Friday, 23 December 2016

Mothering a tween: Worse than post-partum depression?

Most moms think weathering childbirth and caring for a toddler will prepare them for the rest of their parenting days. While many, especially those who have struggled with post-partum depression, will find relief in having disposed of the challenges of such, new studies remind them of another parenting phase to face: rearing a tween, or a pre-teen.

The “mean tweens,” or the ages between 8 and 12, have come to be as dreaded as the terrible twos. Girls are typically more aware of this oncoming developmental stage two years earlier than boys are. Nevertheless, both sexes undergo physical changes, particularly in their secondary sex characteristics. They might feel awkward about their appearance. Hormones will drive their swinging moods. And what passes for their social life---negotiating the school hallways along with other insecure kids, knocking heads with bullies, earth-shattering crushes, identity crises---could make or break their attitudes about these years.

Image source :

Those could be too much to handle for the kids, but the parents (especially mothers, studies show) are equally steeped. Mothers report increasing frequencies of anxiety and panic attacks, driven by fears of not understanding their tweens and in many cases, not knowing what they’re up to. While infant care has less complicated guesswork but fussy methods, reaching out to tweens could sometimes feel like a shot in the dark, an emotional uncertainty that aggravates parental stress. The distancing of a secretive tween could strain relations with his or her parents, and even trigger depression among the latter.

Image source :

Psychologists prescribe parental behaviors that will be well-received on the part of tweens. Nagging and constant reprimanding might foster resentment. Parents are encouraged to be models of behaviors they want to see in their children and be open to hearing out and supporting their tweens’ healthy interests. The tween stage is a ripe time to fish out new skills, and parents could engage their children in sports or other outlets that distract from the often cruel induction to the teenage years.

Jonathan B. Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished psychiatrist, certified in both general and child and adolescent psychiatry, and an elected fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is an alumnus of the University of California, San Francisco’s Langley Porter Institute. For more insights on child and adolescent psychology, visit this blog.

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Importance of Teaching Children Emotional Awareness

Children in their twos, threes, and fours seem to be uncontrollable. Many people think it’s normal for them to throw tantrums, even if it meant an entire day of grumpiness. Meltdowns and tantrums are painful reminders that these children are not yet aware of how they can regulate their emotions. While many parents, teachers, and caregivers believe that children will eventually outgrow these behaviors, they can actually resort to teaching kids about emotional awareness. Below are ways how they can help a child learn to determine and control their feelings.

Image source:

Give emotions a name
When children cry, there must be a why. Instead of asking them only the “why ” teach them to identify the feeling by giving the emotion a name. For example, teachers can say, “You cried because you were sad daddy left. It’s okay to be sad.” Or, “Did you cry because you were mad John got your toy?” Putting a label or a name on feelings will help them learn about them better.

Make feelings or emotions normal
The phrase “boys (or big girls) don’t cry,” is detrimental to a child’s emotional awareness. Crying, laughing, and other manifestations of feelings should be deemed as normal. Of course, when the crying or the laughing is excessive or inappropriate, adults can call it out. But when young children are taught to bottle up their emotions, they might be prone to having depression or anxiety as they grow older as they’ve been taught that certain emotions are not acceptable.

Image source:

Develop empathy by teaching them to recognize another person’s feelings
Children who learn how to empathize respond to others’ feelings appropriately. Empathy is an important skill when building lasting, life-long relationships. When children discuss their feelings, it is best that caregivers liken the situation with them as “adults.” As children realize that adults and their peers have feelings, too, they learn to develop empathy.

Jonathan B. Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished New York-based child and adolescent psychiatrist. Read similar articles about child development by visiting this blog.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Keeping Them Calm: Managing Panic Disorders In Children

A panic disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder that a child or adolescent may develop. It is a condition that emerges spontaneously, and with lack of insight or awareness of anxiety disorders, children may attribute the panic to certain situations or environments.

Image source:
A panic attack is manifested by a sudden surge of intense fear, palpitation, dizziness, choking sensations or difficulty in breathing, sweating, trembling, and gastrointestinal distress, and children may be frantically screaming and crying. Behavioral changes include avoidance of going to places or engaging in activities that they feel would cause panic.

Panic disorders are treatable, usually through drug and behavioral therapy. One way parents can manage panic attacks at home is to teach and help the child understand the condition so that they know how to identify a panic attack episode. Parents can explain that anxiety is normal to help people prepare for danger, but can be a problem when the body thinks it is in danger when it is not.

Image source:

Parents can also help the child learn how to relax by teaching how to take slow, deep, regular breaths through the nose when they are starting to feel anxious.

Jonathan Lauter, M.D. is a certified general and child and adolescent psychiatrist based in New York. For more updates on child and adolescent mental health, subscribe to this blog.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Can One Inherit Depression?

There is great concern among parents on whether depression can be inherited. Recent medical studies have been conducted to find the possible relationship between depression and genetics. Initial conclusions are cautious, but many psychologists say that depression can be inherited – but only to a certain extent.

There is a new school of thought regarding depression. Mental health practitioners have now adopted a biopsychosocial view of this. Like any other physical illness, depression can be passed down to a child. This child is predisposed to the disease. However, there are other two factors to consider. Merely having the predisposition for the condition does not necessarily mean that the person will develop it. Family and social environment also play an important role in depression manifestation.

Image Source:

Depression is a mental illness. It can hit anyone, regardless of sexuality, religion, age, or circumstance. However, a common characteristic among those who suffer from depression is their poor coping mechanism. Diet and exercise also come into play. Nevertheless, coping strategies are an essential factor. It is related to the way people perceive experiences and how they can handle them. These strategies are often the result of early childhood interactions with parents and guardians. It is, therefore, important that parents not only teach their children good coping strategies but actively act them out them as well. Children typically learn through parroting behavior.

Image Source:

If a good family and social life are not possible, this can be honed through other means. Good friends, a trusting guidance counselor, or a visit to one’s child psychologist can be enough to help a child decrease the risk of developing the disease.

Jonathan Lauter, M.D., is a professional child and adolescent psychologist who specializes on depression and anxiety. Read similar articles on this blog.