We hope that you, your children and families are doing well in the midst of this unprecedented time. After carefully considering the CDC guidelines, we at The Children’s Center have decided that we will no longer be conducting therapy in our office at this time.
In good news, we have the capability to conduct appointments either over the phone or via Telehealth. We are happy to keep all appointments during this time. If you already have a scheduled appointment but you would prefer to postpone your to a later date or an alternate time, we are happy to do that as well.
We greatly appreciate your understanding during this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment at (561) 223-6568.
We are all so “connected” nowadays. Everywhere you look, you see people of all ages engrossed in the online world. Children are asking for cellphones at younger and younger ages, while parents often seem so attached to their devices that they barely pay attention to their children. This brings up the question of how being connected to your own phone and devices might be affecting your child.
A colleague recently told me what she had witnessed during her last dental visit: a father came in with two young children under the age of 6. All three of them were on their own devices (dad had a phone, each child had an iPad).
When the little boy was being examined, he was told he had his first loose tooth. The child was so excited and he kept exclaiming, “Daddy! Daddy, my tooth is loose!”
The father barely acknowledged this milestone, even after several attempts by his son to get his attention. Finally, although he did not even look up from his phone, he muttered, “Uh huh, that’s great.” My colleague’s heart broke when she saw how disappointed the little boy was with his father’s lack of response.
In effect, the father had just told his son that whatever he was looking at on his phone was much more important than his child.
Several studies and many experts say the answer is “yes.”
A 2015 study done by the online security company, AVG Technologies, found that more than 50 percent of the children who took part in the research ”felt that their parents checked their devices too often (54 percent); and their biggest grievance, when given a list of possible, bad device habits, was that their parents allowed themselves to be distracted by their device during conversations (36 percent) – something that made a third of the complainants feel unimportant (32 percent).”
How does this affect a child’s development? Children learn things like social cues, how to regulate emotions, and how to have conversations by watching and copying their parents. If a parent is hardly interacting with their child, it stunts the child’s development in these social skills.
In a recent opinion article in USAToday, Theresa H. Rodgers, a speech-language pathologist and the 2020 president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), stated that, “Many of my colleagues across the nation say they are seeing more children entering kindergarten with limited communication and social skills. Older children, they say, are unable to handle formal social interactions, like ordering from waitstaff at a restaurant.”
According to an article on NPR, after watching a mother ignore her smiling, babbling infant in favor of viewing a YouTube video, Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician who specializes in child development, began to wonder about the effects of cell phones on family relationships. This led her to conduct a study (albeit an unscientific one) with the help of two colleagues over one summer. Together, they observed 55 family groups who were eating at fast food restaurants.
What they found was “forty of the 55 parents used a mobile device during the meal” and seemed to focus more on their devices than on their kids.
When children feel ignored, they often act out to get their parent’s attention. In her book about parenting, called The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair talks about how parents who ignore their kids in favor of their devices are telling their children “they don’t matter, they’re not interesting to us, they’re not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them.”
Further, when Dr. Steiner-Adair did the research for her book, she interviewed 1,000 children, ages 4- to 18-years old. She kept hearing from the kids that they felt “sad, mad, angry, and lonely” when their parents were on their cell phones. This was so upsetting to them that some kids made a point of hiding or damaging their parent’s smartphones.
It can be hard to break your dependence on screen time, even though it’s what is best for your children (and, frankly, yourself). Try these ideas:
For more information and help with breaking your cellphone addiction, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.
One of the most quickly growing areas of clinical research and treatment implementation is for people who are considered to be overcontrolled. What does being overcontrolled mean, and what does it have to do with feeling socially anxious? The concept of self-control refers to the ability to inhibit problematic behaviors. This is generally accepted by our society as a positive thing to have! It is true that to an extent, being overcontrolled can be very adaptive and helpful. Overcontrol is associated with the ability to delay gratification, follow rules, and valuing accuracy and fairness. However, when these traits are very pronounced and overemphasized, they can become problematic and affect our mental health. It’s like having too much of a good thing.
There are common difficulties with people who have maladaptive levels of overcontrol. The first is low receptivity and openness. This can result in avoidance (a hallmark of anxiety disorders) and an aversion to having new or novel experiences. Also, there tends to be a strong need for order, structure, and rules. There is a focus on right and wrong, which we know is not conducive for more flexible thinking (which is important for decreasing anxiety symptoms). The third feature is reduced emotional expression and emotional awareness. This means that people who are maladaptively overcontrolled may not display emotions that one would expect (having a flat face when someone tells a joke), making it difficult for others to feel connected to them. The final trait that tends to cause difficulties for people is feeling a lack of closeness to others, and/or feeling different from other people. Loneliness and isolation are often experiences of those who are overcontrolled.
Given these features, it is not uncommon for people with chronic social anxiety to also be overcontrolled. The reliance on emotional and situational avoidance makes it difficult for people to learn new things (challenging their social anxiety) and feel connected to others. Their difficulty in successfully social signaling to others often results in them being disliked or rejected (a self fulfilling prophecy). People who are more overcontrolled also tend to engage frequently in social comparisons, which is also frequently observed in the socially anxious population.
The most effective treatment for disorders of overcontrol (which include chronic depression, treatment resistant anxiety, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, and anorexia nervosa) is called Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It is a skills-based protocol to help people struggling with overcontrol to be more open to experiences, and more emotionally expressive in order to connect with others in a more meaningful way. We are a social species, and when we feel disconnected from others, this impacts our mental health. RO-DBT is conducted both individually and in thirty-week classes. For more information, check out www.radicallyopen.net.
For more information, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.
It’s no secret that people are somewhat “addicted” to their screen time. Just look around you at any restaurant and you’ll see families and friends interacting more with their phones than with each other. The same hold true for almost anywhere you go: some people can’t even take their eyes off their screens when driving or walking, which has resulted in numerous accidents and deaths.
In a 2018 study done by the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of teens aged 13 – 17 said they were concerned about the amount of time they were spending online and on their phones. In fact, they were so alarmed about it that “Some 52% of U.S. teens report taking steps to cut back on their mobile phone use, and similar shares have tried to limit their use of social media (57%) or video games (58%),” according to the researchers.
Parents don’t do much better. The study reported that, “36% say they themselves spend too much time on their cellphone.”
Because of all the time spent watching screens, research is being done to find out the physical and emotional effects it might be causing for us.
Since phones and computers have only been easily accessible and affordable for people in the last thirty years or so, we don’t yet know the long term effects of screen time on the brains of kids or adults. But, we do know that, because children’s brains are still in the process of developing and growing, it seems likely that they would be affected by this technology.
The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study by the National Institutes of Health agrees. It has been following more than 11,000 kids, ages 9 and 10 years old, at 21 different areas throughout the United States. According to an article on Healthline, the initial results of the research show that:
The scary thing is that it will take many more years to discover whether these effects are the result of too much screen time or whether the differences were from something else.
So, does that mean adults are safe from the adverse effects of too much screen time? Actually, no.
Today’s adults have been estimated to spend more than 10 hours a day in front of screens (Harvard T. H. Chan School Of Public Health). Because the activity is sedentary, this exposure has been linked, in part, to higher obesity rates (which can lead to diabetes) and sleep problems.
Additionally, when asked, 15 percent of adults reported that they were more likely to lose focus at work due to checking their cellphone, which is double the number of teens who have trouble focusing in class for that same reason.
And, the Pew Research study indicates that more than half of teens (51 percent) say their parents are “often or sometimes” distracted by their own phones while in conversation with their child, leading to feelings of unimportance in the child.
For kids, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are often the result of too much screen time. A 2018 population-based study by Twenge and Campbell showed that after an hour of screen time per day, “…increasing screen time was generally linked to progressively lower psychological well-being.” The researchers also noted that, “High users of screens were also significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression.”
But maybe screen time isn’t bad if kids are texting or gaming together? After all, they are interacting with each other and developing social relationships, right?
Again, the answer is ‘no’. According to a Psychology Today article by Victoria L. Dunckley M.D., “…many parents mistakenly believe that interactive screen-time—Internet or social media use, texting, emailing, and gaming—isn’t harmful, especially compared to passive screen time like watching TV. In fact, interactive screen time is more likely to cause sleep, mood, and cognitive issues, because it’s more likely to cause hyperarousal and compulsive use.”
In addition to the physical and psychological effects, too much social media time can lead to problems with social skills and their application, as well as a decrease in self-esteem – in both children and adults. Furthermore, kids can be bullied online while sitting right next to their parents and they can’t get away from it.
For parents who are wondering how to limit their child’s screen time, the American Academy of Pediatrics set out updated media guidelines based on the latest research. They suggest:
For adults who are trying to limit their own screen time:
If you are concerned about your teen or ‘tween’s screen time amount – or your own – we can help you take steps to “disconnect.” For more information, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.
As more states legalize the possession and use of marijuana, we are beginning to get a clearer picture of the effects it can have on mental health. While more research is needed, we know there has been an upswing in suicides and mental health disorders in the states that have legalized the drug. So, what are the mental health risks of marijuana use?
The short term effects of marijuana use have been known for years. They include:
However, with long term use or with heavy use of cannabinoids, people are developing more serious mental side effects. This is particularly if the drug was initially used early in adolescence.
A 2016 study by Volkow, et al, found:
This is especially concerning because the study also reported that, “Currently, marijuana is the most commonly used “illicit” drug in the United States, with about 12% of people 12 years of age or older reporting use in the past year and particularly high rates of use among young people.”
Today’s marijuana is not the same strength as what people were familiar with in the past – cannabis is now much stronger. A review of the negative health effects of pot in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that, “Current commercialized cannabis is near 20% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive constituent of cannabis, while in the 1980s concentration was <2%. This 10-fold increase in potency does not include other formulations such as oils, waxes, and dabs, which can reach 80–90% THC.” And, as the potency of marijuana increases, so do the rates of mental health disorders and psychosis.
Age at first use of the drug also makes a big difference in developing mental health issues. A 5-year study by Di Forti, et al, that was published in The Lancet in 2019 compiled data from across 11 sites in Europe and in Brazil and discovered that the occurrence of first-episode psychosis increased exponentially in those who used marijuana daily or in high potency form.
Although the study authors reported that “Use of high-potency cannabis (THC ≥10%) modestly increased the odds of a psychotic disorder compared with never use… those who had started using high-potency cannabis by age 15 years showed a doubling of risk.” And, they said that, “daily use of high-potency cannabis carried more than a four-times increase in the risk of psychotic disorder.”
USAToday recently published an article highlighting the debate over cannabinoid induced psychosis. In it, they detailed the downward spiral of a young man who had once been a star high school athlete. After months of vaping a highly potent form of THC, he showed up at work on his day off, disoriented and speaking incoherently. Upon hospitalization, doctors diagnosed him with “cannabis use disorder” and “psychotic disorder, unspecified.”
If the young man stays off pot for a year and has no further psychotic symptoms or episodes during that time, he will join the growing number of pot smokers who have been identified as suffering from cannabinoid induced psychosis. The diagnosis takes a year to confirm in order to ensure the psychotic episode did not stem from another reason.
This person is not alone. For their story, USAToday also “interviewed a dozen parents whose children suffered psychotic episodes – some of which led to schizophrenia – related to their marijuana use. Several of the children died by suicide. “
The USAToday article went on to say that, “In May, more than 40 Massachusetts doctors, psychiatrists, pediatricians and other public health professionals urged the state to add psychiatric risk warnings to marijuana packaging and to prohibit most advertising.”
In addition to concerns about marijuana use and the associated mental health risks are the recent vaping illnesses and deaths that dominated the news this summer. THC-containing vaping products and e-cigarettes have been implicated in almost all the cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that people “should not use THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly from informal sources like friends, family, or in-person or online sellers.”
At this point, it is obvious that more research and time are needed to understand how marijuana affects the brain. Clearly, though, the drug isn’t as innocent as some people believe.
Talk with a compassionate child psychologist at the Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida. Contact us or call us today for more information at (561) 223-6568.
Sadly, bullying is more common than we like to think. Kids belittle and pick on each other for many reasons. In the past, adults often wrote off bullying as “kids being kids”, but we have learned that being subjected to this type of abuse can be devastating for the targeted child. And, now that computers and social media are commonplace, a bully’s harassment doesn’t have to be done in person – kids can be besieged by cyberbullying, too. So, how does online bullying affect a child’s mental health?
Cyberbullying can cause a child to have more physical problems (sleep disturbances, headaches, stomachaches) and issues with self-esteem. A child who is bullied is less able to learn and adjust in school and more likely to have “depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school” as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In extreme cases of online bullying, children have even been so traumatized that they have taken their own lives.
In addition, bullying also affects the child who is carrying out the harassment, resulting in a higher risk of substance abuse, problems in school, and violence in their teen years and in adulthood.
According to the U. S. government website, StopBullying.gov, “Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.”
An article on VeryWellMind about cyberbullying and depression in kids notes that, “Victims of cyberbullying can experience symptoms of depression including sadness, loneliness, insecurity, poor self-esteem, academic decline, feelings of not belonging, and suicidal thoughts and behavior.”
Because online bullying can be done 24/7, kids cannot escape it in the same way they might be able to avoid harassment in person. This can add to the victim’s depression and feelings of helplessness.
A 2012 study by Low and Espelage, the authors noted that there are “…relations between bullying behavior and more conflictual and harsh parenting styles…as well as low parental monitoring.” They report that, “it can be hypothesized that family conflict and ineffective monitoring would heighten bullying perpetration indirectly via (a) risk behaviors such as alcohol and drug use (AOD) and (b) impairments in social competency and self-regulation, manifested in hostility, depressive symptoms, and reduced empathy.”
In cyber space, people feel anonymous, so they often say or do things they might not ordinarily. Kids can post something about someone or put up demeaning photos of another person without feeling much responsibility for their actions. Plus, because the trauma is done online, they don’t actually see how their attacks hurt the targeted child, so they don’t feel the same guilt that they might if they bullied in person.
StopBullying.gov lists the following warning signs that could indicate that your child is either being cyberbullied or is bullying someone else:
To prevent or stop online bullying, if you notice changes in your child’s behavior, try to:
For Teens And Adolescents
Cyberbullying can cause depression, anxiety, PTSD and other concerns for the child who is targeted. We can help your teen or adolescent handle their emotions and the way they manage online bullies. Talk with a compassionate child psychologist at the Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida. Contact us or call us today for more information at (561) 223-6568.
When you are a parent, you always want what’s best for your child. This leads to seemingly millions of dilemmas over the course of the child’s life and one of the biggest is trying to figure out what type of school is best for them.
Nowadays, parents have many different choices in education for their children. One child may do well in a traditional public school, while another might excel if they are in a gifted program or in one that offers academics geared more towards the child’s interests, such as a STEM school. But, how do you know which is the right environment for your child’s specific needs?
There are several types of schools, each featuring a certain learning structure. Parents must decide between public schools and private, as well as charter, choice, gifted, cluster, magnet, lab schools, and homeschooling. So, obviously, the first step in choosing a school is to understand what each type of school setting will offer children.
Public schools are located within a community and district. They generally must admit all students who live within the district. These schools get their operating money from local, state, and federal funding.
Most public schools are within or near neighborhoods. Sending your child to a public school makes it easy for them to get there and they usually will attend classes alongside friends from their area.
Some public schools are more specialized. For example, they might focus on certain subjects or be designed to help struggling students stay in school. An example is an alternative high school, which typically offers classes in a trade, such as hair styling or electrical work, to encourage teens to finish their education while getting early training in a career.
Charter schools are public schools with more autonomy than a traditional public school. They are run independently from the restrictions of a public school, so they can provide an intensive focus on a particular curriculum. One charter school might be geared toward college prep while another incorporates STEM components (science, technology, engineering and math) into each class.
Charter schools are held accountable to and operate under a contract (the “charter”) they have entered into with a charter school authorizer. These authorizers might be a university or college, a nonprofit organization, or may be part of a government agency.
Magnet schools (cluster schools) are also public schools. As with charter schools, magnet schools give students an education in a particular subject concentration (a cluster) of STEM subjects, languages, or the arts. Students who excel in science might want to go to a charter school that emphasizes science, for example.
Some magnet schools will accept any student who wishes to attend there, others may require the student pass a test or show they excel in a particular skill before they can be admitted.
Private schools are not funded by state or federal tax dollars – instead, students must pay a tuition fee in order to attend. These schools typically provide religious-based educations, but some are secular. Private schools either offer focused programs or they educate children according to a specific teaching philosophy (example: a Montessori school).
School choice is found in public schools and has two forms:
If you wish to move your child through school choice, the U. S. Department of Education says, “Districts must pay for students’ transportation costs, giving priority to low-income, low-achieving students if there are not enough funds available to pay for all students.”
All states offer some type of gifted-specific education. Some offer advanced classes, others provide for acceleration of the student’s grade or curriculum. Some states also have gifted high schools.
Generally operated by universities or colleges, lab schools provide a curriculum taught by teachers in training, under the guidance of the college’s education department. These schools offer a way for the educators to try out their methods and theories and give the student teachers a way to learn how to teach, firsthand.
There are many things to consider when choosing a school for your child. Obvious factors are your child’s needs and interests (i.e.: gifted, special education, or a particular focus, such as music or math), along with the school’s ability to provide the type of education you would like your child to have.
You also will want to think about:
It can help your decision to visit the school and take a tour. Is the school well maintained? Speak with some of the teachers to gauge their enthusiasm for working with the kids. Check out classrooms and watch how the students behave between classes or in the classroom.
Changing schools can be stressful for kids. Usually kids bounce back after a period of adjustment, but sometimes a big change can have a long lasting effect on a child. If your child is struggling in school, is anxious or sad, or has developed behavior that is concerning, they may have an undiagnosed learning disorder, depression, or other mood disorder.
Don’t ignore a problem – talk with a compassionate child psychologist at the Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida. Contact us or call us today for more information at (561) 223-6568.
It is October – a time for pumpkins, Halloween…and breast cancer awareness. The numerous pink ribbons we’ll see this month focus attention on the many women (and men) who are facing a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. But what about the kids who have a parent or primary caretaker with cancer? For a child, coping with a loved one’s diagnosis can be particularly traumatic.
In this article, we’ll answer your questions about the best ways to discuss a parent’s cancer diagnosis and give you some ideas for supporting a child whose parent has cancer.
Absolutely – and this applies even to young children. Although your first instinct is to shield your child from a harsh reality, kids need to have open, honest conversations with their parents – no matter the prognosis. Imagine how much more upsetting it could be to know there is something wrong, but not knowing what it is.
When you first talk to your child about a cancer diagnosis, do it privately and be sure to set aside enough time to answer their questions. If you don’t know the answers, let them know that you will do some research and get back to them.
“The most important thing is to communicate openly, honestly and frequently,” say social workers, Wendy Griffith and April Greene, with the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. “Children tend to think in very concrete terms and like to know what’s going on and what to expect.”
Keep in mind, too, that many people’s first reaction to a cancer diagnosis is the fear that the person will die. Children who are old enough to understand the concept of death will understandably be concerned about that possibility as well, even if they don’t ask.
Ms. Griffith and Ms. Greene recommend using “the 5 C’s” when you discuss a cancer diagnosis with your kids:
When talking to children about cancer, consider the age of the child and keep it simple, but informative. Just lay out the facts:
When discussing cancer treatments with a child, gear your explanation to the child’s age level. Young children need to know the basics, while teens and tweens will likely want a more in-depth explanation:
The National Cancer Institute has a free, comprehensive guide for teens whose parent or loved one is facing cancer. It is available in a PDF, a Kindle version, and ePub form and the information can be scaled down to help younger kids.
Children will worry about their parent’s health and will also likely feel some resentment that life has upended for everyone. They may also feel guilty, sad, and angry.
To help your child cope:
If your child is struggling with the cancer diagnosis of a loved one, talk with a compassionate child psychologist at Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida. Contact us or call us for more information at (561) 223-6568.