6 Psychologically Damaging Things Parents Say To Their Kids Without Realizing It

Parents don’t set out to say hurtful or harmful things to their children, but it happens. You’re tired, they’re pushing your buttons, and you’re frustrated after asking them for the 600th time to clear their plates or get out the door on time. You could also be inadvertently repeating things you heard in your own childhood that your parents (and maybe even you) didn’t realize took an emotional toll.

We parents are trying our best, but sometimes — a lot of times — we fall short. That’s why it can be helpful to know some of the potentially damaging phrases parents often resort to without realizing their impact. It’s not about beating ourselves up. It’s about doing better by being a bit more conscious of our language.

So HuffPost Parents spoke with several experts who shared some harmful phrases you should try to erase from your vocabulary — and what to say instead.

1. “It’s not a big deal.”

Kids often cry or melt down over stuff that seems really silly. (Recall the delightful “reasons my kid is crying” meme that had a real moment a few years back.) But while kids’ crying and whining can definitely get under their parents’ skin — particularly when it’s over something you think they should be able to cope with — it’s harmful to diminish their very real feelings by basically telling them to buck up.

“These little problems — and the emotions that come with them — are actually huge to our kids,” said Amy McCready, a parenting educator, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of “If I Have to Tell You One More Time.” “When we discount their emotional responses to very real challenges, we tell them, ‘How you feel doesn’t matter,’ or ‘It’s silly to be afraid or disappointed.’”

Instead, try this:

Take a moment and try to understand things from their perspective. McCready recommended saying something like: “You seem really scared or frustrated or disappointed right now. Should we talk about it and figure out what to do?” Ultimately, you’re helping them label their emotions (an important part of developing emotional intelligence) and making it clear that you’re there for them.

2. “You never” or “You always do XYZ.”

Children have their patterns, but saying your kid “always” or “never” does something simply isn’t true. (That’s why marriage counselors advise clients to avoid the word “never” with their partners altogether.)

Using broad statements is a red flag that you’ve stopped being curious about what’s happening in this particular moment with your child, according to Robbin McManne, founder of Parenting for Connection.

“It misses opportunity for you to teach them what they should and what they can do next time,” McManne said.

Instead, try this:

Remind yourself to be curious about why your child is engaging in a particular behavior at a particular time. It really helps to connect by getting physically close to your child in that moment, McManne said, so that you’re not shouting at them from across the house, but you’re right there with them to make sure they’re not distracted by something else.

3. “You make me sad when you do that.”

Sure, it might really bum you out when your child doesn’t listen, but it is important to set (and hold) boundaries without throwing your emotions into the mix. Those feelings are yours, not theirs. Plus, you’re setting a precedent by potentially giving them a lot of negative power.

“When kids feel like they get to decide if you’re happy, sad or enraged, they may happily take the opportunity to continue to push your buttons down the road,” McCready said. “And even when they’re out of your house, this mindset can damage future relationships and set the stage for them to manipulate others to get what they want.”

Instead, try this:

Set whatever boundary you need to set, like, “It’s not OK to jump on couches,” McCready offered by way of example. Then, give some choices such as, “Would you rather play quietly in here or go outside?”

4. “You should know better.”

When you say something like “you should know better,” what you’re ultimately trying to do is guilt or shame your child into changing. But that puts kids on the defensive, which makes them even less likely to listen, McCready said. It also undermines their confidence.

“If we tell our kids they should know better — yet clearly they didn’t — we’re sending the message, ‘You’re too dumb/immature to make a good decision.’ Not exactly what we intended,” she added.

Instead, try this:

McCready suggested saying something like “Hmm, looks like we’ve got a situation here! What can we do to fix it?” The goal is to focus on solutions — not the problem — so children practice problem-solving and fixing their own mistakes, and think about ways to make better choices in the first place.

5. “Just let me do it.”

When you’re rushing out the door or waiting for your child to complete a simple task that is seemingly taking forever, your instinct might be to just take over. But try to avoid doing that if you can.

“You’re telling your child, ‘You’re not capable of this, so I need to get involved.’ This is both discouraging and really frustrating,” McCready said. “Imagine if you were super close to being able to do your own zipper and just needed a few more tries, but then Dad swoops in and stops you in your tracks.”

Instead, try this:

Slow down and give your child the time they need to complete their task. Or at the very least, be clearer about why you have to rush. Say something like, “I’ll help you just this once since we’re running so late, but let’s work on this together later!”

6. “You’re a [insert label here].”

One of the most valuable things parents can do for their children is simply avoid labeling them, McManne said. Labels hurt the parent-child relationship because they get in the way of parents seeing their children as struggling and needing help. Parents start to link certain behaviors with whatever label they’ve given to their child, rather than digging in and really trying to understand what’s happening developmentally.

“Labels take us further out of compassion and curiosity,” McManne said.

Labels also have the potential to become self-fulfilling. If children hear from parents that they’re a certain way, they might come to accept that as true — even if it doesn’t feel true to them.

Even labels that seem positive like “You’re smart!” can actually be harmful, McCready said.

“When we say ‘you’re smart’ or ‘you’re athletic,’ we’re telling our child, ‘The only reason you did well on that test is because you were born brainy,’ or, ‘You wouldn’t have made that goal if it weren’t for your natural ability.’ What’s more, if our child bombs the test next time, they’ll be left confused and discouraged, questioning their own ability. If they’re so smart, why did they fail?”

Instead, try this:

Notice and applaud effort, not outcomes. And do whatever you can to avoid labeling your kiddo as anything, good or bad.

Catherine Pearson - HuffPost

Source: 6 Psychologically Damaging Things Parents Say To Their Kids Without Realizing It | HuffPost UK Parenting



A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continuously and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such a situation is normal.

Dysfunctional families are primarily a result of two adults, one typically overtly abusive and the other codependent, and may also be affected by addictions (such as substance abuse, such drugs including alcohol), or sometimes by an untreated mental illness. Dysfunctional parents may emulate or over-correct from their own dysfunctional parents. In some cases, the dominant parent will abuse or neglect their children and the other parent will not object, misleading a child to assume blame.

Some features are common to most dysfunctional families:

  • Lack of empathy, understanding, and sensitivity towards certain family members, while expressing extreme empathy or appeasement towards one or more members who have real or perceived “special needs”. In other words, one family member continuously receives far more than they deserve, while another is marginalized.
  • Denial (refusal to acknowledge abusive behavior, possibly believing that the situation is normal or even beneficial; also known as the “elephant in the room“.)
  • Inadequate or missing boundaries for self (e.g. tolerating inappropriate treatment from others, failing to express what is acceptable and unacceptable treatment, tolerance of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.)
  • Disrespect of others’ boundaries (e.g. physical contact that other person dislikes; breaking important promises without just cause; purposefully violating a boundary another person has expressed.)
  • Extremes in conflict (either too much fighting or insufficient peaceful arguing between family members.)
  • Unequal or unfair treatment of one or more family members due to their birth order, gender, age, family role (mother, etc.), abilities, race, caste, etc. (may include frequent appeasement of one member at the expense of others, or an uneven/inconsistent enforcement of rules.)


Teaching Your Kids How to Resolve Conflict Without Fighting

You know how we have epiphanies as we grow older? One of the most profound ones for me has been the realization that just because someone doesn’t agree with what you’re saying at the moment doesn’t mean that they don’t agree with you all the time or that they don’t like you anymore.

This simple realization has had a huge impact on my life.

Just recently, my parents and brother were in town for my daughter’s birthday. We were at dinner the night before her party, and my brother hadn’t put his phone down the entire half hour we’d been seated. I made a comment on this – that it’s not pleasant to share a meal with someone that can’t take their eyes away from their smart phones – and he stormed off, refusing to engage in any conversation.

This isn’t the first time he’s had a violent outburst of anger over a small conflict. As his family member, it upsets me that this happens so frequently.

While I tried to make amends over text message (the only way he was willing to communicate), I noticed something in what he was saying – he thought that any criticism of his actions was a criticism of him. He thought that if I respected him, then I would not say anything negative to him. And worst of all, he thought that disagreeing meant we couldn’t be friends.

I started to wonder why this might be. Did we not have good examples of conflict resolution growing up? Did we witness violent outbursts of anger? When I think back on it, I can’t remember my parents ever arguing. And while that may seem like a good thing, I think that may be where the problem lies.

In order to know how to handle conflict in a productive and healthy manner, we need models of healthy conflict resolution. While on one hand fighting and inflamed emotions only create pain, on the other, never seeing adults disagree means our children don’t know how to deal with conflicts at all.

Productive arguments and even conflict are good, and can bring us closer when handled well. Among the many things we teach our kids, how to resolve conflict without resorting to either drama or fighting, or just simply sweeping it under the rug to fester, is very important.

Here are some ways we can teach our kids to argue in a way that builds connections, instead of destroying them –

1. Teach that disagreement and conflict do not mean that the relationship is damaged or in jeopardy

Our children need to know they are loved unconditionally. This is true in our homes, in school, and on the playground. It is far too common for individuals to view a disagreement as the undoing of a relationship. It is entirely possible to have opposing views and to still get along.

When your child comes home after a disagreement with a friend, listen to the grievances, and remind your child that their relationship with their friend remains intact.

Saying “I see, you didn’t like it that Mila wouldn’t share the swing with you” places the burden on the action; saying “it sounds like Mila was being mean today” places the burden on Mila.

This important distinction does two things:

  1. it helps your child understand that it was the action, not the friend, which was truly upsetting and
  2. it promotes a growth mindset.

Your child will learn that Mila’s actions do not define her completely. If the negative feelings are linked directly to your child’s friend instead of the action, your child may incorporate that image of Mila as always being mean. By linking the feelings to the action, your child will be more likely to understand that having one disagreement does not mean that Mila will always be “mean”.

You can also teach your child this truth by affirming it whenever the two of you disagree. Be careful and intentional with the language you choose.

Instead of criticizing your child (“you’re being disruptive”), make it clear that it is the behavior that you are unapproving of (“the way you are banging your silverware on the table is disrupting our family dinner”).

This can help your child take an outside perspective of the behavior or disagreement. Instead of aligning him or herself with the behavior in opposition to you, he or she can align with you in opposition to the behavior. Which makes it easier to teach kids how to resolve conflict in a healthy manner and brings us to our next strategy…

2. Instill in your child a sense of family and friends as teammates

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re outside of a group. Being ostracized in time out or left out of a game of tag can be debilitating for a child. We want to belong. And one of the things that can make us feel like we don’t belong is having a fight.

I noticed this in my communication with my brother. He felt rejected because of our disagreement, when in reality I only meant to point out a behavior that was hindering our ability to connect. I should have been more careful to make it clear that it wasn’t him that I had a problem with, but was the behavior instead.

One way we can do this with our children and other adults is reminding ourselves and each other that we are on the same team. When your child is disrupting dinner time, saying something like “we all want to have a meal together and spend time with each other” reminds him or her that you have the same goal.

Back to our example of Mila not sharing her swing – this is a good time to explain that individuals often have different ideas of the same goal. In this example, our goal on the playground is to have fun and play together. Mila is expressing this goal by swinging. How else can we meet this goal together? How can we cooperate, rather than compete, to find different options for reaching the same goal? Can we take turns with one on the swing and the other pushing her 10 times and then switch places so both of us can have fun?

This is the sort of conversation that may be difficult to have with young children, but if we are able to open our children’s minds to seeing different ways to get the same thing accomplished, and ultimately look for a win-win solution, we have done them a great service for their lives to come.

3. Encourage your child to recognize the emotions that come to the surface during a conflict

When we don’t view each other as teammates, we may come to assume that the other person has bad intentions or is trying to hurt us. Where does this come from?

Most often, it is a defense against the pain and fear of being rejected. These emotions are quick to come to the surface in any conflict – our stomach gets tight, we sweat, our heart pounds. We are afraid of what the other person – our partner, a friend, a coworker – might say.

In order to protect ourselves against these scary feelings, we often fight back. We lash out instead of taking a moment to recognize our own vulnerability.

We can help our children recognize this cascade of thoughts and feelings by verbalizing it for them and asking them how they feel.

When you see anger rising in your child, place a hand on their shoulder and ask them what they’re feeling. The touch will help them feel safe and grounded, and the answer to your question may help them step out of their escalating anger and fear.

If they have trouble finding the words to describe their emotions, help them out. Say “it seems like you’re feeling angry/scared/frustrated”. Giving them a variety of words to express their emotions and helping them understand the more complicated ones will give them tools of emotional intelligence that they can use throughout their lives to build healthy relationships. This primer from The Natural Child Project has suggestions on how to observe and verbalize the emotions that arise from a difficult situation.

Once the emotions are identified, help them dig deeper to explore the causes of these emotions: “you felt frustrated when Mila wouldn’t share the swing with you”, or “did you feel scared that she may not be your friend if she didn’t share?”

By now, your child will probably start to be more calm and able to think through a healthy solution for how to resolve conflict. This is a good time to use our first two strategies: reminding your child that the disagreement does not mean that the friendship is over, and that there may be other ways to view the situation so that you can reach your shared goal together.

4. Model these strategies every chance you get

There is no greater teacher than the world around us, and our children are sponges, absorbing all of our actions and words as the blueprint for their lives.

A lot of pressure? Maybe.

But that’s one of the beauties of parenthood – it pushes us to be our best selves.

I mentioned above that my brother and I never saw our parents disagreeing. How were we meant to learn how to disagree if we never saw it happening? It seemed to us that disagreeing was something so bad that it had be hidden, if it happened at all. But disagreements happen, and there’s no way to avoid them. What we can avoid is an inability to deal with conflict in a healthy manner.

For example, having a disagreement with your spouse is not a time to run to another room and argue in hushed tones. Instead, use it as a teaching moment for your child and for yourself.

Saying “when you forget to go to the grocery store, I feel disrespected” gets to the heart of the issue much more than angrily shouting “you’re so forgetful!”

It also helps your spouse recognize the impact of their actions on you – it is highly unlikely that he or she neglected to go to the store out of any disrespect for you – and it helps you recognize that you may be experiencing emotions that are more about your own reaction than about the actions of your partner. According to nonviolent communication pioneer Marshall Rosenberg, “what others do may be a stimulus of our feelings, but not the cause”.

Modeling this behavior is hugely instructional for our children. They get to see us being vulnerable, and they start to see this honest discussion of emotions as a normal and healthy part of our interactions with each other.

The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents

At the heart of teaching healthy conflict-resolution skills is a deep understanding of our own reactions to conflict. Just as we discussed helping your child recognize his or her emotions, we need to practice this ourselves.

The next time you disagree with your child, your spouse, your coworker, or your friend, notice how your body feels. Our bodies can often teach us a lot about our emotions. Do you hunch over, taking a protective stance out of a feeling of fear? Do you immediately cross your arms, unwilling to move forward hand-in-hand with the other person?

Identifying the tension in your body is the first step to letting it go. See if you can relax into your own vulnerability. Remind yourself that this is not a fight-or-flight situation, but rather an opportunity to understand each other more deeply and to forge an even stronger relationship.

The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents

If you are inclined to write, you can take the 2-minute action plan a step further. Keeping a daily stream-of-consciousness journal can be a wonderful tool for unraveling our thoughts, feelings, actions, and the connections among the three.

Julia Cameron pioneered this idea in The Artist’s Way, calling the ritual “Morning Pages”. While it was originally meant to clear the mind to make room for creativity, the Morning Pages practice can also be used to clear your mind of any clutter or complicated thoughts, to make room for full, authentic engagement with the world and your family.

When it comes to conflict, a writing practice can help you understand your own reactions to difficult situations. This in turn helps us connect with and better understand our children. This high level of empathy is crucial for helping our children learn to understand their emotions related to conflict and disagreement, and one of the best ways to cultivate empathy is by being vulnerable ourselves. From that place of kindness and empathy, we can teach our children to deal with these moments in a way that fosters continued harmonious relationship at home, at school, and for the rest of their lives.


Tiffany Frye is the co-founder of nido durham (www.nidodurham.com), a coworking space with childcare in Durham, NC. She supports and mentors parents who want to craft a career that fits around their lives and honors their parent-self as well as their professional-self. You can connect with Tiffany at tiffanymfrye.com or on Twitter @nidodurham.

Source: Teaching Your Kids How to Resolve Conflict Without Fighting – A Fine Parent



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Loneliness in Kids Who Learn and Think Differently

Kids who learn and think differently aren’t the only ones who can feel lonely or “apart” from other kids. Most people feel that way at some point. But research shows that kids who learn and think differently are more likely than their peers to struggle with loneliness. And they often have a harder time dealing with those feelings when they have them.

Why Kids Who Are Different Might Feel Lonely

There are lots reasons of kids who learn and think differently might feel lonely. For starters, they’re more likely to be bullied  or left out. They can have a hard time making friends or connecting with people. And struggling in school and socially can make kids feel bad about themselves.

They may feel like nobody understands them or their challenges. And they might even withdraw. Kids with certain challenges are most likely to feel left out and isolated. Things like trouble with:

The Difference Between Being Lonely and Being Alone

Some people like spending time alone. That goes for kids and adults. As long as they have the ability to make friends and connect with other people when they want to, being alone is a preference, not a problem .

Just because kids are unhappy being alone, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lonely. They may just have a hard time entertaining themselves and are bored.

Also, loneliness isn’t always about being alone. Some kids feel isolated even when they’re with others. They feel like nobody around them shares or understands their challenges.

How Loneliness Can Impact Kids

When kids go through the occasional lonely spell, it usually doesn’t have a lasting impact. Feeling lonely all the time is different, though. It can affect kids in lots of ways. And it can lead to other difficulties.

Kids who feel lonely might be:

More likely to have low self-esteem. They might feel like others are rejecting them. Kids might lose confidence in themselves and eventually believe they have nothing valuable to offer.

Less likely to take positive risks. Trying new things can build confidence and lead to new interests and skills. But kids who are already feeling rejected and vulnerable may not want to take this leap. They may be afraid to call attention to themselves and risk failing.

More likely to be sad, disconnected, and worried. Kids deal with loneliness in different ways. They may keep their sadness inside and pull away from others. Or they may become angry and act out. The combination of negative emotions and isolation can lead to depression and anxiety .

More likely to engage in risky behaviors. Teens may drink, smoke or vape, use drugs, vandalize property, or do other risky things if they think it will help them feel accepted.

There are many ways to help your child handle feelings of loneliness. First, don’t try to force your child to become more social or make lots of friends. Instead, work on building self-esteem . Help your child find interests that lead to meeting new kids who like similar things.

Keep an eye on signs of depression , too. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider if you have concerns. And if your child has ADHD, read about the connection between  ADHD and depression.

Key Takeaways

  • Some kids like spending time alone, even if they have friends.
  • Kids who are different may feel like nobody understands them.
  • Don’t try to force your child to be more social and make friends.

Kate Kelly


By : Kate Kelly


Source: Loneliness in Kids Who Learn and Think Differently | Understood – For learning and thinking differences



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How To Teach Children Empathy

Does your child have empathy? Or should I ask, do you have empathy? One of the best ways to teach empathy is by modeling it for your child. If you show your child how to be empathetic with your actions, they will learn from you. But teaching empathy goes beyond being a positive role model for your child.

What is Empathy and Why It’s Important

Empathy is such an important virtue to possess in life. When you have empathy, you are able to actively value another person’s perspective and respond with care and concern. Empathy is about having compassion and having the ability to envision how someone else is feeling in a particular situation and responding with understanding. It’s something that parents can nurture in their child’s lives as they grow and mature but it’s never too early to start! Some people are born empathetic and it comes naturally for them. But not all people have empathy and it can be a complex skill that some people need to mindfully learn and practice.

Who Struggles With Empathy

The more egocentric a person is, the harder it is for them to be empathetic. That being said, toddlers and teenagers will have the hardest time having and showing empathy to others. Also, if a child doesn’t know a multitude of emotions and or isn’t able to freely express emotions in their home, they may have a more difficult time being empathetic to others. Children on the Autism Spectrum, for example, also have a challenging time showing compassion, empathy, and effectively having perspective taking with others.

How Parents Can Cultivate Empathy With Their Children

Play it Out

Children love to play and play is necessary for them to learn and make sense of their world and various skills on how to function in their world. So I suggest, getting a box of bandages and have your child nurse their doll or stuffed animal and help them “feel better” by taking care of them. This will help children notice when friends are hurt and want to help them and take care of them. 

Practice and Define Emotions

Children need to know emotions before they can express them and understand how others are feeling. So I suggest playing an emotion game where you make a face and your child has to name the emotion you are feeling. Then, your child makes the same face and describes a time when they felt that emotion.

Model Empathy

If your child gets hurt or gets a bad grade, try not to invalidate them or dismiss them by just saying “it’s ok” but instead model what it’s like to show empathy. You can say, “How does this grade make you feel?” and “What can I do to help support you?” and “What can I do to help you feel better?” If your child is willing to listen, you can name them their strengths and encourage them to keep trying to get a better grade next time. 

Take Another Perspective

Talk about how someone feels in a particular situation that you see on television or in real life and ask your child,  “How must they feel?” Once you establish how the other person feels, you can talk about what that person can do the next time to act differently with more empathy. You can also teach your child to initiate asking others “how are you feeling today” or “how are you doing today” but if they have trouble initiating it, teach them to respond this way to someone asking them first, to show them that you care about them. A conversation between a family member or a friend is about giving and receiving, listening and responding.

Prioritize Kindness and Inclusion

Kindness goes a long way. Teach your child to choose kindness and inclusion. Teach your child that if they see a child playing or eating lunch by themselves, have them initiate a conversation with that child and invite them to play or eat with them. If they see that a friend is hurt physically or emotionally, teach your child to ask them how they are feeling and how they can help.

Practice Opportunities

Practice doing something nice for a friend who is sick, hurt, or had a bad day. Your child can draw them a picture or make them a card or a craft and deliver it to their doorstep. If your child is older, they can send a text, email, or call their friend to check on them. 

Volunteer and Give

Have your child practice giving to others. Maybe they can volunteer at a local food bank or animal shelter. Maybe they can gather outgrown toys and give them to Salvation Army or Goodwill. Maybe they can save allowance money and buy some new toys to give to a local Children’s Hospital or Toys for Tots around the holidays. Or maybe they can draw pictures to give to individuals at a retirement center.

Host a Family Meeting

Schedule a family meeting in your home once a week. At the meeting, let everyone in the family have a turn speaking and sharing. This will provide your child the opportunity to practice listening to others and their feelings as well as have the opportunity to express themselves and their needs.

Reflect and Listen

It is important to teach children to listen to how others are feeling and then to reflect on how they are feeling. It is just as important to listen to how other’s are feeling, if not more, as to reflect on how they are feeling. Listening is a very important skill to learn and practice. If you don’t listen carefully to someone, you may miss understanding how they are really feeling and how to respond and reflect properly.  

Make a Repair

When a conflict arises, you can have your child practice making a repair. If they take a toy away from another child or a sibling, you can have your child reflect on how that made the other child feel and then follow up with asking your child what they can do differently next time and how they can make it better this time. This might mean a verbal apology, a written apology letter, an apology drawing, and even a hug.


By: Dr. Kim


Source: How To Teach Children Empathy




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Treating the Effects of Childhood Trauma


Although adults often say things like, “He was so young when that happened. He won’t even remember it as an adult,” childhood trauma can have a lifelong effect. And while kids are resilient, they’re not made of stone.

That’s not to say your child will be emotionally scarred for life if he endures a horrific experience. With appropriate interventions, adults can help kids recover from traumatic experiences more effectively.1

But it’s important to recognize when your child may need professional help with dealing with a trauma. Early intervention could prevent your child from experiencing ongoing effects of the trauma as an adult.

If you or a loved one are struggling with childhood trauma, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

What It Is

There are many different experiences that can constitute trauma. Physical or sexual abuse, for example, can be clearly traumatic for children.

One-time events, like a car accident or a particularly severe natural disaster (like a hurricane, for example), can take a psychological toll on children as well.1

Ongoing stress, such as living in a dangerous neighborhood or being the victim of bullying, can be traumatic, even if it just feels like daily life to an adult.2 In fact, nearly any event can be considered traumatic to a child if:

  • It happened unexpectedly
  • It happened repeatedly
  • Someone was intentionally cruel
  • The child was unprepared for it

Childhood trauma also doesn’t have to occur directly to the child; for instance, watching a loved one suffer can be extremely traumatic as well. Exposure to violent media can also traumatize children.3

Just because an experience is upsetting, however, doesn’t make it traumatic. Parental divorce, for example, will likely affect a child but it isn’t necessarily traumatizing.

It’s also important to remember that just because a child endured a tragedy or a near-death experience, doesn’t mean he’ll automatically be traumatized. Some kids are much less affected by their circumstances than others.


When It Leads to PTSD

Many children are exposed to traumatic events at one point or another. While most of them experience distress following a traumatic event, the vast majority of them return to a normal state of functioning in a relatively short period of time.

Between 3 and 15 percent of girls and 1 to 6 percent of boys—develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic event. Children with PTSD may re-experience the trauma in their minds over and over again. They may also avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma or they may re-enact their trauma in their play.5

Sometimes children believe they missed warning signs predicting the traumatic event. In an effort to prevent future traumas, they become hyper-vigilant in looking for warning signs that something bad is going to happen again.

Children with PTSD may also have problems with:

  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger and aggression
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Difficulty trusting others

Even children who don’t develop PTSD may still exhibit emotional and behavioral issues following a traumatic experience.6 Here are some things to watch out for during the weeks and months after an upsetting event:

  • Increased thoughts about death or safety
  • Problems sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anger issues
  • Attention problems
  • School refusal
  • Somatic complaints like headaches and stomachaches
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Development of new fears

Effect on Long-Term Health

Traumatic events can affect how a child’s brain develops. And that can have lifelong consequences.

A study published in 2015 showed that the more adverse childhood experiences a person has, the higher their risk of health and wellness problems later in life. Childhood trauma may increase an individual’s risk of:

  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes

A study published in 2016 in Psychiatric Times noted that the prevalence of suicide attempts was significantly higher in adults who experienced trauma, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, and parental domestic violence, as a child.

Effect on Relationships

A child’s relationship with his caregiver—whether his parents, grandparents or otherwise—is vital to his emotional and physical health. This relationship and attachment helps the little one learn to trust others, manage emotions and interact with the world around them.

When a child experiences a trauma that teaches him that he cannot trust or rely on that caregiver, however, he’s likely to believe that the world around him is a scary place and all adults are dangerous—and that makes it incredibly difficult to form relationships throughout their childhood, including with peers their own age, and into the adult years.10

Children who struggle to maintain healthy attachments to caregivers are likely to struggle with romantic relationships during adulthood. A 2008 Australian study of more than 21,000 child abuse survivors age 60 and older reported a higher rate of failed marriages and relationships.

How to Help

Family support can be key to reducing the impact trauma has on a child. Here are some ways to support a child after an upsetting event:

  • Encourage your child to talk about his feelings and validate his emotions.
  • Answer questions honestly.
  • Reassure your child that you’ll do everything you can to keep him safe.
  • Stick to your daily routine as much as possible.

If your child has been exposed to traumatic circumstances and you’ve noticed changes in her mood or behavior, talk to her pediatrician. A physician can evaluate your child’s health and, if necessary, make a referral for mental health treatment.

Depending on your child’s age and needs, she may be referred for services such as cognitive behavioral therapy, play therapy, or family therapy. Medication may also be an option to treat your child’s symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

It’s never too late to get help. Whether you’ve adopted a teenager who was abused over a decade ago, or you’ve never received help for the traumatic experiences you endured 40 years ago, treatment can still be effective.

Source: https://www.verywellmind.com



Judith Joseph, MD, MBA, child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, interviews Arthur Becker-Weidman, PhD, director of the Center for Family Development at the Attachment-Focused Treatment Institute in western New York, about his Grand Rounds lecture on Complex Trauma and its Effects on Child Development. Children who’ve experienced trauma need to form trusting, supportive relationships with caregivers and therapists as a key component of their recovery and treatment. Yet often these traumatic events damage children’s ability to do exactly that. Dr. Becker-Weidman discusses treatment strategies he’s developed to help traumatized children become open to forming these relationships that are an integral part of the healing process. Dr. Becker-Weidman presented at the Child Study Center’s Grand Round series on Nov. 9, 2012. For more about the Child Study Center and its Grand Rounds series, visit http://www.nyulangone.org/locations/c….

A Teacher’s Guide to Supporting Students with Anxiety


As a teacher, you may have noticed your students seem increasingly anxious—and the evidence isn’t just anecdotal. According to child psychologist Golda Ginsburg, “anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses in children….[and they’re] underdiagnosed and undertreated.” In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, while about 18% of adults experience an anxiety disorder in a given year, that rate is a higher 25% for children ages 13–18.

This article will guide you through the definition of anxiety, its causes, how to recognize it, types of anxiety disorders, and, most importantly, how you can help as a teacher. You can also learn specific skills as they relate to anxiety and the COVID-19 crisis, as well as find resources to help you along your way.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion in which one feels irrationally tense, worried, or fearful, manifesting itself through physical or emotional symptoms, which will be further detailed below. While there is frequently a known stimulus, there may not be—some anxiety is purely existential. Like other emotions, anxiety usually lasts a short while. However, if the feeling lingers for far too long, this can indicate an anxiety disorder.

The term “anxiety” is often confused with—or casually used in place of—“stress”” or “nervousness”, but they aren’t the same things. Stress and nerves are usually caused by external, recognizable stimuli, and the responses are relatively rational and short-lived. These feelings can even be positive, indicating that a person cares about a situation’s outcome and pushing them to succeed. However, if a stressor continues over an extended period or there are multiple nerve-wracking situations on top of one another, anxiety frequently develops.

Anxiety is often connected to suicidal behavior. As of 2017, suicide was the second-highest cause of death in people ages 10–34. Parents, administrators, and teachers must learn to recognize and address anxiety in young people—not only to increase children’s academic and social success but also to potentially save their lives.

Causes of Anxiety Among Students

While not all anxiety symptoms are signs of disorders, there are three general causes of anxiety disorders among young people.

Causes of Anxiety


Neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and dopamine, aren’t functioning correctly in their brains. In short, these “happy hormones,” aren’t being produced or sent through the brain and body effectively, causing problems with mood and alertness, as well as more frightening issues with blood flow and body temperature regulation.


This includes inheriting the disorder, as well as parents or guardians modeling anxious behaviors in front of their children. For example, they might share “grown-up problems” like money issues or exhibit perfectionism. Parents continually focusing on their child’s happiness or even giving excessive praise can also cause anxiety, as the child may feel they’re doing something wrong if they’re unhappy or not immediately successful at tasks.


High-stress events that cause upheavals, like divorce or a death in the family, can cause trauma-related anxiety. Trauma may also include individual terrifying events like car accidents, as well as abuse.

However, evidence shows situations unrelated to these factors are also causing the rise in anxiety and anxiety disorders among children. While it’s easy to blame social media—and studies are mixed about whether it is or is not a major contributor—some school issues are considered partially responsible.

  • Bullying: Students who bully and those who are bullied are at risk for mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Less expectedly, seeing peers being bullied is also a significant cause of these challenges.
  • Overscheduling: Students today are busy, both in and out of school. Overscheduling—such as involvement in too many advanced classes and extensive after-school activities—can have physical and mental effects, including anxiety.
  • Pressure to succeed: Students often feel pressure to excel at everything. “When kids feel like each homework assignment is going to make or break their future or that each soccer game could determine if they get a college scholarship, that pressure will have negative consequences,” says Amy Morin, LCSW. These feelings can result in battles with anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.
  • Interpersonal relationships: At all ages, students worry about their interactions with those around them. If a child feels like their teacher “doesn’t like them,” they may dread attending class. Additionally, teachers are stressed—which can lead to anxiety for them as well. Even if they never lose their cool, a teacher’s general demeanor can model anxious behaviors for students. Also, kids want to fit in with their peers. While a Pew Research Center study showed grades were the primary stressor for students, the following two were the pressure to look good and be socially accepted.
  • School shootings: As of 2018, 57% of teenagers surveyed stated they were worried a shooting would happen at their school. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows that people become anxious and unable to self-actualize—that is, learn and grow—if they feel unsafe.


Types of Anxiety Disorders in Young People

Knowing the most common disorders and their signs can help you to spot them. While you can’t—and shouldn’t attempt to—diagnose a child, if you notice behaviors relating to these, gently recommend a parent speak to their pediatrician. There are six common types of anxiety disorders among youths.

Common Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Excessive worry about many things, from grades to relationships to existential ideas

Panic Disorder: Experiencing a minimum of two panic or anxiety attacks in a month, with no apparent reason

Selective Mutism: Not speaking when social or academic norms require it, though they may be highly talkative at home

Separation Anxiety Disorder: Showing signs of anxiety, like crying, when separated from parents; it becomes something to worry about when the child can’t be distracted, won’t join in fun activities, or fears bad things will happen to their families

Social Anxiety Disorder: Fear of social situations, including being called on in class or speaking with classmates

Specific Phobias: Intense fear of a particular object or situation, such as dogs or the dark

Recognizing Anxiety in Students

The Boston Children’s Hospital says a certain amount of anxiety is normal in children, which can make it hard to determine whether the signs are part of typical development or evidence of a disorder. Young children operate on an evolutionary fight-or-flight level; however, as they age, many of these fears should lessen. For instance, if a teenager is exhibiting separation anxiety, it could be a red flag for a deeper problem.

Possible physical indicators of anxiety

Difficulty breathing
Becoming fatigued quickly
Frequent stomachaches or headaches

Possible emotional indicators of anxiety

Expressing constant fears
Attempting to not participate in school

It’s essential not to jump to conclusions, however. Any student can exhibit physical or emotional signs of anxiety, including the occasional panic or anxiety attack. Additionally, several disabilities and conditions, like ADHD, autism, and diabetes, can cause symptoms resembling anxiety. If signs show up frequently or impede academic or social activities, that is when you should become concerned.

How Teachers Can Help Students with Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are critically underdiagnosed and untreated, but those who have diagnoses may have their needs covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or the Section 504 civil rights law. If covered by IDEA, they will be considered special needs students and given Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Section 504 doesn’t typically require any special education services but allows them a 504 plan. Both types of plans provide specific, actionable steps to take when a student is experiencing anxiety.

However, for students exhibiting anxiety symptoms who have no specific plans in place, there are best practices you can follow.

Establish Norms

From day one, you need to communicate norms to your students. All children, but especially those with anxiety, need structure and an understanding of expectations. These should include not just student expectations, but also what to anticipate from you. Knowing what is coming up, what behaviors are expected from them, how you will communicate positive and constructive feedback, and even things as simple as where to turn in papers lowers opportunities for anxiety-inducing situations to arise. Remind students of expectations as the year goes on and re-establish them after breaks.

Put a Stop to Bullying

Bullying, being bullied, or witnessing bullying can lead to anxiety in students, so you must have a policy in place—and to stick to it. Get involved the moment you see bullying behavior, institute consequences mandated by your school, and follow up with the perpetrator, victim, and any witnesses, as well as with their families. The follow-ups should be about healing, not continued consequences. For more help with this topic, check out our bullying prevention guide.

Sarah Mattie, former middle school theater and language arts teacher, shares, “I was a bullied and anxious kid, and my anxiety increased because I never knew what happened to my bullies after the incidents. I assumed teachers were ignoring it. As a teacher, I always made a point to be transparent. I told kids and parents that for legal and privacy reasons, I couldn’t tell them what steps would be taken—but I did promise to everything in my power to help. If someone had told me that when I was a kid, maybe my anxiety would have been lessened!”

Build Relationships with Students

While it can seem impossible to build a relationship with every student, this is essential for decreasing their anxieties. “Getting to know you” activities are a great start, such as “about me” papers and name-learning games, and you should have some in your back pocket for when a student transfers into your class. Mattie recommends keeping the “about me” papers so you can refer to them later in the year. Casual conversations with no academic stakes are also helpful. Talking about your life humanizes you, as does piping up when you hear a student mention an interest you share.  When students see you person rather than merely an authority figure, they can better relate to you—and perhaps better trust you.

Additionally, showing you notice when something is “off” with a student, and offering help or a listening ear can ease anxieties. In an interview with NPR, a teenager named Katie stated, “I felt like every single day was a bad day. I felt like nobody wanted to help me,” informing the interviewer that no staff member had ever asked, “What’s wrong?” If they had inquired, she said she would have told them. Jon Harper, assistant principal at New Directions Learning Academy, concurs. “I think we start by asking the students what they need. I get it, we are the experts and we have our degrees but isn’t it possible that we don’t know?”

When talking to students, lead with empathy. Ensure they know you’re there for them and they aren’t in trouble for seeming anxious, sad, or showing any other negative feeling. Involve them in solutions—ask them what they think could help. You don’t have to come up with a fix immediately—you can ask them to think about it, say you will as well, and plan to talk again on a specific day.

“Many kids just wanted to know someone was there to listen,” Mattie stated. “Some asked if I could keep the conversation private, and I went back to my policy of transparency. I told them I was a mandated reporter, and I had to report things that made me worry about their health or safety or that of someone else—otherwise, this was a private safe space. Never make promises you know you can’t keep. I don’t think I ever had a student refuse to speak after that—in some cases, I think knowing I was legally obligated to help reassured them. But most didn’t have red flags to talk about; they simply wanted a grown-up who didn’t have to care about them to care.”

Proactively Lower Stress

Overscheduling in and out of the classroom can cause anxiety in students, so letting them take the occasional break from the grind is essential. Especially during high-stakes periods, like testing, consider having a games day, bringing them outside to run around (no matter how old they are), or using the old standby of popping in a movie. If you’re in a school that frowns on activities that aren’t directly related to your curriculum, find ways to integrate relaxing tasks into lessons.

Also, reframe how you talk to kids about grades, tests, and behaviors. Don’t make any single thing seem like it will ruin their futures—or make you “hate” them.

Create a Growth Mindset, Not a Fear of Failure

Kids are under a great deal of pressure to be perfect, and fear of failure can be paralyzing. Try to reframe perceived failures as opportunities to grow. Harper suggests, “Share your mistakes, blunders and weaknesses with your students. In doing so, others might be inspired to share as well. More importantly, your students will begin to feel safer and they will feel that they spend their days in an environment in which it’s okay to make mistakes.”

Mattie provides an example of this. “At the beginning of every school year, I told students my greatest weakness is remembering names. I told them about the three times I had forgotten my own name when introducing myself and insisted they publicly correct me if I ever got their names wrong—whether forgetting or mispronouncing them. Allowing them to correct me and reacting with good humor (and perhaps a facepalm) rather than annoyance let them know feedback or corrections weren’t things to fear in my classroom.”

As you teach, include formative assessments so students can get feedback in a low-stakes manner. These can include ungraded assignments, monitoring work, and providing specific feedback throughout to increase confidence for future higher-stakes activities. When a student completes a task, provide both positive and constructive responses. If a student “bombs,” discreetly call them over to find out what happened and work together to find a solution.

Make Students Feel Safe

Unfortunately, teachers can’t wave a magic wand and make school shootings stop; however, you can take steps to make sure students feel secure in their school environment. If your school has shooting drills, prep your students about what to expect and give them time to decompress and discuss their experiences and feelings afterward. Don’t force them to speak, but allow them to express their fears, ask questions, and become upset if they need to. Offer to talk to them privately as well. Provide the same opportunities after there are shootings on the news—student mental health matters more than the lesson plan.

Additionally, make sure they have all the facts—how rare these incidents are, why your school holds drills, and, most importantly, that the adults in the building are there to protect them.

While other emergency drills may cause anxiety for some students, especially those with relevant traumas, they tend to be less anxiety-causing in general. Still, be aware of students who react with fear and address those worries as discussed above.

Watch Out for Negative Interactions

Both peer and teacher relationships can affect students’ anxiety levels, so it’s crucial to keep an eye out for problems.

It can be hard to admit that something about your style or class could cause anxiety, but these things happen. This does not mean you’re a bad teacher! In fact, the best teachers reflect, adjust, and strive to improve. If you notice a student suddenly exhibiting signs of anxiety, consider the following:

  • Did you say something that could have caused the reaction?
  • Were you having a stressful day and inadvertently modeling anxious behaviors?
  • Could the topic have caused this response? For example, a situation in a book—even a seemingly innocuous one—could remind a student of a trauma. There is also math-specific anxiety, in which students assume they’ll fail because of previous experiences in the subject.
  • Did you unexpectedly redecorate the room or create a new seating chart? Changes like these can create a sense of instability.

When you notice a reaction, talk to the student. If you’re unsure of what went wrong, ask. If you know what caused the reaction, address it head-on—and don’t be afraid to apologize if you need to. Apologizing doesn’t disallow you from issuing consequences; it’s merely admitting you made a mistake in how you handled things in the moment. “In frustration, I used ‘teacher voice’ on occasion—and sometimes it caused anxiety. If I realized my reaction was wrong, I apologized. It’s amazing how far an ‘I’m sorry’ from an adult can go,” said Mattie.

Monitoring peer relationships can be trickier. If a student appears to have trouble with peers, partner them with a kind student for projects, and seat the two near each other—many kids go out of their way to treat others well. You can speak one-on-one with the compassionate student. You don’t need to mention the student they will be helping, but tell them you have noticed and appreciate their behavior—then email their parents to express your gratitude as well. Reinforce classroom expectations regarding the treatment of others and talk to students exhibiting negative behaviors that could increase others’ anxieties. Most kids don’t enter school thinking, “I’m going to be mean today!” Their words or actions could be the result of something going on with them, including their own anxiety.

Talk to Other Teachers

When you are worried about a student, reach out to their other teachers—including elective teachers, as students may act differently in “non-traditional” classrooms. Ask if they have observed the signs you have and work together to find solutions. Stability is key for students with anxiety, so if you can find across-the-board methods—such as a subtle signal for when a student needs to take a break—students won’t have to worry about remembering different practices for each class. If the team sees that a student is especially comfortable with a particular teacher, have them check in at the beginning and/or end of each day.

Try to alert other teachers when you notice the student is having a bad day, so they can be ready to provide support.

Even if the student isn’t in a special education program, it won’t hurt to reach out to SPED teachers as well. They may have some tips or can advise on whether an IEP or 504 may be worth exploring.

Include Administrators and the Counseling Team

Since administrators and members of the counseling team, including school counselors, psychologists, and social workers, aren’t in the trenches every day, they may not know a student is struggling until a problem becomes a crisis. Reach out before things get that far.

Administrators can provide advice and insight regarding how to communicate with parents. If you’re worried about how you might come across, ask the administrator if they could look at your email before you hit “send” or practice the conversation with you before it occurs.

The counseling team members are the real experts on this topic. They can meet with the student and talk about how the year is going and address your specific concerns—usually without mentioning your name. Follow up after the meeting to see what suggestions they have.

Both administrators and members of the counseling team may have knowledge teachers don’t, such as records from previous schools, medical information, or even if child protective services are involved with the family. They may consider this information to be on a “need-to-know basis.” If you express a need to know, you may gain more understanding of what is going on and be able to adjust your practices.

Involve Parents

Parents can be your best allies in the fight against student anxiety. Be factual in your conversation—describe behaviors, relay things the child has said, and inform them of any academic effects. Make it clear their child isn’t in trouble and that you want to work together to find solutions. Parents may not have alerted you to previous challenges, so ask them if this has happened before and if any accommodations have worked. Emphasize that you care about their child and your line of communication is always open.

Some parents may resist or become upset. Don’t let that discourage you. They might be scared there is something “wrong” with their child, or perhaps these issues have arisen before and they felt no one wanted to help or thought it was over. Make sure they know you’re on “Team Student.” Keep records of all interactions. These records could help if other teachers contact them, if counselors or administration need to get involved, and may protect you if a parent complains.

COVID-19 and Student Anxiety

As mentioned, upheavals in students’ lives can cause anxiety. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students across the nation have suddenly moved from seeing their teachers and classmates in person to learning online—a massive change for most.

There are a few things you can do to help your students stave off anxiety during this time.

  • Allow for asynchronous learning. Asynchronous learning occurs on a student’s schedule. Some may have to share a device with a working parent or school-aged sibling; others might spend their days caring for younger children while guardians work. These students can become anxious about falling behind or disappointing you, and those who already have anxiety could enter a crisis state. If your school insists on frequent synchronous learning, push back and advocate for your students.
  • Check in regularly. Whether a student has anxiety or not, they need to know you haven’t disappeared. Send out whole-class messages, respond to students as quickly as you can, and reach out individually, particularly to students with anxiety or other needs. This may mean a phone call or text. Apps like Remind let you text students and parents without revealing your phone number. For phone calls, things can be a bit trickier. You can share your number, but if you aren’t comfortable doing so, talk to your administration about alternatives. Remind has a call function for premium members, and Google Voice lets you create a phone number if you have a Google account.
  • Take care of yourself. As the cliché goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” If your emotional cup is empty, you have nothing left to give your students. Check in with yourself mentally. As previously stated, your demeanor can affect student anxiety—if you seem freaked out, they might become so. Do whatever you need to do to keep yourself calm, like participating in a favorite at-home activity outside of work hours or getting digital therapy through a resource like Talkspace.
  • Learn about online education. Knowledge is power and feeling powerful can lower anxiety. EducationDegree.com provides two articles to help educators and students feel comfortable with online learning. The first article contains tips for students learning remotely. The second is an article designed especially for teachers.

Resources for Teachers of Students with Anxiety

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America: ADAA focuses on education about, treatment of, and finding cures for anxiety, depression, and related disorders. They have a wealth of information for people with these disorders, mental health professionals, family members, and educators.
  • Education Week: This publication offers a variety of articles about student anxiety. Education Week has a limit on how many pieces you can read, so if it proves valuable to you, see if your school has an account or will pay for you to have a membership.
  • National Association of School Psychologists: NASP provides resources, professional development, and policy information for school psychologists and educators who are dealing with mental health in the classroom—including anxiety.
  • Rogers Behavioral Health: Rogers Behavioral Health has information specifically regarding students with school anxiety, including a podcast series and actionable steps teachers can take to help anxious kids.
  • Understood: This website strives to ensure people with disabilities of all sorts thrive. They provide anxiety-related resources, including information about recognizing symptoms of anxiety, how-to guides, and information about the legalities surrounding IEPs and 504s.

Source: https://www.educationdegree.com



UCLA child psychologist John Piacentini, PhD, discusses the difference between age-appropriate and problematic anxiety in children, including how to recognize the warning signs of problematic anxiety and how it is treated. Learn more at https://uclahealth.org Learn more about Dr. John Piacentini at https://uclahealth.org/JohnPiacentini

Why COVID-19 Is Making You Act Like a Teenager Again

Since she graduated high school, Kayla Stetzel, a 26-year-old law student living in Chicago, hadn’t spent any significant time in her father’s house in Indiana. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Not wanting to spend months alone in her small city apartment, Stetzel decided to move back in with her father—and inadvertently found herself reliving her adolescence. Her electric guitar and The O.C. DVDs came out of storage. She adopted sleep and eating habits even a teenager would find indulgent. And she found herself studying for law-school exams in the exact same place she did her grade-school homework.

“I’m stressed out about school and playing very angry rock and roll music in my basement,” she says. “It’s very surreal.”

Stetzel isn’t the only person having a teenage rebirth. Waves of 20- and 30-somethings turned back the clock in the early weeks of COVID-19 social distancing by retreating to their childhood homes. And even people who have not physically returned to their old surroundings are turning to nostalgic pastimes to fill the hours. Social media is awash in stories of people rediscovering old interests, from craft projects to long-outdated music, and old-school video games like Animal Crossing and the Sims are surging in Google search trends.

“Whenever we’re in a stressful situation, we tend to regress,” says Lori Gottlieb, a California-based psychotherapist. Just think of how you act when you go home for the holidays, she points out.

But while there are potentially destructive forms of regression, like snapping at your loved ones over a Thanksgiving turkey, it can also be a subconscious form of self-soothing. “Going back to a time in our lives when we felt safe and we felt protected is a natural instinct during these times,” Gottlieb says.

FAQ: How Does COVID-19 Spread?

The prevailing means of transmission is via virus-containing microdroplets expelled when someone who is infected either sneezes or coughs.

Sarah Solomon, the 31-year-old author of Guac Is Extra But So Am I: The Reluctant Adult’s Handbook, has been turning to an unlikely source for that comfort: the heavy metal music that spoke to her as a teenager, but that she says is now “very against my personal brand” as a Brooks Brothers-wearing adult in New York City. COVID-19 has made Korn and Nine Inch Nails suddenly feel appropriate again, Solomon says.

“We couldn’t go out when we were younger, so I feel like I’m regressing to that point—just raging against being isolated and not allowed to go out,” she says.

Martin Bell, a 33-year-old living with his wife and dog in Georgia, is also turning to old music during COVID-19. He says he’s especially drawn to bands like Bloc Party and the Strokes that he had on heavy rotation in the early 2000s, when he was searching for comfort during another “crisis point,” when “the whole world was turning upside down”: the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The sound of the music can take you back to these feelings that you really didn’t even know were still there,” he says.

Many adults who can telecommute (and do not have responsibilities like child or elder care) are also turning to old pastimes to fill their unprecedented number of unstructured hours at home. That’s the case for Madeline Bilis, a 26-year-old journalist living in New York City.

On a recent weekend, Bilis decided to download the Sims, a game she hadn’t played in more than a decade. “I played for about seven hours without realizing it,” she says. “I blew through lunch somehow, absent-mindedly funneling pretzels into my mouth.” She says the game reminds her of living in her parents’ home as a kid, “the last period when I had time to waste away hours on end.”

Dr. Frances Jensen, chair of the neurology department at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and author of The Teenage Brain, says most of the behaviors we associate with teenagers—like video-game marathons and junk food feasts—relate to impulsivity and a desire for immediate gratification. Adults are displaying these same behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, but for different neurological reasons, Jensen says.

Teenagers owe their impulsive nature to their still-developing brains. The frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls executive functioning, doesn’t fully mature until the mid-20s, Jensen says, making teens more likely to give in to their whims. Adults who are mirroring these behaviors during the pandemic don’t have the same excuse, Jensen says—but stress can do funny things even to developed frontal lobes. “Stress can increase impulsivity, and people are under a lot of stress” right now, Jensen says. “It’s a balance between the executive function parts of your brain and the ‘I want it, I want it, I want it!’ parts of your brain,” which are mainly housed in the limbic system. When you’re under stress, and “your barriers are down,” the limbic system may win out more than normal, giving rise to stereotypically teenage behaviors, she says.

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The good news, Gottlieb says, is none of us have fully regressed—the functional adult inside is still there, just waiting to come back out. If you’re moving backward in unhealthy ways, whether by fighting with your family or eschewing all vegetables, Gottlieb says the first step is to notice it’s happening. Then, try to think of how you’d cope with stress under normal circumstances and adapt it to the present day, perhaps by calling a friend or going for a walk. Some newly re-discovered hobbies, like playing an instrument or drawing, are also great stress-relievers, she points out.

By Jamie Ducharme April 15, 2020

Source: Why COVID-19 Is Making You Act Like a Teenager Again

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Isolating Children In School ‘Damages Mental Health’

School boy (aged 14) against a brick wall

Putting children in isolation in school risks causing them unnecessary trauma, according to a report by a mental health charity.

The use of isolation as a disciplinary measure risks damaging children’s mental health and can end up making behavioral problems worse as students become more disaffected from school, according to the study.

Instead, the charity urges schools to become more aware of the impact of trauma on their students, and to switch from punitive to positive behavior strategies.

The report comes as a campaign to end the use of isolation booths—where children are confined to booths with no contact with other students or adults—as a behavior management tool gathers pace. The Ban the Booths campaign has garnered support from MPs and is holding its first national conference later this month.

The use of isolation rooms is widespread in U.K. schools, as a way of removing disruptive children from the classroom.

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But a report by the Centre for Mental Health today argues that the use of isolation is potentially damaging to children.

Children who have already had traumatic experiences are particularly vulnerable, according to the study, and may find such punishments “disporportionately distressing.”

While schools must record the use of exclusion, there are no such requirements over the use of isolation, with the result that there are no figures on how prevalent it is, although a BBC investigation in 2018 found that more than 200 children spent at least five straight days in isolation in the previous year.

And last year one mother revealed she is taking legal action after her daughter, who has autism spectrum disorder, attempted suicide after spending more than a month in isolation.

Tom Bennett, a former teacher and now the Government’s adviser on behavior in schools, defended the use of isolation in an interview with the BBC this morning, saying that students were typically removed for “extreme disruption, violence or rudeness to teachers,” rather than for trivial offences.

He said removing students from the classroom gave them an opportunity to calm down, without disrupting the learning of other children. The children who had been removed were supervised and given work to do, he added.

But one mother who spoke to the same program told how her son had been put in isolation from the age of 11 for relatively trivial offences, such as wearing a hoodie in the dining hall. Now 15, he has spent a third of his education in isolation, she added.

She said her son was not given work to do, and instead spent his time doodling.

The experience has transformed him from a outgoing child who enjoyed going to school, to one who has no confidence in authority and “sees adults as enemies,” she said.

Niamh Sweeney, a member of the executive of the National Education Union, told the BBC that children were often isolated for “small incidents,” such as having incorrect school uniform.

“Children describe sitting in isolation, having to look forward, not being able to have eye contact or contact with other people, and that does not deal with the cause or address, in any shape or form, the behaviour that the school is trying to change,” she said.

Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said attempting to improve behavior by isolating children will not work.

“For some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children they will entrench behavioural problems with lifelong consequences for them and their families,” she said.

Follow me on Twitter.

I’m a freelance journalist specializing in education. My career so far has taken in regional and national newspapers and magazines, including Forbes, The Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. A lot has changed since I started covering education as a wide-eyed junior reporter in the early 1990s, not least the role of technology in the classroom, but as long as perfection remains just out of reach there will be plenty to discuss. I’ve been hooked on news since setting up a school magazine at 15, but these days I stick to reporting and let someone else sell the adverts, set the crossword and staple the pages together.


Source: Isolating Children In School ‘Damages Mental Health’

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Should You be Lying to Your Kids About Santa?

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR – DECEMBER 15: A man dressed up as a Santa Claus greets a girl during Christmas season on December 15, 2019 in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Photo by Camilo Freedman/APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images)

Then my son was eight, he asked if Santa was real. I didn’t know what to say, so I dodged the question. Naturally, he sought answers from the place that never let him down: the World Wide Web. When I spied him searching “Is Santa real?” on the iPad, I gently took it from him and asked, “Why do you want to know so much?”

“Because I feel like you’re lying to me,” he said, trying to blink away tears. He was distraught. I was too, because what had seemed like a sweet tradition was suddenly threatening the trust my child had for me. So I told him the truth—that Dad and I were Santa, and that we were never trying to “lie” about it, but rather, just to carry on something we had enjoyed as kids. He was surprised that I told him, and a little sad. But mostly, he was relieved.

A couple of years later, when my daughter was eight and wanted the truth, I had this same conversation with her, and she had a similar reaction: a tinge of disappointment, but mostly relief. Both times, honesty about Santa felt wrong, right up until the moment it felt right.

For the past three years, I’ve been researching what it means to be more aware of our own honesty choices instead of only focusing on the dishonesty in the world around us. And while the man in the red suit is an honesty dilemma for many parents, I’ve learned that it’s probably not as important as the other honesty choices we make as parents.

Unlike belief in Santa—which is something children grow out of—dishonesty is something children grow into, says Robert Feldman, a University of Massachusetts psychology professor who has studied lying for many years. In having children and adolescents purposely tell lies to mislead, he found that first graders were unconvincing liars, seventh graders were pretty decent, but college students were experts.

Use this tool to find a monthly payment that works for you.The reason they grow into lying is that we parents show them how to with our own behavior. One University of California–San Diego study found that preschoolers and young elementary schoolchildren who had been lied to by an experimenter were more likely both to cheat (they peeked at something when they weren’t supposed to) and then to lie about whether or not they peeked.

You might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you. I thought the same, until the evening my daughter and I were buying birthday favors at Party City. When I told the cashier that I didn’t have an email address when she asked for one, my daughter gave me the side eye. That’s when I realized I was teaching her how to swat off annoyances with little lies. (I now simply say, in a pleasant voice, “I don’t want to give you an email right now.”)

We always think we need a story that justifies how we feel, says etiquette expert Lizzie Post, great-grandchild of etiquette queen Emily Post and co-president of the Emily Post Institute. When there is no significant story, she says, we stretch the truth. These are the little fibs related to flattery, saving face, or protecting ego, such as making up a story about why you aren’t attending a family function or gushing with a friend over their new car when in fact you hate it.

“We teach our children that honesty is the best policy, but we also tell them it’s polite to pretend they like a birthday gift they’ve been given,” Dr. Feldman says. We want to raise kind children and be kind ourselves, except for the times when honesty is more important . . . which is when exactly?

Honesty seems like such a basic concept. So why do we get all tangled up in it, not just in parenting, but also in social situations, at work, and inside our most intimate relationships? It’s a two part answer: (1) the actor-observer bias— whereby we notice other’s lies more easily than our own—keeps us thinking we are more honest than we are (until our kid calls our bluff) and (2) much of what we think and say about honesty is just flat out wrong.

We don’t like to admit that we rely on what behavioral scientists call prosocial lies, or the lies we tell for the benefit of someone else. “It’s so deeply engrained in us to think lying is always wrong,” says Emma Levine, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, but her research has found that when you walk people through scenarios, they will agree that lying is sometimes the right thing to do.

I’ve noticed that I tend to use prosocial lies to build empathy, like if I see that someone is humiliated about a mistake, I might lie and tell them I made that same mistake when I haven’t. And you know what? I appreciate when someone does the same for me. On a trip last year, I tried to check into the wrong hotel (two sister hotels shared a parking garage) and felt like an idiot.

The valet attendant saw my embarrassment, and assured me he spent the majority of his day helping people who had tried to check into the wrong hotel. Did he really? Probably not. It was nice to hear though.

Prosocial lies may seem trivial, but these small moments can have a great deal of consequence in one-on-one relationships. On a reporting ride-along with a police officer last year, I noticed how patiently the officer listened to the story of a woman reporting a radio stolen from her truck. He handed her a card that assigned her a case number and told her how to work with the investigator. As we walked back to his cruiser, he asked me: “What do you think the chances of that case getting solved are?”

“Probably not very good?” I ventured.

“Pretty much zero,” he said.

“So, why bother with it then? I mean, I guess you have to, but if it’s just pointless, why not just be honest?”

“If she pursues it, we will, too. We’ll try. But in situations like this, people want to be heard. They want their story heard,” he said. “Most of what we do is just listen to people.”

Though we value people who “tell it like it is,” what this woman needed in that moment was to be listened to, more than she probably cared about recovering the radio. The next time she interacts with the police, it might be something more serious—like she could be a key witness in a case. He needs her to trust him, and the way to win her trust is through listening and caring.

Dr. Levine’s research supports the idea that prosocial lying can increase trust when someone has true insight into what the other person needs. Her research in healthcare settings has found that some patients prefer the brutal truth, while others want hope and optimism—but the doctor needs to know what the patient prefers, rather than imposing his or her own ideas about what’s best for the patient.

However, our prosocial lies go wrong when we let fear of the awkward conversation subsume what we know we should do. When an editor of mine was called out by another writer who told him that his style had become abrupt and condescending, he asked me if I felt the same way.

I did, but I froze, tried to skirt the issue, and ultimately said something like, “not really.” On the surface, it may seem kinder, but in fact, it’s cruel, because this person was asking for feedback. I wound up contacting him the next day, fessed up that I was frustrated with him, and we had a thoughtful and helpful conversation.

While that vulnerability isn’t easy, we tend to fear it more than we need to. In a study, Dr. Levine and Taya Cohen, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, asked people to be completely honest in their dealings with others for three days.

While people predicted that it would ruin their relationships and cause hurt and pain, quite the opposite was true. “They found so much meaning in being honest,” Dr. Cohen says. This is probably why my conversations with my kids around Santa wound up feeling so meaningful, versus ruinous, and why honesty also improved my relationship with that editor.

The biggest thing about honesty we get wrong is missing the opportunity inside conversations with our children about why we lie. Explaining the Santa lie wasn’t that complicated for me, because Santa ultimately belongs in the category of mythology. I’ve learned far more from other unexpected conversations—like when, on the way to a well visit with the pediatrician, my son said, “I’m going to be honest if the doctor asks about screens. You always lie.”

My first response was rising anger, but then I realized this was an opportunity. “You’re right,” I said. “I do tend to lie about it. I shouldn’t. But do you know why I lie?”

“Because it’s bad that I use the iPad so much.”

“It’s not bad. It’s just that doctors think kids watch screens too much, and they’re right. But I don’t always follow what they say. We shouldn’t lie to doctors about things to do with health, though.”

“But you do,” he said.

“I do,” I said. “Because a little part of me feels ashamed that I should be a better mom. I often feel like people are saying I’m not a good mom if I do certain things or don’t do certain things. I feel judged. Do you ever feel that way?”

“Yeah, about my behavior. I’m bad sometimes and I know it.”

What a golden moment to talk about the difference between how we act and who we are, and about the nature of shame and how it so often clouds our choices when it comes to honesty.

By opening up to my kids about my own struggles, I’ve not only learned things about myself that have helped me in my career and my relationships, I’ve also shown them that honesty is a dynamic concept that takes vulnerability, courage, and discernment—excellent life skills to have long after thoughts of flying reindeer have passed.

By Judi Ketteler December 20, 2019

Source: Should You be Lying to Your Kids About Santa?

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Has your child been lying to you lately? If so, it might not be as big of a problem as you think. In this episode of Mom Docs, Dr. Dehra Harris, a Pediatric Psychiatrist with Washington University at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, shares some insight on why children lie and what you can do about it. If your child has been lying to you, it’s important to take the age of the child into consideration. In young children, lying marks the beginning of imagination, which is a normal developmental stage. Your child’s lying only becomes a problem when it’s part of a persistent pattern. If your situation involves your child lying often, try these tactics: Approach your child and, without getting emotional, present the information you know to be true. For example, if your child took money off the countertop, you can say, “There is money missing from the counter top. I need you to help me figure this out.” This approach leaves room for two different outcomes: #1. Your child lets you know what happened and they explain their story. #2. You inform them that you know what happened and they do not admit they lied. While both of these situations deserve a consequence, the second should be greater. Repeating this method when your child lies can help put the problem behind you. Visit Children’s MomDocs (a blog by mom physicians at St Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine): http://bit.ly/2fCVkzp Learn more about St. Louis Children’s Hospital – Find a Physician, Get Directions, Request an Appointment, See current ER Wait Times http://bit.ly/2g56onQ Want to hear more from St. Louis Children’s Hospital? Subscribe to the St Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/2cC0jgg Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stlchildrens Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/STLChildrens Learn More About Donating on YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/? The St. Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube channel is intended as a reference and information source only. If you suspect you have a health problem, you should seek immediate care with the appropriate health care professionals. The information in this web site is not a substitute for professional care, and must not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. For help finding a doctor, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Answer Line may be of assistance at 314.454.KIDS (5437). The opinions expressed in these videos are those of the individual writers, not necessarily St. Louis Children’s Hospital or Washington University School of Medicine. BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine assume no liability for the information contained in this website or for its use.

Teach Your Kids to Value Empathy Over Tenacity

If you watched Coco Gauff’s third round loss in the US Open on Saturday, chances are you won’t remember the score or many details about the match itself; you’ll mostly remember how Naomi Osaka consoled the 15-year-old after her defeat.

And if you’re Osaka’s parent, you should be more proud of the kindness and empathy she showed than the big win she earned. Just two days before the sweet moment between the athletes, writer Anna Nordberg wrote for the Washington Post that parents put too much focus on their kids developing tenacity or grit and not enough focus on developing conscientious characteristics.

Clinical psychologist Lisa Damour tells Nordberg that what actually makes adults happy barely correlates with academic or professional success:

What it does correlate with is quality of relationships, a sense of purpose and feeling that you are good at what you do. “If you walk that back to look at what you can do as a parent, it’s raising conscientious kids,” Damour says. “When you’re conscientious, you tend to have better relationships, you’re caring, you’re not dishonest and you pursue things that have meaning to you.”

Maybe it seems obvious. Of course we want our kids to be good people. Of course we want them to be empathetic and kind and caring. We want our kids to work hard at their goals—even when things get tough—but we don’t want them to be the type of people who are more focused on their personal success than the feelings of those around them.

But apparently we’re not doing a very good job of getting that point across to our kids, at least not according to a 2014 study detailed in The Atlantic:

While 96 percent of parents say they want to raise ethical, caring children, and cite the development of moral character as “very important, if not essential,” 80 percent of the youths surveyed reported that their parents “are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others.” Approximately the same percentage reported that their teachers prioritize student achievement over caring. Surveyed students were three times as likely to agree as disagree with the statement “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my class than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

So how can we not only value empathy but also encourage it? Well, we start by modeling it. Kids are more likely to do as we do, not do as we say. Let them see you shoveling the sidewalk for your elderly neighbor, volunteering at the local food bank and buying gifts for families in need during the holidays. And when you catch them being kind—praise, praise, praise.

But Nordberg also writes that we should actually create opportunities that “encourage empathy, collaboration and kindness rather than waiting for them to spontaneously happen.” We should be empathy enablers.

Enlist older kids to help with younger kids, whether it’s at home with siblings or at school as mentors or tutors. Involve them in your own problem-solving brainstorms. Clear off the kitchen table and spread out the thank-you card supplies so they’ll actually write the thank-you notes. Seek out moments in which you can encourage them to be kind, and they’ll build those empathetic muscles while also recognizing the value you place on those characteristics.

And then, one day, your kid might be the tennis star who consoles their opponent while the world watches and admires.


By: Meghan Moravcik Walbert

Source: Teach Your Kids to Value Empathy Over Tenacity

Empathy is a skill that parents can work to teach their children through encouragement and emotional development activities. In this episode of Mom Docs, Dr. Dehra Harris shares a few tips for parents to ensure children develop healthy emotional habits and empathy skills. Visit Children’s MomDocs (a blog by mom physicians at St Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine):
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