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Children and Teens

Knives, Fire, and Running with Scissors: On Letting Our Kids Take Risks

Before we begin I feel the need to point out that the title of this piece is facetious. Of course your children shouldn’t be allowed to run around with knives, scissors and fire. That being said... let them ride a bike!

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine recently about the way kids are coddled these days. Normally I am not a “Back in my day” kind of guy. But when I see how little children are allowed to spread their wings in the modern age, I can’t help but feel a bit of that curmudgeon surface.
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Children and Teens

Behind the Mask: What the ‘Good Daughter’ of the Narcissistic Mother Would Tell You if She Could

As a psychotherapist treating Adult Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, I see how her daughter, trapped in the role of the "Good daughter," hides her true self behind a mask of faux perfection. In this article, I explain how she becomes disconnected from her essential self to please her mother and lives a life that is not her own. 

You might miss her unless you know what to look for.

Plastering on a beauty queen, camera-ready smile that functions more like a mask than an expression of joy. It's the smile that insists, “I’m fine, perfect in fact. Why would you ask?”

There is no joy, nor ease in that smile. It is more militant than confident. The smile is designed to keep you out rather than invite you in.
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Children and Teens

Can Parents Love Each Child the Same and Treat Them Differently?

Readers of a certain age may recall the sibling comedy team called The Smothers Brothers and the classic line Tommy delivered to Dick, “Mom always liked you best.” There are some who would tend to agree that parental preference contributed to their sense of self; either to their benefit or detriment.

Although parents may not love one child more than another, they may not always treat them the same since each is a unique individual. This topic came up in conversation recently with a parent of three boys. Each of these youngsters ranging from elementary to high school age, has a distinct personality, accompanied by challenges, exacerbated in part because of being part of a blended family in which the adults themselves came from backgrounds with varying parenting styles.
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Anxiety and Panic

How to Help Anxious Kids Adapt to Change

Nico loved having the same routine every day of the week. When his routine changed, he would get upset. His emotional meltdowns and rigidity were trying on him and his family. When changes occurred and he was tired, hungry or stressed, his ability to cope was absent. Nico’s parents began to notice that his behavior was also affecting his younger sister. She had begun to show rigidity and unwillingness to try new things as well.

All parents do their best to help their children feel happy, learn about life, and cope with change. However, there are some children who may show less flexibility because of anxiety or other mental and emotional difficulties. Some children are not able to self-soothe and they need extra help to do so. This can be challenging and distressing for parents as they see their younger children mimicking their older sibling’s behavior.
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Children and Teens

5 Suggestions for Setting Realistic Expectations for Yourself

Everyone has expectations for themselves. We often assume these expectations are reasonable. Yet many of them are anything but.

We expect ourselves to work without any breaks. We expect ourselves to have the same level of—high—energy every day. We expect ourselves to experience the same emotions—calm and contentment. We expect ourselves to be fearless.

We expect that we’ll handle difficult times like a to-do list, said Elizabeth Gillette, LCSW, an attachment-focused therapist in Asheville, N.C., who specializes in working with individuals and couples as their families grow. We’ll be quick and efficient with our sadness—like we’d be with replying to email or cleaning the kitchen.
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Brain and Behavior

Psychology Around the Net: November 4, 2017

This week's Psychology Around the Net covers artificial intelligence and psychiatry, a decline in teachers' mental health, how to continue making progress, and more.

Let's go!

Artificial Intelligence Is Here and It Wants to Revolutionize Psychiatry: Are we more comfortable sharing our true feelings and deepest secrets with a machine we assume won't (or at least at this point in time, can't) judge us or bring other uncomfortable consequences? Could artificial intelligence make a...
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Traveling with Tommy: Disrupting the Routine of the Autistic Child

Boy, did we learn our lesson. We've always been able to travel with Tommy, our autistic child, but this time, we ran into trouble.

Autistic kids generally like routine. When Tommy was younger, around six to nine, we could create routine for him. On this trip, at age 11, he exhibited a mind of his own, and it was difficult for us to build that cocoon of normalcy round him.

We ventured to Florida over spring break. The weather was nice, i.e., the sun was out, but it was a bit cool, in the 60s. In years gone by, we could have coaxed our son into the unheated swimming pool, but not this time. Tommy wouldn't leave the room. He didn't like the remodeling that was going on. The whole hotel was being redone. It was quite noisy.
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Adult Child of an Alcoholic: How Beginner Ballet Helped My Recovery

Who knew activities could be more enjoyable by taking pressure off yourself?

The first time I did a plié, I wanted to die. Not in the literal sense. But in the “how did I not realize this was so hard?” sense. I was drenched in sweat and we hadn’t even gotten through warmups. Welcome to adult absolute beginner ballet.

I'd never taken ballet as a kid, and its reputation for gruff teachers and perfectionism really intimidated me, even as an adult. The image of a stern impossible to please teacher coupled with competitive classmates had kept me away my whole life. Like a lot of people from alcoholic families, I felt I should be an immediate expert in everything I did. Incompetency was dangerous. But I’d always wanted to try ballet, so when an acquaintance posted on Facebook that she was teaching a ballet class that started with the absolute baby basics, I gathered my courage and signed up.
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Children and Teens

The Importance of the Pediatrician

A recent study published in the June 12th edition of JAMA Psychiatry poses the question:

Can a pediatric-based brief behavioral treatment outperform assisted referral to outpatient mental health for youths with anxiety and depression?

In this randomized clinical trial, researchers discovered that a brief intervention delivered at the pediatrician’s office can indeed significantly help children and teenagers who are dealing with depression and anxiety. In addition, the young people who received this treatment actually fared better than those who were referred to outpatient mental health care.

This study reinforces what I have long believed -- pediatricians can play an invaluable role in all areas of young people’s health. They are typically the first ones consulted when there are issues that need addressing and this alone makes them one of our most important resources for our children and young adults.
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Children and Teens

Using Family Dinners to Build Healthy Mentalities

One of my most cherished memories is making homemade pasta with my mother in her Bosch mixer (which is now MY mixer). We would set up shop in the kitchen. My mother, my siblings and I would prepare an enormous meal for our extended family every other Sunday, complete with the pasta, fresh bread and salad. Everyone would always exclaim how delicious the food was, but it was not the meal itself that sticks out in my mind. It's those hours spent in the kitchen with the boiling pots and chopping knives.

Studies have shown again and again that
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Children and Teens

New Guidelines for Treating Transgender People

The Endocrine Society has recently updated their recommendations for caring for transgender individuals. Previous guidelines recommended that hormone treatments not begin before sixteen years of age, but the Society notes there are now compelling reasons to beginning hormone treatment earlier.

Joshua D. Safer, MD, one of the task force members who authored the guidelines, said:
“Sixteen is the typical age cutoff in many areas of the world for some decision-making capacity from a legal perspective, but when you think about hormones and puberty, 16 is pretty late. If we’re going to use biology for guidance, then hormone interventions for transgender kids should begin occurring earlier, when puberty really happens, like around age 12, 13, or 14. However, we’re in a situation where we lack a test. We can’t diagnose anybody as transgender with excellent confidence, outside of talking to those kids. When we start talking about hormone therapies, we talk about some things that will be irreversible. That’s a fraught place to go, but we recognize that people are going to treat kids under 16 in many instances."
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