Friday, January 14, 2005

Child Psychology in the Tsunami's aftermath

With the recent Tsunamis hitting the Indian shores, more may be at stake than just the people in its path. Viewing the frightening pictures and emotional coverage of this disaster on tv may be leaving scars on your young child's mind. Here's how to talk to your young child about disasters and calamities.
What You Need to Know: How children react to disaster depends on their age. When exposed to a calamity or emergency children experience a variety of emotions and need your special attention. Two typical DISTRESS reactions in children are "a-typical behaviour" or doing things they have never done; e.g. a normally friendly child becomes shy;
And "regressive behaviour" that is behaving much younger than their age; e.g. a toilet trained child starts bed wetting again.
These reactions may occur immediately after exposure to a disaster or after a few weeks. Most of the times these symptoms pass away when the child re-adjusts. If you are directly affected by the disaster, cope with it in a way that the children do not develop a permanent sense of loss.
1-5 Years: Bed-wetting, fear of darkness, clinging to parents, night terrors, stammering, loss of appetite, fear of being left alone, confusion.
What You Can Do: Talk reassuringly, hold and hug the child, give frequent attention, encourage him/her to express his feelings through play or words, allow to sleep in your room till they have overcome their anxiety.

5-11 Years: thumb-sucking, irritability, whining, fighting at home or school, fighting with younger sibling for parental attention, school avoidance, nightmares, withdrawal from friends, poor concentration at school, regressional behaviour, headaches or other physical complaints, fear about safety.
What You Can Do: Be patient, arraneg their play sessions with friends or adults, encourage discussions with friends and adults, temporarily reduce your expectations at school or home, give more structure to time at home including non-demanding chores, rehearse safety measures for future disasters (discuss in detail how you will cope if a similar disaster affected you in the future).

11-14 Years: Lack of sleep, poor appetite, rebellion at home, refusal to do chores, school problems like fighting, withdrawal, attention-seeking behaviour or loss of concentration; physical symptoms like headache, vague pains, upset stomach, and loss of interest in peers.
What You Can Do: Involve them with same age group activities, help to resume lost routine, encourage group discussions, give stuctured responsibilties which are non-demanding, temporarily relax expectations and give extra individual attention.

When is Professional Help Needed ?
If symptoms continue, most likely a deeper emotional problem has occured and it is advisable to seek the help of a mental health professional who has experience with children and trauma. In the absence of such a professional, your pediatrician may be consulted.

Remember, children are adept at realising the concerns of their parents and this is especially true at the time of a crisis. As parents, you should admit your concerns to your children, and also stress your abilities to cope with the situation.
Compiled with the help of New York State Office of Mental Health.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Goodbye Mr Walker!

Most parents are very anxious about their kid’s milestones, and would like them to achieve walking, talking sitting etc. as soon as possible, even though there is no scientific basis for this.To this end many parents want to know if putting their child in a 'walker' will help make the child walk faster.I feel that there are a few disadvantages to using a walker and these must be kept in mind before the use of walker is decided upon,
Children using walker actually walk 'later'. This is because their inherent need to move quickly from on e place to another is satisfied by using a walker; also while in a walker a child is not really walking he/she is just sitting and cruising around. This leads to the use of calf muscles, rather than the hip muscles which are needed to walk, thereby delaying walking.Another issue with a walker is safety; a child in a walker is very likely to trip on even a small bump on the floor (like the edge a carpet, uneven floor etc.). Also fall from a staircase is likely to result in worse injuries if the child is in a walker.
The reason why most parents use a walker is to see the child move around and generally feel independent; children love it for the same reason;Another important feedback mothers give is that it helps them to do other household chores like cooking etc. because they know the child will not be sitting on the floor, putting various undesirable things in their mouth, catching a cold by sitting on the cold floor etc.
All things considered my advice is that if you have not bought a walker... don't buy one. Consider buying a push-toy where the child stands with the support of the toy and pushes it, this is not only more physiological (natural) but also avoids the problems associated with the walker. If you have already bought one and your child is happy in it, let it be but be careful especially if you have stairs around the house. If you want to keep your child busy and safe while you are doing house work, consider buying a play pen wherein you can put all the toys so that the child can play and remain safe!