OCD Awareness week is this week October 10-16, 2021. Watch this Video Blog to find out more about OCD.
Conflict is never something that is desired but it is a normal part of life. It is something that everyone deals with on a fairly regular basis. Teaching your children practical ways to manage conflict, in a healthy way, will help them navigate all the little arguments and the big arguments. Research has shown that children who learn how to manage conflict are happier, have healthy friendships and even do better in school. Below are some ways to help your child learn how to manage their emotions and manage conflict in more productive ways.
Be a positive role model for your children.
You as the parent/caregiver play an important role in helping your child manage conflict. They pay attention to everything you do and reflect that into how they manage life. If they see you yelling at others, calling them names or using intimidation tactics with others, then that’s how they are going to act during conflict. However, if they see that you are calm, collected and respectful, then that’s how they will learn how to respond.
Another important aspect to role model for your child is empathy. Listening and empathizing not only helps your child feel heard and understood but it also teaches them how to empathize with others. Start with getting down to their eye level and reflect how your child feels back to them. For example, “it sounds like you’re frustrated and disappointed that they didn’t want to play with you.”
Help your child learn to identify feelings.
A big part of managing conflict is being able to manage your own feelings. When children aren’t able to properly identify their feelings, they begin to act out. By teaching your child about feelings and practicing with them how to verbalize their feelings, they will begin to incorporate that into the moments when there is conflict or disagreements.
Other ways to help children learn about feelings are
Identify the source of the conflict.
Only after your child has calmed down, do you want to begin to identify the problem. For younger children, this can be very difficult due to not having the emotional awareness to identify the source. As the parent/caregiver, you will need to assist them in understanding why they are arguing or fighting. Helping your child get to the root of the problem will help them begin to identify ways to solve the problem.
Teach effective communication skills.
Help your child learn how to express their feelings, wants and needs to others in a respectful manner.
Teach them to:
Build Problem Solving Skills.
Often parents/caregivers tend to struggle with allowing their children to solve their problems. It’s easier as a parent to tell your child how to fix the issue because oftentimes it is an easy solution. However, it’s important to not deprive your child of learning how to solve their own problems. For younger children, they may need a little more help but you can still allow space for them to try to identify how to solve the problem.
There are many different ways to help your child with problem solving. Below are some of those strategies.
As with adults, kids will experience ups and downs with their friendships. By teaching them how to manage those moments, they will be better equipped to resolve them quickly and be able to move forward and preserve the friendship.
A Good Start for Children: The Importance of Supporting Pregnant and Postpartum Mothers. By Kirsten Ellingsen, PhD
Supporting mothers starting at conception is related to positive outcomes for children. Positive mental health and wellness during pregnancy and the postpartum period can promote early brain development for infants, strengthen parent-child attachment, and improve family functioning. It has also been connected to reduced cost of medical care, lower rates of child abuse and neglect, and fewer relationship problems between parents.
Anxiety and depression during the perinatal period are common. (The perinatal period referring to the time from conception until one year after birth.) While “Postpartum Depression” (PPD) is the often-used term, there are a spectrum of different related mental health disorders that affect mothers during pregnancy and postpartum (e.g., Depression or Anxiety during pregnancy, perinatal OCD, Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder). Together these are referred to as PMADs (Perinatal Mood Anxiety Disorders).
Although the exact rate is not known, research has found that up to 30% of women experience a PMAD (the often-cited statistic is between 14% and 20% of the general population). Another study from 2018 found 35% of pregnant women experienced high anxiety. Anxiety during pregnancy has been connected to more adverse outcomes in pregnancy and delivery as well as higher rates of depression after birth. Rates of prenatal depression during the pandemic have been even higher.
Despite the potential consequences, maternal mental health and wellness during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth remains a poorly addressed health need. The number of women who receive adequate therapeutic support is low. Depression and anxiety are often not adequately screened for or diagnosed during pregnancy and within the first year after giving birth. Most women do not get the support they need. An alarming statistic is that only 15% of women who suffer from anxiety or depression during the perinatal period get support they need. Some studies even found lower rates that less than 10% of women who need it receive adequate treatment.
Rates of depression and anxiety can be significantly reduced with universal screening evidence-based support and services. While 60-80% of women experience the “Baby blues” during the first few weeks after birth, if symptoms persist longer than 2 weeks, it could be an indicator of PPD. Severity and duration of symptoms will help determine diagnosis. Without adequate intervention there could be long term negative outcomes for parents and children.
For a detailed Action Plan for Depression and Anxiety around Pregnancy see: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/Documents/ActionPlan_DepressionAnxiety.pdf
Signs and Symptoms: For a definition of perinatal depression as well as a list of signs and symptoms visit the National Institute of Mental Health website https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/perinatal-depression.
Reducing anxiety, depression, and stress during and after pregnancy is related to significantly better outcomes for infants, mothers, and families. If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, are overwhelmed, lack of feelings or connection to your baby, anxiety, have high agitation, or social isolation please reach out for support.
PMADs are not your fault, you are not to blame, and you are not alone. The symptoms can be significantly reduced and you can feel better and receive help with appropriate evidence-based therapy and safe medication if needed.
Talk with your physician, search for trained providers and support groups on https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/ or call PSI Helpline: (800) 944-4PPD or Text “Help” to 800-944-4773 (English) Text 971-203-7773 en Español.
Additional Resources and Information
Postpartum Support International (PSI) https://www.postpartum.net
Florida Maternal Mental Health Collaborative: https://www.flmomsmatter.org/pmad-facts
APA: https://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression-brochure-2007.pdf and https://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression
If You Know Someone in Crisis: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Kendig, S., Keats, J. P., Hoffman, M. C., Kay, L. B., Miller, E. S., Moore Simas, T. A., Frieder, A., Hackley, B., Indman, P., Raines, C., Semenuk, K., Wisner, K. L., & Lemieux, L. A. (2017). Consensus Bundle on Maternal Mental Health: Perinatal Depression and Anxiety. JOGNN - Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 46(2), 272-281. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jogn.2017.01.001
Nakić Radoš, S., Tadinac, M., & Herman, R. (2018). Anxiety During Pregnancy and Postpartum: Course, Predictors and Comorbidity with Postpartum Depression. Acta clinica Croatica, 57(1), 39–51. https://doi.org/10.20471/acc.2017.56.04.05
Many parents and caregivers we work with are already walking on eggshells around their children, whether their children are struggling with anxiety or behavior problems. When kids are having behavior problems parents are trying as hard as they can to not set off those outbursts. And when kids are anxious, parents are trying as hard as they can to keep their kids safe from those uncomfortable feelings of fear and worry. This is all completely understandable. Unfortunately, that adult anxiety often feeds into the challenges the kids are facing. When we want our kids to regulate their emotions better, whether that is fear or anger or any variety of emotions, the first emotion we need to regulate is our own. When children with behavior problems pick up on their parent’s anxiety they are more likely to keep challenging their parents. Anxious kids who pick up on their parent’s anxiety are more likely to think that there really is a reason to be so scared and worried. Luckily, there is a ton you can do as a parent or caregiver to regulate your own anxiety! Strategies involving both our mind and our body are important for gaining a calm equilibrium to allow us to go into parenting with more confidence.
Before you begin supporting your worried child through an anxious moment or trying to set a limit with your defiant little one carve out a few minutes ahead of time to prepare yourself. Use these coping ideas to get ready for tough parenting moments.
Physical strategies for anxious symptoms:
Cognitive strategies for boosting confidence:
If you forget to do these things ahead of time you can use some of these same strategies during the moment to regulate yourself as well.
If you know you are doing something that worries your child, check your own thinking and scan your body for anxious symptoms. If you’re worried, try to get your own worry under control first. Use a couple of the ideas above. If you believe your child can do it (whatever “it” is) they will be more likely to be able to!
When it comes to defiant child behaviors it is often said that you should handle the problem behaviors right when they occur, however it is also important to tackle discipline calmly. If you start to find yourself dysregulated it is okay to step away and regulate yourself, and then step back into the situation on more even ground. When parents and caregivers take time to regulate in the moment it is great role modeling for your kids. It shows them that you are doing what you hope they will do too!
If your lacking confidence despite some of these ideas, it is also okay to “fake it till you make it” so to speak. Meaning even if you’re stressed and worried on the inside try to exude a calm air of confidence on the outside. Take some deep breaths and talk yourself through it and try to give off a calm, cool and collected vibe. If you do this, it’s important to make sure you have a time and a place to deal with those anxious feelings of your own outside of those moments. Rely on your support network, exercise or journal (or any other heathy outlets that work for you) to make sure you are taking care of your own emotions.
Remember to take it easy on yourself. Parenting is hard work under the best circumstances. When you are supporting kids with emotional or behavioral struggles it requires extra time and attention. Give yourself credit for all the hard work you do everyday to keep your kids, yourself and your family happy and healthy.
Self-harm, or deliberately cutting one’s self, is an unhealthy, unhelpful, and often dangerous coping mechanism, often used by teenagers. There is some new research out of the University of Cambridge that examines risk factors for using self-harm in the teen years. It is important to note that self-harm is not considered a suicidal behavior, but it a significant risk factor for subsequent suicide attempts.
The Cambridge team identified adolescents who reported self-harm at age 14 in the United Kingdom. The full results are published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
The team identified two distinct subgroups among young people who self-harm, with significant risk factors present as early as age five, nearly a decade before they reported self-harming. While both groups were likely to experience sleep difficulties and low self-esteem reported at age 14, other risk factors differed between the two groups.
The first group showed a long history of poor mental health, as well as bullying before they self-harmed. Their caregivers were more likely to have mental health issues of their own.
For the second group, one of the key signs was a greater willingness to take part in risk-taking behavior, which is linked to impulsivity. Factors related to their relationships with their peers were also important for this subgroup, including feeling less secure with friends and family at age 14 and a greater concern about the feelings of others as a risk factor at age 11.
This research is so important because the findings suggest that it may be possible to predict which individuals are most at risk of self-harm up to a decade ahead of time, providing a window to intervene. The results suggest that boosting younger children’s self-esteem, implementing anti-bullying measures, and providing advice on sleep training, may reduce levels of self-harm many years later.
The research was supported by the Gates Cambridge Trust, Templeton World Charity Foundation, and the UK Medical Research Council.
Uh, S et al. Two pathways to self-harm in adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 14 June 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2021.03.010
In the next few weeks children and teens will be returning to school. New expectations, different teachers, harder academic work, and navigating school social dynamics is a lot of change. This is going to be a transition to support. The tips below can help. For children or teens who have been virtually learning at home or those who frequently experience anxiety, it is particularly helpful to prepare and set them up for success before they enter the classroom.
Below are a few ways to support your child or teen during the transition back to school.
Explore general thoughts and feelings about returning to school.
Make a list of Pros and Cons for Returning to School.
Visit the School.
Come up with a helpful phrase.
Model Calm and Confidence.
“One of the most helpful things you can do is model calm, confident behavior, particularly while helping a child get ready for school. A child usually starts school no calmer than her least-relaxed parent.” https://childmind.org/article/helping-children-with-special-needs-go-back-to-school/
Set up a morning, afternoon, and bedtime routine.
We hope that you enjoy your final weeks of summer. Give yourself and your child/teen more time, more encouragement, and less pressure in the transition back to school this year. Allow activities or extra time to let off steam after school or provide quiet to recover from the new daily school demands. All students will have to adjust. If your child is experiencing high separation anxiety, please reach out to a qualified therapist or your pediatrician. Let the school know so that the school counselor and staff can be sensitive to your child/teen’s needs and work with you to come up with a plan for drop off or if anxiety increases during the school day.
Websites for parents:
Not many people like doing chores, especially children but it is a necessary part of life. Some parents question whether they should make their children do any chores because they just want their kids to be kids or they don’t trust them to do it the “right” way. However, there are many benefits to children doing chores and these benefits will carry into adulthood. As parents, one of our jobs is to teach our children how to be successful when they grow up. Giving kids chores is one way to do that.
Chores help your children feel wanted, teach important life lessons, help ease the workload on parents, teach work ethic, responsibility, time management and self-reliance. They can help build up self-esteem and teach your children the importance of respecting and taking care of themselves, others and their possessions.
Some parents aren’t sure when they should start chores with their children and the good news is that you can start from age 2 on. It’s important to note that children are not always going to do the chores the way you may do them and that’s okay. The goal, especially with the younger children, is to teach them responsibility and to get them in the habit of helping out. While they are doing the task, make sure to give them a lot of praise and encouragement. If you are too critical of them or how they are doing it, then it will lower their self-esteem and make them have a negative association with chores. Below are some chores your children can do at each age.
Toddlers (ages 2-3) (At this age, kids will need supervision)
Preschoolers (ages 4-5) (At this age, kids will not need supervision for everything)
Primary Schoolers (ages 6-9) (At this age, they will need a lot less supervision)
Middle Schoolers (Ages 10-13) (In addition to any of the tasks listed above…)
High Schoolers (Ages 14+) (In addition to any of the tasks listed above…)
As a parent, it’s important to remember that your child will not always enjoy or like the chores or responsibilities that you give them. One way to help reduce some of the resistance is to give your children a choice in what they can do to help out. This is especially helpful as your children get older. If they feel like they have a choice it will help them resist less. However, no matter what the chore or responsibility they have, make sure to keep encouraging them and giving them positive feedback.
Validating “in the moment” feelings of a child or teen is a wonderful way to connect and strengthen a relationship. You are demonstrating empathy, building social-emotional development, and teaching compassion. You do not have to agree with the behavior, the interpretation of events, or even the appropriateness of an emotional reaction. The goal of validating is to help children feel heard, seen or understood.
Think about how you feel when a friend, spouse or partner acknowledges what you are experiencing emotionally, just allows you to have and express emotion (without judgement or unsolicited advice). Your perspective and experience are valued. It can help hard moments, even when no problems are solved or when issues are not necessarily “solvable”.
Simply reflecting the feelings and identifying the emotion in a situation can improve a person’s willingness to communicate and share thoughts that build closeness. Yet, consider how it feels to have another person recognize your feelings then right away point out what you could have done differently to prevent a difficult situation or undesired outcome. How it feels if someone dismisses or minimizes your feelings when an outcome was not in your control.
The act of acknowledging the feeling is the point here. Especially when a child or teen seems overwhelmed by emotion. Feelings pass. They change in intensity. They are not bad or right or wrong or need to be argued against. This is not the time for “teaching” for “correcting” or “scolding, I told you so”. When parents acknowledge and pause without a lecture or command, a remarkable emotional shift can happen. This can lead to better reflection, self-awareness, and future communication.
Step 1: Validate and Pause
It is not always easy to calmly validate a child’s feelings or experience when a reaction does not seem reasonable or understandable to you. Just reflecting the feeling and trying to see it from the child’s perspective is the start. It sends the message that “I see you” and “I accept and can handle your emotions”.
This approach is particularly helpful when emotions are strong. When a child is very upset and when you, as a parent, might be triggered, tired, and surprised by a reaction. Sometimes this reflection and pause is enough. A child/teen has space to feel the feeling and can move on.
Validating or reflecting feelings does not mean agreeing with behavior. It does not
mean accepting any reaction or not having expectations for appropriate actions. It also does not always mean understanding an emotional response. However, just repeating back and labeling the feeling calmly will often allow a more productive conversation about the reasons for the response.
The child does not have to get his or her way for an unreasonable demand. Validating a feeling or emotional reaction to an experience does not mean allowing aggressive, hurtful, or destructive behavior. Consistent consequences and discipline might need to occur depending on the BEHAVIOR. Expectations for behavior and how to express strong emotions are essential for safety and helping a child learn to regulate and function well at home and school. When the behaviors are problematic then problem solving options and choices for how to manage strong emotions is needed later when everyone is truly calm.
Step 2: AND not BUT…. A helpful one-word switch
When a child is feeling angry, sad, scared, frustrated, disappointed, excited, happy etc. it is also important that validating the feeling state is not “invalidated” by the word “BUT”. Consider how it feels when someone dismisses, minimizes, or ignores your expressed emotions.
Reflecting a child’s feeling then blaming the child is not comforting or relationship strengthening (e.g, “Oh, you burned your finger look sad, that must hurt, BUT I told you not to touch the hot stove, so…”). Dismissing a feeling can also occur with BUT (e.g., “You are feeling scared to get the shot, BUT it is no big deal” vs “You said you are feeling scared to get the shot, I know this is hard AND I know you can do it”. “You are disappointed that it is raining so you can’t meet your friends at the beach, BUT we can’t control the weather” vs “I see you are disappointed, AND I understand why, you were looking forward to being with your friends”. Telling a child what to do “you are feeling angry BUT you better calm down” vs “you are feeling angry AND that is hard. What can I do to help?”).
Using the word “AND” rather than “BUT” when validating a child’s feelings can shorten tantrums, reduce anger, encourage courage, and generally help regulate negative emotions faster. This is not the time to tell a child how to feel, to dismiss or minimize feelings. Try to take your child’s perspective before reacting.
Having rules and expectations for behavior is important. If emotions are expressed in aggressive ACTIONS, there should be a later opportunity to address underlying issues and problem solve, and to talk about behavior choices. (*Of course, if your child is behaving aggressive or you are having a hard time managing your reaction STEP AWAY to calm. Make sure child is SAFE (and remove potentially dangerous objects).
Having negative thoughts and emotions and learning how to express these productively will help build social emotional skills and resiliency. Validating the feelings and experiences of your child or teen will strengthen your relationship.
For more about levels of validation see: https://psychcentral.com/blog/emotionally-sensitive/2012/02/understanding-the-levels-of-validation#1
Anticipatory anxiety is a common issue. Anticipatory anxiety is often characterized by physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, rapid pulse, shallow rapid breathing, stomachaches, headaches, and sweating, all of which arise when thinking about an upcoming event, as significant as a final exam or as simple as having to order your own ice cream.
Anticipatory anxiety tends to occur when one thinks about what may happen in a particular setting or situation (that hasn’t happened yet), with usually a negative outcome, which can then cause great anxiety. For example, a child may think that there is no way they will pass this upcoming test and it is going to be the worst day of their life. Then, cue the physical symptoms and behavioral issues (e.g. refusing to go to school).
Most often, the anxiety leading up to the event is significantly worse than during the actual event. Even so, this is a hard concept for children (and adults!) to wrap their heads around. I love using metaphors to help children (and adults!) understand these concepts and use them to challenge those catastrophic thoughts.
Here is one of my favorites:
Harry Potter is in his 4th year at Hogwarts. Someone puts his name into the goblet of fire and he has to participate in challenges that he is not deemed old enough for. Harry has two weeks until the first task, which is an eternity when anticipatory anxiety presents itself! Harry “felt as though it [the first task] were crouching ahead of him like some horrific monster...He had never suffered nerves like these...Harry was finding it hard to think about the future at all. He felt as though his whole life had been leading up to and would finish with the first task”.
Over the next two weeks, Harry is “feeling too queasy to eat”; his “brain filled with a sort of blank buzzing, which didn’t seem to allow room for concentration”; he “barely slept that night”; “he seriously considered for the first time ever just running away from Hogwarts”; “he finished his bacon with difficulty (his throat wasn’t working too well)”; “Harry felt oddly separate from everyone around him”; “it was a state of nervousness so advanced that he wondered whether he mightn’t just lose his head”; “Harry felt separate from the crowd as though they were a different species”; “horrible pictures formed in Harry’s mind”; he was “very aware of the way his heart was pumping fast and his fingers tingling with fear…..yet at the same time he seemed to be outside himself”; “he stood up, noticing dimly that his legs seemed to be made of marshmallow”; “the panic rising into a crescendo inside him”; “he was everything in front of him as though it was a very highly colored dream”.......
Cue the actual event that he has been dreading. Harry now has to go head-to-head with the Hungarian Horntail dragon. Harry has spent two weeks in a panic, not eating, not sleeping, feeling disconnected from the world, not being able to concentrate, and now…..
“He swung his leg over the broom and kicked off from the ground. And a second later, something miraculous happened…….he realized that he had left not only the gound behind, but also his fear…...his heart lighter than it had been in weeks”.
Harry faced the Hungarian Horntail and it was not even remotely as bad as he thought it would be! In fact, he knew exactly what to do and his body kicked right into action.
This story is a great metaphor for children to help them understand how thinking about it ahead of time is usually way worse than the actual event. Talk to children about what Harry could have tried to challenge the thoughts and panic that he endured for those two weeks. Maybe Harry could have practiced positive self talk, deep breathing or used exercise to clear his mind. The possibilities are endless and children will come up with amazing ways to help Harry. Then, they can finally understand how those same ideas could help them, too.
Rowling, J. K., author. (2002). Harry Potter and the goblet of fire. New York :Scholastic.
The last school year has been challenging for everyone, especially to your kids. They have had to learn how to adjust and readjust to how they are taught and how they learn. They have gone from virtual to in-person, maybe a few times. While kids are very resilient, they, like adults, need breaks and time to re-energize. For kids, the best way that they re-energize and release stress is through play. Below are ideas to help you and your children have fun and release stress throughout the summer.
No matter how you spend your summer, the best thing to do for your children is to have fun and play with them. Enjoy each other’s company and make memories. Below is a list of different ideas to help get you started on it.
Parent and Child Psychological Services is a private practice serving children and families in the Sarasota, Florida area. The practice is owned and operated by Dr. Gibson, a Licensed Psychologist who is Board Certified in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.