NAVIGATION- Dr. Charles R. Davenport; Licensed Psychologist

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Talking to kids about COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

Corona viruses are a broad group of viruses that cause a range of illnesses including the common cold. The COVID-19 version appears to be more easily spread then the common cold. It is a breathing disease that we spread in similar was as the common cold. As of right now, there is no vaccination for COVID-19. For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). First, you should ask what your children know about COVID-19 and if they have any questions. Ask them what they think and feel. Start be responding to those concerns and determine if they are desiring more information. If they have questions or are distressed it is recommended that you have a family discussion.

In the past week there have been a lot of changes in communities with schools closing, sports events being canceled and it is all happening at lightening speed. This is an experience most adults have never experienced.

So how can parents help their kids with understand and cope with the changes relating to COVID-19? See below:

You should talk to your children in a developmentally appropriate manner. for example:

Younger children: This is a virus like the kind that gives you a cold. So we have to be very careful about staying healthy by washing your hands, keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth, sneezing and coughing into your elbow, and staying away from others if they or you are sick so it doesn’t spread.  You can still catch a cold now, which is not as big a problem for others, but you will want to be extra careful anyway.

Older children: Help them understand the new terms and how these concepts specifically apply to them. For example, if a sporting event is canceled, explain why, and what will happen, such as rescheduling at a later date.

What can we do to prevent COVID-19

Many of the same things that are suggested to reduce the spread of the common cold are suggested to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These include hand washing for at least 20 seconds, coughing into your elbow, drinking enough water, maintaining a healthy diet, going to bed and waking up at regular times and getting enough sleep. Decreasing physical contact with others such as smiling rather then hugging or shaking hands, not sharing tools such as pensciles, pens, or electronic devices, and not touching surfaces in public places.

Younger children: Explain the concepts of social distancing or voluntary isolation if schools or public events are closed. A simple explanation of keeping healthy and not spreading viruses should be helpful. Review the practices of preventing spread of disease.

Older children: Help them understand the new terms and how these concepts specifically apply to them. For example, if a sporting event is canceled, explain why, and what will happen, such as rescheduling at a later date.

Even if your family is in isolation, remember that this is temporary, and do not underestimate your coping ability.  You can reach out for support from others.  It is human nature to come together in a crisis and to become even more resilient.  Unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts can occur. For more information on managing negative thought patterns see these links:

Managing Worry

Anxiety Control: Spread of COVID-19 is anxiety-provoking particularly for children who have a previous diagnosis of an anxiety disorder or have experienced a traumatic event. With so many questions and so few answers, worrying will happen. Your children will take their cues from YOU. If you are constantly checking the news for the latest information, they will sense your anxiety and may react by becoming more anxious. Clinging and whiny behavior, crying with little or no known cause, or sleeping/eating changes may indicate children’s anxiety. So, what can you do?

First, process your own fears and make sure that you are calmly interacting with your child.  You can decrease fear by limiting both yours and your child’s media exposure.  Stick with media sites known to be more factual (not those that make the news more dramatic), and with sites with fact-checked information.  Here are some tips to help you manage your anxiety and put news reports in perspective:

https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/pandemics.  This may also be helpful for you: COVID-19 Anxiety-which explains why we worry about new risks more than familiar ones, how to calm our anxiety, and what are the psychological effects of being quarantined.

Second, ask your child what they might be worried about.  Reassure your child that you understand their concerns.  Answer questions simply, with as little or much information as they seem to need. If you don’t know, say so, and tell them you will try to find the answers. Remember this is not a one-time conversation, rather, these questions will pop up as circumstances change.

Keep to a familiar routine as much as possible including bedtime. Structure is very helpful during stressful times!  Check in via phone or video with those people your child may worry about, such as a college sibling, traveling parent, or elderly relatives or neighbors. Praise them for doing the actions that help prevent spread of the virus, such as hand-washing for two happy birthday songs.

Finally, take care of yourself. Your children will be watching you to see how you are faring. Use calming techniques such as positive statements (“it will be okay”), taking a few minutes to yourself just to breathe deeply, and demonstrating the behaviors that prevent spread including healthy eating and getting sleep.

Planning

Although voluntary or community isolation may not occur in your area, it helps to plan ahead.

If schools close, and parents need to work, think about who will take care of the children, and where this will occur. If a parent works from home, then the family will be together. However, many families have situations that don’t allow for a parent to be home, such as police, fire, or hospital staff. In this case, a “plan B” is necessary. Either an adult who can be a caretaker comes to the home, or the children go to a caretaker at their home during this time. Identifying these caretakers (who are known to be taking precautions with the virus) and the primary site for care is essential.

What can you do with the children when they are not in school? First, check with the school for recommended learning activities and opportunities to get breakfast and lunch if needed.  Second, try to develop a schedule that involves a learning component for at least a few hours each day.

If there is a delay in the school directing your child’s learning at home, or your family has difficulty accessing school information, there are things you can do. For younger children, a parent or adult caretaker can encourage reading time and doing age appropriate learning activities to use the time productively. These activities do not need to be endless worksheets; rather, using activities such as cooking and crafts are natural ways to include math, social studies, and science. Encourage play as this is children’s natural medium for managing stress.

For older children, focusing on learning a project with a report (oral or written) may be a way to incorporate all subject areas. Time away from the internet or video games such as board or card games, going outside, and specified time with friends via social media can be helpful for kids who miss their friends and feel stress.

For all children, it will be helpful to get some exercise whenever possible which also helps with stress.  Activities such as marching around the house, doing jumping jacks, or dancing can help, especially if going outside is not possible.

Parents may also need to help children with sadness or disappointment due to competitions, events, and vacations being canceled. First validate your children’s thoughts and feelings. You can say, “I know your are feeling or thinking ______ and that makes sense. We will be able to do that again in the future and the sooner we get through this the sooner we will get back to that activity.” Work to validate and refocus on taking care of everyone by isolating or cancelling events as needed. To the best of your ability, develop a family plan for a replacement activity that can be done in the home and for when the vacation can be revisited.

If you have questions or think Dr. Davenport might be able to help you or your family please feel free to contact the office at 941-321-1971.

We provide therapy and counseling services to children, adults and families in Sarasota, FL and Venice, FL.

Am I “Overthinking”?

Rodin The Thinker
Before “Overthinking” there was Rodins The Thinker

With so much information how do we sort though it all?

We live in a world where answers to many of our questions are at our fingertips. Siri, Alexa and Google are used by many to solve easy to answer questions everyday. So what about the questions we all have that can not be answered with modern technology? What happens when we google it but we can’t find a definitive answer? Modern technology has molded us into hunters looking for answers. So when we cant find them, many of us overthink. 

As a result this pattern of searching and contemplation has become somewhat of an epidemic. One study from the University of Michigan found that 73% of adults ages 25 to 35 overthink. In addition, 53% of 45-55 year olds have the same affliction. 

Interestingly,  research found that many of these individuals believe they are benefiting from repetition of thoughts.  However, there are times where worrying about the problem poses a greater threat than the problem itself. 

One of the potential negative side effects to overthinking is not acting on the problem at all. By going over so many possible options and scenarios you can get yourself into an overwhelming state causing problem solving paralysis. As a result of the time spent overthinking and not “doing”. Your mental energy depletes and can cause a state of exhaustion. This type of awake exhaustion can affect a person’s sleep. I have seen many people refer to trouble sleeping as a result of being unable to shut down or even slow down their thoughts. 

So how do we combat our overthinking? 

The first step is to form an awareness. Pay attention to your thoughts and your physical state. According to  Rajita Sinha, the director of the Yale Stress Center one way to determine if you are overthinking is if your have more than three potential “what if” scenarios, you could be overthinking. Next distract yourself and do something physical to free up your cognitions. Yoga, running or even taking your dog for a walk can help to clear out your head. Sinha also recommends journaling your worries with a paper and pen to allow your brain the chance to slow. 

Talking to a friend or family member can also give you a new perspective to unravel the matter at hand. It is a good idea to talk to a therapist when experiencing severe discomfort in overthinking. This epidemic of thought can lead to anxiety and problems with daily functioning.

Call Charles R. Davenport, Psy.D., LLC 941-321-1971 today to begin your journey to create the positive changes you want in life.  We have offices in Sarasota, FL and Venice, FL to best serve you.

Can we make up for lost sleep?

Many people find they prefer to stay up late at night were wake up early in the morning. Sometimes these personal styles can get in the way of going to work or school was a need to. This doesn’t mean once style is better than the other however this can become a problem if we are not getting done things that we need to. Doctors who specialize in sleep have long said you can’t make up for lost sleep including scientist Matthew Walker. in particular he states “sleep is not like a bank you can accumulate debt and pay it off at a later point.”

 

According to new research from the Journal of sleep research, published May 22, 2018, the impact of insufficient sleep over a work week can be countered by making up for the deficit over the weekend.

Sleep researchers from the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University looked at data from more than 43,000 adults collected in Sweden in 1997. Then, they found out what happened to participants 13 years later by looking at the national death register.

Results showed that adults under age 65 who only got five hours of sleep or fewer a night, seven days a week, had a higher risk of death than those who consistently got six or seven. But those who made up for it at the weekend by sleeping in had no raised mortality risk compared to the steady sleepers.

“The results imply that short (weekday) sleep is not a risk factor for mortality if it is combined with a medium or long weekend sleep,” wrote the authors, led by Torbjörn Åkerstedt. “This suggests that short weekday sleep may be compensated for during the weekend, and that this has implications for mortality.”

 

However, in the sleep science community, the overarching advice is that consistency is key, and there is no substitute for having a regular sleep pattern.

 

Not getting enough sleep has been linked to an increased risk of obesity and heart disease, as well as brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. There’s also evidence sleep deprivation can mean a lower sex drive, reduced fertility, and generally less mental well-beinghim.

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