adolescents Articles

Alleviating Kids’ Distress

Friday, February 24th, 2012

anxious  red hairded kidParents worry a lot about their kids nowadays. Life has become more complex and the world seems to deliver a constant stream of unpredictable stressors, challenges, calamities, toxins and traumas. Parents naturally want to help their kids overcome these difficulties and succeed in life. In other words, they want their kids to feel happy, secure, and competent.

So naturally, many parents feel quite upset when they see their kids experiencing distress. At those times, they feel highly motivated to help their kids calm down. To accomplish that goal, these parents will often:

  • Explore what may be bothering their kids
  • Reassure their kids that everything will be alright
  • Hug their kids to help them calm down
  • Talk with their kids for as long as it takes to help them feel better
  • Find ways of making their kids feel better by giving them things they want (e.g., ice cream, money, etc.)

Generally speaking, one or more of these strategies will, in fact, result in both kids and their parents feeling better. There can’t be any problem with that can there? Well, actually there is.


Facing Fear

Friday, February 17th, 2012

We have been writing this blog for a few years. When we started, we decided to call the blog Anxiety and OCD Exposed. It’s been a long time since we have discussed why we decided on that title so we thought that new readers might want some explanation.

The term “exposed” may bring up a lot of different thoughts such as:

• Finding out that a politician was cheating on his wife
• Discovering a dumping ground of toxic waste
• The feeling of your hands when you forget to wear gloves in cold weather
• A politician taking opposite positions in the same campaign
• Not noticing the piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe
• The most effective treatment for anxiety and OCD

Research says that overall the best treatment for anxiety and OCD is a method called exposure. When people are afraid or anxious about something, they tend to avoid it. The more they avoid what they fear, the more fearful they become.

Exposure helps people face their fears in a gradual way. Most people find that after being exposed to their fear or OCD triggers, over a period of time, their anxiety decreases. The goal of exposure is not to eliminate all anxiety, but to make anxiety manageable.


Anxiety: Three Messages to Avoid Giving Kids

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

anxiety and kidsKids don’t generally develop anxiety disorders all on their own. Oh sure, genes and biology have some influence, but these factors largely just predispose kids in the direction of acquiring problems with anxiety. The wrong messages can push both anxiously disposed kids as well as otherwise normal kids in the direction of struggling with anxiety for the rest of their lives.

If you’re a parent or someone who cares about kids, you just might want to know what type of messages instill insecurity. I’ll start by laying out three common mistakes that parents make; in other words, the kinds of messages you “don’t” want to give them:


Media and ADHD

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

kids in the hallIt’s report card time here in New Mexico and I am getting lots of phone calls from parents who have recently had parent teacher conferences. By far, the biggest referral I get is for kids who are suspected of having attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD).

Almost 20 years ago, I began collecting material for my dissertation which was about the relationship between ADHD, empathy, and perspective taking (the ability to understand that other people have thoughts and feelings). At that time, I was curious to learn more about a disorder that appeared to be increasing within the population. The majority of researchers believed that ADHD was, in most cases, related to genes or a problem during the pregnancy or birth.


What is Social Phobia and Why is it Important?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

crying girlSocial phobia is more than shyness. It involves intense worry about being with people you don’t know, or fear of unfamiliar situations. People with social phobia worry about being judged or evaluated for their actions. And they predict that those judgments will be harsh, negative, and humiliating. They understand that their concerns are greater than warranted, but find themselves overwhelmed with strong feelings of fear. These fears lead to avoidance of people or situations that make them uncomfortable—not to mention terrified.

Children and teens with social phobia don’t answer questions in school even when they know the right answer. They don’t want to seek attention and can seem distant, unfriendly, and sometimes even arrogant to others. As adults, they may avoid speaking up at work, making presentations, being socially interactive, and being assertive. It’s understandable that those with social phobia are often underachievers—at school, at work, and in relationships.

People with social phobia usually don’t seek treatment for their condition. That makes sense, because they tend to avoid attention of any kind and rarely ask for help. They don’t want to make a call to a mental health professional or seek a referral from their medical provider. Those with social phobia may lead restricted, lonely lives because of their condition.


Seven Signs Your Kid Needs Professional Help

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Earlier this week, we wrote about seven signs that someone might need professional help. Parents often ask the same questions about their kids. They don’t want to send their kids to be evaluated if there’s nothing to worry about; after all, consulting a mental health professional costs time and money, and could cause a little anxiety in the process. By the way, we usually suggest a quick check in with the pediatrician first because signs of what appear to be behavioral, emotional, or learning issues can be caused by physical problems and medical providers often know who to go to for mental health help.

Since the signs differ a little for kids versus adults, here’s a list of seven signs that tell you if your child needs further assessment:


Preventing Anxiety from Taking Hold in Kids

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

We’ve paid special attention to kids’ problems with anxiety in a number of our For Dummies books, including “Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies,” “Child Psychology and Development For Dummies,” and “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies.” That’s because attending to anxiety early can help prevent the emergence of much bigger problems down the road.

I thought you might like to see some of these ideas in a snapshot. Here they are:


The Downside of Protecting Our Kids

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

protecting our kidsThe New York Times recently ran an article bemoaning the ever increasing focus on safety at our nation’s playgrounds. Today, you rarely see monkey bars and tire swings. And playground surfaces feel like walking on a giant sponge. Tall, fast slides have shrunk, leveled out, and slowed down. Signs warn parents everywhere about potential dangers.

But this emphasis doesn’t stop at playgrounds. When is the last time you drove by a school bus stop and saw only children? You’re just as likely to see more parents and caretakers than children waiting for the bus. Newspapers run articles all of the time that warn of potential dangers to kids. It seems that the media can’t get enough of these stories.


Taking Personal Responsibility

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

meringue pieI don’t generally watch television during the day. However, I have an injury that requires me to sit down with an ice pack a few times a day. So, I ended up watching a bit of the hearings with James and Rupert Murdoch (the family that runs News Corporation–a mega media conglomerate) at the English Parliament. During the time I was watching, someone in the audience threw, what appeared to be a plate of shaving cream, into Mr. Murdoch senior’s face.

After a break in the proceedings to clean up, the hearings continued. Mr. Murdoch was praised for his bravery in continuing after the trauma he experienced. The reason for the hearing was to establish who was responsible for hacking into phones of crime victims (including a young murder victim), deceased soldiers, politicians, celebrities, and possibly 9/11 victims.


Guilt and Innocence: Signs of Child Abuse

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

child abuseThe public seems to be mesmerized by the Casey Anthony trial and the verdict of not guilty. Frankly, we didn’t follow the trial or much of the media frenzy. We don’t really know anything about Casey’s allegedly dysfunctional family or what really happened to young Caylee.

Psychologists shouldn’t try to diagnose someone they have never met—it’s just not appropriate, ethical, or good practice. However, it does seem pretty likely that Caylee didn’t always have the care and attention that she needed in her short life.

Six million cases of abuse are reported in the US every year. About 5 kids die each day as a result of child abuse. Children are most often abused by a family or household member. We thought that given the attention that the trial has brought to the issues that a review of signs of child abuse would be appropriate. Here are some:


Anxiety & OCD Exposed



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Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. are authors of many books, including Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies and Child Psychology & Development for Dummies.

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