When a parent has mental illness, how to support kids

When a parent has mental illness, how to support kids

Between the long hours, many responsibilities, and lack of control, few jobs in our society are as demanding as parenting. If a parent has a mental illness like depression or anxiety, raising kids becomes even more difficult. Many parents live in secrecy, believing that they are the only ones who struggle like they do. But parenting with mental illness is far more common than many people suspect. In a survey of U.S. parents, more than 18 percent reported having a mental illness in the past year. While a parent’s mental illness increases child’s risk for a future mental disorder, this is by no means the only possible outcome. “Having a parent with mental illness does not always lead to clinically significant distress in a child,” says Dr. Patricia Ibeziako, associate chief of clinical services in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services at Boston Children’s Hospital. “It depends on many... Read more

What to Know About Social-Emotional Development

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

How to Help Young Children Build Resilience

How to Help Young Children Build Resilience

Between the global COVID-19 pandemic, the associated economic downturn, last year was difficult for everyone. Decades of research have documented serious consequences from chronic stress in childhood. But psychologists have identified ways in which parents teach children how to cope with adversity. Here's how to teach children resilience in the new year. Between the global COVID-19 pandemic, the associated economic downturn, and widespread protests over racism, the last few years have been difficult for everyone. Many people are struggling, consumed with anxiety and stress, and finding themselves unable to sleep or focus. As a developmental psychologist and researcher on anxiety and fear in infants and young children, I have been particularly concerned about the impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health. Many have not physically been in school consistently since March of 2020. They’re isolated from friends and relatives. Some fear that they or loved ones will contract... Read more

Tips on how to nurture kindness in your children

Tips on how to nurture kindness in your children

The holidays will soon be upon us. What is likely to make you feel better – receiving a gift, or giving one to someone in need? Research is clear that, as the proverb goes, it’s better to give than to receive. “Doing kind things makes you feel better,” said a sociologist at the University of Toronto Andrew Miles. “It fulfills a basic psychological need, like giving our bodies appropriate food. It helps you feel like your life is valuable.” Miles is currently leading a large, controlled study aiming to quantify the ways in which doing good may help to counter the anxiety and depression that currently undermines the health and well-being of many people in all walks of life. And the need for kindness may have never been greater. The economic, educational and vocational stresses associated with the pandemic continue to take a toll. In addition, the media, the Internet,... Read more

How are teachers using psychology in the classroom?

How are teachers using psychology in the classroom?

A child is not a statistic, roll number or a brick in the wall. Every child has a unique way to process life and learning and to impose a one-size-fits-all teaching methodology is insensitive and short-sighted. Research has repeatedly proven that every individual has a certain learning style that is informed by their upbringing, background, social and personal experiences. As educators, if we cannot address every nuance in a child’s personality, we can at least make an effort to understand the basics of educational psychology to help children learn better. Labelling and castigating children for ‘acting out,’ ‘being difficult,’ calling them ‘emotionally unstable’ and making a bad example out of them is not unusual in schools. The damage this does to the delicate psyche of the child is inestimable. Labels like ‘slow’, ‘disruptive’ and ‘inattentive’ can scar a child forever. Educational psychology is an attempt to approach a child with... Read more

Why unstructured free play is a key remedy to bullying

Why unstructured free play is a key remedy to bullying

October was National Bullying Prevention Month , and in my decade of teaching in high-poverty public elementary schools, I’ve seen strategy after strategy and initiative after initiative implemented to decrease bullying. While every case is unique, having a general understanding of why a student chooses to bully can be helpful. Kids usually bully for one of the following reasons: they are frustrated with life’s circumstances and don’t have the emotional tools to cope, they don’t have many friends and are lonely, they have issues with emotional regulation, or they feel powerless to control their life for any number of reasons. Our school’s approach to bullying is simple, yet effective: Unstructured free play. Seriously? Yes. Stay with me. In the years since my school began incorporating more and more unstructured free play into our school day (before school by opening up our playground, during school by adding an additional recess, and... Read more

Grandmothers feel their grandkids’ emotions when looking at photos

Grandmothers feel their grandkids’ emotions when looking at photos

It’s a common complaint that our mothers are more understanding and forgiving of their grandchildren. In other words, our cute little ones get all the empathy while we get the colder eye of critical appraisal. Are we just being paranoid and maybe a little jealous? A fascinating new study says no, it’s a real thing. For the first time, scientists have scanned grandmothers’ brains while they’re viewing photos of their young grandchildren – providing evidence that little children, as a matter of course, have “evolved traits” to manipulate the grand maternal brain. The short version When the young children in the photographs were displaying joy, their grandmother immediately mirrored that joy. If the children were pictured upset, the grandmother became upset. In other words, what the child was feeling, the grandmother was feeling too. This wasn’t simply a matter of seeing the grandmother participants smiling or looking concerned – the... Read more

When kids get stressed out by the stress of others

When kids get stressed out by the stress of others

Empathy is our ability to share and understand the emotions of other people. Most experts agree that there are at least two types of empathy; a more emotional (or “affective”) type and a more cognitive type. Affective empathy refers to experiencing another’s emotional state and cognitive empathy means understanding another’s emotional state. Both of these processes usually occur together when we empathise. Our ability to empathise is vital for good social functioning. Research has found associations between increased empathic tendencies and increased altruism. However, engaging in certain types of empathy in different situations can come with various risks for the empathiser or for those around them. For example, experiencing occupational exhaustion (often referred to as empathic burnout) among professionals like nurses or counsellors may mean that patients do not get the best care. For many researchers, empathy has been of interest when it comes to mental health because empathic ability... Read more

Parents want their children to be more thankful, poll finds

Parents want their children to be more thankful, poll finds

The season of giving thanks can't come quickly enough for some parents. Four in five parents who responded to a poll from the University of Michigan Health say children today are not grateful enough. Parents who responded to the poll say they are teaching their children the magic words, "please and thank you." However, when it comes to actions over words, the children -- and parents -- could be falling short, said Sarah Clark, research scientist at the University of Michigan and co-director of the poll. Nearly all parents say it's possible to teach children gratitude, and three-fourths of parents say teaching gratitude is a priority. The most common ways parents teach children gratitude are "please and thank you," followed by enforcing chores. Just over one-third of parents use strategies like donating toys or clothes and saying a prayer of thanks. "My hope is a poll like this causes some... Read more

Creating social access for autistic children, what does it take?

Creating social access for autistic children, what does it take?

Autistic children have indeed potential: most of their emotional abilities improve with age, concludes Postdoc researcher Boya Li in her second Ph.D. thesis on the emotional development of autistic children. "The development of social and emotional skills is a totally different type of learning. You can't learn it from books or from your teachers in the classroom, you have to learn it in daily interactions with other people. You can imagine that If you have limited access to social interactions, it is a lot harder to learn these skills. It's very possible that when you walk into a school, you might see an autistic child sitting in the corner of the classroom, not really playing with other children or talking to teachers. Possibly, this child prefers to be alone at times, which is fine, but also this child needs friends and other social contacts, and social learning. How can we... Read more

Why Social-Emotional Leaning Matters More Than Ever

Why Social-Emotional Leaning Matters More Than Ever

Even before the pandemic, though, kids and adults alike were having a hard time coping with life and dealing with their emotions due to the wild world we currently live in. Teens are battling extreme dysregulation, and even kids are being hospitalized for their mental health at alarming rates. For this reason, many experts are saying social-emotional learning is more important than ever. But why? How Social-Emotional Learning Helps Children Social-emotional learning has become quite the buzzword in recent years, and for good reason. These skills help people develop and utilize skills that help them cope with emotions and socialize with others — skills which seem to be lacking anytime you turn on the television or read the newspaper. Furthermore, these skills can help people overcome distressing moments and deal with challenges the world throws at them, which I think we can all agree applies more than ever. According to... Read more

‘Doing kind things makes you feel better’: Nurturing kindness in our children

‘Doing kind things makes you feel better’: Nurturing kindness in our children

Christmas will soon be upon us. What is likely to make you feel better — receiving a gift, or giving one to someone in need? Research is clear that, as the proverb goes, it’s better to give than to receive. “Doing kind things makes you feel better,” says Andrew Miles, a sociologist at the University of Toronto. “It fulfils a basic psychological need, like giving our bodies appropriate food. It helps you feel like your life is valuable.” Miles is currently leading a large, controlled study aiming to quantify the ways in which doing good may help to counter the anxiety and depression that currently undermines the health and well-being of many people in all walks of life. And the need for kindness may have never been greater. The economic, educational and vocational stresses associated with the pandemic continue to take a toll. In addition, the media, the internet, and... Read more

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