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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Being the Dad You Want to Be

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their … children than the unlived life of the parent.” — C. G. Jung

Although I’m writing this before Father’s Day, this won’t be published until several days after June 20th. How seriously we think of fathering is something I wanted to consider.

Traditionally, our patriarchal culture has promoted men to be the head of their families, to be the strong protector, the dominant one in relationships. Yet, the outdated stereotype of fathers is not helpful to children and can often be damaging. The good news is that many more dads are now sharing the valuable role of raising their children. They continue to be important figures in their children’s lives, both in intact as well as divorced families.

Of course, not all father-child relationships are created equal. As much as many dads embrace their relationship with their children, there are indeed differences in how men view their role. Much of this depends on their family of origin, childhood trauma, and their ancestral patterns of fathering. Typically, boys learn very early to be strong rather than to feel. Between the ages of 4 and 6, they can easily be disconnected from their feelings, as they experience shame with emotional expression. As they mature, their need to fit in with peers becomes more important. Admitting vulnerability, sadness, or defeat can quickly bring rejection or the withdrawal of support from their peer group, compromising their self-confidence.

The pressure for boys to always be strong is demanding — as such a large part of life experience is about hurt, sadness, frustration, disappointment, and many other vulnerable feelings, boys miss out on developing their emotional intelligence. We can’t expect men to seamlessly transform into emotional partners or nurturing fathers if they haven’t been raised to be tender, open-hearted. As boys grow older, any “recovery” must happen in private, rather than risk shame. When they finally emerge from isolation, having suffered in silence, those feelings have been internalized. Thus, parents might only witness the withdrawal, without understanding the reasons or the distress signals. It’s important to change this pattern by responding differently to boys. Providing a safe environment in which they remain in touch with their feelings, we need to also be aware of our shaming reactions to our boys. The unconditional love and acceptance of them, regardless of their behavior, builds healthy self-esteem.

In thinking about how all this relates to fathers, boys ultimately grow into the men who become the next generation of husbands and dads. What expectations do we have? Women want soul mates, intimate friends/partners. We observe their interactions with our children through a critical lens, expecting emotional nourishment, close connection, warm engagement. Some dads can easily provide this, while others fall short of meeting those expectations, spending much of their parenting years being reminded of their shortcomings, retreating from any emotional connection. Yet fathers play such a valuable role in their children’s experience, offering a different lens on the world.

Continue reading the rest at freepressonline.com

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 […]

Continue reading the rest at www.washingtonpost.com

7 positive lockdown activities to practice as a family

7 positive lockdown activities to practice as a family

Maintaining a balance in life can be difficult but it’s not impossible.

A lot has been always talked about and written of mandatory restrictions that are imposed, in order to control the transmission of the coronavirus , but unfortunately not a lot of importance has been given to the mental crisis caused by this virus, which today is overriding everyone’s emotions, be it of kids or elders. According to the latest report issued by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, mental issues like stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, insomnia, denial, anger and fear have been reported globally.

Apart from individual sufferings, Covid-19 has also placed a heavy burden on families, with parents who are still not settled with navigating their work-life balance and kids unable to gear up with virtual learning.

Maintaining a balance can be difficult but it’s not impossible. Families, by coming together, can open many routes of positive thinking and make changes that suit their lifestyle at this given time. Here are some positive activities that families can practice during a lockdown to stay sane.

1. Exercise

This may sound quite ordinary but here’s a reminder why it is important to add exercise to your family’s calendar. Since connecting as a family is becoming more and more difficult these days, due to an excessive distraction from devices that vie for our attention throughout the day. It’s important to bring everyone in the family under one roof at least during the beginning and by the end of the day.

With this new sedentary lifestyle due to virtual classes and work-from-home schedules, everyone tends to move really less, however physical exercise is an opportunity to get everyone together and improve the well-being of all family members.

Some more reasons to practise physical activities as a family: Any physical activity signifies your healthy lifestyle choices; modelling it as a family practice will help you set an example as a parent.

While exercising, awareness plays an important role and it makes one feel fully present and engaged with the family.

Apart from these reasons, the primary aim is to set an intention of belonging and an environment of connection, which can act as a driving force for everyone in these difficult times.

2. Have a family screen time

This may sound bizarre, especially when parents are talking about limiting screen time , but indulging in movie time can help parents spend some extra time with their children and maintain their sanity levels. Parents can introduce their children to some old classics like Mrs. Doubtfire; Dr. Doolittle; Sound of Music; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and The Avengers so that they are not stuck to Tom and Jerry […]

Continue reading the rest at indianexpress.com

‘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

Try these 5 ways to practice mindfulness with your kids

Try these 5 ways to practice mindfulness with your kids

Back when Travis M. Spencer’s daughter was in fourth grade, there were times when she struggled to fall asleep. On those nights, Spencer used to take a few minutes for mindfulness.

First, Spencer invited her to list a few things she was grateful for. That usually included friends or a favorite video game.

“I’m like: ‘I’m glad that you’re noticing those things,'” said Spencer, a mindfulness educator and the executive director of the Institute of African American Mindfulness in Washington, D.C. “Let’s hold onto that feeling and that goodness you’re feeling right now. And maybe just take a breath or two as we’re falling asleep.”

Spencer’s work in mindfulness goes beyond the home. He trains teachers and students in practices designed to increase awareness of the present moment. It’s an approach that’s grown in recent years, with mindfulness programs appearing in classrooms and other education settings. Travis Spencer, a mindfulness educator, teaches children and adults how to develop their awareness and focus. It helps develop their attention and focus, Spencer said, but also helps kids notice their feelings, physical sensations and the world around them. Such practices could help kids with anxiety , stress and other mental health issues , research shows.

“Mindfulness to me is like a superpower for children,” he said. “The more they can feel connected to themselves, to others and to their environment, the more they can thrive and feel supported, and feel like they can do whatever they want to do.”

You don’t need to be an expert to try mindfulness with kids. Trying mindfulness together can be powerful, said Susan Kaiser Greenland, a mindfulness expert and the author of ” Mindful Parent, Mindful Child: Simple Mindfulness Practices for Busy Parents .”

“Modeling is key,” Kaiser Greenland said. “The true benefit of it is not just bringing in an outside mindfulness teacher like you bring in a piano teacher. Where it really starts is with the parent themselves.”

In fact, it can sometimes help for parents to experiment on their own first, Kaiser Greenland said. (You can begin right now with one of these five 1-minute mindfulness techniques .)

Or you can make it a shared endeavor. We’ve got five great ways to practice mindfulness with your children — and Kaiser Greenland said it’s never too early (or too late) to start. 1. Try mindful breathing

Breathing is among the most common mindfulness practices. Often, mindful breathing means choosing one sensation — such as the breath in your nostrils or the rise and fall of your chest — and bringing your attention there.

You can try it for 30 seconds or five minutes. When you get distracted, simply redirect your attention back to […]

Continue reading the rest at www.cnn.com