though you remain firm with appropriate house rules – even when friends are over.

If you don’t want your child to be bossy or a mindless follower in peer situations, teach him/her healthy assertiveness. Explain the importance of having your own opinions while also considering the needs of others. Role-play different ways of doing this with your child, to show them how to properly respond during different scenarios.

Peer pressure can be seen as a positive influence that can help kids behave according to social norms and values. But, peer pressure can also have a negative impact. Sometimes parents can have concerns about their child being negatively influenced by a friend. If so, express concerns openly and listen to your child’s point of view. Don’t criticize the person directly, but rather discuss the concerning behavior. Discuss the need that the friendship may fill in your child’s life and talk about the qualities that make a good friend. Allowing a concerning friendship to run its course will often work better than trying to stop it yourself.

Even though friends and peers heavily influence our children, parents are still their biggest influence. So even though your kids may be really into their friends, you still provide the most important guidance in their lives.

Establishing Healthy Homework Routines

Some parents do not set clear routines, rules, or expectations when it comes to homework. I call this permissive jellyfish parenting which often leads children down a path of late assignments, poor organization skills, and ineffective time-management skills.

Other parents hover and micromanage their child’s homework. In fact, a study by the Bett Educational Technology Tradeshow found that in one in six families, parents actually do ALL of their child’s homework. I call such “take over” behaviors, authoritarian tiger parenting which causes children to lack self—motivation, creativity, and problem solving. Children of authoritarian tiger parents often develop the inability to complete homework independently.

I encourage parents to be balanced authoritative dolphin parents. Like the dolphin, these parents use role modelling and guiding, to teach behaviors such as homework skills.

Here are a few quick tips from The Dolphin Way about establishing healthy homework routines.

First explain to your child the purpose of homework.  Make sure he/she understands that homework is  not about getting the answer right,  but rather figuring out what you need to learn and what you already know. A major point of homework is to practice skills- so sometimes a wrong answer is ok! Plus, making mistakes instills valuable risk-taking skills, and shows your child that every idea – whether right or wrong – should be respected and thoroughly analyzed.

Children do best when their learning is fun and in the “zone of challenge”—not too easy, not too hard, but challenging enough to encourage problem solving and learning. If you feel your child’s homework does not fall in this category, speak with their teacher.

Allow your child to try their homework first before stepping in. If you do need to step in, help them break down a problem Instead of solving it. You can tell your child “I know it’s easier if I tell you how to do this, but that’s not going to help your learning. Try to spend a few more minutes trying on your own.” If you must, give a clue or small suggestion. As he/she progresses through resolving the problem, say things like “you’re really close” or “I can help you with this, if you try that.”

Encourage your child but do not give them excessive praise. In an experiment that demonstrates fixed vs growth mindsets and the downsides of “empty” praise, young children were asked to solve a simple puzzle, and most did so with little difficulty. But then Dweck told a few, but not all, of the children how very bright and capable they were. As it turns out, the children who weren’t told they’re smart were more motivated to tackle increasingly difficult puzzles. These children showed greater progress and interest in puzzle-solving, while also displaying higher levels of confidence. They enjoyed the thrill of choosing to work simply for its own sake, regardless of the outcome.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, providing non-specific praise for children’s abilities and outcomes seems to rattle their confidence. However, if you stress how a child arrived at an answer and not whether the answer is correct, he or she will be more likely to make the effort, take risks, and try new ways of doing things. For example, if you appreciate the effort your child put into solving a math problem, as opposed to applauding the answer, she’ll be more likely to learn from the experience and try it again.

If frustration ensues, make sure your child recognizes the importance of taking “brain breaks” and restoring balance with their thoughts and ideas. Allow them to get out of their seats, move around and take a stretch; these activities can help your child control their emotions and re-think their solutions to the homework problems they need to solve.

Try to have a regularly scheduled time and place for doing homework. Make sure it is quiet, has plenty of light, and no distractions such as the TV nearby. Equip that space with the basic materials such as a paper, pencils, and erasers.

Homework can be a wonderful thing, but it’s only one of many ways children learn. The best learning is learning that is fun, real life, trial and error, and hands-on—and a lot of that occurs during free-play so make sure your child has enough time to play too!

The Storm of Modern Day Parenting

As we emerge from the torrent of weather storms this winter, I can’t help but take note that many of us parents have been caught up in a bigger, perhaps more destructive storm — that of modern day parenting.

Parenting has always been stormy. I’m sure the ancient Greek parents flew into panic when their teenagers showed more bare shoulder under their togas than they liked. Yet, I believe parenting is more complex now than ever before (or at least we have made it more complex). Of course, raising kids during tumultuous times such as the Great Depression or the World Wars was very difficult — because life itself was difficult.

So why then, is parenting now so hard? Why are we seeing such overwhelmed and stressed parents — including those among the most affluent and educated groups? Why are we seeing the most privileged group of youth suffering from higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance use? Why are we seeing the highest student suicide rate in recorded history? The answer lies in understanding the collision of several intense factors that have produced a rare, complex, and dangerous storm of 21st century parenting.

Here are the ingredients of the modern day parenting storm.

A Warm Core

Heat is nature’s most powerful element and it is at the center of every storm. All storms begin with a “warm core” and the modern day parenting storm is no different. For parents, our warm core is created from the heat of our intense love and worry for our children. We love our children (Even when we sometimes don’t like them, we still love them). And we also worry about them — a lot. Without this love and worry, there would be nothing for the other factors to build upon. This explains how the parenting storm is similar across many countries and cultures. The love and worry for our children is universal and it squarely places parents all over the world in the center of a storm.

High Pressure Systems

Modern day parenting pressures build up and press down hard on parents and children alike. Although pressures are inevitable and a fact of life, today’s parents are not equipped for how “things have changed” over time. The globalization of people, technology, and education has led to more competition for young people than ever before. Employers and educational institutions are now looking worldwide for candidates and many parents are correct when they think “wow I wouldn’t get into university now.” GPAs, standardized test scores, and quality of extracurricular activities needed for University acceptance have steadily risen over the last 100 years. And if that is not enough, the Great Recession brought on unstable job markets and increased youth unemployment, all leading to intense pressure for parents and youth alike.

Low Pressure Systems

Storms move over low pressure systems which allow them to build. For our modern day parenting storm, the low pressure system comes from our parental fears that make us “over-pave the way” for our kids. No one wants their child to fall behind in this globally competitive and fast paced world so parents step in too soon and too often. Parenting responses such as hovering, over-instructing, micromanaging, not allowing children to fail, swooping in for the rescue, and fighting every battle intensify parent-child stress and prevent the development of resiliency and the ability to adapt.

Such behaviors lead to parental dependence and are partly to blame for “adult-escents” and “generation boomerang”. Sure our kids may become highly skilled at math, piano, or a sport, but how will they deal with real world problems like a difficult boss, a sudden illness, or juggling work and home responsibilities without us? Without real world trial and error, mistakes, and failure, our children will not learn how to deal with uncertainty, “figure things out” on their own, and bounce back from adversity. These are all important life skills needed to adapt and thrive in our ever-changing world.

The mix of an intense warm core, high pressure, and low pressure systems has led to the storm of modern day parenting. Across the world, we are seeing the downpour of parental stress, exhaustion, and anxiety spreading out of control. But understanding the storm is not enough, we parents must survive through it. If managed poorly, we can contribute to the danger by adding pressure (tiger parents) or weakening defenses (helicopter and bubble wrap parents). Some parents will deny its presence (uninvolved and permissive parents), leaving themselves and their children vulnerable.

Our 21st century world is marked by unprecedented pressures AND unprecedented opportunities for parents. Of course, parents are keenly aware of insecure job markets, fear global competition, hold the guilt of not enough time, and are stressed by rising GPAs and standardized test scores. However, we sometimes forget the vast potential of opportunity for our children in a world marked by barrier breaking technology, the explosion of access to knowledge, and global connectedness. Parents would be wise to adapt to an ever-changing world while still maintaining the strength of our values. This is the only way we will weather the 21st century parenting storm.

The Four Words Parents Need to Say to Their Kids

As a child, I built a wonderful bond with Mother Nature. Whether I was climbing her tall trees or rolling down her grassy hills, nature was always fun, carefree, and supportive of my need for exploration. Although she had her cold spells and rainy days, I considered Mother Nature as my confidant, play-mate, and one of my favourite educators. She taught me how to be curious, how to problem-solve and how to appreciate life’s simple pleasures. With no strict schedules or regimented routines, my parents encouraged my friendship with Mother Nature by telling me to “go outside and play” on a daily basis. Crisp fresh air, warm sunlight, and the vibrance of outdoor life not only invigorated my sense of imagination but also enhanced my growth, development and love for physical activity.

Nowadays, when I look at the empty playgrounds and parks near my house, I can tell a lot has changed since my childhood. Heck, I bet my unstructured youth is unrecognizable in the eyes of most 21st century parents. When you look outside, what do you see? I know what I don’t see: children jumping rope, playing tag or running around in packs until they are summoned home for family dinner. So, where have all the children gone?

My educated guess — they are inside studying, completing extra tutoring sessions, participating in organized sports, watching television or glued to the latest iPad game. David Bond’s film, Project Wild Thing, cites fear, technology, and the commercialization of play as reasons why kids have become so disconnected from the natural world.

ParticipACTION, a nation-wide event, is urging parents to rethink their stance on outdoor play and to motivate their children to become more physically active. Research shows children who receive greater parental support for physical activity are more likely to be active for at least 60 minutes per day. In a nation where 93 per cent of our children are not active enough to meet the Canadian Physical Activity guidelines and 26 per cent are overweight or obese, Mother Nature pleads:

Be a healthy role model. If you show your kids that you find enjoyment in being active, getting outside, and making physical activity a daily routine they will be more likely to mirror these healthy actions. Walking or cycling to work, going on nightly walks or joining a league, can show your kids the importance of maintaining good health and how engaging physical activity can be.

Limit screen time. Video games, cell phones, television, and other tech-innovations are keeping children indoors. If you’re inside all day, you’re less likely to move around and more likely to gain weight. Childhood obesity is on the rise and has no signs of slowing down any time soon. The results of new studies indicate that children’s weight is influenced by whether they have active video games and if there is a television in the bedroom. Although it may be difficult to break out of this routine, efforts to reduce screen time work better when children understand how too much technology is affecting their health. So, talk to your kids and let them ask questions about screen time, in order for them to learn how to get healthier!

Encourage the trial (and error) of new outdoor things. Most kids love playing and being outside. Recently, my middle son wanted to try fishing so we are now trying to find a fishing friend as no on in my family have ever done it before. It will be an adventure for all of us! Encouraging children to try new things is important for their self-esteem and risk-taking skills. Although your child may not like every activity or sport they try, error can help kids discover their identity and enhance their sense of adventure.

It is clear — parental role modelling, limits, guidance, and encouragement is essential for children to establish a love and routine for daily outdoor activity. Since Spring has finally sprung, there is no better time than the present, to restore and encourage balance and friendship with Mother Nature. Let’s tell our children what my parents always told me…GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!

A Parent’s Guide to the Oscars

This is not usually how I roll, but I am lucky enough to be attending the 86th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles on March 2. As a busy mom of three who just finished writing a book, I had little time to watch all the best picture nominated movies so I have been speed-watching what I can this last week. It is amazing what movies can teach us and make us come to terms with.

Here is my parenting take on a few of the Oscar-nominated movies.

Things that give my parenting mind stress.

Vulgarity.

Are Hollywood movies becoming more vulgar? And if so what does this mean for our kids who are growing up watching them? The Wolf of Wall Street is set in the era of the 1990s Wall Street excesses where legality and morality are tossed aside. Even though I am an addiction psychiatrist who is no stranger to the world of high rollers, drugs, sex, and prostitution, I found the vulgarity of it hard to watch. I think it is important to be aware of the unhealthy realities of our world, but go ahead and call me a prude but what is the point of sitting through three hours of the graphic visual sound bites? Adolescent research shows that delaying exposure to such negative behaviours is beneficial so although this movie is rated R, that will not stop a lot of teens from watching it. Parents would be smart to put this movie on the “delay until old age” shelf!

Technology and the Generation Gap.

The movie “Her” is about the age old search for love that is found in futuristic artificial intelligence technology known as Samantha. Although I first reacted with an eye roll to this plot, I had to come to terms with the stark reality of this storyline. I have worked with many teens who are far more connected to technology than other humans making me reluctantly believe such an attachment is in fact a very real possibility. Movies can often represent the themes of a generation and HER pointed out how large the generation gap is between myself and my kids. Looks like I will be talking to them about the birds, bees, and technology!

Things that tug at my parenting heart-strings?

Life’s uncertainty.

Two Oscar nominated movies feature stories of adults who experience completely unpredictable and devastating events. For Solomon Northup of 12 Years a Slave; it is being kidnaped and sold into slavery and for Ron Woodroof of Dallas Buyers Club, it is learning he has HIV and AIDS. Both of these movies brilliantly illustrate how unpredictable life can be. And as a parent, they forced me to ask myself the question – how well am I preparing my own kids for the uncertainties of life? Am I focusing too much on the next test or competition and too little on the values that will keep them strong in the face of adversity? These movies made me pause, jump off the parenting hamster wheel, and talk to my kids about finding inner strength, never giving up, and believing in the human spirit.

Love for our children.

The movie Philomena is a tear jerker about Philomena Lee’s true quest to find her son who was taken from her in Ireland and adopted out to a family in America. Gravity’s main character (played by Sandra Bullock) is grieving the death of her daughter even though she is working far out in outer space. The bond between parent and child is undeniable despite distance and death. These stories of parent-child love are universal, human, and powerfully moving. They made me be so grateful for the extraordinary privilege of being a parent and led to several hours of cuddling and kissing my kids!

Stay tuned for more parenting news from the Oscars, Governor’s Ball, Vanity Fair After Party, and Elton John’s HIV/ AIDS Foundation Party! I will be live tweeting and Instagraming from it all!

Click here to see online article

Using the Olympics to Help Your Kids Learn a “Gold Medal” Attitude

Since the opening ceremonies on February 7, my family had a serious case of Olympic fever. Along with many Canadians, the winter games have become a permanent fixture on our television screen, and a major topic of discussion around the dinner table. Occurring only once every two years, the Olympics present valuable learning opportunities for adults and children of all ages. Even as the 2014 Sochi Olympics end, parents can use these great learning opportunities to foster “a gold medal attitude” for children.

1. Do not fear failure

For every one athlete on the podium, there are thousands or more who don’t make it. Olympic athletes commit to a lifelong journey of hard work and dedication, whilst knowing that failure to make the podium is a very possible outcome. Thus, these athletes have a level of intrinsic motivation that drives them past the fear of failure. Whether they succeed or fail, Olympic athletes must see each event as a learning experience.

Ever since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, our family have been fans of short-track speed skater Charles Hamelin. In this year’s Olympics, Hamelin represented Canada in the 500-metre, 1,000-metre and 1,500-metre races. My son was saddened to see Hamelin fall during his 500-metre and 1,000-metre heats. “He was supposed to win the gold! How could he fall?” he shouted as Hamelin slid into the boards.

So, how did Hamelin handle the fall? Hamelin is a great example of how intrinsic motivation elicits pure passion and desire for self-improvement. He accepted his fall, displayed gratitude for being in the games, and a positive attitude to keep going (which he did when he achieved the gold in the 1,500-meter race!). The highs and lows of the Olympics can teach children that “unfortunate” things can happen in life, no matter how prepared you are. They can teach us that failure is not something to be feared or avoided, but rather a necessary step towards success.

2. Never give up

With less than four minutes left and the Canadian women down by two, many may have thought the game was “over” — well it certainly was not. “Uh-oh, they’re going to lose!” my son shouted. “Don’t give up just yet,” I responded. “They are still working really hard.” As soon as those words rolled off my tongue, Marie-Philip Poulin scored the go-ahead goal for Canada.

The lesson to “never give up” and the benefits of a “growth” vs “fixed” mindset could not be highlighted more than in this women’s gold medal game. According to Stanford’s Professor Carol Dweck’s http://mindsetonline.com research, excessive praise leads to a “fixed” mindset of being the “best”, which makes kids more likely to give up if they are falling behind rather than try harder. In contrast, praising effort, not results leads to a “growth” mindset of continuing effort and working around obstacles. As parents, it is important to create an environment that fosters a growth mindset: an outlook where children see bouncing back from mistakes, effort despite being the “best”, and persistent hard work as the keys to success. Kids need to learn the valuable “you get out, what you put in” lessons in life — and the Olympics are a great display of how individual fortitude can ultimately lead to success.

3. Put yourself in another’s shoes (or in this case skates).

The women’s gold medal hockey game was a great moment to experience the feeling of empathy. Although we were happy for our Canadian team, one could not help but feel heartbroken for the American defeat. Empathy is in our nature, so go ahead – ask your kids questions like, “What do you think it feels like to be the American players right now?” In the last minute, when the puck hit the post instead of the empty net, perhaps the Americans were feeling life was not “fair” at all! Providing opportunities for children to connect and discuss personal and external experiences can provide rich learning experiences.

4. There is no “I” in team

As my children and I watched the Canadian men’s hockey team celebrate their gold medal victory, we could sense the strong team unity that they displayed. The men’s team were so successful because every player was focused on their individual responsibility as well as the teams overall mission — to win gold. Jonathan Toews told Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman, “A huge credit goes to our commitment to playing a team game and will to win.”

This men’s hockey gold medal win illustrates to children the importance of collaboration and teamwork skills. After watching cooperative sport games, ask your children how they think each team worked together. Point out the positive behaviors you see between the team members, and connect these to child’s own personal efforts, such as their excellent passing skills in soccer last weekend!

5. Believe in something beyond yourself

The Canadian speed skater Gilmore Junio illustrated his value for his community and country when he offered his Olympic spot to Denny Morrison, because he knew it was the best decision for his team as well as his country’s chances to win. In an interview, Junio said, “[I am] proud to be Canadian, [and that] is something I wanted to give back to the country.” As an Olympic contender, Junio knew he was not only in the games for himself, but for his team, and for all of Canada as well. It is important to educate our kids on the value of community and how it is important to think beyond oneself for the greater good. We are only as strong as our communities and Gilmore Junio provided a great value for that.

Click here to see online article

Five Things Kids (And Parents) Can Learn From Microsoft’s New CEO

Microsoft, a company worth more than $19 billion that employs over 10,000 staff globally, has only had three CEOs in its 38-year history. After 14 years of bold, larger than life Steve Ballmer, Microsoft announced their new CEO — modest, understated 46-year-old Satiya Nadella. Quoted as being an icon of the new style of 21st century leadership, there are a few things kids and parents could learn from the new leader of the Microsoft Empire.

1) You don’t need an IVY league education to make it to the top. Nadella attended public schools, received a bachelors in electrical engineering from Manipal University, a master’s degree in computer science from University of Wisconsin, and an MBA from the University of Chicago. In fact, less than half of the world’s top 100 companies have CEOS with Ivy league degrees and 5% do not even have an undergraduate degree.

2) Playing team sports helps teach and master team environments – especially with Dolphin (collaborative) vs Tiger (autocratic) coaching. Nadella states that cricket was his first passion and states “playing cricket taught me more about working in teams and leadership that has stayed with me throughout my career,” A study published in Sports Psychology found that individual perceptions of supportive, collaborative training and instruction positively influenced the team’s sense of cohesion. In contrast, autocratic behavior by coaches was negatively associated with the four dimensions of cohesion.

3) Curiosity is a natural motivator. Satiya Nadalla is passionately curious and doesn’t seem to let anything stop him from learning. For example, he flew from Redmond, Washington to Chicago on weekends to complete his MBA while working at Microsoft. In his free time, he is known to buy more books and signs up for more online course than he “could possibly finish” and states “….. In the 15 minutes I have in the morning. You know, I’m trying to listen to a neuroscience class or something,” Curiosity is the fuel that drives internal motivation.

4) Humility is underestimated but never overlooked. Time and time again, the trait of humbleness is what often separates the good from the great. There are many highly intelligent people out there but many lack humility and are thus poor leaders. When we see the combination of intelligence, talent, humility, and compassion – we now we have a leader that inspires. Suresh Kotha, a professor at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business in Seattle describes Nadella CEO acceptance speech as “He’s saying `I’m here to help you, I’m humble, I’m willing to listen,'” A 2012 University of Buffalo study surveyed more than 700 employees and 218 managers and found that leader humility is associated with “more learning-oriented teams, more engaged employees, and lower voluntary employee turnover.”

5) Satiya Nadella has CQ . With the ability to play ( he loves to read poetry for fun), a sense of collaboration, and a balanced lifestyle, Nadella has been able to develop the 4 key skills needed for 21st century success- communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. (http://www.p21.org/) I call these CQ and they come from an integration of logical left brain IQ and emotional right brain EQ. Living a life of balance in the real world allows us to develop our intuition, CQ, and ability to adapt and Satiya Nadella is certainly doing well in his ability to adapt to ever-changing waters.

Click here to see online article

Lessons from Superbowl XLVIIIDr Shimi Kang.

A historic 700 000 people showed up in the City of Seattle on February 5th, 2014 to celebrate with their champions at the Super Bowl Parade. Many of us cheered from a distance, but as a parent and youth psychiatrist, I couldn’t help but notice that the 48th Super Bowl supplies us with a unique teaching opportunity for our kids.

The Super Bowl (or any current event you are following together) can be used as a springboard for meaningful discussion and debate. By creating a conversation and remaining open to everyone’s thoughts and opinions, taking in events like the Super Bowl can actually prove to be one of the best ways to ‘check-in’ with your family. Communication is key. Whether you ask your children what they think about Syria or Justin Bieber, the most important thing is that you ask!

Listen to their thoughts and treat every moment as an opportunity. You might agree with your child or feel that they have missed a boundary you are trying to help them draw. Either way, you have the perfect opportunity to share. The specific nature of the 2014 Super Bowl game provides a few great areas to explore.

Here are 5 sample conversations you can have with your kids:

1) Never underestimate the underdog. The Seattle Seahawks entered the Super Bowl as a team that many touted as being “too young to pull it off.” There were many naysayers. What are some of the advantages to being an underdog? What are the dangers of being the favorite to win? Malcolm Gladwell’s book David And Goliath explores these questions in detail and in classic “Gladwellian” style, he treats us to the most delightful of conclusions – that teams don’t win despite being underdogs, they win because of being underdogs. Struggling through challenges gives us the skills to overcome further challenges. Adversity makes us stronger.

2) Celebrate the ’12th Man!‘ It is a little cliché, but we can’t discuss team sports without looking at the team! There is a reason, after all, that the players always thank the whole team whenever they accept an award. This year Seattle Seahawks fans have been an integral part in their team’s success. Their title of the ‘loudest fans in the NFL’ is merely one example of the enthusiasm and passion of the Seattle crowd. Many players, including quarterback Russell Wilson, gave tribute to the fans. Could the Seahawks have performed this well without their fan’s support? This is a great opportunity to discuss how a team is more than merely a sum of its parts. It is also a stunning reminder of the power of being part of a community.

3) The importance of sportsmanship. The fact that the Seahawks won was a surprise to many. The fact that their victory was so decisive is still a shock. A lot of attention has been paid to Peyton Manning from the Denver Broncos and how painful this loss must be to him in particular. Looking at his previous career success and then comparing it to his last two Super Bowl performances has been a favorite exercise of sports announcers. What an excellent opportunity to look at the importance of sportsmanship. How did he react when the results were not what was expected of him? Life is a journey through ever-changing waters and it is how well we manage the ups and downs of those waters that define our character. This was a moment to see the humility, respect, and integrity that defines true athletes.

4) There are always two sides to every game. Despite all glory and fanfare, it is important to remember the downsides of the game of professional football. This is a sport with the highest rate of concussions leading to CTI – chronic traumatic encephalopathy, not to mention recent issues of bullying, addiction, and a high number of player arrests. So although some athletes may be exceptional in their game, does that make them successful in life? Let’s tell our kids that one can admire specific athletic feats and still be critical of behaviors that may seem unethical or unhealthy. Thankfully, there were no concussions in this year’s Superbowl and with the new rules, the rate of NFL concussions in 2014 dropped 13 percent from the 2012 season.

5) An opportunity to bond and play. Events like the Superbowl are a whole lot of fun for the whole family! Whether it’s the commercials, halftime shows (gotta love Bruno Mars and the Peppers), or all the yummy (and hopefully some healthy) food, enjoying the game is an opportunity to just spend time together. In a hurried world of schedules and assignments, these opportunities are few and far between. And you never know…it may even lead to a family football game in the backyard!

I must add that I am not really a football fan and I certainly don’t really understand the game very well. However, if we look for opportunities to teach lessons of character, to bond, and to have fun with our children, we can find them even in the most unlikely of places. It’s important to ask open-ended questions and listen to answers in a curious (non-judgmental) way.

So did you use the Super Bowl to start a quality discussion with your family? If you try some of these tips, let me know how it goes!