Aileen wrote a viral post about the surprises your body has in store in your 40’s, and we are talking about it. We also discuss Kristen’s insomnia, Sarah’s live music bender, and the best essential oil sprays for a better mood.
On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from February 2009.
The other night Mark and I had a “date night” with Jafta. It was really cute. India spent the night with Grandma and Grandpa to get a little quality time in, and she went to a Gymboree class with cousin Tanner in the morning. So we knew we needed to frame it as a special night for Jafta. He was SO excited. In fact, he must have asked me 20 times what time our date night started, just to confirm it was really happening. He LOVES getting our undivided attention, and feeling like he is being let in on mommy and daddy’s secret dating world.
So we went to Wahoo’s, then Target (where he got to walk instead of ride in the cart) and then to frozen yogurt. He came home and we had another new treat: I had taped an episode of “America’s Funniest Home Videos”. Now this is not the typical tv fare that is on my DVR, but I had heard from a friend that her preschool-aged kids loved watching this show as a family. I had this fond memory of watching Dick Clark’s TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes with my own family. My sisters and I would look forward to it all week, and just laugh and laugh together. I envisioned this being the case with my four-year-old.
I should add that we are a fairly stingy family in terms of tv watching. I think Jafta has seen a total of four differen children’s series before, most of them on PBS or Noggin. Don’t get me wrong, he watches a little every day. But the selection is limited. So to watch a “grown up” show was quite a stretch.
At the end of the evening, we told him we had a surprise and cuddled up on the couch together. I told him we had a very funny new show we could watch together. Only, instead of laughing hysterically, Jafta found the entire show to be a big exercise in stress management. He was deeply concerned for every groin kicked and every head bonked. He was devastated by the dad who fell off a sled. He asked “Are they okay? What happened to them?” about every person who tripped and fell. He seemed completely freaked out by the dogs who tugged on their owners pants, or knocked over a table full of food. He found the show to be completely humorless and utterly disturbing in every way.
I love my son so much, and this little quirk was somehow so stinking cute. He is such an empathetic little guy. He was completely unwilling to sit back and laugh at other people’s expense (this is not something he learned from me). What a sensitive little soul. So a few minutes in, we turned it off, and let him process a bit about all those poor people who kept falling down and hurting themselves, and what a strange and cruel world we live in. And then we decided we’d stick to watching musicals for our family tv night.
Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday’s Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.
Rates of anxiety and depression in children have increased in the last decade. This is a topic close to my heart, since I suffered from generalized anxiety disorder as a child. I had the chance to interview Dr. Micaela Thordarson, a child psychologist at CHOC Children’s, to review some of the warning signs and treatment options that parents should be aware of when it comes to kids and anxiety.
What are the symptoms of anxiety in children?
Kids who suffer from anxiety can often experience overwhelming worry and anxious thoughts, but Dr. Thordarson emphasizes that this is not the only symptom. In fact, some symptoms may not look like anxiety at all. “Some kids might show irritability or avoidance. They may refuse to do things, or complain about doing things. They may be easily frustrated,” she said. Dr. Thordarson explained that perfectionism and a fear of being judged negatively are common traits for anxious kids, so they can either give up easily or procrastinate because they are so concerned with failure. They may be so terrified of failure that they won’t even try something new.
Kids with anxiety can also display restlessness, fidgeting, difficulty paying attention, and difficulty falling asleep. “For some kids, anxiety can show up as frequent stomachaches or headaches not otherwise explained by a medical condition,” she said. Children who complain of frequent ailments or who seem to obsess about their own health might be suffering from anxiety. She warns that when kids stay home from school due to physical manifestations of anxiety, it can strengthen the response pattern. “If in doubt, send them to school,” she said. Parents need to communicate with their child’s school nurse if they have concerns that anxiety is presenting itself as physical ailments.”
How do we get kids to communicate anxious thoughts?
When kids experience anxiety, we want to help them process things verbally. Oftentimes, kids avoid their anxious feelings, which can lead to some of the symptoms of stomachaches or irritability. We want to shift to helping them talk about it. “Ask your child to share about feelings and then provide immediate praise when they are willing,” Dr. Thordarson advises. “Stay away from reassurance. Don’t say ‘you are going to be ok’ because it takes that child’s safety and places it in your authority. Doing so can also make them feel dismissed, or that they cannot trust you to hear them. Rather, ask them questions as a coach.” Dr. Thordarson recommends asking questions like “How do you know this outcome will come true?” or “What are other ways this can come in?” Reality testing with our kids can be beneficial. We can walk them through scenarios that are playing out in their mind and help coach them to favorable outcomes.
What is the difference between a child who worries a lot, or a child who is just shy, and a child with generalized anxiety disorder?
If there is no change in external circumstances, behavior or performance, but if a child is in a lot of distress, they may be suffering from anxiety. “If a child seems to be upset, anxious or crying more often than not, if they are they taking longer to get things done, if their grades are changing, if they are avoiding friends, if they are in nurses office . . . these would all be signs that getting help is needed.”
In terms of differentiating shy children from social anxiety Dr. Thordarson suggests parents look at the degree of their child’s refusal to engage. “Shy kids might warm up eventually. If they maintain anxiety the entire time, it might be a sign.” She also warns that social anxiety may look like a heavy reliance on social media for social interactions, because it’s safer to interact behind a screen, if a kid does not have the social skills or confidence for face-to-face interactions.
How can social media impact anxiety?
Dr. Thordarson believes that the social skills used on social media or on video games are VERY different than real life. “It’s developing a very small toolkit and letting everything else stay underdeveloped. If something doesn’t go well on social media, the child loses their entire community. They don’t have a social backup plan.” She also thinks that kids who are trying to avoid homework or chores or interacting with parents are going to dive into these realms of alternate reality, which can be a sign of avoidance behaviors. “It’s an escape that is comfortable, where kids don’t have to face their fears or anxieties. It sets up a system of reward in the brain.”
She asserts that setting limits is an extremely important aspect of parenting. “There should be limits on every type of screen source and there should be periods of forced unplugged time, even through high school. There should be limits like no phones at the dinner table, or no phones in the bedroom. When you are glued to your cellphone and constantly getting notifications, you always know when you are left out, and it reinforces the idea that you have to be connected and available all of the time.”
If a parent is concerned about their child’s anxiety, who should they reach out to?
“There is never a harm in having an evaluation,” says Dr. Thordarson. “You can start with your pediatrician. They are likely getting lots of consultations so most have a referral list.” The American Academy of Pediatrics has been making a push to train pediatricians in conducting the conversation on mental health. She says the OC chapter especially has been working on stocking members with toolkits and referral lists. Schools can be another resource. “Schools might have onsite resources, including counselors, which could be good if your child’s anxiety is school-related. Parents can also call the number on the back of their insurance card to find additional resources available to them.”
What is the difference between a counselor and psychiatrist?
It can be hard for parents to know what kind of support their child needs. A psychiatrist is most often a medication manager. “It is unusual for a psychiatrist to offer therapy,” says Dr. Thordarson. “They are generally looking at treating mental health from a medication standpoint.” Most other mental health clinicians (licensed marriage and family therapist or LMFT, social worker, psychologist) are licensed and provide psychotherapy, which will help with coping skills and anxiety reduction. “For mild to moderate anxiety, the most effective therapy, even over medications, is cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT. This short-term, goal-oriented therapy takes a practical approach to changing patterns in your child’s thought process and increasing coping skills, and thus changes the way they feel. ”
How do we model healthy ways of dealing with anxiety to our kids?
Parents should talk about their own worries out loud and how you address them, Dr. Thordarson says. “Walk your kids through your own process. For example, ‘I was nervous to go to work today because of my big meeting. What I did was, I went any way and I told myself that I would be ok.’Narrate your internal coping process out loud. Join them, and help them cope.
It’s Claire’s first week as co-host! We are talking body image in our 40’s. Kristen chats with author Richard Watts about the tricky task of letting our kids fail, and we sing the praises of the air fryer.
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We found the cutest little skate spot/coffee shop last night and had to go back again today. Three of the four insisted they bring their boards on this trip which was interesting (annoying and inconvenient) to navigate on the plane and in our tiny rental car. Feels good to find places to use them. @ridenature
Waffle House, then a stroll through a nature preserve, then sorting great-grandma’s buttons
and doing a puzzle with grandpa. A simple pleasures kind of a day.
On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from February 2009.
There has been more and more baby talk around the house this month, as we start really preparing for her arrival. (And by her, I mean the “baby who has no name”. Yeah. Still haven’t decided). Less than two more months till d-day! YAY! We’ve moved India out of the crib and into a bed. The crib has been outfitted with a mobile and adjusted to the correct mattress height for an infant. India’s closet has been taken over with infant clothes. Toys have been moved out of the room to make way for a baby swing. There is endless talk of her role as a big sister, and suggestions of how great it will be to have a new baby. Today, we pulled in the infant carseat and baby bathtub. Our house is ready.
And India’s reaction to all of this upheaval and change?
She has completely regressed to acting like a baby.
She walks around the house cuddling on her blanket (sometimes even laying on the floor with it). She pretends she can’t talk and speaks in goo goo ga ga phrases, pointing to what she wants (despite being one of the more verbally precocious toddlers I’ve ever seen). She found a pacifier somewhere, and has taken to wearing it. She pretends to cry and need consoling. She pretends she’s cold and needs to be held.
She is pretty much showing us, in every possible way, that she is not comfortable being usurped as the baby of this family system. We learned about this “regressive” behavior in my child development classes. But leave it to India to so thoroughly and dramatically personify this psychological theory. There is no subtlety with India – she is saying it loud and clear.
This is in stark constrast to Jafta, who cannot wait to see the baby, asks about her every day, demonstrates how he will hold her and feed her, and seems to be thrilled to be a big brother to one more little girl.
But India. Oh, India. It may be a rough road for her.