Discussions Regarding the World of Psychology (www.lapsych.com)

Premature Holiday Spirit???

outdoor-holiday-decorating-ideas-porch

As I was driving home last night, I noticed several houses that had already been decorated for the holidays with the festive twinkling lights outside and the beautiful Christmas trees showing through the windows. Given that I am a sucker for the holiday season, these sights filled me with a sense of happiness and warmth. Soon after these positive feelings, a sense of urgency set in. Was I late in getting started with holiday prep? Should I have spent the weekend getting decorations down and moving furniture around to accommodate the Christmas tree? As I started going through my mental calendar of things that need to get done, I realized that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! My family’s usual tradition is to set up Christmas decorations on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. This has always been the case for us, but until just recently, I have never felt the pressure to start decorating before that point. This got me thinking about why our society is in such a hurry to start celebrating the holidays.

 

Of course, there is the business related argument that it’s all retail based and that companies have started cultivating the holiday spirit earlier to increase sales. I have no doubt that this is true because, after all, who doesn’t want to drink a Chestnut Praline Latte in the red Starbucks cup as soon as possible??? But I can’t accept the fact that this is the only reason the holidays keep getting pushed earlier and earlier every single year. Yes, companies are pushing the holiday season upon us as early as possible, but the interesting part of it, in my perspective, is that we, as a society, are eager and ready to receive it! About 5 years ago, I remember that several department stores began decorating before Thanksgiving and many people thought this was ridiculous. Today, many retailers set up their holiday decorations after Halloween! The premature celebration of the holidays has become pushed upon us in such an inadvertent manner that not only are retailers setting up early for the purpose of increasing sales, but we have gotten into the habit of decorating our homes and businesses for the holidays before Thanksgiving has even arrived! Back to my real question though… WHY? Why are we so eager to celebrate the holidays that we have decided to start doing so a month or two earlier than they are meant to be celebrated?

 

Here is where it gets interesting for me! The psychology behind our readiness to welcome the holiday season…  First off, I began thinking about what it is that the holidays represent. A few terms automatically entered my mind… love, acceptance, unity, tolerance, family, support, and warmth. Even in terms of gift giving, the holidays are one of the few times of the year when we actively think about who we appreciate and what we can give to those individuals to make them feel special. We are encouraged to think about the well-being and happiness of others as opposed to the rest of the year when we are primarily focused on thinking about our own needs.  The holidays give us the opportunity to let go of the individualistic nature of our daily lives and to embrace the collectivist nature that many of us seek deep down inside. The holidays make it okay for us to look one another in the eyes at the store and to smile, they make it okay for us to let the person with one item ahead of us in line, they make it appropriate for us to give money to the homeless man by the exit on the freeway off-ramp without questioning what he will do with that money… The holidays make it okay for us to connect with one another without second guessing ourselves and feeling taken advantage of.  They make it okay for us to be good human beings, the kind of human being that we were before we were jaded by the negative experiences that have rewired our internal programming to be cautious, not trust others, and put our own needs before those of others. I believe that this is the main reason we are so ready to welcome the holidays into our lives, even if it is in early November!

 

As we enter the new year and make our resolutions, it may be beneficial to make a few resolutions that will help us carry the warmth of the holidays into the rest of the upcoming year. Consider spending more time with family, or holding the door for a stranger, or giving some grace to those around us with the realization that they might be going through struggles of their own. After all, we are in this together… We share this point in time with one another and what we do/how we treat each other today effects the norms of our society for generations to come.

 

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian

Signs of Cyber-Bullying to Look For as Your Kids Go Back to School

ImageAs students head back to school for the new academic year, there are naturally a new set of social changes and shifts in status that take place. Some kids/adolescents may attempt to highlight a different aspect of their personality during the new school year and change the label which may have been placed on them. Unfortunately, some of these individuals will choose the bullying route to achieve their personal goals: they will choose to take the route of belittling and tormenting others as a means of elevating this own status. In other words, they will bully others to elevate their own position in their social circle. This is a time when adults need to be hyper-vigilant and attuned to the experience of possible victims of bullying.

Some signs to watch for may be a change in the individual’s overall mood. Be aware of whether your child is suddenly more quiet, more angry, more irritable, etc. Also, pay attention to any physical changes that may be taking place such as wearing different types of clothing (i.e. covering up, dressing provocative, etc.). Another change that may need to be addressed is a sudden increase in the use of accessories such as stacking bracelets: this may be an attempt to cover up proof of self-harm.  Try to be aware of whether your child is quickly gaining or losing weight because this is usually a sign of some type of emotional turmoil. In addition, a change in your child’s usual routine may be an indicator that possible negative social changes may be taking places for him/her (i.e. she used to talk on the phone with her best friend for hours but suddenly has nobody to talk to). It is also important to take notice of any changes in your child’s use of social media and the internet. Is your child who used to be on the internet constantly, suddenly avoiding it?  Or vice versa?

It is important to note that neither one of these behavioral changes individually mean your child is being bullied but instead, it is usually any combination of these changes that should alert your sense of awareness as a parent. The underlying theme in all these possible signs of cyber-bullying is CHANGE in behavior. The most critical thing that a parent can do for his/her child who is being bullied is to first, notice the changes in your child’s behavior and the possible signs that your child may be in a state of depression, and second, to help them advocate for themselves or if need be, to step in and advocate on their behalf. The best thing that you can do for a child who is being cyber-bullied is to notice and to show that you care.

If you determine that your child is being bullied in any way, it is recommended that you add a psychologist to your team in helping your child process and make sense of the feelings and experiences that he/she has endured.

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian

Teenagers and Sleep

Did you know that when adolescents enter puberty, their circadian rhythm naturally shifts by 2-3 hours? This means that their bodies don’t feel the need to fall asleep until later in the night and are not ready to wake up until later in the morning. How do you think this effects them when we expect them to be awake, alert, and focused in class at 8 am? Some middle schools and high schools have shifted their school hours to start and end later due to this fact and results show that attendance has increased, tardiness has decreased, and the students and generally performing better in their classes. Food for thought…

Instead of being hard on your teenager about their morning routine, try educating them about this fact and work on coming up with a game-plan together about what they can do to make the best of their night and morning. For example, trying to get to bed a few minutes earlier every day, trying to relax before bedtime, etc.  If you are having trouble parenting your adolescent or are unable to communicate in a healthy manner with him/her, consider seeking the help of a psychologist.

ABC 7 News interviewed me yesterday regarding the preschool investigation in Carson!

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/video?id=8980746&pid=null

Coping with the Stresses of Infertility

ImageAlthough many women have certain plans regarding when and after which achievements they would like to establish a family, some are unfortunately faced with the realization that just because they are now ready to conceive, that doesn’t mean that their body will follow suit. Difficulty conceiving and/or having a viable pregnancy can be an extremely stressful experience for many women and couples. A new study published in the journal of Human Reproduction focuses on this issue by studying the various stress points that challenge women as they struggle to become pregnant.

The study examined 445 women, between ages 18 and 44 years, who were experiencing difficulties in conceiving. One third of these women stated that they felt some level of worry from the moment that they started trying to become pregnant. In addition, nearly half on this group reported that they felt ashamed and that they were a failure as a woman. Infertility often has many psychological side-effects on women including depression, anxiety, anger, and low self-esteem. These feelings are extremely difficult for a woman to process, especially if she tries to keep them to herself and does not have a strong support system. In these circumstances, it is imperative that she work with a psychologist on a regular basis to process the feelings associated to infertility and to better her coping mechanism to get through this difficult time in the best possible way.

In addition, it is important to note that dealing with infertility can be extremely taxing on the relationship between husband and wife. Many times, the individual who is the primary source of the difficulties feels that they are at fault and the other individual may not know the best way to show support. In addition, they may have different perspectives regarding the lengths that they are willing to go through to become pregnant and may not know how to address this issue with one another. It is very important for a couple going through this difficult time to communicate honestly and sensitively with one another. For many, couples therapy is an ideal way of doing this because they feel safe and comfortable knowing that they are in the presence of an unbiased individual who can facilitate the conversation. The decision of whether to begin fertility treatment can be very difficult one, but this study found that when women began fertility treatment, the majority (63%) reported feeling that they got closer to their partner and that their partner was supportive throughout the process.

As with any stressful time in one’s life, it is extremely important to acknowledge and express the feelings that the experience has caused for the woman and for the couple. Stresses such as infertility can be difficult and detrimental to an individual and a marriage if they are not addressed correctly; however, if one chooses to get help from a psychologist regarding their emotional struggles, they can use this difficult time in their life to become a stronger individual and a healthier couple.

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian

TUNE IN TO ABC7 @5:30 TODAY!!!

Please tune in to ABC7 at 5:30pm today to watch me speak with Health Reporter, Denise Dador, about how to emotionally prepare kids for summer camp!!! I’d love to hear your feedback after it airs!!!

Signs of Dyslexia May be Apparent in Preschool Aged Children

A new study released in April 2012 in Current Biology has found a significant causal link between Visual Spatial Attention and Reading Acquisition.  In plain English, what this means is that parents and clinicians may now be able to identify as well as intervene to better prevent a child from being held back by the handicap that dyslexia can cause for them as they grow older. 

The study found that poor readers demonstrated an impaired ability to scan and search through visual material when they were prereaders.  In addition, the study reports that 60% of poor readers displayed visual-attention deficits when prereaders.  The causal relation was made that visual attention in preschoolers specifically predicts future reading acquisition.   

This study can be tremendously helpful to parents, teachers, and clinicians in our ability to identify and help these children.  Parents can take notice of their child’s ability to maintain visual attention and practice these skills in a fun manner such as ‘Visual Search & Find’  (i.e.: Where’s Waldo type games).  Preschool teachers and programs can make it a point to incorporate such activities into their curriculum to help build these skills in children.  Lastly, clinicians can focus greater attention on the use of visual scanning assessment tools as one of the various measures used to identify dyslexia at a younger age. 

For parents who are interested in practicing these skills with their young children but who need some guidance in how to begin, a good starting place is to discuss it with your child’s teacher.  Another option would be to work with a psychologist who specializes in educational assessments and can tailor a plan for you to work on these skills with your child.   In addition, if your child is demonstrating significant difficulties in his/her visual attention at a young age (approximately 3-5), you may want to closely track their growth in attaining reading skills as they grow older and get them evaluated for dyslexia in early elementary school if you are concerned.  Never dismiss your gut feelings as a parent… if you feel like something is not right, it’s important to get them evaluated early.  After all, nobody knows your child better than you do. 

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


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