Brene Brown is a constant topic on here because he research on shame brings up revolutionary ideas about how to approach our kids and how to approach one another. This is particularly relevant when our kids are showing signs of high anxiety. The link below has an amazing video on shame by Brene Brown, and it is available for 1 CEU credit for therapy providers.
As promised here is some of the Glow Kids data by Nicholas Kadaras.
Screen addiction is associated with anxiety, depression, psychosis, aggression, and other addictions. This is because when these kids use screens they “literally get high.” Their brain dumps dopamine on the same reward pathway that street drugs use.
Dopamine Dump levels:
- Food 50%
- Sex 100%
- Video game 100% (VG from the 90s- todays are worse)
- Cocaine 350%
Video games are this addicting because the gaming companies have beta testing procedures to ensure they will be addicting. When testing the game they hook up the testers to machines so Doctors can test their blood pressure and cortisol levels. If their levels do not reach 180 BP in 3 minutes they game is sent back to be made “better.”
Screen sue contributes to what is called “the dysregulation effect.” Basically children remain in fight or flight mode. This involves being unable to calm down, ADHD increases, aggression, conduct disorders, and sleep disturbances.
These video games are so stimulating that when one study compare military burn victims given morphine to regulate their pain with burn victims with no morphine only playing a video game, those with morphine at the highest safe levels still experienced pain while those playing the game didn’t!
Another study compared the brains of children who used screens for 10 hours a week to those who didn’t use any screens. They found that after one week the gamers has less grey matter (the thinking-human art of the brain), a shrunken frontal lobe (the decision-making part) and almost no activation of the frontal lobe compared to non-gamers. Their symptoms after one week included impulsivity increases, mood swings, sensory overload, and dysregulated sleep.
A study of children diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, and Mood disorders had the children abstain from screen use for 4 weeks. after 4 weeks 70% of those children no longer qualified for their diagnosis.
Similarly, it was found that 2 hours of screen use a day or more came with a doubled difficulty in concentrating. Every hour of tv before age 3 was associated with a 10% increased risk for ADHD. Children who experience these deficits can work to improve them, but they will never reach the same levels as their non-screen using counterparts.
Social media use in particular is associated with anxiety and depression. Humans, as social beings, need social interaction the same way they need food. Research found that interaction with people through social media did not fulfill this need. It was the equivalent of sitting at a table with food, but not eating when you are hungry.
One of the biggest pushes for early screen use is in education. There is a myth that children need to use screens to keep up in school. However, there is no research supporting the idea that technology increases educational outcomes. In fact, many studies found that test scores, comprehension, positive behavior, retention, recall, and memory all decreased as screen use increased in the classroom. In fact, schools that had screens experienced significant increases in educational outcomes when they banned them from the classroom.
Think about your anxious child? How much time do they spend on TV? The phone? Tablets? Now how much time do they spend outside, exploring, creating, or experimenting with toys?
How can you limit the effect of screens on you child and their anxiety?
- Limit screen time
- Notice irritability associated withs screens and tell them to take a break
- Fill their time with non-screen activities (sports, games, outdoor time, family time, chores).
- Encourage face time with friends and family rather than screen connection.
- Role model a healthy relationship with screens.
- Avoid giving a child their own devices for as long as possible.
*Picture taken from Google Images
The video below is Dr. Nickolas Kadaras talking about his work “Glow Kids.” He has a webpage you can visit as well to see more statistics not he effects of cell phones, social media, and video games on our kids.
Screen use is highly correlated with anxiety as is social media use. It is important to look at how your kids use technology and whether it might cause or at least exacerbate their anxiety symptoms. This week I am linking the video, but next week I will post a follow up that includes the statistics and research on how these screens affect our kids.
Image taken from Google images.
This week I am linking an article about adrenal fatigue and empaths. One of the most common things I see in anxiety is that these kids are the most empathetic, understanding, and loving humans. Even the ones who are angry and oppositional are just so worried about other people and their expectations that they spaz out.
Empaths naturally know what others are feeling. Their bodies and brains pick up on nonverbal cues and pheramones before the conscious mind can even notice a person is near them. This gives these children the amazing strength of compassion and reading their audience, but it also drains them of their energy. These children carry the sorrows and pain of everyone who walks within 20 feet of them. The article below looks at a biological explanation for this fatigue and gives some ways to help alleviate the struggle!
Talithia Williams has an amazing Ted Talk that I included below. She talks from personal experience about a phenomenon that is well documented in research and common sense! Our body’s know what they need, and they know what they are doing. We just need to learn to listen.
I have posted before about mindfulness techniques that help individuals practice listening to their bodies. Talithia talks about using biological data to help us listen. I find this idea amazing, because with the ever-present technologies in our life (fit bits, cellphones, health apps, etc.) we have a greater ability to record our body’s data than ever before. While you are beginning your mindfulness training this data is a great way to access information a little more easily.
The article below is taken from another blog. I have provided the link to the original blog s well.
Invalidated Child: Invisible Adult
Our childhoods are in the past. As adults, we must put childhood behind us and focus on the now. Right?
Today we know that our child selves live within us, and that the power of that child is remarkable. Our parents’ view of us as children is the way we view ourselves as adults. The way our parents treated us as children in large part determines how we treat ourselves as adults.
This child/adult connection has been proven over and over again by research. I see it every day in my psychotherapy office; and never more clearly than in the case of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).
In CEN, the child is given a subliminal message, often inadvertently, that his/her emotions are irrelevant. This leaves a profound mark upon the child in adulthood. To see how this works, let’s look in on Zach as a child, and then meet up with him again twenty-three years later.
Seven-year-old Zach is a sweet, sensitive boy. His brother Collin, who is six, is a loud and boisterous type. He loves to poke and pinch Zach to make him cry. Today, it has happened again. He sneaks up on Zach, who is quietly playing, and pokes him in the ribs, hard. Zach howls. Zach and Collin’s mom is in the kitchen cooking and his dad is at work. Today she handles it the same way she always does. She calls from the kitchen, “Zach, you leave your brother alone!” Zach runs into the kitchen to make his case, but his mother is not interested. “I’m busy Zach,” she says. “You need to work this out with your brother.”
In this scenario, Zach’s mother has done nothing abusive or mean. She has done nothing obviously bad or memorable. This situation probably seems like a typical, everyday event in any household in the world. Indeed these types of incidents go on all the time, and typically they do no real harm.
But if this is how Zach’s parents handle things enough, and he receives this subtle but powerful message enough, he will grow up with the effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). Let’s take a look at what is actually happening in this seemingly everyday incident. Actually, Zach is being invalidated in multiple ways and on multiple levels.
- Zach’s smaller brother picking on him makes him feel helpless and angry. By not taking the time to notice what he is feeling, Zach’s mother gives him the message that his feelings –the most deeply personal part of who he is—are not valid or relevant.
Subtle Message: You are not valid or relevant to me.
- Zach’s mother assumes that Zach is the aggressor, not Collin, which shows that she does not see his true nature: that he is generally kind and sensitive, not an aggressive type.
Subtle Message: I do not see who you truly are.
- When Zach’s mom says, “I’m busy. Handle it yourself,” she is giving him a subtle, powerful, though unintended message.
Subtle Message: You are alone. Your problems and feelings don’t matter.
- Zach is left feeling lost in a sea of undefined emotion, misunderstood, overlooked, alone, invalid and invisible.
Now let’s look at how all of this will play out in Zach’s adult life if he is raised with enough of this type of parenting.
At age thirty, Zach is a likeable fellow. His kind nature is seen by all who meet him. But Zach cannot see this himself because he does not know his true self. He is sometimes baffled by others’ reactions to him. “Why do people like me?” he wonders. Although he is an outwardly successful man, Zach is not certain, deep down, that he is worth seeing or that he is worth knowing.
Zach is a stand-up guy who takes care of his wife and children, and they love him very much. Although he knows that they love him, he does not feel their love. No matter how much love Zach receives, inside he feels disconnected and alone. When Zach walks into a meeting at work or when he walks down the hall of his daughter’s school, he knows, deep down, that he walks alone.
Zach pushes his feelings down and away so that they will not trouble others or himself. He prides himself on his individuality, yet he seldom feels that he belongs anywhere. He feels disconnected but he does not know why. He does not know that he grew up with CEN and that he is living his life in its invisible grip.
If only Zach knew what he feels and why, he could get himself on the path to healing. He could learn that his feelings matter. He could realize that he matters. He could learn to see himself as others see him. He could realize that he is worth knowing and loving.
The world is full of people like Zach: stand-up folks who are loving and kind, but who cannot see themselves truly and clearly; people who live life in vivid color but who can only experience it in black and white; people who feel overlooked and unseen; people who matter but who feel that they do not.
The article attached below explores how having a plan X can support kids in making positive choices, especially related to drug use and peer pressure. Many of our kids suffer from social anxiety. That is that they become overwhelmed with peer pressure even in situations that seem benign to others. For example, some have trouble making decisions about where to go to eat, so they turn down offers that might require them to choose.
Plan x is essential a no questions asked bail out by parents. This model is incredibly effective for dangerous choices such as drug use or reckless teenage behavior. However, when we focus on more day-to-day anxiety such as making social plans or choosing school courses, a plan X only reinforces our kids’ anxiety. I am in no way insinuating that having a plan X is hurtful. It is incredibly positive for safety oriented situation. What I am proposing is that maybe we need to have a plan X and a choice plan. Can we come up with a plan to help our kids make simple choices?
An example, might be that many children are overwhelmed with choices in getting ready for school. Maybe we could brainstorm with them to create a hierarchy like below:
- What meets school dress code?
- How warm/cold is it?
- Should I consider layers in case of changing temperatures or locations throughout my day?
- Do I need to be comfortable for activity?
- What is my favorite of the few items left?
If your child struggles with decision-making in many areas, maybe you can brain storm some elements that should always help to narrow options:
- What is safe?
- What is healthy?
- Does it hurt to just try one? Can I change my mind later and try the other?
- What is the worst possible outcome of each, and how likely is it?
- Do I like all the options evenly? If so, do I have a way to choose (rock, paper, scissors; eenie meenie miney moe; flip a coin; etc.)
This concepts will change from child to child and age to age. As the child encounters new situations they may need to a rapt and modify these models, but once we help them create a plan they have a basic template that they can modify. Often children are overwhelmed because they don’t know where to begin. Those of us who do not become overwhelmed by every day decisions often use a model similar too these instinctively. As a parent of a child with anxiety, helping them brainstorm and write a plan is teaching them to use the same skills everyone else uses like it’s a math lesson.
Share your plans and processes below to help others brainstorm with their children!
Often anxiety in children isn’t noticed until it reaches an explosive and overwhelming level. Once the anxiety is so high that kids are defiant or struggle in school we see the problem, but the reality is that it existed long before that point. The link below has a great article of some of the less obvious signs of anxiety.
The article attached below takes a specific look at social anxiety. It touches a topic close to my heart and my work with kids. Anxiety isn’t a problem!
Anxiety, like any other personality attribute, can get so large that it becomes an obstacle. It can also be so small that it is an obstacle. No anxiety whatsoever means that there is no urgency to be safe, to think through your choices, to turn in homework assignments, or plan for the future in any way. It creates a person that is lackadaisical and unproductive. Too much anxiety means there is constant panic, a lack of follow through on ideas, and indecisiveness. It creates a person that is difficult to work with and constantly struggling.
Anxiety is considered a mental health “problem,” because of these extremities. However the reality is a balanced amount of anxiety makes you a productive, reliable, predictable, lovable, empathetic, and successful person. What the public fails to realize is that anxiety is no different from any other personality attribute. Below are commonly praised character attributes that could have been identified as mental health “problems” just as easily as anxiety:
- Confidence: Too little results in nervousness, indecisiveness, and victimization. Too much results in arrogance, social conflict, and unproductive and inefficient decision-making.
- Patience: Too little results in impetuous decision-making, constant mistakes, a lack of detail orientation, and difficulty in collaborative social efforts. Too much results in passivity, lack of motivation, lack of production, and an inability to complete tasks in a timely manner.
- Persistence: Too little results in a lack of success and follow through, in low self-esteem, and low frustration tolerance. Too much results in wasted resources, in stubborn arrogance ignoring experience and information, and often bullying and ignorance.
Personality attributes are exactly like superpowers. If you are born capable of controlling the snow and cold like the now infamous Queen Elsa, you have a choice: you can choose to fear it and try to overcome it and become a monster and villain that has no successful relationships and no life experiences to treasure and enjoy, OR you can learn to use it and love it and become a strong, independent and inspirational leader.
Instead of harping on our children that they need to overcome and defeat their anxiety, maybe we should be showing them just how to become a superhero with it?!?!
The link below includes article looking at social anxiety in particular, but please comment with ideas on how any and all mental health issues and styles of anxiety work as a superpower.
One of the most interesting qualities of anxiety is that fact that it creates a cycle to reinforce itself. Anxiety causes us to crave things like chocolate. We seek distractions to calm our racing minds such as social media and multi tasking. These inherent results of anxiety also work to reinforce our anxiety and even to increase it. How can you break the cycle of anxiety in your household?