First Mondays

By The Institute for Child Development and Family Relations, Cal State San Bernardino

“8 Things to Remember about Child Development” Recommendations from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child

Early Childhood development is a major focus of the Institute for Child Development and Family Relations. Researchers at the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, who share our concerns, have written the following article highlighting 8 factors important for the healthy growth and development of infants and young children. You can visit their site below to learn more about the topic:

http://developingchild.harvard.edu

8 Things to Remember about Child Developmentimgres-1

Building on a well-established knowledge base more than half a century in the making, recent advances in the science of early childhood development and its underlying biology provide a deeper understanding that can inform and improve existing policy and practice, as well as help generate new ways of thinking about solutions. In this important list, featured in

the From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts report, the Center on the Developing Child sets the record straight about some aspects of early child development.

1) Even infants and young children are affected adversely when significant stresses threaten their family and caregiving environments.

Adverse fetal and early childhood experiences can lead to physical and chemical disruptions in the brain that can last a lifetime. The biological changes associated with these experiences can affect multiple organ systems and increase the risk not only for impairments in future learning capacity and behavior, but also for poor physical and mental health outcomes.

2) Development is a highly interactive process, and life outcomes are not determined solely by genes.

The environment in which one develops before and soon after birth provides powerful experiences that chemically modify certain genes in ways that then define how much and when they are expressed. Thus, while genetic factors exert potent influences on human development, environmental factors have the ability to alter family inheritance. For example, children are born with the capacity to learn to control impulses, focus attention, and retain information in memory, but their experiences as early as the first year of life lay a foundation for how well these and other executive function skills develop.

3) While attachments to their parents are primary, young children can also benefit significantly from relationships with other responsive caregivers both within and outside the family.

Close relationships with other nurturing and reliably available adults do not interfere with the strength of a young child’s primary relationship with his or her parents. In fact, multiple caregivers can promote young children’s social and emotional development. That said, frequent disruptions in care and high staff turnover and poor-quality interactions in early childhood program settings can undermine children’s ability to establish secure expectations about whether and how their needs will be met.

4) A great deal of brain architecture is shaped during the first three years after birth, but the window of opportunity for its development does not close on a child’s third birthday.

Far from it! Basic aspects of brain function, such as the ability to see and hear effectively, do depend critically on very early experiences as do some aspects of emotional development. And, while the regions of the brain dedicated to higher-order functions—which involve most social, emotional, and cognitive capacities, including multiple aspects of executive functioning—are also affected powerfully by early influences, they continue to develop well into adolescence and early adulthood. So, although the basic principle that “earlier is better than later” generally applies, the window of opportunity for most domains of development remains open far beyond age 3, and we remain capable of learning ways to “work around” earlier impacts well into the adult years.

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5) Severe neglect appears to be at least as great a threat to health and development as physical abuse—possibly even greater.

When compared with children who have been victimized by overt physical maltreatment, young children who experienced prolonged periods of neglect exhibit more serious cognitive impairments, attention problems, language deficits, academic difficulties, withdrawn behavior, and problems with peer interaction as they get
older. This suggests that sustained disruption of serve and return interactions in early relationships may be more damaging to the developing architecture of the brain than physical trauma, yet it often receives less attention.

Each state defines the types of child abuse and neglect in its own statute and policy, guided by federal standards, and establishes the level of evidence needed to substantiate a report of maltreatment. The data above, from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), reflects the total number of victims (defined as a child for whom the state determined at least one report of maltreatment was found to be substantiated or indicated) as reported by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, between Oct. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010. “Other” includes abandonment, threats of harm, and drug addiction. Click image for full-size, shareable version.

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6) Young children who have been exposed to adversity or violence do not invariably develop stress-related disorders or grow up to be violent adults.

Although children who have these experiences clearly are at greater risk for adverse impacts on brain development and later problems with aggression, they are not doomed to poor outcomes. Indeed, they can be helped substantially if reliable and nurturing relationships with supportive caregivers are established as soon as possible and appropriate treatments are provided as needed.

7) Simply removing a child from a dangerous environment will not automatically reverse the negative impacts of that experience.

There is no doubt that children in harm’s way should be removed from dangerous situations immediately. Similarly, children experiencing severe neglect should be provided with responsive caregiving as soon as possible. That said, children who have been traumatized need to be in environments that restore their sense of safety, control, and predictability, and they typically require therapeutic, supportive care to facilitate their recovery.

8) Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism.

The capacity to adapt and thrive despite adversity develops through the interaction of supportive relationships, biological systems, and gene expression. Despite the widespread yet erroneous belief that people need only draw upon some heroic strength of character, science now tells us that it is the reliable presence of at least one supportive relationship and multiple opportunities for developing effective coping skills that are the essential building blocks for strengthening the capacity to do well in the face of significant adversity.

 

For more information about this topic or others related to child development please visit Harvard’s site at http://developingchild.harvard.edu

 

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Talking to Children About Traumatic Events

Recently the Institute for Child Development and Family Relations at Cal State University, San Bernardino experienced a lock down due to a shooting incident at a nearby elementary school. We soon learned that four individuals had been shot at the school including a teacher, two students and the gunman. Although we would like to believe that this is an isolated event, it is becoming clear that violence in our work places and schools is increasing. With the growth in frequency comes amplified news and media coverage. We are almost constantly bombarded with images of violence. Our children are also exposed to these events, if not directly then through television, social media, listening to family or other grownups, or talking with friends.

How do parents, teachers, family members or other concerned adults talk with the children in our lives when a traumatic event occurs? We reached out to child development expert Dr. Laura Kamptner for some suggestions. Dr. Kamptner is a Professor at CSUSB in the Department of Psychology and Human Development. She had several recommendations including:

  • Keep children away from television news coverage or other overly sensationalized news sources.
  • Ask the child what they have already heard about the event and what they think happened. This will help you to see if the child has any misconceptions or has acquired misinformation about the incident. After a tragedy, false information that sensationalizes the event is often spread.
  • Use language that matches a child’s age/developmental level. As an example, Dr. Kamptner suggested that for elementary children who experienced or heard about the recent shooting saying something like “A man was very angry at a woman he knew and wanted to hurt her. Some people cannot control their behavior or how angry they get, and this makes them unsafe to be around. The children at the school were taken out of the school because the teachers didn’t want them to get hurt too. Then the parents came and took their kids home.”
  • Children may ask further questions. If they do, answer them simply and honestly but without gory details. When answering, try to emphasize how you and the teachers at the school are going to keep them safe.

Dr. Stacy Forcino, an incoming Assistant Professor of Psychology at CSUSB, suggested to normalize and validate the child’s feelings. You can say something such as “I understand that you are nervous about going to school. I bet some of your classmates are too. It’s normal to feel worried after hearing news like this.” Remember to remind them that these types of events are very unusual. School is a very safe place to be. You can also talk about the procedures in place at school and home that help keep them safe.

She also recommends expressing your own emotions in a controlled way and model positive coping and open communication. For example, if your child talks about feeling sad, you might say “I feel sad about that too. When I feel sad, I talk to my family and friends about what’s making me feel that way. That usually helps me feel much better. I’m glad that you are talking to me now.”

Dr. Forcino encourages concerned adults to look for warning signs that a child is having a particularly difficult time coping with their feelings about the incident. Changes or problems with sleep, loss of interest in activities, changes or problems in eating or appetite, nightmares, persistent worry, resistance going to school, headaches or stomachaches, irritability, behavior problems, and/or difficulty concentrating could be cause for concern. If you do have concerns about a child, talk to your pediatrician or a mental health professional.

You can find more information online at The National Child Traumatic Stress Network at www.NCTSN.org.

About Our Contributors:

 

  • Dr. Stacy Forcino is a licensed clinical psychologist and adjunct instructor in the Psychology Department at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB). She is a clinical supervisor in CSUSB’s Community Counseling Center ((http://ccc.csusb.edu/contactUs/index.htm), where she and her students treat children and adolescents with behavioral and emotional problems.   
  • Dr. Laura Kamptner is a Professor of Human Development in the Psychology Department at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB). She teaches courses on child and human development, parenting, and the history of childhood. She is also involved with the Institute for Child Development and Family Relations at CSUSB, with the Parenting Center and Science of Parenting Projects.
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First Mondays delayed for Spring Break

First Mondays will not have a posting this Monday but will return next month.imgres

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Time for Sleep: Adjusting your children to Day Light Saving Time

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Children need sleep; a lot of it. In fact, research indicates that getting adequate sleep is more than a luxury. It’s a biological necessity; as important to good health and well-being as is proper nutrition and exercise. Children who receive inadequate sleep over an extended period can be expected to exhibit symptoms of sleep deprivation. Thus, it is not surprising that sleep loss has been shown to negatively impact cognitive functioning and daytime behaviors. Children’s sleep deprivation has been linked to decreased memory, attentiveness, and organizational skills. Sleep loss in children has also been associated with increased anxiety, agitation, endocrine disorders, and hyperactivity (Gregory & Sadeh, 2012).

Inadequate sleep for school-age children may be a greater problem today than in the past. Some researchers have suggested that children’s active lifestyles, increased homework assignments, and other pressures of growing up in a 24/7 society may be contributing to images-3the decreased levels of nightly sleep noted in the school-aged population. Evening television viewing, surfing the Internet, and text messaging further contribute to the problem.

Benjamin Frankly proclaimed, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” The American school system seems to have taken Ben’s adage to heart with middle and high schools commonly beginning before 8:00 am. This becomes a problem when one considers that “early to bed” may not be an option for teens who often struggle to meet the demands of extracurricular activities (e.g., sports, student government), after-school work schedules, family imagesobligations, homework, and social lives. This has become such a problem that the American Academy of Pediatrics has identified inadequate sleep as “one of the most common, important, and potentially remediable health risks in children.”

In addition to the usual sleep disturbances a child may face, this month we will start Daylight Saving Time. Moving the clock forward or back one hour is something that makes adults sleepy for a couple of days as their bodies adjust to the change, but it can take toddler and older children a little longer to assume a new sleep routine but there are ways you can minimize the impact of daylight saving on your child’s sleep patterns. Kidspot offers some ideas on their website to help families transition successfully to the time change:


To change your child’s body clock to daylight saving time
:

  • A few days before daylight saving starts, get your child into bed a little earlier each night – they may not actually go to sleep until their regular bedtime but by getting them to bed earlier, you are encouraging their body (and mind!) to relax a images-1little earlier than usual and this will lead to falling asleep earlier too – it just might take a couple of nights.
  • Don’t try to wear your child out in a bid to get them to sleep earlier – overtired children often actually take longer to fall asleep and may even resist sleep completely.

Daylight savings tips

  • The big challenge for parents during daylight saving is convincing kids that it’s bedtime when the sun is still shining! If your child struggles to sleep in the daylight, try making their room darker and take extra care to ensure that their bedtime routine is as sleep conducive as it can be. No rousing games of hide-and-seek just before bed!
  • If your child keeps waking too early, ensure that they understand that you don’t consider this an acceptable time to start the day. Encourage them to doze but if they really want to be awake, encourage them to stay in bed doing a quiet activity. Some parents put a clock beside their child’s bed and explain what time it has to be before they can get up for the day!
  • Children with good sleep routines -have a quiet time routine before bed, stay in their bed through the night and don’t need help to get to sleep – cope well with the changes in time as they know what to expect at the end of the day regardless of the time.
  • Generally it takes about a week after the clocks have changed for everyone, no matter what age, to be in a new sleeping pattern so try to have patience if you have a tired and grumpy child on your hands in the days after the time change.

 References

Gregory, A. M, & Sadeh, A. (2012). Sleep, emotional and behavioral difficulties in children and adolescents. Sleep Medicine Review. 16(2), 129–136.

Kidspot. (2016). Daylight savings and your child’s sleep rountine. Retrieved from http://www.kidspot.com.au/.

 About the Author

Dwight P. Sweeney, Ph.D., is Professor of Educational Psychology and Counseling, and Director of the University Center for Developmental Disabilities at California State Universigetthumbty, San Bernardino (CSUSB). Dr. Sweeney has worked in the field of autism since 1971. He has directed or consulted with school and community-based behavioral programs in four states. Since joining the CSUSB faculty in 1989, Dr. Sweeney has directed the University Center for Developmental Disabilities that has provided supplemental behavioral interventions and parent training programs for over 800 children with autism and their families.

 

 

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Suicide Prevention and Depression in college

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On January 27th the Institute for Child Development and Family Relations (ICDFR) sponsored the event “The Truth About Suicide: Real Stories of Depression in College”. Dr. Christina Hassija led the event, Which included a presentation of current research and clinical practice, a viewing of the DVD “The Truth About Suicide: Real Stories of Depression in College” and a panel discussion of five mental health experts who answered audience questions on the important topic. This month, the ICDFR’s First Mondays blog shares information from these events, and provides resources for interested and concerned readers.

Background

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among teens and the 2nd among college students. In addition, many more students may have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide unsuccessfully. Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. Depression is a common mental health disorder, with 18.8 million Americans suffering from depression every year. Two-thirds of people that die by suicide are depressed at the time of their death. Among those that have major depression, the risk of death by suicide is 20 times greater than those that are not depressed.

Treatment for depression is very effective; however, less than 25 percent of people with depression receive adequate care. Below are listed some ideas for self-help strategies for college students experiencing depression. The Resource section at the end of this article has contact information for assistance in addition to the self-help ideas listed here.

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Self-help strategies for College students experiencing depression: 

Daily exercise, spending time outside in nature and in the sun, and eating healthy foods can help you feel better. Get enough sleep. Try to have consistent sleep habits and avoid all-night study sessions. Your counselor may teach you how to be aware of your feelings and teach you relaxation techniques. Use these when you start feeling down or upset. Avoid using drugs and at least minimize, if not totally avoid, alcohol. Break up large tasks into small ones, and do what you can as you can; try not to do too many things at once. Try to spend time with supportive family members or friends, and take advantage of campus resources, such as student support groups. Talking with your parents, guardian, or other students who listen and care about you gives you support. Get out with friends and try fun things that help you express yourself. As you recover from depression, you may find that even if you don’t feel like going out with friends, if you push yourself to do so, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself more than you thought.

How can you tell if you or someone you know is suffering from depression or in danger of committing suicide? Below are some warning signs.

Warning Signs include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others and that others would be better off if one was gone
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

depression2What to do if you or someone you know needs help?

  • Call 911 – Stay with person until help arrives
  • Reduce access to means such as pills, weapons
  • Listen to the person – don’t judge, yell or threaten
  • Connect to Mental Heath Services

Resources

Local:

 CSUSB Counseling & Psychological Services – 909-537-5040

Community Counseling Center – 909-537-5569

Community Crisis Response Team (CCRT) a community based mobile crisis team that provides assistance to those who are experiencing a mental health related emergency

  • West Valley  Covering Fontana to Chino Hills (909) 458-1517
  • East Valley Covering Yucaipa, Redlands, Loma Linda, Colton, San Bernardino, Bloomington, East Fontana (909) 421-9233
  • High Desert Covering Victorville, Hesperia, Apple Valley, Phelan, Adelanto, Lucerne Valley, Barstow (760) 956-2345

National:

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One of the Greatest Gifts You Can Give Your Child: The Gift of Failure

Several months back I was reading the In Your Words column in my Real Simple magazine in which a question is posed to the readers. The question that month was, “What is the greatest gift you can give your children?” My immediate thought was, “Let them fail!”

I recognize that this idea may sound irrational as we are all working hard to support our children in achieving and being successful. Back when I was parenting my two, then young, childrimgresen, I would have never thought about consciously letting them fail. On the contrary, I did my best to provide an environment in which they experienced success and where achievements were praised; whether it was report cards and earned honors decorating the fridge or art projects and team ribbons proudly displayed in their rooms. My belief was that the experience of success and the praise for, it would build in them a positive, confident, sense of self that would form the foundation for future success. Well, as the saying goes, I had all my eggs in one basket.

It was not until years later, as a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist witnessing adolescents struggling with anxiety and depression often linked to perfectionism, that I recognized how woefully our society neglects the powerful lessons learned when a child experiences failure. In no way am I saying children’s successes should not be celebrated; On the contrary, we know this serves to positively reinforce children’s efforts by showing them that they and their efforts are valued. What I am saying is that there are a whole other set of lessons learned when a parent allows their child to hit the proverbial wall.

The information children learn through failing can prepare them to handle life’s disappointments. When a child fails at a task an opening is created to practice working through their anxiety as they begin to learn how to regulate negative emotions. A child images-1who makes a wrong choice and is faced with uncomfortable consequences, learns to evaluate his judgement and has the opportunity to practice problem solving. A child confronted with vulnerability, elicited by realizing they are not perfect, learns that being fallible is what it means to be human, thus, instilling the beginnings of self-acceptance. These are the skills that contribute to the development of resilience; a character trait that has been identified as a foundational piece to psychological well-being and success.

Resilience is developed through the experiences of being knocked down and finding the ability to get up and move forward again. If we allow our children to be exposed to age appropriate challenges, mistakes, and stressors, they then have the opportunity to work on acquiring invaluable coping skills. For example, young children who choose not to eat their dinners, with the consequence of not having dessert, often fall into emotional distress especially at seeing siblings relishing an after dinner treat. Instead of taking away the child’s discomfort, a parent, without shaming the child by saying “well I told you so” or “you should have eaten”, can respond by normalizing their child’s distress. For example, “I know you are sad about not having ice cream, I would feel the same. Tomorrow you will have another chance.” This gives the child the opportunity to figure out how to tolerate disappointment, how to emotionally regulate, and how to problem solve, thus, avoiding this situation the next night.

A child who forgets her homework and is emotionally distressed, wanting mom or dad to bring the homework to school or write a letter the next day to the teacher, has the opportunity to tolerate the discomfort, to take responsibility, and to begin to work through the dilemma. A parent can assist this child without shame by explaining that we all forget sometimes, assisting the child in the problem solving steps to make it easier for i17531907homework to get into the backpack, and providing the opportunity to explore what may be going on that prevents the child from getting homework done and turned in
. An adolescent who does not get that coveted varsity spot or a seat in an Advanced Placement class has the tremendous opportunity to see themselves as human, to evaluate their misperceived overgeneralizations of the impact of such on their life, and to learn how to rationally reappraise the situation.

As parents we need to be curious about our desire to provide our children with a stress-free upbringing. We need to question our own ability to tolerate discomfort and how well we deal with it. Often it is our own anxiety that leads us to over-protect our children so that we may protect ourselves from the distress of watching our children in discomfort. Controlling our child’s environment to limit failure is often a reflection of parents’ difficulty in managing their own emotions and feelings of vulnerability. Without letting our children sit with, and work through their difficulties, we pass onto them our own anxiety-prone personalities.

Children who have the repeated opportunities to work on developing resilience become adolescents and adults who are able to contend with, and not become overwhelmed by, the thexperience of defeat. The adaptive skills acquired can create a sense of self efficacy, a perceived sense of control, and a feeling of optimism. These become the resources that allow us human beings to cope with challenges, function under stress, and work through adversity.

In hindsight, I realize that the non-verbal message conveyed by my hyper-focus on my children’s successes, emphasized to them that it was success itself, versus the trying, that mattered. I wish our refrigerator door and my kids’ bedroom walls would have also had 4th place ribbons and not so stellar report cards that honored their experiences of disappointment and the valued lessons learned from them.

About the Author:

Dianne Foss has a Masters Degree in Clinical Counseling Psychology and is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (L.M.F.T.)

She is currently a tenure-track faculty member at CSUSB working in the Counseling and Psychological Services clinic as a therapist providing psychotherapy to students and supervision to Doctoral and Master level practicum students working in the clinic.

She has taught 4 years at San Bernardino Valley College followed by 7 years at CSUSB teaching courses on parenting and family systems, history of psychology, adult and childhood psychopathology, and psychotherapy theories and practice.

She is married with two children ages 36 and 34 and blessed with four grandchildren.

References:

Flett, G. & Hewitt, P. (2014). A Proposed Framework for Preventing Perfectionism and Promoting Resilience and Mental Health Among Vulnerable Children and Adolescents. Psychology in the Schools. 51(9), 899-912.

Ginsburg, K. (2014). Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings, 3rd Edition. Elk Grove , Illinois: American Academy of Pediatrics.

Niehues, A., Bundy, A., Broom, A., & Tranter, P. (2013). Perceptions of Risk and the Influences on Children’s Everyday Activities. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 24(3) 809-820.

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How to Keep Your Couple Relationship Strong During The Transition to Parenthood

For most people, having a baby is an exciting and life-changing event. So, what predicts a smooth transition? The couple’s adjustment to parenthood is dependent on multiple factors including the individual parents, the couple, and the temperament of their new infant. Parents can generally be as prepared as possible and still feel overwhelmed with the experiences of parenthood in the first few months. This is partly because contemporary parents are not adequately prepared for their new role, and the expectations for the parental role continue to rise in a society that places little priority on families. searchNew parents are expected to embrace their new role. Yet we do not acknowledge the sleeplessness and pure exhaustion that become the couple’s reality for the first several months of parenthood. It is for this reason that couples find themselves turning to each other for most of their support. This can be difficult for some partners who are less prepared for the adjustment. However, every couple is different and there is no single formula for an optimal transition to parenthood. Researchers do know that some couples maintain a high level of relationship satisfaction across the transition to parenthood. In this article, I highlight some patterns that are beneficial for couples as they shift into one of life’s most rewarding yet challenging stages.

 

It’s no surprise that initially, the transition to parenthood impacts the life of a woman more than a man. From the moment a woman is pregnant, her body is transforming and working to support the new cells growing within her. Her body is changing both on a hormonal and physical level. But sex differences are not solely tied to biology; they also result from gendered expectations for men and women. As a professor at California State University, Long Beach, I ask my students to participate in an activity that helps illustrate this point. I ask them to close their eyes and imagine a male in his late 20s to early 30s pushing a stroller while walking solo. I then ask them to share the first thoughts that images-1came to their minds and without fail they always say things like “he is a great dad,” “he is such an involved father,” “he must be giving his wife a break” and most recently “his partner must be at work.” Moments later, I ask them to do the same exercise with a female in mind and their responses are not very surprising. They often state that they really don’t think much about it; in fact they wouldn’t even notice such a thing because it’s so expected and “normal.” My students’ observations highlight societal expectations for men and women’s with respect to parenthood. Although more men are involved in the rearing and nurturing of their infants and toddlers compared previous generations, women still do the bulk of the work. For example, how common is it for baby changing tables to be located in men’s public restrooms?

I want new parents to know that although they may strive for egalitarian relationships during the transition to parenthood, equal divisions of labor do not often result. I also want them to be aware that perceptions of shared labor impact women’s relationsimageship satisfaction more than men’s. In other words, if a woman feels that her partner is not doing his equal share of house-work, she is less satisfied than a man who believes his wife is not doing her fair share. Among new parents, researchers find that when a mother’s relationship satisfaction begins to decline, the father’s will often decline shortly thereafter. Thus the old phase, “Happy wife, happy life” is perhaps more true than some would like to believe. At the same time, I want to be clear that there are many new fathers who take an active role in caring for and raising their infants. Thus, both new mothers and fathers should be praised for what they do. The best type of validation however, comes from the partners themselves. Here, I list a few important ways partners can support each other and help maintain their relationship across their transition to parenthood.

Communication is the key to any healthy relationship but it becomes paramount for new parents who often find themselves exhausted and irritable. Not only does the mere lack of sleep impact new parents, but also the unknowns that come with a new baby can be stress provoking. As a result, many couples become impatient with their partners, and spend more time arguing instead of communicating. Three factors that are important when commutating with your partner include:

1) Pause before you speak your mind. Parents often experience a roller coaster of emotions during the first year of parenthood. There are days where they report being happier than they ever imagined, but there are also days in which they question important things such as their choice of a life partner. These bad days are normal and they pass but words will be remembered so choose them carefully. Before speaking negative words make sure you pause and consider the effect your words can have on your partner.

imgres-22) Be aware of the affect or emotions behind your words. For example, if your partner asks you to do something like empty the diaper bin or heat up a bottle, don’t sigh or roll your eyes as you say “okay” or “fine.” You are going to follow through on their request but when you add the negative affect, the actions become less valuable. At the same time, adding positive emotions can make a world of difference. At times, it may seem like you are doing a lot more than your partner, and you probably are; if you need assistance, use a warm tone and be careful not to ridicule the manner in which your partner provides assistance.

3) Make sure to have regular check-ins with your partner that go beyond just asking them to help. Remember to ask how your partner’s day has gone or if there is anything they would like to discuss. New parents become so consumed with their daily tasks, they often forget to talk to one another the way they used to. Regular check-ins will help partners stay in tune with each other’s needs and provide validation. Being aware of your partner is an important part of maintaining a strong relationship during the transition to parenthood. When you notice that your partner is stressed, offer assistance. It is important to remember that parenting is new for the both of you and it will take some adjusting so be patient and importantly, be there for one another.

Being a new parent is exhausting (notice a pattern here?!) and people sometimes forget that the couple relationship is the foundation of a family. The happiest partners during the transition to parenthood are those who support and demonstrate affection towards each other. This is particularly true for women with affectionate male partnerimgress. If you do not already know your love language or the love language of your partner, I suggest you learn (See: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman). Parents are always told to create a routine for their children but caring for their relationship should be incorporated in this routine.

Although I have provided several recommendations, the most important is to ensure the couple makes time for one another. You can’t accomplish any of my recommendations without doing so. If you forget all else, just remember to set time aside for your partner, even if it is only 10 minutes talking in bed at the start or end of your day. As partners become parents, their greatest asset is each other.

About the Authorroudiroy

 Roudi Roy, Ph.D., CFLE –  is an Assistant Professor at California State University, Long Beach.  Her academic area of study is Child Development and Family Studies.  She has many research interests including: transitioning to parenthood, family life education, relationship satisfaction, and societal and cultural influences on parental roles.

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Helping our Military Families: Post-Deployment Concerns and Reintegration

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In recognition of Veterans’ Day, this post is dedicated to military members and their families who face unique challenges. Imagine that you have received the good news that your family member is coming home from military deployment. Understandably, you couldn’t be more excited. It is a common feeling of jubilation that approximately 12,000 service members experience when they return to their families every year (Goldberg, 2014). It is an occasion to rejoice; however, post-deployment life isn’t without its difficulties. Often spouses and children face issues reconnecting to their deployed family member and integrating them back into their routines. Family members sometimes report feeling as if there is a stranger in their home. Addressing some of these common concerns before the deployed family member leaves and prior to his/her arrival back home can ease the anxieties associated with deployment (Military Families, 2011).imgres

The key for successful reintegration of a returning family member starts with planning for their extended absence (Chandra et al., 2011). Even though it is difficult to be separated from a loved one, proper preparation ensures that those left behind have the tools and the
skills to deal effectively with the challenges of separation. While a family member is deployed, the spouse often faces emotional, financial, mental, and other challenges related to long-term absences and difficulties adapting to the responsibilities of the deployed partner. The strain of taking on the partners’ responsibilities is often overwhelming for non-deployed family members until they are able to compensate for the difference.

Couples should plan for long and short-term issues in order to ease the difficulties; even having a test period before the deployment can be instructional. Resources that can assist the non-deployed spouse are often located at family readiness centers, which serve as clearing houses that provide telephone and in-person assessments to help determine needs and the right resources. Project FOCUS, Strong Families Strong Forces, ADAPT, images-4Passport to Success (PTS), and other programs assist family members through different stages: pre-deployment, deployment, and reintegration (Chandra et al., 2011). Upon being reunited, couples should discuss the status of important issues like bills, routines, and new household rules. It is important for both parties to communicate expectations of what responsibilities will shift back to the returning member and what duties will remain with the spouse. Jason Green, a married Coast Guard Reservist with two children commented on his experiences returning home from multiple deployments. In addition to communicating about family responsibilities, he points out the importance for couples to reconnect emotionally stating, “communication is also important to rekindle the romantic relationship.”

Some of the common concerns regarding children are dependent on their stage of development (Creech, Hadley, & Borsari, 2014). Children under the age of five often have difficulty remembering the deployed family member and, therefore, must be reintroduced. At this age, it is also common when a parent leaves or returns for children to exhibit behavior problems and act out more than usual. Between the ages of 6 and 12, anxiety issues are common, as the child fears for their parent’s safety (Military Families, images-22011). Girls tend to externalize their heightened level of anxiety when a family member leaves. The anxiety level is then subsequently reduced and internalized when the deployed family member returns home. Children commonly experience weakened social bonds, including issues with making and keeping friends. This is mitigated somewhat by the presence of other children who are in similar situations or have had similar experiences. Children between the ages of 11 and 18 typically have issues relating to school performance, social interactions, and they both internalize and externalize their symptoms. Oftentimes an older child will adopt some of the same traits as the parent who is not on deployment, even stepping into a parental role and managing the household. The mental health of adolescents is often directly related to the mental health of the remaining parent. If a parent demonstrates strong mental fortitude, it will reflect on the children and lead to better coping mechanisms (Creech et al., 2014).

Overall, the military family’s preparation and a willingness to adapt are the best processes for reintegration. For those experiencing challenges transitioning there is always time to improve the family dynamic. Checking with local family readiness centers in order to understand what resources are available is an important first step. Remember this is an occasion to rejoice, so be sure to make this process a smooth one, and that everyone is collectively working towards.

If you are in need of resources related to post-deployment reintegration, please reach out to any of the following sources.

Resources

Strong Families Strong Forces: http://www.bu.edu/sfsf/or call 617-358-5742

Veteran’s Center at California State University, San Bernardino: Veterans.csusb.edu Or call 909-537-5195

About the Author

William C. Lewis is employed as a Student Assistant with the Veterans Success Center at CSUSB, currently in his final year with the Criminal Justice program. As an Air Force ROTC cadet William is looking forward to a rewarding career with the U.S. Military and becoming a member of the national defense system as an officer

References

Chandra, A., Lara-Cinisomo, S., Jaycox, L., Tamielian, T., Han, B., Bruns, R., & Ruder, T. (2011) Views

from the homefront: The experiences of youth and spouses from military families. Center for Military Health Policy Research. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/ technical_reports/2011/RAND_TR913.pdf

Creech, S., Hadley, W., & Borsari, B. (2014, December). The impact of military deployment and reintegration on children and parenting: A systematic review. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45(6), 452-464. doi  10.1037/a0035055

Goldberg, M. (2014, December). Updated death and injury rates of U.S. military personnel during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan (CBO Working Paper 2014-08). Retrieved from https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/113th-congress-2013-2014/workingpaper/49837-    Casualties_WorkingPaper-2014-08_1.pdf

How deployment stress affects children and families: Research findings. (n.d.). PTSD: National Center for PTSD. Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treatment/family/pro_deployment_stress_children.asp

Military families: Coming home. (2011, March). American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 89. Retrieved from http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF–   Guide/Coming-Home-Adjustments-For-Military-Families-089.aspx

Sogomonyan, F., & Cooper, J. (2010, May). Trauma faced by children of military families. National Center for Children in Poverty. Retrieved from http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_938.html

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Disagreement Over Becoming Parents

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The pathway to parenthood is different for everyone. Some people know early on that they want to become parents, others deliberate before deciding, and still others are ambivalent or even upset to learn that a baby is on the way. The purpose of this article is to outline factors that arise in the decision to become parents and provide research-based information about this important issue.

Ideally, partners have discussed their views on parenthood before committing to their relationship. Disagreement about whether to become parents has caused many breakups, some of which could have been avoided with prior discussion. For this reason, parenting views and values are thoroughly addressed in premarital counseling. However, advance discussion does not necessarily protect from disagreement down the line. People change their minds.

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Drs. Carolyn and Philip Cowan, married parents and researchers, have extensively studied the transition to parenthood. They identified 4 pathways, each with varying levels of agreement about parenthood and differing levels of relationship satisfaction.

  • The planners discuss parenthood in advance and arrive at a firm decision about whether or not to have a child. This group tends to have the highest relationship satisfaction, even during the transition to parenthood. About 50% of people fall into this group.
  • The acceptance of fate couples are surprised to learn that they are expecting and with time, they calmly or enthusiastically accept it. Approximately 14% of people fall into this category. Initially, their relationship satisfaction could be adversely affected, but overall they fare as well as the planners.
  • The ambivalent couples tend to experience both positive and negative feelings about becoming parents. These mixed feelings could occur before and/or after conception. About 26% of couples fall into the ambivalent category and these partners tend to experience low satisfaction overall.
  • Yes-no couples also experience mixed emotions about becoming parents. In general, one person is enthusiastic while the other is apathetic. In heterosexual unions, it is usually (but not always) women who are interested in parenthood and men who are unenthusiastic. These partnerships are characterized by a general indecisiveness and ineffectiveness at everyday problem solving. Approximately 10% of couples fall into this category and as with the ambivalent couples, they experience low relationship satisfaction. These partners are at additional risk of breakup; many partners separate before the child turns 5 years old.

kelly-4Disagreeing about parenthood is big because it means that partners have different values and priorities. Therapy helps couple members identify and understand the underlying reasons for their feelings. Some people are fearful of becoming parents because they worry about repeating dysfunctional patterns from their families of origin. One important point is that those who can remember what it felt like to grow up in an abusive household are less likely to repeat the maladaptive behaviors. The connection to those feelings is key.

Some partners fear the loss of freedom that accompanies parenthood. Certainly many things are easier before children come along such as going out for dates, having time and energy for intimacy, traveling, and visiting with friends. But the presence of children does not mean that these activities stop. They might change, but partners who are invested in maintaining their connection can (and should) actively work to prioritize the relationship. Even couples that do not have children need to work on keeping their connection strong over time; so avoiding parenthood for this reason alone is not ideal.

Ultimately, happiness is predicted by having a choice in the outcome. Whether people become parents or not, they will feel more satisfied with their relationship and life if they make decisions that are thoughtful, deliberate, and aligned with their values.

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About the Author

 

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Dr. Kelly Campbell is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Human Development at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB). Her research interests focus on romantic relationships, friendships, health, and racism. Her research has been featured on NBC television, CBS radio, NPR, and in publications such as the Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post.

 

kellylogo Dr. Campbell hosts an interactive, call-in radio show called “Let’s Talk Relationships” If you have a question about this article or any relationship question, consider calling in or submitting your question online through the show’s Facebook page: @JustRelationships. The show airs from 3-4pm on Fridays in the middle of each month including Oct. 14, Nov. 18, and Dec. 16. It can be accessed through the Coyote Radio app, iTunes Radio, or by visiting http://radio.csusb.edu/ and selecting “Listen Now!” Archived episodes can be accessed on Sound Cloud.

 

 

 

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Summer’s coming!!!Managing difficult behavior: Tips for parents and caregivers

Managing behavior problems can be challenging at all times but as summer approaches and schedules change behavioral issues often arise.  We, at the Institute for Child Development and Family Relations, would like to share some ideas for dealing with difficulty behavior from Dr. Stacy Forcino. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and adjunct instructor in the Psychology Department at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) as well running the Disruptive Behaviors Clinic of the campus’ community counseling center.

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Managing behavior problems, such as noncompliance, defiance, arguing, whining, fighting, and rule-breaking, is challenging. It requires patience, persistence, and a healthy dose of positive attitude. The following tips are intended to assist parents (or other caregivers) in helping children overcome behavior problems. My approach focuses on teaching children to behave appropriately and adaptively. Fortunately, psychological science has much to offer with this process. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits all approach. Use your judgment regarding what will work best for your child and your family. If your child continues to struggle, consider obtaining more individualized consultation from a child psychologist.

Ready,

The parents I work with have often been dealing with their child’s difficult behavior for a long time. Understandably, they are fed up; but in the midst of this frustration, it can be easy to forget that children with behavior problems are really struggling. Of course a day full of arguing, whining, complaining, and fighting is tough on a parent. But it’s also tough on a child. It’s no fun being in trouble all the time. We also know that behavior problems put children at risk for rejection from peers, academic problems, and even anxiety and depression. Disruptive behavior is always worth addressing, and the sooner the better.

Set,

Helping a child overcome his or her behavioral difficulties takes patience and resolve from caregivers. So plan ahead to make sure you have the psychological resources to be your best you during the process. Seek support of friends and family and, importantly, make it a priority to get the sleep you need. A well-rested caregiver is better able to act with thoughtful intention rather than emotionally-driven impulse. This may well prove critical to your success.

Make sure your child is well rested, as well. Typically, preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleep per day, including naps, and school-aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep per day. Sleep problems, including too little sleep, sleeping at the wrong times (e.g., too late bedtimes), or too-varied sleep schedule, can cause behavior problems, even serious ones. It’s worth ruling out. A consistent early bedtime will do no harm and may do a lot of good for your child’s ability to control his or her emotions and behavior.

Go!

Encourage appropriate, adaptive behavior.th7X2208X4

This is where real progress can be made. A warm, positive relationship with your child coupled with proactive positive teaching strategies will go farther than discipline ever will. Consider trying the following.

 

  • Model appropriate, adaptive behavior. Children pay close attention to their parents and often copy them. Use that to your advantage! Make sure your child sees you doing the things you ask of him: talking nicely to others, taking care of your belongings, picking up after yourself, controlling your temper, sharing, taking turns, apologizing when you’ve made a mistake, reading, and eating healthy foods.
  • State your expectations clearly. Posting household rules or having regular family meetings to discuss expectations can help.
  • Remind your child when there are different expectations for different settings. For example, before you walk into the grocery stores, say “Remember, in the grocery store you are to stay by Mom, ask before touching, and use your inside voice.”
  • State instructions in a polite and direct manner. Avoid sarcasm and criticism. “Please put your plate in the sink,” is better than “Maybe you could clean up after yourself for once.”
  • Give specific “Put these books back in the bookshelf,” is better than “Clean this stuff up.”
  • When giving instructions, give a (very brief!) reason. “We’re going outside where it’s cold, so please put on your coat.” However, don’t get caught in an argument about whether your reason is valid (“It’s not cold out! … Yes it is!”). State the reason once and move on.
  • If your child struggles to complete a task, break it into smaller pieces and monitor progress closely. For example, many children struggle with “Clean your room.” Instead, you might start with, “Put all the dirty clothes in the hamper.” Monitor progress and reward success (see below) before moving to the next step.
  • Give your child attention frequently. With almost no exceptions, children have a need for regular social interaction. If they go too long without attention, they will seek it out! Any parent who has tried to write an email or talk on the phone with their toddler in the room knows this is true. Unfortunately, sometimes children get in the habit of seeking our attention in inappropriate ways. To avoid this, get to them before they get to you. Sprinkle your attention on your child many times throughout the day, any time that he or she is behaving appropriately. Increase the frequency at times that attention-seeking misbehavior is likely to happen.
  • When your child seeks your attention in an appropriate way, such as saying, “Mom” in a nice voice or showing you something, respond with attention! Make appropriate attention-seeking work for your child.
  • Frequently reward appropriate, adaptive behavior, however mundane it is, with attention. Give your attention different looks. You can make descriptive statements (“You’re putting your shoes on to go outside”, “You’re picking out a book to read”, “You’ve got your favorite teddy bear”). You can praise, if the behavior is particularly positive (“It’s so nice when you share”, “What good helping, thank you!”). You can use nonverbal displays of approval: pats, smiles, squeezes, hugs, high-fives. These bits of attention are small and deliberately placed following any appropriate, adaptive behavior. Even children with serious behavior problems engage in appropriate, adaptive behavior sometimes. Make it your mission to catch those behaviors and reward them immediately with attention.

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Discourage inappropriate, maladaptive behavior.

Discipline is difficult to implement well and will only be effective if used infrequently and in combination with the tips above.

  • Be consistent with rules across caregivers. If roughhousing is not allowed with mom, don’t allow it with dad either.
  • Withhold all attention for minor attention-seeking misbehavior like whining, complaining, and arguing. That means no talking until your child stops that inappropriate behavior and resumes appropriate behavior.
  • The best negative consequences are immediate, meaning they happen right after or soon after the misbehavior, enforceable, meaning you can actually follow through, and short-lived, meaning they don’t last very long. The latter point is worth further comment. Consequences lose effectiveness if they are too long-lasting. Life has to move on quickly so we can get back to rewarding appropriate, adaptive behavior (see above) and so that the child doesn’t give up (“What’s the point, I’m grounded forever anyway!”). A consequence for a toddler (e.g., timeout) can be very short- a couple of minutes. A consequence for a grade-schooler (e.g., loss of some privilege) may be a bit longer, but almost never would need to exceed a day’s length.
  • Decide on appropriate negative consequences for common misbehaviors ahead of time. This helps to avoid giving an unreasonable or unenforceable consequence in a moment of anger (“You are not getting any birthday presents this year!”).
  • When a misbehavior occurs, calmly and briefly state the consequence and the reason the consequence was given. “Since you hit your brother, you are going to have to sit in timeout.” Do not engage in any other conversation, simply follow through with the consequence.
  • Avoid the punishment spiral (“You are grounded for a day… a week… a month… a year!”). This usually occurs when a child responds to a negative consequence with an escalation of misbehavior. For example, you take your daughter’s phone and she screams, “I hate you!” Don’t take the bait! Simply follow through with the original consequence.
  • You do not need to be upset when disciplining in order for it to be effective. In fact, discipline is more effective if it is administered in a calm, business-like manner. “I’m sorry, but since you grabbed the remote from me, the TV is off for the next 15 minutes.” Turn off the TV and ignore any arguing, whining, or complaining. Don’t reward that kind of behavior with your attention. Just follow through with the stated consequence.
  • Do not judge the effectiveness of a consequence by the level of upset your child displays. Just like you do not need to be upset when delivering a consequence in order for it to be effective, your child does not need to be upset for a consequence to work. The one and only way you know whether a consequence is working is whether it results in a decrease in the misbehavior over time.

 

Forcino HeadshotAbout the Author

Dr. Stacy Forcino is a licensed clinical psychologist and adjunct instructor in the Psychology Department at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB). She runs the Disruptive Behavior Clinic in CSUSB’s Community Counseling Center, where she and her students treat young children with behavior problems. She also maintains a private practice in Apple Valley, CA where she sees children and adolescents with a variety of difficulties. You can learn more about Dr. Forcino at www.doctorstacy.org.

 

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