Thursday, February 2, 2023

Good morning, MindSite News readers! In this issue, we look at research on how dogs and cats can promote resilience, lower blood pressure and stress, and promote loyalty, trust and empathy in children.

As one expert told us, “Dogs are such a calming influence. Often a dog is a child’s first responsibility — feeding him, taking him on walks, teaching him tricks, brushing him or whatever is age-appropriate — this can definitely build a child’s self-confidence. And having a great companion who goes everywhere with you and is loyal, loving and non-judgmental can also teach a child a lot about healthy relationships.”

We also bring you news of the first Congressional Dads Caucus, Dr. Barbara Greenberg’s advice for a teen who craves the return of her formerly easygoing mom, a grieving daughter honoring her father’s legacy in Monterey Park, and #Blackjoy during Black History Month. And more.

Pets Rx: How a Furry Companion Can Protect Kids Against Stress

More than 163 million cats and dogs currently make their homes in backyards and living rooms across America. That adds up to a lot of dug-up flower beds, vet bills, and ruined upholstery. It also adds up to a lot of happiness.

For children suffering from trauma or hardship, a pet may also offer a lot of security, resilience and unconditional love.

But even if children haven’t suffered trauma and loss, furry companions can promote mental health and resilience in children across the board, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. And a study last fall found that having a pet can also help adults who are less resilient cope with the stresses of everyday life.

Not only do kids with pets demonstrate enhanced empathy, self-esteem, and problem-solving, the researchers found, they showed greater trust, community feeling, sense of safety and self-confidence. In addition, “pets provide comfort and act as confidants” for children, according to the authors. Read the story to find out how pets can  lower stress, improve mental health and help kids stay healthier overall.

Ask Barbara: Advice from a Teen Psychologist

Dr. Barbara Greenberg

My mom used to be pretty chill but during the pandemic she got really bad-tempered. Now she’s about to go back to the office but seems mad about that, too. What should I do?

Dear Barbara,

My mother used to be easy-going but during the pandemic she got super-irritable and complained about everything. She likes to be around other people and said she hated working at home and talking on Zoom. But now that things are opening up and she may need to go back to the office, she is upset about that! She says she has gotten used to working at home and isn’t sure she wants to work in an office again. Is there something I can do to get my old mom back? 

Read Dr. Barbara Greenberg’s advice here. And if you’re a parent, guardian or family member with a problem you’d like to share, please write Dr. Barbara Greenberg at We look forward to hearing from you.

Congressional dads form caucus to promote parent-friendly policies

via Twitter

The Congressional Dads Caucus came about by accident, as a group of Democratic fathers found themselves caring for their infants and young children on the Congressional floor throughout the days-long House speaker vote – 15 rounds of it – that finally ended with Kevin McCarthy (R-California) being elected. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-California) admitted that his original intention was just to show off his new baby to his coworkers; “This is my son, my first kid, and I’m very proud,” he told the Washington Post. But when photos of the pair on the House floor began to spread online and in print, Gomez realized the images represented something bigger than them. 

Besides celebrating parenthood, the father and baby images drew a group of lawmaker dads together in support of policies to help American working families. These include expansion of the Child Tax Credit and increased access to affordable child care, health care and paid family leave. 

The group is comprised of 15 working fathers,  including Rep. Andy Kim (D-New Jersey), who became a stay-at-home dad after his first son 7 years ago. He told the Post he “learned the hard way” that federal employees weren’t entitled to parental leave – an experience that moved him to change the policy. “I’m proud I fought hard to make [paid parental leave] available for federal employees,” he told the Post. “Those are the kinds of steps that I hope to bring to this conversation.” The caucus, he says, “is more than a dads club — I think this can be really substantive.” The group says it is open to adding some like-minded Republican dads as well.

Honoring a slain father’s memory in Monterey Park

via Twitter

Ming Wei Ma was gunned down last month in the Monterey Park shooting that took 11 lives during a Lunar New Year celebration at the ballroom where he served as manager. In honor of his legacy, Ma’s daughter, Mary, has vowed to reopen the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where he died. “My dad always believed that there’s always good in the world and this community…We can’t let the bad take over,” she said.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, Ming Wei Ma did not learn English in his almost 20 years in Monterey Park, but he triumphantly built a rich and fulfilling social life, largely centered at his dance hall, where he taught people to dance. “You can’t just shut down a business like that, with so much hope, so much tradition,” his daughter said. “That’s going to be my goal in the future — to keep this place running.”

In other news…

This Black History Month, connect to lessons about Black joy. Though we often write – with good reason – about the harmful impact of racial trauma on physical and mental health, it’s important to note that the experiences of Black people, in America and across the diaspora, are not just marked by suffering, oppression, and pain. We are a triumphant people, with many victories and achievements to celebrate. As you discover or teach about Black history this February, consider suggestions from this article in Edutopia that direct you to tap into #Blackjoy, begin with a celebratory intention, and expand your perspective of Black origins. And in case you missed it, here is a review of a book about Black joy that we published last year.

44 mental health books for children: Children, like adults, deal with painful experiences, strong emotions, learning disorders, and challenges with their mental health. In an effort to help caregivers and clinicians support children in addressing their mental health needs, the Child Mind Institute gathered this list of books written especially for kids up to 12 years of age on how to navigate bullying, identity, ADHD, grief and loss, and even selective mutism.

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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Type of work:

Diana HembreeCo-founding editor

Diana Hembree, MS, is MindSite News co-founding editor. She is a health and science journalist who served as a senior editor at Time Inc. Health and its physician’s magazine, Hippocrates, for four years,...

Courtney WiseReporter

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...