Nationwide study says one in two children suffers from anxiety

Nationwide study says one in two children suffers from anxiety

24% of youths said they had received unwanted or nasty emails, texts or messages intended to hurt them A survey by leading psychiatrists among 755 children and youths aged five-16 has identified a staggering 62% being at risk of emotional problems and a host of issues which fell short of a mental disorder.

In a first-of-its-kind assessment of Maltese childhood and adolescence, psychiatric registrar Rosemarie Sacco said more youths need healthy coping mechanisms that can help them deal with challenging situations that will serve them into adulthood.

“We don’t want adolescents to grow up not being able to handle touch situations – we want the next generation to be capable of regulating their emotions effectively,” Sacco said.

The study was conducted by the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health and the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector, searching for the prevalence of mental disorders among Maltese children and adolescents, supervised by Dr Nigel Camilleri. A second phase of the study will be completed by 2022.

In what are the results for the first phase of the study, the study found that 60% were unlikely to have a mental disorder.

But the survey found that 23% of 5-10-year-olds and 39% of 11-16-year-olds were at risk of emotional problems; likewise, 27% of 5-10-year-olds and 27% of 11-16-year-olds were likely to have hyperactivity problems, and 23% of 5-10-year-olds and 26% 11-16 year-olds were likely to ave anxiety problems.

Sacco explained that some youths don’t score high enough to be classified with a specific disorder. However, these youths still have problems that will follow them into adulthood if not resolved. “These issues could affect school, and eventually work and in extreme cases can lead to unemployment,” Sacco said.

The study also touches base on how aware parents are of these issues in youths.

It found that 17% of parents had reported problems with them functioning as a family.

Breaking that down further, only 11% of parents said they were very concerned with bullying. 6% said they were very concerned with social media-related problems, 1% said they were very concerned with alcohol and substance abuse problems, and 0% said they were very concerned with problems related to self-harm.

Sacco highlighted that internationally, at least 50% of youths who reach the threshold to be diagnosed with a mental disorder are not. This figure could be higher for youths who do not meet the threshold.

“Not enough parents and teachers are recognising that youths are not coping – this results in them not being diagnosed.“This is why more awareness needs to be raised because there are youths who don’t reach the threshold yet are still suffering and not being given healthy mechanisms for later on in life,” she said.Sacco added that this extends to GPs: she […]

Why social norms around working moms should change

Why social norms around working moms should change

Women are not domestic servants; they may also have a professional life of their own and children should be able to understand this fact from an early age.

Working moms face real pressure

Motherhood is something most of us look forward to, with us preparing for it in the pursuit of happiness, but honestly, nothing can ever prepare you for it. We take classes, do research and speak to others to understand the systematic approach of parenthood. Moreover, we set larger than life expectations for ourselves on how to bring up a child from giving birth to nursing to the process of returning to work post-delivery. We have an exhaustive line of boxes to tick on our list. Nevertheless, none of these efforts can gear us up for pregnancy, delivery, caring for a baby and the life beyond.

Motherhood is demanding, constant, exhausting and it’s not an easy task to keep a child alive and thriving as the process is complicated with unforeseen circumstances. Mothering is in the details; the number of feedings, the monitoring of your baby’s weight and the hours the baby should be sleeping. The details are also in the efforts to get back to work after your maternity leave all the while nurturing and caring for your infant which is the key factor in determining the health and wellbeing of your child in the long run.

Many career-driven women, myself included, struggle to go back to work after maternity leave. It is a difficult task to leave the baby as many of us are unprepared, overwhelmed, challenged, and often confused. The demands of the corporate world and the demands of managing a house with kids are often a huge task as we as women often underestimate the cost of motherhood. The biggest issues are faced by women who have invested in their education, have earned degrees, want to maintain their careers and intend to be that ‘Perfect mom’ too. What we all fail to understand is that our cultures have placed us for perfection at home, work and social life.

The myth about a ‘Perfect mom’

Most parents get emotionally exhausted resulting in parental burnout. Parental burnout can result in reduced feelings towards parental responsibilities, accomplishments, and emotional distancing from their children. Looking to escape duties, sleep problems, addictions, suicidal ideation and neglecting family are some severe consequences for parents themselves.

A perfect mom relates to a highly successful working mother’s parenting, work outcomes and social likeability. It is also reported that the pressure felt to be a perfect mom is negatively reflecting on a woman’s work-family balance, which in turn leads to lower career ambitions.

Common challenges faced by working moms

1. Difficulty to maintain work-life balance

If a working mom cannot maintain a work-life balance, it can have a drastic effect on her emotional and mental health, forcing her to quit her job or take a step back from her career ambitions. It is proven that handling a professional job, attending to household chores and looking after kids are quite daunting for women as they fall for the societal pressure of being ‘perfect moms’.

2. Constant thoughts of guilt

As per societal norms, mothers should be the sole nurturers in the family looking after the children and supporting the spouse to achieve his dreams and aspirations. Mothers are truly one of a kind and they too have dreams and aspirations irrespective of societal norms. Hence, there is a constant battle within, with mothers carrying a sense of guilt as the judgements of the society loom over them if they are to choose their careers over home.

3. A rift between passion and obligation

It is only human for a person to have dreams and aspirations. A working mom tends to her family needs; therefore, it is always a battle between choosing what she wants to do vs what she must do. The constant rift between passion and obligation pushes a working mom to feel less motivated towards fulfilling her ambitions.

Shh … How a little silence can go a long way for kids’ mental health

Shh … How a little silence can go a long way for kids’ mental health

Amy Carson’s four-year-old daughter is ignoring her—and she doesn’t mind one bit. Pushing Isa in her pram, Carson is opting for a walk instead of a drive after a playdate to give them both a break from the thrum of life. The 15-minute soundless sojourns make a big difference.

“This silent time is really helpful for Isa after an outing,” Carson says. “She’s calmer watching the world go by while resting her head against the stroller than after a car ride, where we typically talk or listen to music.”

Any parent will tell you that that silence is golden in the orchestra that is family life. But it can also be good for a child’s mental health.

Silence works like a buffer between external stimuli and emotional processing. In other words, the lack of noisy distraction can help kids’ brains better understand the world around them. And in fact, multiple studies have shown that silence might boost feel-good oxytocin levels and therefore decrease stress, help focus and streamline thoughts, and promote a general calmness that allows their brains to learn to regulate their emotions.

“Children need an opportunity to strategically and safely disengage from a complex social world, step back, assimilate, and build a story of who they are,” says Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, professor of education, psychology, and neuroscience at the University of Southern California.

Of course, children and silence don’t exactly go together. One study published by a team of researchers at the University of Virginia and Harvard University showed that college students would rather administer a minor electric shock to themselves than sit in utter silence for 15 minutes.

“Life, especially with kids, is full of sensations and motion,” says Meghan Fitzgerald, co-founder and chief learning officer at Tinkergarten, an early education program focused on outdoor learning. “Anyone who has worked with children knows that asking for total stillness or silence is futile at best.”

Luckily, you don’t need to force kids to sit mutely in a corner to get the benefits of silence. Experts say quiet time—fusing soundlessness with calming activities like puzzles or painting—works just as well. Likewise, daydreaming can act like a staycation for children’s thoughts. Even focusing on calming sounds, like nature or hums, can centre children.

Basically, adding a daily dose of silence into a child’s life by creating pockets of low-volume space is like giving them a mental health multivitamin. Here’s how to get started.

The science behind the silence

For kids, silence is more than a mental time out. “A child needs silence to stay sound,” says Eric Pfeifer, professor for aesthetics and communication at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences in Freiburg, Germany. “It’s highly important to a child‘s development. Just imagine an orchestra and all its musicians playing non-stop without a pause. It would be an unbearable cacophony.”

Basically, silence minimises distractions, which helps children relax. And relaxation helps activate the brain’s hippocampus, which is important for building memories that support life skills like decision-making and empathy. As a result, during silent moments kids can streamline their thoughts, make sense of their emotions, and rewire their stress response.

Forget Tiger Moms. Now China's 'Chicken Blood' Parents Are Pushing Kids To Succeed

Forget Tiger Moms. Now China’s ‘Chicken Blood’ Parents Are Pushing Kids To Succeed

BEIJING — They schedule their children’s days in 15-minute increments. They scour online forums and swap tips on the most exclusive tutors and best sports coaches. Some even buy second homes next to the best public schools.

Forget Tiger moms. These are China’s jiwa or “chicken” parents, who are known for their attentive — some say obsessive — parenting style. The term is used to describe aggressive helicopter parenting, and comes from an unproven Chinese medicine treatment dating back to the 1950s, in which someone is injected with fresh chicken blood to stimulate energy.

Jiwa parenting culture, a relatively new phenomenon, is now in the crosshairs of Chinese authorities. At a time when the government wants to see families having more children and raising more future workers, it fears that hyper-competitive parenting pressures — combined with the meteoric growth of China’s private education sector, now worth billions — are deepening inequality and discouraging couples from having larger families, a priority of the country’s new three-child policy.

As more parents complain about the burnout brought on by jiwa culture, there’s concern that the financial and emotional toll is making many reluctant to have a second, much less a third, child.

The government is limiting private after-school classes

A desire to stay ahead and the belief in the power of education mean many Chinese families spend, on average, between one fourth and nearly half of their incomes on supplemental education activities, helping fuel the success of private education companies worth billions, such as New York Stock Exchange-listed TALand language tutoring startup VIPKid.

In July, the Communist Party and the State Council implemented sweeping rules to curtail the number of private after-school classes in which parents can enroll their kids. All education companies must register as nonprofits, and no new licenses will be issued to tutoring agencies catering to elementary and middle school students.

But the new rules have only made some jiwa parents more determined to maximize their kids’ chances of success.

“Because of these policies, parents are even more convinced of the potential [risk] for social immobility,” says Rainy Li, a Beijing jiwa parent of two daughters, one 11 years old and the other a toddler. “They are more eager than ever to propel their kids into elite circles, and more willing than ever to cut back on their own spendings in order to invest in their children.”

Some jiwa parents are more laid-back than others

Li’s days begin at 6 a.m., when she prepares to send her older daughter to school. At 3 p.m., she picks her up. Then there’s dance practice, an online math class and a swim session. They sometimes eat in the car in between activities. At 11 p.m., Li can relax and see her husband.

Early Childhood Education and the Four Key Benefits on Child Development

Early Childhood Education and the Four Key Benefits on Child Development

ECE or Early Child Education is considered to be a crucial period in child development. Although not mandatory by the Unites States Department of Education, the early childhood education is a fundamental stage in the learning.

The National Association for Early Childhood Education for Young Children (NAEYC) defines early childhood as occurring before the age of 8. It is during this period that a child experiences the fastest stage of growth and development, be it mental or physical. Their brains develop faster than at any time in their lives, so these years are crucial. In these years, they have established the foundations of social skills, self-esteem, worldview and moral vision, as well as the development of cognitive abilities; on all these important foundations, encouraging early childhood education that promotes healthy development and nurturing, trends show that parents I have come to realize this more and more. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the past 30 years, enrollment in pre-school education has increased from 96,000 to more than 1 million.

It’s a common misperception that early childhood education is only about learning basic skills. “It’s so much more than that, Says Dr. Jessica Alvarado, academic program director for the BA in Early Childhood Development at National University. Dr. Alvarado further explains it as: “It’s a time when children learn critical social and emotional skills and a partnership is formed between the child, their parents and the teacher. When this is done successfully, it lays the groundwork for it to continue throughout the child’s education.”

Here is what UNESCO has to say about it:

“Early childhood care and education (ECCE) is more than preparation for primary school. It aims at the holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing. ECCE has the possibility to nurture caring, capable and responsible future citizens.”

Simply put, early childhood education (ECE) helps children gain the necessary academic, emotional, and social skills to prosper in school and beyond. Benefits of Early Childhood Education

Socialization:

Interacting with people outside of the children’s family in a safe environment is an important part of the personality development of the child. As parents, we intuitively understand that it is important to introduce our children to other children and support them in transitioning to their own friendship group. We do our best because it can help children overcome shyness and gain confidence. If we leave this for too long, we will actually hinder their social development. Sharing & Cooperation:

Under the guidance of professionals who care about the best interests of children, learn to share, cooperate, take turns and persist in a safe […]

Not in the same boat

Not in the same boat

It has become almost trite to say that although we are all in the same storm, we are not in the same boat. Nonetheless, the papers in this special issue attest to the truth of this statement. Each paper provides a snapshot of how the parents and children on our planet are weathering this storm. When the pandemic struck, most research groups examining the emotional and cognitive well-being of children in face-to-face studies had to suspend their research. In every country, child developmental researchers pivoted to bring the science of child development to bear on how children and families were adjusting to the life-threatening nature of the virus and the economic and emotional threats posed by public health measures to contain and control it. The virus moved swiftly across the globe and so did the changes to children’s lives. No week was like the next as events rapidly changed. There was little time to spend carefully planning excellent studies. If as a field we were to capture the impact of this constantly changing beast, we needed to be in the field, yesterday. Consequently, like the first sentences of A Tale of Two Cities, it was the best of research, it was the worst of research. Child Development is far from the only journal pulling together research done on COVID-19 and its effects. Journal editors are culling through the reams of manuscripts on the pandemic generated in 2020 to identify those whose methods, results and conclusion deserve being in the archival literature.

MATERNAL DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS AND NEGATIVE MOOD

While the pandemic has been hard on children, it has really been hard on their mothers and/or caregivers. Three of the papers in this special issue compared maternal depressive symptoms pre-pandemic to during the pandemic. The three samples were very different. One group was not only pregnant but were well-resourced, highly educated, and living in the United States (Gustafsson et al., 2021). One was of low to moderate income who were part of a food insecurity longitudinal study. These were also living in the United States (Steimle, Gassman-Pines, Johnson, Hines & Ryan, 2021). Finally, the third group was living in rural Bangladesh, some families had no income after the pandemic struck (Pitchik et al., 2021). Interestingly, while the first two groups showed an increase in depressive symptoms on average, the third group did not. While the first two groups showed not only a marked increase in depressive symptoms relative to pre-pandemic, they also showed a decline in these symptoms as the pandemic progressed, perhaps partly reflecting a reduction in uncertainty. For the first group of more highly resourced women, school closures demarcated the marked change in worry and depressive symptoms, while for the other two groups, increased symptoms were related to food insecurity combined with other material hardships. This is not surprising as poverty and maternal depression have long been observed to co-occur (Smith & Mazure, 2021). Another perhaps an unsurprising finding is that social support buffered the effects of the pandemic on maternal depression (Gustafsson et al., 2021). Indeed, social support is well known to reduce depressive symptoms among those experiencing significant hardship (Taylor, 2011).

THE CHAIN REACTION OF HARDSHIP

One reason for concern about maternal mental health during the pandemic is that when the mental health of the mother or caregiver is impaired it often affects her children’s well-being. Studying the impact of material hardship, maternal depression and anxiety, and child functioning over the weeks and months of the pandemic, one group has written about the chain reaction of hardship (https://medium.com/rapid-ec-project/a-hardship-chain-reaction-3c3f3577b30). Several of the papers in this special issue also provide evidence that material hardship and lack of social support for mothers or caregivers is associated with a reduction in child well-being.

SELF REGULATION AND PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR

However, children are not passive entities on whom experience exerts its effects. It is common in research on negative life events to parse the events into those independent of the participant’s behavior and those to which the participant contributed. Certainly, a pandemic would be independent of the person’s behavior. However, in a number of the papers we see evidence that individual differences in self-regulation and prosocial orientation were important to both behavior and consequences during the pandemic.

Children with poorer self-regulatory skills and more behavior problems were found to experience more negative influences during the pandemic. In Eales et al. (2021), children with behavior problems engaged in more problematic media use during the pandemic. Hastings et al. (2021) found that among low-income families in Jordan, children who pre-pandemic scored more poorly on an executive function task, had families who were described as experiencing more negative changes in response to the pandemic.