Do you find yourself with opinions about what the government is doing (or not doing) to deal with COVID-19? Do your opinions match your family’s? Your friends’? Your neighbors’? No? Well, you’re not alone.
Just like politics, sex, and religion, COVID-19 has turned out to be a topic rife with disagreements.
But if we’ve learned nothing else from this pandemic experience, it’s that relationships are important. In fact, it turns out they’re about the most important things in our lives.
I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers about how to communicate (effectively) with those with whom you might disagree about how this pandemic is being handled. Hint: keep those conversations civil and brief. Here’s a glimpse into the article:
I recently wrote an article over at Produce for Kids about how to help teenagers cope with the stress, anxiety, worry and grief caused by COVID-19.
Family game night, cute crafts and walks around the neighborhood are probably just not cutting it with the teens in your life. In fact, a Pinterest search for what to do with teenagers during stay-at-home orders turned up very little. And I don’t know about your teens, but mine just don’t want to spend endless hours with me learning new life skills. Ick.
I was reading an article recently about Farm Stress, and the overall mental health crisis that is going on within our country’s farming communities. The pain and suffering is real, and very upsetting.
While I am not a farmer or rancher, I can try to understand the extreme conditions of the job: It’s physically dangerous, unpredictable because of weather, crop prices, and international relationships. Farmers are also making up a smaller and smaller portion of our population (less than 2%), and tend to be more geographically spread out than in years past. All of these factors – and others – combine to create a pressure-cooker of stress.
People are taking notice, however, and working hard to help those who are suffering. I discovered some wonderful resources through North Dakota State University. Here’s one:
For more information on farm stress and how to cope, check out this article:
Hereâ€™s the bad news: Many millions of children in the United States deal with some type of mental illness. Here are some numbers:
9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis. 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem. 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety. 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.
Thatâ€™s a lot of kids! But hereâ€™s the good news: stigma around mental illness and psychological disorders is decreasing as more programs take aim at eradicating incorrect assumptions about mental health disorders and their treatments.
One of the best ways we can combat stigma around mental illness is by talking to our kids early and often about mental health and illness, as well as psychological treatment. The more we normalize these types of discussions, the better. Here are some tips for talking to your kids about mental health:
Be open about your own emotions. One way to help your kids become used to sharing their emotions, is by sharing your own on a regular basis. In a developmentally appropriate manner (i.e., using simple brief concepts with young kids, and progressively more complex words and concepts with older kids), try talking clearly about your own feelings: â€œGeez, that hurt my feelings when I didnâ€™t get invited to Jennyâ€™s birthday party,â€ or â€œIâ€™m feeling a little overwhelmed with all the work deadlines I have this month,â€ or â€œI am so proud of the hard work you put into that homework assignmentâ€
Be open about how you manage your psychological health. Try sharing with your kids what you do to manage your mental mental health. Sharing things like: â€œIâ€™m going to be taking a walk this evening. It was a tough day at work, and the fresh air helps me feel less stressed.â€ or â€œI am feeling a little down today, I think I might call Grandma. Talking to her always helps me feel better.â€ Again, we want to keep these conversations developmentally appropriate, and our kids arenâ€™t our therapists. However, sharing the healthy strategies we use to manage our emotions will provide them a template for when they need strategies to manage their own psychological health.
Make talking about mental health an everyday thing. We donâ€™t need to talk about the state of our kidsâ€™ mental health every single day, but itâ€™s best if it can be a pretty regular occurrence – say, a couple of times per week, for example. We want to get to a point where speaking about emotions and mental health is just as easy and normal as talking about the soccer team, your favorite TV show or the new super hero movie you want to see. Here are some questions to get you started: –â€What are you excited about these days?â€ â€œWhatâ€™s on your mind right now?â€ â€œHow would you describe your mood today?â€ â€œWhat are you worried about?â€
The possibilities are endless, and each family needs to find their own, unique language for talking about mental health. But hereâ€™s a quick tip: Try asking questions that are open-ended, these tend to produce much more interesting conversations than those that can be answered by a simple â€œyesâ€ or â€œno.â€
I was recently interviewed for the awesome Healthy Family Project podcast by Produce for Kids. If you haven’t checked out the podcast yet, you should! It’s full of interesting, helpful episodes.
I love being interviewed for podcasts. Maybe it’s that I like to talk a lot, but they feel much more useful than short, tip-filled articles. Especially when the topic is as nuanced as body image. I also love that you can listen while doing something else like taking a walk or driving to work. Here are some other episodes of Healthy Family Project that I’ve been a part of:
It’s back to school (and tutoring and soccer and football and piano and lacrosse) time!
Even though my kids start school in mid-August, I don’t really take the school year seriously until September. Probably not great, but I just can’t get my mind around dealing with homework, bus schedules and tests when it’s 100 degrees. So now that we’re into September and the mornings are cool (at least here in Colorado!) I’m thinking about how to prepare healthy meals and snacks for my family. And (maybe more importantly) how to help them make healthy choices for themselves.
Basically, Produce for Kids provides lots of easy, yummy ideas for lunches (and snacks!), you make the promise, and they and their partners donate to Feeding America. It’s a win-win-win!
So as I made the promise this year, I again focused on snack foods rather than lunch foods. My kids all buy their lunch at school, so what we really need to focus on is a healthy, easy snack time. Here’s what we came up with this year:
I don’t have a formal recipe, but I’ve been making these yummy snacks for years. I determine what goes in them based on what’s in my pantry. Here’s what I gathered today:
Sun-Maid Raisins, almonds, oat bran, oatmeal, a few mini chocolate chips I found in the way back, and peanut butter. In the past I’ve also added dried peaches, coconut, cereal and yogurt-covered raisins.Â Anything goes as long as it’s small:
Once you’ve gathered all the odds and ends, simply dump everything (except the peanut butter) into a bowl:
Mix that all up, then slowly add the peanut butter:
Stir the mixture around until it is combined. Test the mixture to see if you can roll it into a ball that will stick together. Does it come apart? Add more peanut butter. Go overboard on the peanut butter? Add more dry ingredients. Here’s what mine looked like:
It’s ready to roll!
Grab a sheet pan and cover with foil. You will also need a scoop of some kind:
One down, about 100 more to go! The nice thing is, the kids can help:
I usually store these in the freezer, they stay nice and firm that way. And when the kids are ready, they can pack them up for a healthy, energy-filled snack on the go:
They’re easy to eat, and actually fill them up until dinner – which seems to be getting later and later as they get older!
Join the club! It seems like arguments over screen time are part of the new normal for American families. In my series “Ask the Psychologist” over at Produce for Kids, I wrote about this very topic a few weeks ago. Check it out:
I’m so excited to be joining up with Produce for Kids for our new series: Ask a Psychologist. Last month I wrote a piece about how to cope when your child’s appetite is affected by medication. Here’s the intro:
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 6.1 million children in the United States had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the United States as of 2016. ADHD is a disorder that affects a personâ€™s ability to maintain attention and concentration. Those diagnosed with ADHD can struggle to get work done in a timely fashion at home, work and school; social relationships can be tough to maintain as well.
Luckily, there are several, well-researched options for the treatment of ADHD. Behavioral therapy/counseling is typically recommended as a first option. This type of therapy involves a psychologist working with both the child and their family to implement strategies to increase desired behaviors (following directions, controlling impulses) and decrease those that are undesirable (disruptive behaviors). Accommodations at school are also an effective line of treatment. These might include: allowing for movement breaks throughout the course of the day, allowing extra time for tests, and strategically positioning the child in the classroom to reduce distraction.
Another option for the treatment of children diagnosed with ADHD is stimulant medication. Medication can be an important and effective tool for families, but a not-infrequent side effect is loss of appetite. If you notice your childâ€™s appetite changing, or diminishing after starting a stimulant medication, itâ€™s important that you contact the pediatrician or psychiatrist prescribing the medication immediately so that you can troubleshoot together. Some ideas your health care provider might suggest include: