October 20, 2022

Good morning, MindSite News readers! In this issue, we bring you advice from teen psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg on how to talk with a friend who is undergoing a divorce. We also look at why some parents are considering a Sober October, troubling new twists on the “grandparent scam,” and reports of atypical anorexia, in which teens and others in larger-sized bodies are suffering from the life-threatening eating disorder in secret.

Also in this issue: The sweet spot for kids’ screen time after a concussion, “peace corners” replacing school timeouts in a New York school district, and – just in time for Halloween – why a good jump-scare can relieve stress. And more.

Ask Barbara: Advice from a Teen Psychologist

Dr. Barbara Greenberg, clinical psychologist

Today’s question is from a parent who feels nervous about talking with her friend who is getting a divorce. Find out how Dr. Greenberg advises her to support her friend during this vulnerable time.

If you have a question about parenting kids or teens (or conversely, if you’re a teen who has questions about your parents), send them to Dr. Greenberg, co-author of Teenage as a Second Language and a member of the MindSite News editorial advisory board, at info@mindsitenews.org. Thanks, and we look forward to hearing from you!

What happens to your body when you stop drinking

via Twitter

First off, this is no indictment if you like to imbibe. This writer certainly enjoys a glass of wine now and then. But I have to admit, after reviewing this science-based article in Fatherly, a hip digital magazine for fathers (and partners) that describes how much I might benefit from the annual ritual of Sober October, I’m up for the challenge. 

Though many people drink to relieve stress, let loose, or relax, it turns out that if you stop drinking for just one week — or even less for some people — you’ll increase your quality of sleep and improve your daytime energy levels. If that’s not inspiration enough, Fatherly has more: After two weeks without drinking you start to look better— on account of increased hydration. After a full month without alcohol, lots of people can expect better digestion, improved memory and concentration, and maybe even fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. The article examines months one through four as well, which bring more long-term health benefits. An added plus: More patience with the kids, and maybe even a willingness to play board games.
Courtney Wise

“You Don’t Look Anorexic”: Why Our Assumptions About Eating Disorders May Be All Wrong

via Twitter

The New York Times reports that “new research shows that our assumptions about eating disorders are often wrong – and that many larger-bodied people are starving themselves.” 

Children and adults with atypical anorexia, doctors have learned, share the same symptoms as people with anorexia nervosa, “including life-threatening heart issues and electrolyte imbalances.” And like those with anorexia nervosa, they obsess about food and body image, skip meals and often purge, “eat in secret, exercise to exhaustion… and view their weight as inextricably linked to their value.” And few people realize what danger they are in: “To the outside world, they appear ‘overweight.’” This is yet another gripping and meticulously reported investigation from The New York Times Magazine, and one that many parents and clinicians will be especially interested in. 

A brazen new twist on grandparenting scams

In 2021, people over the age of 60 reported losses totaling $1.7 billion to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center – a 74% increase over 2020. According to HelpGuide, a nonprofit publication on mental health and wellness, being the victim of a scam can harm older people’s mental health as well as their wallets, causing shock, depression, anxiety and even trauma from being defrauded by someone they trusted. 

Nonetheless, elder fraud such as the “grandparent scam” – in which older people are often contacted by someone who tells them their grandchild has suffered a serious accident and needs them to wire money right away – is on the rise. And now, rather than just asking victims to wire money, fraudsters have gotten bolder: Criminals are tricking caller IDs into appearing to be ringing from the police department or law offices through a technique called spoofing, and they’re brazen enough to actually send scammers to pick up cash — in person — directly from victims at their homes.

Alerts from Georgia’s attorney general, reporting from news stations and senior care facilities across the country, plus the FTC all warn people to pause before acting on a call, text or email from someone claiming to be or speak for a grandchild (or another loved one) in immediate need of money. 

To protect your physical safety and safeguard your money, the FBI says to never share your address or any other personal information with someone who calls you out of the blue. Hang up the phone and call the person the scammer is claiming to be. Use the number you have saved that you know is correct. If you can’t reach the grandchild or loved one, call their parents or someone else close to them — even if the scammer has instructed you not to do so. And, report the incident to law enforcement immediately.

Surprise! Screen time is not harmful for kids with concussions

Credit: Rocketclips/Shutterstock

If that news comes as a revelation, you’re not alone. It differs from the typical recommendation for kids and teens to avoid smartphones, computers, and TV as much as possible while recovering from a head injury. A news release this week highlighted the discovery made by a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Calgary and published in the journal Pediatrics.

In the experiment, scientists searched for links between the self-reported screen time of more than 700 children aged 8 to 16 in the first 7 to 10 days following a head injury and symptoms reported by them and their guardians over the following six months. Nicknamed the “Goldilocks” group, children who recovered most quickly reported moderate screen time. (These findings differed from a 2021 study in the United States, which looked at screen time following an injury for only 48 hours.) Based on their findings, the Canadian researchers recommended that kids with concussions get good sleep and gradually engage in light physical activity during recovery rather than avoiding screens.

“Kids use smartphones and computers to stay connected with peers, so complete removal of those screens could lead to feelings of disconnection, loneliness and not having social support,” said team member Molly Cairncross, now a psychology professor at Simon Fraser University. “Those things are likely to have a negative effect on kids’ mental health and that can make recovery take longer.”

In other news

Peace corners replace timeouts in New York school district. When fourth graders in Ashlea Vilello’s Syracuse classroom get overwhelmed or too upset to focus, they don’t leave the classroom. They take some time in the “peace corner” to catch their breath, squeeze a stress ball and regain self control, according to Spectrum 1 News. The station reports the Syracuse City School District is developing peace corners for each of its classrooms, in part because many students missed out on learning how to be part of a classroom community during the pandemic and felt a lot of stress upon their return.

Vilello’s student Quy’Dronicus Glover-Moore, who especially likes the squeeze ball, added it might do well for grownups to use peace spaces, too. “Kids can sometimes be mad at stuff, like very mad,” he told the station, “so the peace place could be good for everybody in our community so that people can have a better world.”

Parental leave that covers fathers is good for mom, dad, and baby, too. The Independent reports that a study funded by Koru Kids from the UK’s Fatherhood Institute found that 56 percent of parents believe inadequate paternity leave has negatively impacted their mental health.…And that’s from a nation that offers birthing mothers a whole year off to recover!

As more states across the nation approve measures allowing public school students to take mental health days, experts tell Yahoo News how parents can help students determine what warrants a day off and guide how they spend the day.

A good jump-scare may help relieve stress, Do you and your kids love a good fright? According to the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Halloween thrills might be a great stress buster. In a news release, the school said that since the scares we seek out during this time aren’t real, we’re able to release pent-up physical tension and experience a mental release as well. “When you visit a haunted house…there’s a rush of adrenaline, endorphins and dopamine,” said Dr. Michele Nealon, the school’s president. “This rush is translated by our brain into feelings of euphoria, satisfaction and empowerment when the fear subsides. We get a sense of relief and well-being.” Just don’t crash into the wall trying to escape.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Courtney Wise

Courtney Wise Randolph is a writer and creative based in Detroit, Michigan.