Have maternal pre-pandemic stress levels influenced children’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Have maternal pre-pandemic stress levels influenced children’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had a tremendous impact on many spheres of life across the globe, from physical and mental health to social and economic wellbeing. Preventive strategies aimed at curbing viral transmission levels, such as isolation and social distancing, have posed several challenges to affected families.

Quarantine restrictions have a proven influence on the social and emotional development of children and adolescents. Everyday restrictions such as school closures, quarantine, and the cancellation of outdoor activities have negatively affected many families. Moreover, external support from family members or social institutions has been limited, which has exacerbated the circumstances of many already stressed families. Study: Mothers’ daily perceived stress influences their children’s mental health during SARS-CoV-2-pandemic—an online survey.

A stable and secure family environment with mentally healthy parents is a strong protective factor for children. Ongoing research focusing on pandemic-related effects on children 3 and 6 years of age shows that compared to older children, younger ones are significantly more likely to experience symptoms of stress in their social and emotional development. Role of maternal daily perceived stress on the mental health of children during the pandemic

A recent study, published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health , assessed the role of maternal daily perceived stress on the mental health of children during the pandemic. They conducted an online survey to assess children’s mental health since the beginning of the pandemic. Data from a longitudinal survey was used to assess maternal perceived everyday stress. The survey included elements of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, and the Perceived Stress Scale. They also collected socio-demographic data of the families and applied Tobit models for estimation due to limited dependent variables.

They found that maternal perceived everyday stress had a significant impact on children’s emotional issues during the pandemic. The results provided empirical evidence for increased hyperactivity levels in children dependent on the mother’s perceived stress before the pandemic started. There was no significant relationship between the mother’s perceived everyday stress and behavioral problems of children. Lack of pre-pandemic protective factors and its influence on mental health during the pandemic

Existing studies on mental stress in parents and children mainly focus on the link between the pandemic and stress levels of parents and children. In contrast, this study considered longitudinally recorded maternal daily perceived stress. Maternal perceived stress was measured across the first years of their children’s life (starting from birth) and was not limited to stress caused by the pandemic.

There is a lack of literature estimating the influence of a combined measure of both the effects of pre-pandemic stressors and pandemic-related distress on health outcomes,” writes the team.

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Kids are feeling anxiety about a ‘return to normal’

Recently, I scheduled a playdate for my 6-year-old with a good friend she hadn’t seen in months because of the pandemic. She was so excited — until, suddenly, she wasn’t. As the day approached, my daughter grew more and more irritable. The day before, she demanded that we bake cookies and make signs for her friend. When I told her we couldn’t, she exploded in an angry meltdown.

After she calmed down, I sat down with her to try to figure out what was going on. She tearfully admitted that she was terrified: She worried that her friend wouldn’t like her anymore, which is why she was trying engineer the perfect playdate — to ensure that she could win her friend back after months of being out of touch.

If you, as a parent, have been experiencing anxiety about the “return to normal,” your kids are likely to be harboring similar feelings, perhaps even to a greater degree. “We’ve gone from pause to fast-forward,” says Rebecca Schrag Hershberg, a clinical psychologist who specializes in early-childhood social emotional development and mental health. “It’s just really overstimulating. For all of us, and certainly kids.”

On the one hand, these struggles can seem counterintuitive. Isn’t this exactly what we’ve been waiting for — for things to get back to the way they were? For our kids to once again enjoy birthday parties, camp and visits with extended family? Absolutely — but we also need to remember that big transitions can be hard for children. Going from hardly seeing anyone and not doing anything, to seeing everyone and doing everything, can be confusing and overwhelming.

It’s been more than a year since we led “normal” lives, which is a very, very long time for kids — especially toddlers and preschoolers. They may not remember what things were like before, so the return to normal may actually feel like a departure from normal — the changes may feel jarring instead of reassuring. Compared with who they were before the pandemic, little children right now “are facing the world as completely different people,” Hershberg says.

Some may also be struggling because they don’t understand why the activities they were told were unsafe during the pandemic are suddenly safe again, so it can be helpful to explain why. You can tell them, for instance, that there are scientists and doctors in charge who conduct research to figure out what’s safe, and that you listen to them and do what they advise. The very idea that there are people in charge of these big issues can be reassuring for kids, Hershberg says, and can help them understand that you have good reasons for changing your behavior.

Children are also still processing the challenges […]

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‘Kids are suffering’: School Counselor Corps to expand mental health services

‘Kids are suffering’: School Counselor Corps to expand mental health services

On the first day of summer school for Okmulgee Public Schools, high school principal LuVona Copeland noticed multiple students exhibiting signs of anxiety. On day two, a few more students were showing signs.

“I’m very concerned,” Copeland said. “I think it’s getting back to being in a routine, getting back to being around other people because those kids were not in school all year long, they were virtual. There’s just not enough help where we are to handle everything on a regular basis, and I know in the fall it’s going to be bad.”

State education leaders agree.



As part of its Ready Together Oklahoma initiative aimed at supporting students throughout the pandemic and beyond, the State Department of Education is investing $35 million into a School Counselor Corps, which will fund 50 percent of the cost of new licensed counselor positions at public schools.

“Schools [have been] starting to understand about trauma, what the statistics are in our state and the assistance students may need,” said Shelly Ellis, deputy state superintendent of student support. “I believe this is part of the next step to what we can do to help assist students.”

Even before the pandemic, Copeland worried about the mental health of the young people in her eastern Oklahoma district.

“We had a great need before because of the demographics of our population,” she said. “We have very high poverty, 100 percent of our kids eat free at school — lots of single-parent homes, a lot of kids who are living with grandparents and great-grandparents. We had a great need to begin with, but probably about October we had kids starting to reach out to us.”

Copeland said students began reaching out to her and their teachers to express the difficulties they were having coping with the pandemic and getting school work done.

“I’ve had kids that tell me they wake up and just lay there and they can’t get themselves going,” she said. “They might not use the word ‘depression,’ but that’s exactly what they’re describing.”

Copeland said socially-distanced visits made by district staff to the homes of students who stopped participating in school virtually revealed more concerns.

“I started having parents tell me, ‘You don’t understand, COVID is a blessing for our family. He’s going to be able to work a full shift out at Walmart, and we’re going to be able to keep the gas on,’” Copeland recalled. “There’s a lot of layers to this that I didn’t anticipate. If you’re 16 or 17 years old and it’s on you to pay the gas bill, you’re going to do that before you do your school work. But that absolutely affects them, and here we are trying to reel them back in.”
About five years ago, Copeland said Okmulgee Public Schools started the approach of focusing on the “whole” student, including their mental health and emotional well-being. The district was able to hire a therapeutic counselor in 2019 to handle crisis management, among other duties, at school sites district wide. Still, one mental health professional is not enough.

Continue reading the rest at nondoc.com

Tatler Experts' Corner: My parents divorced when I was 10 and it was awful. Now my partner and I are separating, how can we manage it without harming our children?

My parents divorced when I was 10 and it was awful. Now my partner and I are separating, how can we manage it without harming our children?

As part of the Tatler SOS Experts’ Corner, we delve into the subject of legal arrangements surrounding relationships. Here, Adèle Ballantyne from Eleda Consultancy shares her advice on managing a peaceful divorce without causing harm to your children.

When we have, as children, witnessed our parent’s painful relationship breakdown, it often leaves deep emotional scars that can impact on our own adult relationships.

If we then find ourselves in a situation where our own relationship has irrevocably broken down, fear for our children’s future happiness is kindled. We may find ourselves trying hard to ensure that they don’t have to experience what we went through.

As we begin the process of relationship breakdown, there is often a plethora of advice from family, friends and eventually legal professionals and certainly in the past the emphasis has been on ‘the fight’; who gets what?

Often it is the children, who as parents we want to protect, that inadvertently suffer and end up in the middle of that fight.

With the imminent advent of ‘No Fault’ divorce and the media coverage of celebrities who have chosen a kinder way to go their separate ways (think Gwyneth Paltrow and Adele), the narrative around how we separate is changing.

So, just how do we separate without causing emotional harm to our children?

INFORMATION, EDUCATION, TRAINING and SUPPORT are the four key elements to getting it right for you and your children.

When you get together as a couple, you never imagine that you will end up separating and so if it happens you find yourself in new territory. It can be so hard to know whether what you are doing is right.

Firstly, there is no hard and fast rule as to how you disconnect, every couple is unique and how you uncouple is entirely up to you.

Like most major decisions in life, we rarely make them without getting INFORMATION. So, get as much as you can from professionals who understand the process and who have much experience working with separating couples. The more information you have means you have more choices.

When we embark upon something new albeit an evening class or a job, generally we need EDUCATION to help us succeed. There are many professionals out there who can provide much needed understanding for newly separating parents. Somewhere, out there is the right professional for you. Someone who will help you to understand, not only the dynamics of relationship breakdown, but can provide you with coping strategies to get you through what might possibly be one of the most important changes in yours and the lives of your children.Every day we hear about individuals who jump out of their comfort zone and take on a life changing challenge, maybe competing in […]

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24 reasons children act out—and how to respond

24 reasons children act out—and how to respond

Here are some tips on how to better understand your child’s good behavior and less-than-great moments.

Whether they’ve drawn on the walls or spat in grandpa’s face, acting out is always a symptom among children—not the problem itself. “Acting out” literally comes from “acting out their feelings,” which means when children can’t express their needs and emotions in healthy ways, they will act them out through displeasing behavior. Here are some tips on how to better understand those feelings and get on track to good behavior.

The key to understanding “acting out” is to see it as a communication driven by an unmet need.

Just as a puppy doesn’t purposely provoke us by chewing up the couch, our children’s behaviors come as much more natural expressions of their internal states.

It’s so easy to jump to judgments like “he’s just pushing my buttons” or “she’s doing it on purpose.” But we’d be wise to remember that when children can cooperate, they generally prefer to. Here are some reasons that might really be at the root of the challenging behaviors—and some ideas of how to respond to them.
[…]

4. They’re worried about something

If your child is harboring a concern about an upcoming transition—such as moving houses, a new baby on the way, a new school, a new job, a new babysitter ora sick grandparent—they likely will not have the words to express that in a healthy way. Rather, they’ll begin to refuse the meals you prepare, to hurt other children or to breakdown in tantrums at Every. Little. Thing.

This is their way of trying to gain some control over their lives. When you have an inkling as to what the worry is, pick a calm and connected moment, such as bedtime or a long drive, and address it head on. Be sure to be honest, but also optimistic and empowering. Don’tt dismiss their worries, but help talk abouth what might happen and what they can do about it.

Teach your child to express their anger through words, songs, painting… We love to sing the mad song (below) and eventually break into giggles. The healing comes when the angry feelings are expressed and allowed by you—even if the behavior is not.

What to say: “Yikes. I know you know that cushions are not for drawing on. And I can see from your face how mad you are right now! Being mad is just fine, but ruining our furniture is not. Would you like to stamp your feet and sing a mad song? Let’s do it! Repeat after me! “I’m MAD MAD MAD! I want to be BAD BAD BAD! I feel so SAD SAD SAD! That makes me MAD MAD MAD!”

5. They’re afraid of something

Most children experience normal childhood fears such as fear of the dark, monsters or robbers. While they may be normal, they can also be deeply inhibiting and can set them on edge throughout the day. Rather than remaining calm and regulated, your child might act out with anger. Helping him find coping mechanisms to gradually face these fears is key in helping children overcome their fear and not be controlled by it.

Validate their fears but still hold the expectation for them to overcome them, with support.

What to say: “I do not like being yelled at. I can see you’re feeling pretty angry right now. Has this got something to do with the questions you were asking me about robbers before? I know there are none, and I want you to feel sure, too. Would you like for us to go through the house with a flashlight so you can feel satisfied there are no robbers here?”

6. They’ve been influenced by something

If children are watching violent TV shows or have neighbors, friends or cousins who are wild, destructive or disrespectful—they may well try on this behavior. We all unwittingly, imitate what we see around us. When I’ve watched too much Downton Abbey, for example, my accent skews far posher than usual. So if your neighbor has been reciting a foul-mouthed rap song to your daughter this morning in the yard, you can expect some of that to come through.

What to say: “Hmmm, using those words is not how we speak in our home. I know you might hear other people using that language but being respectful is very important to our family.”

7. They’re mirroring you

I know this one bites. But when we’ve been losing our cool, yelling, punishing, threatening, it’s safe to assume our children will mirror that behavior right back at us. So when my son says: “How dare you?” it’s nothing short of hypocritical of me to shoot him down with, “You will not speak to your mother that way,” because clearly, he got it from me.

What to say: “I know I’ve been yelling and raising my voice. I’m sorry. It’s important that we all speak kindly and gently to each other, including me. Can we start over?”

Continue reading the rest at www.mother.ly

Eating Disorders in Teens Have ‘Exploded’ in the Pandemic

Eating Disorders in Teens Have ‘Exploded’ in the Pandemic

 As a psychologist who cares for adolescents I am well aware of the prevalence of eating disorders among teenagers. Even still, I am stunned by how much worse the situation has become in the pandemic. According to the psychologist Erin Accurso, the clinical director of the eating disorders program at University of California, San Francisco, “our inpatient unit has exploded in the past year,” taking in more than twice as many adolescent patients as it did before the pandemic. Dr. Accurso explained that outpatient services are similarly overwhelmed: “Providers aren’t taking new clients, or have wait-lists up to six months.” The demand for eating disorder treatment “is way outstretching the capacity to address it,” said the epidemiologist S. Bryn Austin, a professor at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and research scientist in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital. “I’m hearing this from colleagues all across the country.” Even hotlines are swamped. The National Eating Disorders Association helpline has had a 40 percent jump in overall call volume since March 2020. Among callers who shared their age over the last year, 35 percent were 13 to 17 years old, up from 30 percent in the year before the pandemic.

What has changed in the pandemic?

There are several possible explanations for this tsunami of eating concerns in teenagers. When adolescents lost the familiar rhythm of the school day and were distanced from the support of their friends, “many of the things that structured a teenager’s life evaporated in one fell swoop,” said Dr. Walter Kaye, a psychiatrist and the founder and executive director of the eating disorders program at University of California, San Diego. “People who end up with eating disorders tend to be anxious and stress sensitive — they don’t do well with uncertainty.”

Further, eating disorders have long been linked with high achievement. Driven adolescents who might have normally poured their energy into their academic, athletic or extracurricular pursuits suddenly had too much time on their hands. “Some kids turned their attention toward physical health or appearance as a way to cope with anxiety or feel productive,” Dr. Accurso said. “Their goals around ‘healthy’ eating or getting ‘in shape’ got out of hand” and quickly caused significant weight loss.