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

Category Archives: Family Issues

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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


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


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.


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!!!


I often see/hear discussions in the community regarding how children/adolescents are posting too much personal information on social media sites such as Facebook and I feel that this is legitimately a source of concern for parents.  Therefore, I found a new study from the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science which addresses the issue to be very relevant.  The study found that the amount of personal information that teens share on FB is actually similar to the amount of personal information that their parents share.  The only difference is that teens spend more time on these kinds of sites.  This, in turn, gives them more time to post content that is personal.  On average, it was determined that teens spend 55 minutes per day on Facebook, whereas adults spend 38 minutes/day.  However, the personal nature of the posts (i.e. pictures, locations, etc) between parents and children is similar in content.

One thing that this study brought to mind for me is that although the personal nature of the posts between the parents and children may be similar, that does not account for the content of the posts.  In other words, although a parent may feel it appropriate to post a picture of him/herself with their spouse, the content of that picture may be more conservative than a picture that their teen may post of him/herself with their boy/girlfriend.  I would appreciate a study that would further look into this issue regarding if the personal posts uploaded by teens place them in a more compromising position than the personal posts uploaded by their parents. 

That said, I believe that social media is a territory that parents need to address and discuss with their teens.  It is not something that is going away anytime soon and generally speaking, can actually be a great way for teens to express themselves.  However, like any other aspect of raising teenagers, limits and boundaries need to be set around its use and occasional monitoring is needed.   Most importantly, it is critical to talk to your teens about the consequences of the information they choose to post on social media sites and the permanent nature of the content they place on the internet.  Open communication and trust are vital aspects in a parent and teen relationship.  This does not mean that you should treat your teenager like they are your friend but that you are there to be a sounding board for them if/when they are having issues.  If your teen then chooses to follow a path that you disapprove of as a parent, that it when it is necessary to give them a consequence.  If you are struggling in communicating effectively with your teen, it is important to address the issue by seeing a psychologist before it gets out of control.  However, just try to keep in mind that they are going through a difficult time in their lives in which they are trying to determine how their personal values/beliefs align with the social environment in which they exist and how to go about being accepted in light of who they are.  For some, this struggle does not end in adolescence, but is a lifelong journey…

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


 Have you ever wondered if your infant realizes it when you’re upset or arguing with your spouse?  New research shows that although infants may not be able to tell us how they are feeling, a conflictual relationship between their parents stresses them out, as demonstrated by the effect that it has on their sleep  patterns.  Research recently published in the journal  Child Development explains that marital instability when the infant was nine months old was related to child sleep problems at 18 months, including difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep.  Although all infants and children go through periods of sleep difficulty, it is important to consider whether exposure to a conflictual relationship may be further worsening the problem.  In other words, not all sleep difficulties in children are due to parental conflict, but if parental conflict is present and your baby is experiencing sleep difficulties, it is likely that the exposure to conflict is having a negative impact on the baby’s sleep pattern.

Sleep in crucial to the healthy development of infants as discussed in a research study from Emory University, which was recently published in the journal SLEEP.  The study shows that longer bouts of sleep in infants end with an increase in weight and body-fat composition tied to an increase in length.  In other words, sleep affects a baby’s physical development by helping them get taller and it also increases the baby’s weight and abdominal fat.  Therefore, preventing a baby from achieving optimal levels of sleep due to environmental stressors such as marital conflict can impact not only their emotional, but also their physical development. 

Although parents do not intend to hurt their infants when arguing with their spouse in front of the infant, it is important to know that it does have an impact on them.  Most parents assume that during infancy, babies have no idea what is going on in the world, so they do not need to filter their behavior or language as they would if they were upset at their partner in the presence of an older child.  More and more, however, we are seeing that this assumption is not true.  Although babies do not have a clear sense of what is being said or why, they sense the emotions that are involved in the relationships surrounding them.  In other words, if you are yelling at your partner, the baby does not understand what you are saying, but they understand that you become angry when interacting with your spouse.  This, in turn, affects your baby’s emotional state and (as this study shows us) their physical development.  Therefore, it is important to stay composed and contain the expression of negative emotions in the presence of infants as one would in the presence of an 8-year-old child.  Otherwise, it can affect their ability to emotionally and physically thrive ( as well as your ability to get a good night’s sleep).   It is important to seek the services of a psychologist if you feel like your baby’s sleep difficulties are caused by emotional difficulties in the home.  Family and/or couples therapy is very helpful in providing healthy outlets for the communication of negative emotions in relationships. 

Dr. Melkonian



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