COVID-19 Impact: Spotlight on Older Children, Adolescents

As a society, we can certainly acknowledge the serious impacts that COVID-19, quarantine and social distancing has had on all of us. However, in my psychology practice, I have been particularly concerned with the rise of mental health issues in older children and adolescents. This age range thrives from being with peers, connecting through social outlets and feeling validated by their social interactions. With the long period of school closures and changes in schedules and social opportunities, adolescents in particular have faced significant challenges, including virtual learning, a significant duration of more limited face-to-face peer interactions, a significant rise in depression, suicidality, drug use and uncertainty about their future. In terms of development, adolescence is a pivotal period when relationships begin to reorganize. Older children and teenagers desire to have more independence and emotional distance from their parents. They shift their focus to peer interactions, and broadening and deepening their... Read more

Mental health in the workplace: The coming revolution

Lenny Mendonca, the former chief economic and business advisor to California governor Gavin Newsom, went public with why he had suddenly resigned from that position on April 10. Mendonca, a former McKinsey senior partner, revealed his struggles with debilitating depression in a deeply personal column that also probed the pervasiveness of mental health issues among the general population and the public-policy implications of untreated mental illness. Three weeks prior to his resignation, suffering severe depression, Mendonca had checked into a hospital for an overnight stay. But, acting in his position of great responsibility, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, Mendonca had “told myself and my team that we all have to operate at 120 percent. . . . This meant 80-hour work weeks and barely sleeping.” Reflecting on his diagnosis and months-long process of recovery, Mendonca wrote: “What does it say about me that I have a mental health... Read more

How to be Your Child’s Therapist: Part 1

One of the most dramatic and immediate social effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the reintroduction of small children to the weekday household, a result of the widespread school closures which began in early 2020 and have persisted as occasional, less-frequent cancellations and delays in our ongoing public health crisis. Just as our children have appeared suddenly in our remote workdays, in the middle of our zoom meetings and conference calls, with their many questions and needs, so too have they naturally taken up a greater space in our inner lives–and therefore the psychoanalytic session. As a psychoanalyst, I have observed a remarkable shift in the content of many sessions with parents of small children. Where once there was preoccupation with their own childhoods, there might now be an acute awareness of the childhood of their own children; where once romantic and professional anxieties led the session, now there... Read more

How can you help your child blossom socially?

Following the arrival of the Omricon variant , there has been a rising concern surrounding the potential return to remote learning, yet educators have warned us about this shaky emotional and social situation for Israeli students. There is no doubt that now, facing a great deal of uncertainty, many parents are quite concerned about the social and emotional state of their children. It is important to remember that one’s socio-emotional state includes many individual, interpersonal and group skills with the help of which the child is able to manage emotions and cooperate with friends. This ability begins to develop as early as infancy and plays a significant role throughout life from early childhood through adulthood. Socio-emotional ability is manifested in making connections with friends; understanding, regulating and expressing emotions; developing academic skills and motivation for learning; developing relationships and dating; finding and retaining work and more. When there are problems... Read more

Neuroscience of New Fatherhood: Empathy, Bonding, Childcare

A father's ability to empathize and mentalize during pregnancy correlates with later bonding and parenting during infancy. Specific brain areas in expectant fathers affect social information processing, self-awareness, emotion regulation, and cognitive control. While the role of mothers in child-rearing has historically drawn attention, more recently researchers are examining the impact of fathers on child development. Even before the baby is born, the idea of who they could be takes shape in the mind of expectant parents, to varying degrees shaping the ultimate attachment parents will have once the baby is born, for all parents. In this piece, we will look at recent research on how fathers' empathic attunement and associated brain connectivity during mid to late pregnancy with the first child correlates with bonding and parenting behavior at 6 months following birth. For instance, recent research has identified four key aspects of becoming a father (2021): the “trigger moment”... Read more

All About Trauma: What It Is, Short- and Long-Term Effects, How to Cope With It, and When to Get Help

Although she didn’t witness the event herself, Heidi Horsley, PsyD, found herself replaying the last moments of her brother’s life again and again in her mind. He died in a car accident after hydroplaning during a rainstorm. “That narrative kept going over and over, and I couldn’t get the loop out of my head,” she says. With each replay, she recalls, she ruminated on whether her brother suffered before his death — and she became increasingly worried someone else was going to die. “The safe predictable world you once knew is gone. When my brother died, I didn’t feel like my parents could protect us. I felt my brother died, so I could die.” Dr. Horsley’s younger brother died when she was 20 years old. Her experience as a young adult eventually prompted Horsley to become a therapist who specializes in grief and trauma. Now an adjunct professor at Columbia... Read more

What Is Developmental Psychology?

Developmental psychology is the study of how humans grow, change, and adapt across the course of their lives. Developmental psychologists research the stages of physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development from the prenatal stage to infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Learn more about developmental psychology, including the definition, types, life stages, and how to seek treatment when necessary. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), developmental psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on how human beings grow, change, adapt, and mature across various life stages.1 In each of the life stages of developmental psychology, people generally meet certain physical, emotional, and social milestones.2 These are the major life stages, according to developmental psychologists: Prenatal development: Developmental psychologists are interested in diagnoses, such as Down syndrome, that might be noticed during the prenatal (before birth) stage. They also investigate how maternal behaviors (behaviors of the pregnant parent), such as... Read more

What Social-Emotional Development Looks Like

Many parents have heard the term “social-emotional development,” but what does it mean in the real world? Put simply, social-emotional development refers to children’s ability to “experience, manage and express” their feelings, build relationships and actively explore their environment, according to a 2005 report from the nonprofit Zero to Three. Managing one’s behavior, expressing emotions appropriately and developing empathy are all part of the journey. It’s “understanding how our bodies and minds feel and think in relationship to the world around us,” says Mary Hadley, a speech-language pathologist in Texas who has spent 15 years helping adults and children communicate. Children record many physical and mental milestones, especially in their first few years of life. Likewise, social-emotional skills grow throughout childhood and adolescence – also with milestones – and can be just as important. Dr. Toya Roberson-Moore, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, says that social-emotional development relates to brain health,... Read more

Pandemic Especially Tough on Kids With ADHD

Living through the pandemic has not been easy for kids, but it has really thrown off children who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research warns. Though they were not more likely to catch COVID-19, they were more likely to experience symptoms if they were infected. But the damage did not stop there: These children were also more likely to have trouble sleeping, feel fear about infection risks, have trouble with remote learning and exhibit rule-breaking behavior. The interventions that can help these kids stay focused — like school involvement and parental monitoring — were also disrupted by the pandemic. "I think the biggest takeaway is that we need to be looking out for these kids with ADHD, who might be flying under the radar," said study author Eliana Rosenthal, a PhD student at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. "Maybe giving them some extra attention during this challenging time could really make... Read more

Parenting a ‘Difficult Adult Child’

"You can't go home again," according to the old saying. Tell that to the adult children who are returning to live with their parents, or never leaving, in record numbers. For the first time in recent history, more young adults are living with their parents than cohabitating in romantic or married situations. No doubt about it: how we think about parenting and retirement have changed. While the economic downturn associated with COVID-19 explains some of the recent rise in adult children moving back home, this trend has been increasing since the 1960s. The employment market has changed drastically, for one thing. Gone are the factory jobs and other opportunities for people who have not graduated college. Delayed marriage and increasing divorce rates have also contributed to the rise in intergenerational households, as has the skyrocketing price of housing. There are, however, two different groups of adult children who return home... Read more

Youth Depression: How Can We Support our Kids?

“‘All of a sudden I don’t feel like the norm. I feel cold, not warm. My brain’s like a storm’… Lilly the dog wanted to help, but didn’t know what to do. She hated seeing Benny the bunny so blue.” — Bunny & Doggo: Friends Fight Depression, written by Matt Christensen and illustrated by Leilani “Ducky” Banayos Benny, like a growing number of us, feels scared and uncertain, “stuck in the muck of [a] depressing black cloud.” Depression and anxiety have doubled among young people during the pandemic. Literature suggests that 25% of children – 1 in 4 – are experiencing significant depressive symptoms. “Since the pandemic started two years ago, there has been almost twice as many kids being treated for depression and anxiety,” says Dr. Emily Mudd, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist with Cleveland Clinic’s Children’s and mother of two. “From a neurochemical standpoint, depression and anxiety are closely related.... Read more

Child Sleep Problems Affect Mothers and Fathers Differently

After the birth of children, fragmentation of parental night sleep and fatigue due to the nightly demands of the infant are common.1 Indeed, there is evidence that mothers’ and fathers’ fatigue increase immediately following the birth of their child.1,2 Resulting in insufficient, non-restful sleep, this poses a stress factor for parental health, daily well-being, and functioning.3 In contrast, good children’s sleep quality predicted good maternal sleep.4 Most often, this is a temporary problem and infants develop the competence to fall asleep independently in the evening and go back to sleep after night waking during the first year of life.5,6 However, about 20–30% of the infants and young children are affected by sleep problems during the entire first 3 years of childhood and need support by a caregiver to fall asleep.7–10 Consequently, many parents are concerned with difficulties pertaining to their own sleep as well as handling their children’s sleep problems.... Read more

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