Lonny Webb – Via Facebook
I am a psychotherapist (Neurobehavioral Concepts | llc) who works with kids, teens and families and who also consults with school districts, my wife, Kristine Agnew Webb is a coach and my partner. We would like to pass this on:
If you have kids or teens- please know that this time is really, really rough. If you are friends with me, then you know I worked for years for the State Hospital and the prison system before starting my private practice. So for nearly 30 years I have been working with folks who struggle with mental illness and behavior problems. So, when I say “rough” don’t think that I am overstating it- I know rough.
I have seen 37 kids since the start of the lockdown and consulted with two school districts-representing thousands of kids and I have noticed a striking pattern. As a rule, we expect kids to bounce back but rather than bouncing back as we think they will, kids incorporate trauma into their growth and future lives and we are observing this live, right now.
Have no doubt about it, this time is having a serious impact on our kids. The kids I see are often at one end of the mental illness spectrum. So you tell me, how are your kids doing? The kids I see are complaining of symptoms that are similar to what we call an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood.
Healthline has a nice summary:
The mental symptoms of adjustment disorders can include:
- rebellious or impulsive actions
- feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or being trapped
- withdrawn attitude
- lack of concentration
- loss of self-esteem
- suicidal thoughts
There is one type of adjustment disorder that is associated with physical symptoms as well as psychological ones. These physical symptoms can include:
- muscle twitches or trembling
- body pain or soreness
The kids I see are really struggling right now with low motivation to do “school work” that has little meaning (and perhaps even less meaning if they are stuck to pass/fail), they do not have social outlets and they are stuck with us as parents and their siblings all day. Parents are used to having a team work with their kids to help manage their child’s behavior and symptoms as well as provide the parents with a break. Regardless of where these play out, we have never been through a time like this in our experience.
I know I am zoomed way out here and not being very specific but for what’s worth and what you paid-here are some tips:
Be kind to yourself and your kids (kindness does not mean no boundaries- it means being “present” to their needs and validating how much their struggles are real). Ask them how they are doing with this and then listen.
Humans need structure- school provided that. Try to get your kids on a schedule. You don’t need to do it all at once, just improve the moment. Make today better than yesterday. Baby steps. You get it. Now on a related but opposite note: the brain also needs boredom- try a mindful, prayer, or contemplative practice.
Exercise. Exercise is the only panacea in mental health treatment. We all need it. Kids today often have less experience with outdoor play than we had and they need our help to get out there and get moving.
Diet: Harvard has been doing a lot of research on a mental health diet. It is similar to the mediterranean￼ diet. Check it out and approximate it if you can’t pull it off.
Sleep: no mental health eval would be compete without checking in about sleep. Sleep is absolutely central in health. It when our body repairs and our mind cools off. Hypersomnia (sleeping too much) is just as significant as hyposomnia (sleeping too little). Check on your kids (and yourself for that matter).
Social connection: obviously we are all suffering here. Facilitate social connection- zoom play dates, phone calls, FaceTime and on and on. Remember they needed your help to set up play dates, sleep over and approve hangouts- that hasn’t changed.
Finally, education. If you have addressed all the former items then we are ready for distance learning. But it is last, after we take care of our kids.
It is unlikely our kids will remember a packet handed out to them, but they will remember what their family did or didn’t do during the pandemic of 2020. As a neuroscientist we know this: love and attachment heal experiences like this. Now is not the time to be stingy. Clear your head first (put on your life jacket first) then cover your kids. They need you more than they are showing. If you are concerned about their health, please contact a professional and seek help.