NAVIGATION- Dr. Charles R. Davenport; Licensed Psychologist

Tag : parenting

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.

Dad’s mental health effects kids a lot

worry and stress depression

There is not a whole lot of information about Dad’s mental health and its impact on his kids. Far more common is the discussion of mothers well-being and its impact on children.

Previous research has indicated that depressed mothers have altered immune function, are at greater risk for psychological disorders and may react to stress in life in a different way.

Recent Findings suggests that fathers who are in tune with their children’s feelings and supportive of their children rather than critical rear children with better social skills and language abilities independent of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

In addition previous findings have suggested that mental health disorders significantly impacts children’s social and emotional development. most recently research conducted by Parenting Research Center has suggested that one in five dad’s have experience symptoms of anxiety and/or depression since becoming a father. This research consisted of a survey of 2600 parents, 40 of whom were dad’s. The data dound that less confident fathers perceived themselves to be less consistent and more impatient and critical with their child. They also reported engaging in activities with their child less often and were more likely to say they argued. Although it was suggested that the number of fathers reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety were lower than mothers, the fathers surveyed were less likely to identify someone they trusted they could turn to for advice. Many times men do not disclose or seek treatment for illness and especially mental health problems according to The Guardian.

If you or someone you could benefit from counseling or therapy services in Sarasota, FL or Venice, FL Dr. Charles R. Davenport, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist can help. Please call Charles R. Davenport, Psy.D., LLC. today 941-321-1971

 

Childhood Stress May = Impaired Reward System as Adults

Recent findings published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience by Duke University researchers suggest a potential pathway where childhood stress may increase risk for depression or other mental health problems in adulthood.

This data is not shocking news nor is it as daunting a finding as it may seem. Our mind bases a lot of what we expect in the future on what we have lived through or expect to experince. When, as children, we have been in stressful situations that we cannot control our minds have a choice of either overcoming (fighting), protecting (flight), or freezing. these reactions can be extremely adaptive when we are young however as adults they can exacerbate a sense of being out of control of our own destiny. This tends to be a recipe for both anxiety and depression. The good news is that many of these are misguided protection attempts by our mind and with some redirection frequently we are able to find change. some of the challenge can be, that as children, change was not an option so imagining this third choice does not always come easily. This can sometimes present a certainty that there is no other way to find change. Sometimes beginning counseling can be a powerful part of this process of change and hope.

If you were a caregiver as a child you may have a hard time attending idealy to your kids.

Emerging research by Michigan State University’s Amy K. Nuttall, Ph.D. suggests that mothers who took on burdensome care giving roles as children (parentified children caregivers) and were not allowed to “be kids” tend to be less sensitive to their own children’s needs.

“If your childhood was defined by parents expecting you to perform too much care giving without giving you the chance to develop your own self-identity, that might lead to confusion about appropriate expectations for children and less accurate knowledge of their developmental limitations and needs as infants,” said Amy K. Nuttall.

As we do in many situations, in parenting, we tend to revert to templates of what we know to. Many times these templates come from our experiences interacting with our caregivers and / or parents. As adults, without our awareness, we can wind up recreating situations for our children where there needs are missed much as are our own. If our parents had difficulty empathizing with or attending to our needs and we became parent-like, it can be difficult for us to do for our children what was never done for us… Identifying their needs and attend to them.

A similar process can occur when we feel anger toward people who have an easier life or are coddled when we did not have an opportunity for this in our own life. These feelings of longing can reflexively come out as hostility toward the other. This kind of process is something we can become aware of and impact how it influences our lives through counseling. This is one area where Dr. Davenport has been able to work with many patients to help find change.

More details on this research is due to be published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

 

How to help your children thrive and be happy

Most parents hope to raise children that are self-sufficient and able to contribute to society. Additionally, parents want their children to have a better life and progress.

Helping our children care for themselves, treat themselves with love as we would, could be aided by encouraging healthy lifestyle habits. This includes sleeping well, eating well, and listening to the feedback our body provides. It is hard to maximize your performance when you feel sluggish, anxious, or irritable.

The American Psychological Association suggests that happiness can improve the chance of success. This brings to mind the old saying that money cannot buy happiness… It seems, however, that happiness may help us be more successful and in turn have more financial resources. An additional benefit of happiness is decreased likelihood of disease including cancer according to the cancer center at MD Anderson.

As discussed in several other blog entries, physical activity, on a regular basis and a healthy diet contribute to healthy weight, and better health which sets us up for more opportunity to feel happy and do our best. Connection with others and responsibility for other living things can be powerful and fostering self development. Having a pet to care for or gardening can be a powerful way to connect caring with well-being in the case of gardening healthy food. Additionally caring for something over a continued time can foster patience which is likely to be a powerful life tool.

Dr. Charles R Davenport is a licensed psychologist who provides support for parents and children at Charles R. Davenport, Psy.D., LLC. in Venice, FL and Sarasota, FL.

 

“Helicopter Parenting” it never helps… intention doesn’t matter

helicopter parenting, descriptor frequently used to illustrate the problematic parenting style where parents have difficulty allowing their children to make mistakes or operate independently. Many parents identify their involvement in their children’s life stemming from desire for good things. Recent research at Brigham Young University finds that this parenting style may be detrimental irrespective of parents loving intentions.

In many cases, emotions are triggered in parents that drive them to resolve their children’s difficulty and in turn sooth of their own feelings. In the short run this tends to be very effective in reducing discomfort in both the parent and child. However, in the long run this can create an unhealthy dependence where the child has evidence of being not fully capable in their own world and proof that they need their parent(s) for things to turn out well. Many times Dr. Davenport finds himself discussing parenting as a “proving ground” where children are able to make mistakes and then turn to their parents for support where children over time become more confident in their ability to solve problems. With helicopter parenting, frequently the parents intervene after little or no struggle on their children’s part and wind up having proof of their ability to relieve discomfort. In the long run the likelihood is helicopter parenting will perpetuate the children turning to their parents resulting in increased burden on parents. This can be a tricky dynamic to change especially if parents had helicopter parents of their own or overly absent or dismissive parents. In these situations parents frequently want to ensure their children do not experience the negative things they did in may tend to over correct.

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