Month: June 2014

The Cure for Childhood Boredom

As loving parents we do the best we can for our kids and we want them to be happy.  We spend as much time with them as we can and we make sure they have toys and many other things to play with and enjoy.  So it comes as no surprise that we also dread the words “I’m Bored”.  Childhood boredom is a fact of life and it can cause parents great stress, particularly when WE have no choice but to leave them alone so we can do life’s dreaded chores:  paying bills, cleaning up, dishes and so forth.  As a parent and as a professional I have talked to so many people over the years and the feeling is the same.  “We have a pool, a trampoline, a play yard, iPad, computer, iPhone.  How can he/she be bored?”  Is there a solution?

The Answer to Childhood Boredom is To Give Them The Choice

The answer is YES.  I won’t take credit for the Fish Bowl of Boredom, which I read somewhere a while back, but the idea is brilliant.  You take several pieces of paper and in each one you write a bunch of activities for your child to do.  It can include things they already have access to, such as pool, a trampoline, a play yard, iPad, computer, iPhone.  It also includes several activities you can do with your child.  Things such as going to the movies, park, beach, zoo, you name it.  BUT it also includes chores.  Things such as picking up leaves and weeds in the back yard, cleaning up various parts of the house, cleaning/putting away dishes, picking up their room, etc.  You get the picture.  Now you put all those pieces of folded up paper with Ideas to get rid of boredom into a bowl or box of your choosing.

Let Them Decide – Works Like a Charm

Next time your child comes up to you to complain “I’m Bored” explain what is in the bowl/box and ask them to pick something out of the bowl/box.  They must do whatever they pick.  So do you, if it includes an activity with them.  However, since they are risking choosing an unpleasant chore, more often then not they will say: “Never mind.  I’ll figure something out.”  After all isn’t that what we want for them? For them to use their own little minds to problem solve and find ways of entertaining themselves without always having to rely on us.

Stopping Generational Patterns of Anxiety

These days, the statistics on anxiety in children is alarming.  Approximately 1 in 5 children in the United States meet the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder.  Go back 10 to 15 years and the incidence was half of what it is today.   Also, parents who struggle with anxiety themselves are 6 to 7 times more likely to have anxious children.  Untreated anxiety in children often leads to problems such as poor academic performance, social difficulties and even substance abuse.  Their fears and anxieties can also be at the root of sleep problems, patterns of misbehavior, and an inability to participate in many of the joys life has to offer.

The challenge is that we are living in a world that is different than it was just a short time ago.  With the progression of the Internet and the readily available information we have through the news, social medial and technology, we are privy to much more negativity in the world.  Today’s parents also tend to deal with anxious children differently than in the past.  Many parents today have a hard time letting their children experience failure and risk and, in an effort to protect their children from harm, they avoid stressful situations rather than equipping them with the skills needed to effectively cope.  This can often create a pattern of avoidance and worry for children than can persist well into adulthood.

How Parents Can Help Their Children Avoid Anxiety

There are several ways parents can reduce the likelihood that their child will struggle with anxiety:

  • Pay attention to how you handle risk and uncertainty and how you model this behavior to your child.
  • Take efforts to change the language you use in stressful situations to help your child understand that stress is a part of life and though you might be nervous now, it will soon pass.
  • Avoid over-reacting to potentially dangerous situations and verbalizing the worst-case scenario and instead, calmly guide your child to a safer state.
  • Allow them to experience circumstances that are slightly out of their comfort zone so they may feel what it is like to feel nervous, but then get through it.
  • If a parent struggles with their own anxiety, it is important to get the treatment needed to improve in order to set the best example for their child.

If You Have An Anxiety Disorder, Will Your Child As Well?

Twenty-five to 30 percent of kids under age 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder, and some of the time that anxiety is inherited. Parents who struggle with anxiety themselves could pass that anxiety along to their children through their parenting styles, according to a pediatric psychiatrist. That’s why your children are two to seven times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder if you have one yourself.

Parents Set an Example for How Kids View the World, Says Pediatric Psychiatrist

If you’re a parent who’s struggling with an anxiety disorder, there’s a good chance you see the world as a scary place. Our pediatric psychiatrist points out that children learn how to behave by watching their parents – and that includes learning how to view the world. If you’re constantly fretting and worrying and seeing monsters lurking in every shadow, your kids will fret, worry, and see monsters, too.

Many parents inadvertently send their children the message that anxiety is justified, through their body language, reactions or tone of voice. If you’re afraid of snakes, for example, and you react with fear when you and your child see a snake, your child will very reasonably form the impression that snakes are something he or she should fear. If your child has a negative experience – for example, if he or she is bitten by a dog – your nervousness at your child’s next encounter with a dog may send the message, even more so than the previous attack, that dogs are to be feared.

A pediatric psychiatrist may be able to help children whose parents have inadvertently encouraged their anxiety through their efforts to relieve it. If your child is anxious about going to school, for example, giving him or her the option to call home throughout the day whenever he or she begins to feel overwhelmed will not solve the problem. On the contrary, this behavior will send the message that you think your child isn’t going to be able to handle going to school, or that your child is right to be nervous about attending school. Instead, a pediatric psychiatrist encourages parents to reassure children that they’re capable of dealing with life’s challenges, and not to undermine their confidence by offering too much support.

Tips to Help Children Cope with Anxiety

Many mental health specialists emphasize that children can develop anxiety disorders, and that the average age of onset for some anxiety disorders is as young as seven years old. If your child’s anxiety appears to be excessive or abnormal, you should seek the help of a pediatric psychiatrist – therapy can help your child learn to cope with anxiety, and can even prevent the development of an anxiety disorder in children who are just beginning to struggle with anxious feelings. Here are some tips to help your child cope with anxious feelings:

  • Don’t shelter your child. Learning to cope with difficult situations and overcome anxiety is a part of life. While you might be tempted to protect your child by removing him or her from anxiety-creating situations or by removing the thing that scares your child, that’s not the right response. Trying to protect your child from the source of his or her anxiety will only make the worry cycle further entrenched, as your child learns that an anxious reaction is all that’s necessary to make the unpleasant stimulus go away.
  • Let your child know that everything’s going to be OK. When your child is feeling anxious about a particular situation or upcoming event, you should neither belittle nor encourage his or her feelings. Listen to what he or she has to say, and let your child know that you believe in his or her ability to face his or her fears.
  • Avoid leading questions. Leading questions, like “Are you worried about your math test?” only serve to give your child the idea that math tests should be a source of anxiety. Instead, ask, “How do you feel about taking the math test?”
  • Talk it out with your child. Facing fears is often easier when we have a chance to voice them. If your child is worried about something, like going to school, for example, ask your child what he or she is afraid will happen and talk about how he or she can deal with that worst case scenario. This kind of conversation can help your child see that the worst case scenario wouldn’t be so bad.

Anxiety disorders in children, just as in adults, are often the result of a neurochemical imbalance. Our pediatric psychiatrist can help you and your child cope with high levels of stress, anxiety and fear.

Call Proliance Center today at 561-338-7725.

Case Study: Boston Bombing Caused PTSD in Child Witnesses

Child witnesses of the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013 are more likely to have developed PTSD than those who didn’t witness the attack, according to a team of local psychiatrists from Boston University. Researchers found that the rates of PTSD among children who witnessed the attack were comparable to rates of PTSD among New York City schoolchildren following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Children Near the Bombings Affected, Study Finds

Local psychiatrists reported that, of the 460 parents who lived within a 25-mile radius of the bombings and manhunt, 11 percent reported symptoms of PTSD in their children. That’s about the same number of NYC schoolchildren who experienced PTSD symptoms following the 9/11 attacks. Of the kids themselves, about eight percent reported PTSD or other emotional problems following the Boston Marathon bombings.

Interestingly, not all of the children who suffered PTSD symptoms as a result of the bombings were present at the attacks. Some of them developed PTSD symptoms as a result of witnessing too much media coverage of the attacks and manhunt.

Study author Jonathan Comer, a member of the team of local psychiatrists who now teaches psychiatry and psychology at Florida International University in Miami, told Fox News, “Children near and far throughout the Boston area showed a range of mental health problems, not just PTSD symptoms. Exposure to the bombing itself and the manhunt events [on the media] were associated with considerable PTSD symptoms.”

Local Psychiatrists Say Kids Who Attended the Marathon More Likely to Develop PTSD

The Boston University study found that kids between the ages of four and 19 who were present at the Boston Marathon during the attacks were six times more likely to develop PTSD than those who didn’t attend the event. However, children who watched too much of the manhunt media coverage in the days following the bombing were also at a greater risk of developing PTSD symptoms. The manhunt lasted five days and required nearly one million Bostonians in the Watertown area to shelter-in-place.

As one of the best local psychiatrists at the time of the bombing, Professor Comer treated many of the children affected by the events of the Boston Marathon bombings and manhunt. “There was an enormous mental health toll associated with direct exposure,” he told NBC News. “And there also was a toll with kids exposed to the manhunt, which was an unfolding and uncontained situation that lasted much longer than the bombing itself.”

Kids Exposed to Manhunt Developed Additional Problems

Comer and other local psychiatrists in Boston found that while kids who were present during the bombing itself were most likely to have developed PTSD symptoms, kids who were exposed to the activities of the manhunt developed other problems. Some of the other issues included acting-out behaviors, emotional troubles, hyperactivity, problems paying attention and peer conflict issues.

“Our work shows that children’s reactions to such community problems is often more broad-based than PTSD,” Comer said.

Turn Off the TV

Ultimately, many local psychiatrists who worked with the victims now recommend that kids not be exposed to media coverage of local terror attacks or other events, especially if those events are happening in the kids’ own neighborhoods. Kids in the families surveyed watched 1.5 hours of media coverage of the attack and manhunt on the day of the event, with more than 20 percent watching more than three hours of coverage. Two-thirds of families didn’t try at all to control their children’s exposure to the media coverage of the events.

While most kids are psychologically and emotionally resilient enough to withstand the trauma of terrorist attacks and other such events, the best course of action is to turn off the TV and not allow kids to watch media coverage of these events. Even a small amount of exposure to media coverage can traumatize children, even those children who were not present at the attacks themselves. Some kids could develop lasting psychological problems as a result of exposure to media coverage of terror attacks and similar events.

Call Proliance Center today at 561-338-7725 to learn more about our child psychiatry services in Boca Raton, FL.

The Long-Term Effects of Name-Calling on a Child

It doesn’t take a child psychiatrist to know that calling children negative names can be cruel and hurtful. But according to new research, the names children are called can do long-term damage, even going so far as to influence the adults they become.

Being Called Fat Influences Girls’ Appearance in Young Adulthood

The new study, from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), involved 1,166 white girls and 1,213 African-American girls living in Cincinnati, Northern California and Washington D.C. Fifty-eight percent of these girls had been labeled “too fat” by parents, teachers, classmates or other relatives by the time they reached age 10.

The researchers measured the girls’ height and weight at the beginning of the study period and again at the end of the study period, nine years later. They found that those girls who had been labeled “too fat” by peers, teachers or relatives at the beginning of the study period were 1.66 times more likely than those who had not been called “too fat” to be obese at the age of 19. Furthermore, the researchers found that the chances of a girl being considered obese at age 19 increased along with the number of people who told her she was overweight.

UCLA psychologists were surprised at the finding. “Simply being labeled as too fat has a measurable effect almost a decade later. We nearly fell off our chairs when we discovered this,” said the senior author of the study, A. Janet Tomiyama PhD.

Our child psychiatrist points out that the results remained true even after the researchers adjusted for other factors that could have influenced the children’s weight, like income, race and age of puberty. “It’s not just that heavier girls are being called fat and are still heavy years later; being labeled as too fat is creating an additional likelihood of being obese,” Tomiyama said.

Name-Calling Changes Children’s Behavior

Study co-author Jeffrey Hunger, a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, believes that calling children negative names changes their behavior, making them more likely to live up to the expectation that the name implies. “Being labeled as too fat may lead people to worry about personally experiencing the stigma and discrimination faced by overweight individuals, and recent research suggests that experiencing or anticipating weight stigma increases stress and can lead to overeating,” he said.

Our child psychiatrist would like to emphasize that these behavior changes are unconscious on the child’s part. Teased and belittled children do not choose to behave in ways that align with the negative names they are called. Nevertheless, calling children negative names – even when you have good intentions – can have long-term physical and psychological consequences. If you think your child has suffered name-calling, he or she needs the help of a child psychiatrist right away to nip in the bud any unconscious behaviors that could make those negative names manifest in the child’s personality as he or she grows older.

Psychological Effects of Childhood Name-Calling from a Child Psychiatrist

While researchers in this study looked at the long-term consequences of criticizing a child’s weight, calling children any negative names at all can have devastating effects in the long term, according to our child psychiatrist. Here are some common criticisms children face that can alter their behavior for the worse:

  • You never pay attention.
  • You can’t do anything right.
  • You’re a loser.
  • Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister?
  • Why do you always have to be so disobedient?
  • You don’t know the first thing about that, you’re going to screw it up.
  • Why can’t you just get along with people?

Children don’t have the wherewithal to ignore these negative messages from parents, peers, teachers and relatives. When children hear negative messages about themselves, they assume those messages are true. Without appropriate intervention by a child psychiatrist, children will internalize these messages and begin to embody them in their behaviors and personality. Many such children lack the inner resources to break out of the trap of negative self-belief as adults. Even when they do, it can take years of hard work and extensive psychotherapy, essentially robbing children of their right to fulfilling adult lives.

If your child is enduring negative name-calling, he or she could benefit greatly from the help of a child psychiatrist.

Call Proliance Center @ 561-338-7725 today to learn more about high quality mental health treatment.

How Can Taking A Generic Medication Affect Me?

One of the things I am often asked about when prescribing medications is the possibility of obtaining a generic medication.  While these can be a great money saving option, it is important to keep in mind that a generic medication may not have the same amount of active ingredient as the brand versions of the same medication.   So let’s take a look at a hypothetical medicine that we will call Mediwell, as an example.  A generic version of brand name Mediwell 10 mg may actually be like taking Mediwell 8 mg or even 12 mg (remember generics can have 20% less or more active ingredient.  See my past blog for why).

Let’s assume you have been doing ok on Mediwell 10 mg.  Now you are switched to it’s generic version and it is in fact, Mediwell 8 mg (keep in mind it still says 10 mg on the script, pill and bottle).  For some people this may result in the medicine no longer working for you.  Or what if it is the generic version, Mediwell 12 mg (keep in mind it still says 10 mg on the script, pill and bottle)?   In this case you begin to have side effects you didn’t have before.

Be Informed About Taking Generic Medication

Does this mean you shouldn’t take generics?  No, it just means you should be aware if the pill color, shape or size changes.  If this occurs you COULD be going from one version to another.  It may make absolutely no difference at all or it may make a big difference.  A change from 9-10, or 10-11 mg is probably not going to do much.  But a change from 8-12 mg, or the reverse, may.    The important thing is this.  If you are on a generic and your pill changes AND you begin feeling your symptoms return or intolerable side effects you didn’t have before let your doctor know.  Otherwise, relax and continue to take your medicine as you always have.

Why not just stay with brand name meds all the time?  The reason many people choose to try generics (and personally I am ok with this) is because the price difference between generics and brand can be tremendous.  Say $10 vs $300 for the same amount of pills.  If you are paying through insurance, insurance will definitely want you to try generics before ever approving a brand.  If you are paying out of pocket, the choice is yours.  Regardless, whatever you choose your doctor will be there to help you through the process.

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