Here is a great article about how paying attention to our phones, tablets and other technological devices can actually interfere with our parenting. We are all at fault of this. Reading this article made me realize that sometimes, when I am with my children, I will respond to my phone beeping or blipping or buzzing just as quickly as I do to my son and daughter. Over time, my attention has been divided to accommodate my phone. I've been making an effort to keep my phone at the bottom of my purse when we are out, and not within arm's reach when I am at home.
In an effort to become more greatly connected, are we disconnecting from our children? Read on and share your perspective with me!
Published: Sunday, June 03, 2012,By Neal Halfon
The latest issue of Brookings and Princeton’s “The Future of Children” adds to the growing number of studies documenting that childhood disability rates are not only unexplainably increasing, but also that the way disabilities manifest is significantly changing. Where the poster child of disability in the 1960s was on crutches, the new face is a child with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or other problems that affect the developing brain.
Growing rates and shifting patterns of childhood disability challenge notions that U.S. children are generally healthy and suggest substantial changes in the risks children encounter. While disabilities are more common in children from lower-income households, a lack of family resources, education or other forms of social deprivation don’t explain all of what’s going on.
Some risk-hunting epidemiologists are considering whether any of the thousands of new chemicals in our environment are to blame, while others are examining the role that toxic stresses may play in jolting developing nervous systems onto an aberrant path.
The science of human development has taught us that while dramatic one-time events can leave their mark — serious infections, unusual chemical exposures or adverse experiences — child development is more commonly influenced by the ordinary and mundane. Ann Masten, president of the Society for Research in Child Development, suggests the ordinary magic of daily experience is what usually provides the consistent scaffolding children need to develop.
Similarly, ordinary inattention and common adversities, often repeated and then compounded, can send a child on a downward developmental path. While the causes of increasing rates of developmental disabilities may be due to a bad molecule or some yet-to-be-discovered risks, they also may be hiding in plain sight.
On a recent trip, I observed two everyday and seemingly unremarkable episodes between children and parents that may provide a lead.
The first happened in the airport. I watched as a young, middle-class mother in her early 20s placed her happy 9-month-old on her lap. The adoring mother engaged the infant in beautifully playful, expressive dance. They modeled textbook interactions so crucial for healthy attachment and emotional development. The mother smiled in response to the baby’s smile. As the mother spoke, baby cooed in response. I could almost see the invisible rays of emotional energy transmitted from mom to baby.
After about three minutes, Mom’s phone rang and she took a short call — during which she continued to smile, mouth words, touch and play. But instead of putting her phone away, Mom began texting. What I witnessed next was what I observe in young babies with mothers who are drug addicts, depressed or disengaged for other reasons.
The baby found Mom was no longer responsive, smiling or interacting. Baby cooed and tried to get Mom’s attention, but there was little response. To the infant, her mother now resembled someone who was severely depressed. The baby gradually became agitated, fussy and unresponsive to a few gentle pats from mom in place of real attention. I imagined the baby’s right frontal cortex, associated with positive emotions, powering down as the left frontal cortex, which responds to adversity, powered up.
After a few more minutes, the distressed and agitated infant stuck her hand in her mouth, organized herself around the sucking that was now substituting for real-time interaction and gazed listlessly at the lights overhead, emotionally exhausted and distraught. Ten minutes later, Mom finished texting, rebundled her disengaged child and boarded the plane.
That night, I dined near a young couple and their 18-month-old toddler. Their son seemed happy, active and engaged, clearly enjoying time and pizza with his parents, both professionals. At the end of dinner, Mom got up to run an errand, handing over care to Dad.
Dad quickly drew his phone from his holster, flipped through messages and disengaged as a barrage of pizza-crust projectiles whizzed by. Then Dad got up, swung the high chair around and played with his son face-to-face.
After a couple of minutes, Dad put the child on his lap and both watched a video on his phone until Mom returned. She did, to the obvious delight and relief of both males, and they left with their son clinging to Mom’s neck.
PARENTAL BENIGN NEGLECT
Both vignettes were ordinary, routine and unassumingly common. In both instances, what could have been many minutes of engaged social interaction was transformed into distress, in the case of the baby in the airport, and into distraction for the boy.
Was the infant’s experience of her mother’s Jeckyl-and-Hyde transformation an anomaly or a regular part of life? Were these the origins of an anxiety disorder for the little girl and ADHD for the little boy?
What does this all mean? Neither parent is guilty of anything more than being typical in 21st-century America; working, traveling and attempting to build families in a demanding, noisy, often chaotic and technologically dependent world.
Are these children suffering from parental attention deprivation disorder, an unintentional form of benign neglect? Should we pass laws like those that ban cell phones while driving? Should we put up signs that say, “No texting while parenting”? Is the quality of parenting any different whether Dad has a phone in hand, or any of the hundreds of other tools parents used in the past?
As disabling mental health, developmental and behavioral problems afflict more children, it is important we consider not only rare and unusual events, but also the ordinary inattention that has become so common it is barely discernible.
Little things — moments of deprivation, lack of attention — that compound over time really count when it comes to child development.
And it could be that the causes of rising rates of developmental disabilities and childhood mental health problems are more ordinary, simple and preventable than we think.
Neal Halfon, M.D. and M.P.H., is the director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities. He is also a professor at the UCLA Departments of Pediatrics, Health Services and Public Policy.
A parent asked me the following question:How do I correct my son's speech?My 4 and1/2 year old suddenly started to talk in a weird way. He is putting a "k" sound at the end of almost every sentence. For example, instead of saying, "I am done," he says, "I am doneK." Instead of saying, "This is the one," he says, "This is the oneK." He is not doing it on purpose because I overheard him talking this way to himself. He was talking properly before, so I don't know what caused it. He is not sick and he is not experiencing any big change. What should I do?
Dr. Liz's response:
How are you responding to your son’s addition of the letter "k"? Keep in mind that the way you respond to him may cause anxiety and perpetuate the situation. At this point in time, there is little you can do other than avoid making him self-conscious and modeling speech without the letter ‘k’ at the end. Handle the situation by repeating back what he says correctly. When he says, “This is the oneK,” respond by asking, “This is the one?” Don’t draw attention to it and see if it dissipates in a few days.
If this new speech pattern continues, contact a private speech therapist and seek a consultation. Also, tell your pediatrician about your observation so that he or she is aware of it. Please keep me posted!
Dr. Liz answers your questions on Parents.com: "What Can I Do To Encourage my Son to Say More Words?"
A parent send me the following question on www.parents.com/advice/expert/elizabeth-matheis/
What can I do to encourage my son to say more words?
My son was born in Marcch 2011. I think he may have autism because he says just five words on his own. He never repeats my words and just makes noise. But he does imitate me using the phone and and his father using the computer. He plays with the remote, mobile phone, and the computer, and he reacts to the sounds from the TV by dancing. He is always in a mood to watch TV and play, but he never tries to talk. Does he have autism? What are your suggestions to improve his talking, listening, and repeating abilities?
I’m glad to hear that he is imitating others’ behavior and he is interested in dancing. This is a great start from which you can build. If you haven’t done so already, share your observations and concerns with your pediatrician. He or she may refer you to a neurologist or developmental pediatrician for an evaluation. You may also want to contact your county’s Early Intervention program and ask for a speech evaluation. If eligible, your son could receive speech services to encourage more language production.
In terms of encouraging more language, respond to his requests only if he uses his words. If he is pointing to Legos, only reach for them if he says, “Legos” or asks, “Mama play legos?” Also, read with him and ask him questions about the characters and the story.
It sounds like your son is highly motivated by the computer and other forms of technology. Use the computer together instead of allowing him to use the computer, mobile phone, or remote in isolation. Play games on the computer or mobile phone that require a verbal response. You can reward him with computer or mobile time when he uses his words, but limit the amount of screen time (including TV time) to no more than 1 hour per day.
I'm sharing an article that I blogged for The Parenting Playground Blog about how marriage changes after a baby is born. Although it's a wonderful time in your marriage's life, it is also a time when attention shifts more to the baby and less to the couple. Take a look at the strategies to keep the relationship hot!
Posted on: www.theparentingplayground.com/i-used-to-be-your-baby/
Ahhhh! How wonderful it is to sniff your baby’s head and watch that innocent and wonderful human being smile back at you. One look into your baby’s eyes and you feel blissful. Remember how you used to look at your spouse that way? Remember how he or she used to be your baby? The center of your universe?
You may have noticed that you spend less time admiring your spouse or yearning to hold his or her hand as often as you did before your child was born. You do less for each other, and more for the baby. You may also have noticed that by the end of the night, you are officially cooked! You have little energy or desire to cuddle, snuggle or be intimate with your spouse. Sex has become another item on your To Do list.
As amazing as it is to have your baby in your arms and to experience that intense, passionatefalling in love feeling all over again, parenthood has made you tired and more than a little burdened by the enormous responsibility of caring for another person who literally cannot survive without you. How does that translate to your relationship with your spouse? Less mommy-daddy, husband-wife, couple time that can leave you feeling less connected, sad or even resentful towards your child at times.
So now what? If you can both acknowledge that parenthood is amazing but taking a toll on your relationship, then that’s a great place to start. Now, let’s think about how to build in time for you as a couple because, after all, it was the couple that made the baby.
Set Up A Regularly Scheduled Date Night
Yes, regularly scheduling your date night can take some of the spontaneity out of it, but you can still create spontaneity if you choose your spot on the spur of the moment. Make it monthly or weekly, by yourselves or with another couple…whatever your plan put it on the calendar and don’t cancel it!
Say Thank You
Seems simple enough, right? Remember to thank your spouse for taking out the garbage or bathing the baby. The little things that need to be done to take care of the baby and your home are endless. Each one of you will feel recognized and validated for your efforts if you hear a simple “thanks” every so often. It’s a small but truly powerful gesture.
Everybody gets a turn!
When grandparents or other family members are around, let them each take a turn in caring for your child so you can take a break…with your spouse! Family members feel good about helping out and spending time with your child, so let them. Next time Grandma is around enjoying some cuddle time, go take a walk or run an errand together… just like old times!
Maybe you used to do this before your baby came along, and you will write notes to your little one once he/she has a lunch box! Why not write a little note to your first baby and drop it in his workbag, or post it on her iPhone…or go the traditional route and just tuck a note in with their lunch bag? It won’t take you a minute, but it will make them smile for the rest of the day.
TV Guide It
Set aside time, whether it be 30 minutes or an hour, every night after you put your baby down to bed to watch a show together or talk about your day, your next vacation, or whatever! This little bit of time will help you feel connected to each other’s lives, regardless of how hectic they’ve become.
Starting a family is a life changing event that is simply delightful and exhausting and overwhelming…and so very satisfying. Children will shift the dynamics of your relationship as your life slowly comes to be centered on the kids’ friendships and activities. Don’t ignore the changes – recognize how your relationship has changed, and make efforts to connect with your spouse, one-on-one, on a regular basis. One day, after you have invested everything into your children’s lives, they will go off and pursue life on their own, and you will once again be a couple alone, together. Why not make sure you’ve stayed one all along?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness Day - 9/9/12 - "Mom Warns Others Against Drinking During Pregnancy"
Today, September 9, 2012, is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness Day. This is a day of building awareness about the dangers of even a few drinks can have on an unborn baby. Here is an article about Mercedes, a mom who had a few nights of binge drinking before she knew she was pregnant. Her son, Nicholas, was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Enjoy reading their story - it's very touching and powerful!
Original article includes video of interview
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- In June, a controversial study from Denmark made the case that a pregnant women could safely drink up to eight alcoholic drinks a week. They made this determination
by testing their children at age 5. But Houston doctors say that's asking for
trouble. Difference in genetics affect how women process alcohol.
We have the story of a young Houston man who has fetal alcohol syndrome and what his life is like. We also talk to his mother, whose only drinks were before she knew she was pregnant.
Everything is harder for 30-year-old Nicholas. He volunteers at the pantry at the All Saints Church. But it was hard for him to learn what to do. It was hard for him at school, too, because he was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. "I'm kinda not as smart as other people are. I have difficulties in some areas," he said. But Nicholas tries hard and he walks several miles each way to get to the church.
Nicholas has worked as a volunteer at the All Saints Pantry for six years. But his dream is to have a paying job. His disabilities can be traced back to two nights of binge drinking, before his mother even knew she was pregnant. "He was 15 years old when I told him the reason that he had intellectual disability and developmental delays. And I was really scared because for so many years I felt so guilty and I felt so ashamed even though when I drank, I didn't know I was pregnant. But the guilt was still there," said his mother, Mercedes. And what was her son's reaction? He just reached over and hugged me and said 'Mom, I won't tell anybody,'" Mercedes said. "I have been taught to try and have a positive attitude all the time,"
Now Mercedes is on a mission to warn women after a Danish study came out saying a few
drinks during pregnancy might be OK. "I completely disagree with them," she said. So do Houston doctors who say the study doesn't apply to all women. "People with different genetic backgrounds metabolize alcohol differently," Dr. Laurie Swaim said. And Dr. Swaim says there's another problem with the study.
"What they didn't look at were a number of other possible effects of alcohol, including miscarriage, still birth, poor growth," Dr. Swaim said. Texas Children's Hospital Developmental specialist Dr. Sherry Vinson works with children who were born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Be very aware that before you even know you're pregnant, one frat party could do your child in," she said.
Mercedes has finally moved past her sadness and guilt. She's now warning other women that alcohol still robs children of their potential and trying to give Nicholas the best life she can.
Meanwhile Nicholas is hoping for his dream job. "I would like to have a job at the airport as a baggage handler," he said. He doesn't know if it will happen. But now, he takes life in stride, finding joy in each day.
Another thing we were surprised to learn: A baby is exposed to alcohol longer
than the mother. First through the blood, and then doctors say they continue to
be exposed to diluted alcohol in the amniotic fluid.
(Copyright ©2012 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)
This is an article on the benefits of acupuncture for AD/HD as part of a larger lifestyle management. Read on and let me know what you think
People with ADD or ADHD generally have trouble concentrating and paying attention. Symptoms include difficulty following directions and boredom or frustration with tasks. Those with ADD or ADHD also tend to move constantly and can be impulsive, not stopping to think before they act.
Behaviors typically associated with ADD and ADHD can interfere with the ability to function at school, at work and at home. If you struggle with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you can include acupuncture as one of the treatment methods that are beneficial in managing ADD and ADHD. Research indicates that when treating ADD or ADHD, a multidisciplinary approach is most effective; including behavioral therapy, exercise, dietary changes and medication.
These behaviors are generally common in children, but they occur more frequently and are more severe in those with ADD or ADHD. ADD or ADHD is not exclusive to children. It continues as people age and, in some cases, obvious symptoms do not manifest until later. As time passes, people struggling with ADD or ADHD may have difficulty with time management, organizational skills, goal setting, employment and may have problems with relationships, self-esteem, and addiction.
Treatment for ADD and ADHD
Treatment for ADD or ADHD is best managed when families and academic and health professionals work together to meet the unique needs of the person with ADD or ADHD. Coordinated efforts can help them learn to focus their attention, develop their personal strengths, minimize disruptive behavior, and become more productive and successful.
Acupuncture is an excellent addition to any ADD or ADHD treatment plan, as it is used to help the body restore balance, treating the root of the disorder, while also diminishing the symptoms of ADD or ADHD. Acupuncture can help improve focus and attention, reduce fidgeting, lower hyperactivity, augment mood management techniques and enhance concentration.
Dr. Liz's Book Review for "Suicide By Security Blanket and Other Stories from the Child Psychiatry Emergency Room"
I am happy to share the opportunity to have reviewed this book, "Suicide by Security Blanket and Other Stories from the Child Psychiatry Emergency Room" written by the very talented, Laura Marie Prager and Abigail Louise Donovan and published by Lucinda Literary Publishing! It's now available on Amazon - check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Suicide-Security-Blanket-Psychiatry-Emergency/dp/0313399492
So, here it is.... my very first book review!
“Suicide by Security Blanket and Other Stories from the Child Psychiatry Emergency Service” is a fantastic read for professionals who work with children within the school system or in private practice!It’s so easy to dismiss a child as being in a state of crisis, but not take the appropriate steps to find out what happened and why. This really made me think about how the School Psychologist or Social Worker needs to intervene when a child is experiencing a crisis in order to assess the need, as teachers, the Principal and other school personnel can easily be taken back by aggressive drawings, key phrases, and frightening behavior, such as self mutilation or other self injurious behaviors. Having worked with children within both the private and public school setting, the ‘protocol’ is to very quickly to send off a child who uses certain words to the ER for a psychiatric evaluation.
What a wonderful opportunity to learn what really happens when these children enter within the ER doors. This book made me realize that the local ER should be reserved for children who truly have the intent to cause harm to self or others, but not for the children and adolescents who need to connect with their parents or whose parents need support. Intervention and follow up is limited within the ER, which is frustrating for the patient and kind professionals who have chosen to provide the care, but find that there are significant limitations to what they can do.
Thank you, Laura and Abby, for taking the time to document your experiences so that we can learn from them and can help improve the system and the process.
“Suicide by Security Blanket and Other Stories from the Child Psychiatry Emergency Service” is an easy read, enjoyable and insightful! -Dr. Liz Matheis, Clinical & School Psychologist, Psychological and Educational Consulting, LLC (www.psychconsult.weebly.com)
Also, check out other reviews for this book:
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles