This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

close x

Category Archives: News

Terror Levels and Anxiety in Children

London Bridge memorial messages and Union Jack flag posted after terror attack - credit ChiralJon on Flickr, flickr.com/photos/69057297@N04/

Tributes at London Bridge after the 2017 terror attack. Credit: ChiralJon, via Flickr (flickr.com/photos/69057297@N04).

The results of a recent YouGov survey have revealed that a third of children in the South East aged 5 to 18 worry about a possible terror attack. 35% of parents interviewed have said this fear is causing anxiety in their children. The YouGov survey, which saw more than 1800 parents included nationally, was commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation to uncover the impact that world events were having on children.

Worrying about unpredictable events is very understandable. Reassuringly, it is easy for parents to reduce this fear to manageable levels. Children fear the things that they can’t fully understand; that said, they are also resilient.

It is really important to be able to reduce a child’s fear before it interferes with their mood. Anxiety left unchecked tends to get worse, rather than the old and false belief of ‘ignore it and it will go away’.

MCR heart with bees symbol of Manchester painted as mural on wall after Manchester terror attacks

David Dixon’s photo of the Manchester bee symbol, used heavily in the wake of the Manchester attack, shows the community coming together. Credit: David Dixon (http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/43729).

Helpful Tips to Reduce Anxiety about Terror Levels

1. Talk in an age-appropriate way to your children about the unlikely probability of a terror attack in their immediate world.

This will quickly reduce their distress. Simple maths and probability with older children works well, demonstrating that the likelihood of a terror attack happening to them is very small. Last year, a Maryland University study found that, across Europe, you were more likely to be a victim of terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s than you are now. Remind your child that you lived through these times.

Fables, myths and made up stories work with younger children. For instance, a young child quickly grasps that Father Christmas only visits in certain circumstances and at certain times: if they are good, and only at Christmas. Young children don’t need to understand time and frequency to hold this in mind, as they know Father Christmas doesn’t visit every day.   

2. Teach your teenager about some sensible precautions they can take to remain vigilant about their surroundings.

Be careful not to swamp them with too much information, and stick to practical things they can do that make sense in everyday life. For instance, to always have their mobile charged when going out (perhaps carrying a charging cable or lightweight emergency power pack) and being very aware of emergency exits.

In contrast, a younger child is greatly reassured by being told that parents and teachers are there to look after them. This frees them from the burden of worry. Older children feel safer when they feel involved and in control, but younger children need to know that parents and carers are in control.

3. Reassure them that it’s okay to speak to an adult or teacher at any time that they feel a genuine fear.

Do not make fun of them when they do confide in you. If they can’t tell you for fear of ridicule, the anxiety simply stays inside and grows. Should your child be bottling things up unnecessarily, and you’re struggling to get them talking, they might wish to express themselves through drawing, writing or similar activities.

Their school may also be able to encourage them to open up, either as part of PSHE lessons or in school assemblies, perhaps using the Red Cross’ resources for teachers on how to discuss disasters and emergencies. Schools will be aware of the need to teach pupils not to judge other children because of their race or religion, especially in the wake of terrorist incidents, when intolerant opinions can often be voiced louder than ever before.

4. Remind children that it is okay to trust their judgment – if a situation looks suspicious, it may be suspicious.

They need to get away from the situation, if it is safe to do so, and alert an adult who can take the necessary action. If these steps are taken, fear will reduce.

The ongoing public transport campaign, ‘See it. Say it. Sorted‘ (launched in 2016) can also be reassuring, as children will realise the British Transport Police takes reports of suspicious activity seriously and that you can simply send a text message to 61016 to report something suspicious.

5. Images of terror surround us, but it is important not to produce a false picture by blacking out all media representations.

Children will always find out about life events, either through friends, family members or at school, and we shouldn’t expect them to stay ignorant.

We cannot pretend terror attacks never happen, but we can reassure children of any age that they are still rare. What’s more, when they do happen, many people will be on hand to help and, just as the unfolding coverage can upset us, there will also be stories about acts of kindness and bravery from the public during and after an upsetting event.

Talking About Terror Threats if Your Child Has Autism

If your child has autism, there are a range of very specific tools that can be used to reduce their fear. At our psychology clinic, we often use Social Stories: a concept developed by teacher Carol Gray in 1990 to help her autistic pupils.

The use of Social Stories is a very specific way of teaching, via the use of stories with your child, which introduces the concept of anxiety about terrorism in a character or subject in a made-up story. Using this technique, the child is able to understand the concept through the eyes of the character. This is really important when a child is unable to make sense of simple explanation.

Written by a guest contributor for Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk).

crisis News parenting0 comments

Autism Awareness in 2017: How Much Progress Has Been Made?

Child sitting on the floor with headphones on to represent autism and spread autism awareness

Sensory overload is a major concern for parents of autistic children. Thanks to greater autistic awareness, more public spaces than ever before are accommodating autistic visitors.

Autism awareness is growing year on year, but 2017 has involved a wide range of coverage in the media, on the curriculum and in science. Here are the most impressive facts and figures from autism-related news stories in the last 12 months.

Autism Education

Schools are becoming more aware of additional needs for autistic pupils, but there is still work to be done. In September, the Department for Education revealed that 9,040 children with autistic spectrum disorder were excluded for a fixed term from their school between 2015-2016 – an increase of 25% since the previous year.

Last month, teacher Gemma Corby wrote a SENDCO column in the TES (Times Education Supplement) about the autism misconceptions many teachers have. She reminded readers that autism is a developmental condition, and that the National Autistic Society believes many autistic children don’t have difficulty learning. Autism awareness is vital for teachers, as they then pass it onto pupils in the classroom.

Autism and Scientific Advances

Research into treatment for autism, and research into its wider impact, continues to make the headlines. A new drug called NitroSynapsin showed promising results in early tests by scientists, suggesting it can correct many behavioural and electrical imbalances in the brain, which are found in patients with autism spectrum disorder. The findings were reported in Nature Communications. NitroSynapsin may also help sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease, by improving synapse function.

This month, the Southwestern Medical Centre in Utah announced that its preliminary research had found applying brain stimulation to autistic patients could correct some social behaviours. Using neuromodulation on the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex wouldn’t change the genetic cause of autism, but findings suggest it would improve social interaction and behaviour for those with autism. Read more about the study here.

Autism-Friendly Spaces

On 2nd October, a nationwide quiet hour was instigated by the National Autistic Society. This raised awareness of the number of people on the autistic spectrum (thought to be 11 in every 1,000 people), and the problems that public spaces – particularly shopping centres – can cause for autism sufferers, who struggle with the sensory overload of queues, crowds, displays, lighting and music.

Over the Christmas season, autism-friendly Santa’s grottoes aim to minimise sensory stimulation, by reducing distractions such as strong lighting, decorations and noise, and training Santa to understand which questions and comments could upset an autistic child during their visit. Meanwhile, cinemas up and down the country now offer special film screenings for children with learning disabilities, including autism, all year round. These screenings happen in a safe and non-judgemental space, where autism awareness is a given.

Autism in the Media

A new children’s animated series, called Pablo, gently shows young children what it’s like to live with autism. Co-created by the BBC and RTEjr, it covers the different triggers that might distress someone with autism, such as going to brightly-lit, busy places like the supermarket, or being around strong smells and sounds. The programme was warmly received by parents and children – those with lived experience of autism and without – and the programme makers were praised for helping to raise autism awareness whilst being sensitive to the needs of ASD children.

Series Two of The A Word, an autism-focused BBC drama, was broadcast this autumn and winter and was a hit with viewers. The programme portrays one family’s journey through an autism diagnosis for their son, Joe, and his life after being diagnosed. It’s actually based on an Israeli drama, The Yellow Peppers. The A Word shows how Joe has certain needs that aren’t being met locally; despite his mother wanting him to remain in mainstream school with a learning support assistant, the family has to travel for miles to reach the nearest specialist school. For more information on how The A Word writer Peter Bowker worked with the National Autistic Society, click here.

If you’re seeking an assessment for autism, ASD or Asperger’s Syndrome, please get in touch to find out more about our work in this area.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk).

autism News0 comments

Child Poverty: Is a Child’s Success Dependant on a Parent’s Income?

 

Children in doorways: one standing in front of ornate wooden door, the other sitting in front of smaller door, showing child poverty comparisons

Who says the child with the bigger house and affluent lifestyle must automatically achieve more than a child in poverty?

The surge in child poverty has hit the headlines recently, and rightly so.

According to research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, there were 4 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2015-16. That’s 30 per cent of children, or 9 in a classroom of 30. Much has been reported in the media that appears to assert without exception that poor children do not reach the attainment levels of their richer peers.

While this may be true in many cases, it is not an absolute fact. It also insults low income parents who tirelessly make sure their children can access sufficient opportunities.

It is a fact that children succeed, (within their individual cognitive ability levels), largely because of the attention and input of their parents. This is true whether a parent is on Universal Credit or drawing a large corporate salary.

It is undeniably much more of an unenviable struggle for parents on benefits, but it is not a given that the better-off child will reach a higher attainment level.

There are major factors that position both of these parents’ children on an equal platform after the balance weights are adjusted. What propels children to future success is the ability of their parents or caregivers to provide a safe, loving and consistent environment, in which a child is stimulated and given the scaffolding needed to move forward.

Let’s not be under any illusion: poverty is often a significant barrier. Much more should be done to help families lift themselves out of poverty. However, the constant one-sided coverage about the lack of opportunities for poorer children slaps many diligent parents in the face. Parents who with limited funds provide their children with everything they need and more to propel their children forward – socially, educationally and cognitively. We must acknowledge that many poorer parents are resourceful, committed and multi-skilled in every sense of the word.

Parents who can stay positive while going to a food bank: that is a skill worth praising.

Parents who scour through innumerable charity shops, as many of our clients do, to provide stimulating toys to their children: that is selfless.

Parents who sift nightly through eBay listings to source a second-hand laptop for the kids: that is resourceful parenting.

Raising a child on benefit or a low income relies on skills that many successful executives would find a challenge if performed day in and day out without respite.

What these parents are modelling to their children is resilience and how to find solutions to life’s challenges. It is this resilience and determination that gets us all through the hard times. Many poorer parents have this in spades.

I was at breakfast in a hotel recently, and was struck by an obviously affluent couple. Mother, wearing a white fluffy bathrobe and slippers (presumably in readiness for the Clarins spa) was impatiently adding soya milk to a bowl into which she had carefully measured, several varieties of grains. Dad had his head bowed over a newspaper while absent-mindedly spooning porridge in the direction of their infant’s head. Their child, a boy, perhaps 4 or 5 months old, was propped up with an iPad for company, seemingly being entertained by a cartoon. The animated dog on the screen was getting more porridge than the child.  Neither parent noticed. There was no communication between the couple or interaction with the child.

Seriously, can anyone with a grain of cognition really believe that this child of better-off but distracted parents has a more favourable future than a child of the involved parent on benefits or a low wage? A child who receives a book or laptop from the charity shop and has an involved parent to interact with has a flat advantage over the Armani-dressed ignored child raised by a cartoon dog.

While poverty must be eradicated by assisting people to help themselves, it is also crucial that we applaud those parents who struggle and succeed every day to maximise their children’s chances. We need to be cautious about the black and white assumptions we make without considering the other variables that are in operation.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk).

News parenting Psychology0 comments

How the Media Should Report Mental Health Stories

Writing a story or report with pen on paper - man's hands on top of desk and writing materials

Think before you publish that story or documentary.

On Monday, the Virgin Money Giving Mind Media Awards celebrated the most supportive and accurate mental health reporting in the British media, including documentaries, radio shows, digital content and newspaper reporting.

Mind, one of the UK’s best known mental health charities, knows how important it is to report sensitively on any mental health news story or feature, because ignorant or distressing content can lead to genuine distress for mental health sufferers and their families.

So, what does responsible media content look like, and how are mental health organisations ensuring fewer damaging reports slip through the net? These are the key factors to consider.

Think Before You Write

There are many misused terms still used by reporters and editors for widely misunderstood conditions – words like ‘psychotic’, ‘bipolar’ and ‘schizophrenic’ are often used inaccurately. Furthermore, casual words like ‘crazy’, ‘mad’, ‘breakdown’ and ‘bonkers’ can also be used to generate headlines or clickbait. By sensationalising these stories, the media is reducing sufferers to stereotypes.

Good mental health content is inquisitive without being intrusive: it respects the emotional impact that comes with telling your story to a journalist or producer. It works with, not against, interviewees, and involves a high level of research to avoid offending or stigmatising anyone involved in the story. When reporting on a failure of care by health professionals, it demands answers for those affected, as was the case in Mind Media Awards winner Catherine Jones’ investigation for Channel 5 News.

Any content that could be triggering for readers, listeners or viewers is best ended with contact details for relevant organisations, such as the Samaritans. This has now become standard on episodes of television soaps, where hotline numbers or websites are displayed at the end of the episode credits. Online and print content is catching up, but there is still work to be done.

The new Mental Health Media Charter, created by campaigner Natasha Devon, calls on all parts of the media to commit to creating stigma-free mental health content. Signatories so far include the Metro, Grazia, Tes and Heat magazine. I can’t wait to see who else signs the charter and makes a stand against irresponsible journalism.

Private no public right of way sign demonstrating privacy and boundaries in driveway

We all have a right to privacy, especially when grieving, but this can sadly be overlooked by intrusive journalists.

Reporting Suicide

When reporting suicide, or suicide attempts, the media should be particularly careful not to share graphic details which may encourage other suicidal people to imitate the methods mentioned. The charity Samaritans has issued useful guidelines for anyone reporting on suicide.

Friends and family members can often be hounded by the media in the wake of a loved one’s suicide, via incessant phone calls, ‘doorstepping’ (turning up at someone’s home to get an interview), or trawling social media profiles for signs of intent. This is deeply distressing and does not help with the grieving process.

When someone close to you commits suicide, you may fear you could have done more to help them, and you search for warning signs that could have been missed days, weeks or months earlier. However, people with mental health problems and suicidal thoughts don’t necessarily look depressed; they can develop coping mechanisms and present as upbeat and untroubled. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), a mental health charity which aims to reduce male suicide, reminds us that ‘sometimes there are no warning signs because the person wants to keep their personal crisis private, and so will work hard at hiding their thoughts and feelings’.

The media needs to recognise there is no single pattern of suicidal thought or behaviour, nor is there a single ‘depressed’ or ‘suicidal’ stock image to be used alongside these articles (such as the dreaded stereotypical ‘head clutcher’, where a person sits with their head in their hands).

Crime Stories

Mental illness is often wrongly attributed as the sole cause for a horrendous crime, leading to media speculation that everyone with that diagnosis is a threat to society. One prime example is the Germanwings pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who deliberately crashed a plane in March 2015, killing everyone on board. Stories quickly appeared, speculating that, because the pilot had been treated for depression, depressed pilots posed a threat to their passengers. Mind quickly countered such arguments with a statement.

Unfortunately, the damaging stories in the UK and beyond were still read by millions of people. The World Psychiatry Journal published findings in October 2015 that ‘the plane crash did have a measurable impact on public attitudes towards persons with mental disorder’.

In reality, serious crime happens for a multitude of reasons: some environmental and societal, some caused by reactions to life events. Stastically, someone with a mental illness is more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator. With one in four of us experiencing mental illness during our lifetime, imagine how many people you come into contact with every week who successfully manage a mental health issue. You shouldn’t fear these people. Being a pilot, or taking on a similarly intense job, involves regular medical checks, and we should trust that mental health can be responsibly managed, just like any other health condition, by patients, their therapists and health professionals.

Those diagnosed with schizophrenia can also be media targets. Every year, we see headlines around the world sensationalising the rare times when a schizophrenic patient becomes violent. This reportage doesn’t communicate how rare these incidents are, how much brilliant care there is for schizophrenia patients, and how many people with the diagnosis aren’t violent at all. Cal Strode, from the Mental Health Foundation, has blogged about this misrepresentation for the Huffington Post. The perceived threats suggested by certain parts of the media are both damaging and disrespectful.  

Weights on a bar at the gym and in a pile in the foreground

Society’s attitudes towards gender, body image ideals and identity can weigh you down.

Body Image and Identity

Writer and activist Juno Dawson spoke at the Mind Media Awards about the need for the media to respect transgender issues when reporting on them. She cited the statistic (from the National Centre for Transgender Equality) that 40% of those who identify as transgender will attempt suicide.

High-profile transgender icons, such as Caitlin Jenner and Kellie Maloney, are helping to break the stigma, but the transgender community and the wider LGBTQI+ community is still not given the same respect when it comes to mental health media coverage. For example, it’s important to use the pronouns that the person identifies with (this could be he, she or they/them), and to use the correct terminology when conducting interviews or producing content.

Beyond transgender issues, body image can become too much of a fixation for tabloids and websites, who incessantly report on celebrity weight loss, dieting and weight gain. Media figures who speak out about eating disorders have often seen their bodies scrutinised by reporters, on top of the self-stigmatisation that comes with their condition. Magazines not only publish intrusive images, but also the weight, dress size and BMI of celebrities, and the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods they eat, reinforcing fears of weight gain.

Some health professionals also believe that trends like ‘clean eating’, often celebrated by the media, can fuel an ENDOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), by excluding multiple food groups and developing a restricted diet with inflexible self-imposed rules. Dr. Max Pemberton is just one of those speaking out. When clean eating gurus are praised by magazines and websites, their food ethos becomes both normalised and amplified.

Events like the Mind Media Awards remind us that progress is being made to destigmatise mental illness in our newspapers, magazines and other media. However, it would be refreshing if all media outlets used emotional intelligence, tact and sensitivity when creating content about mental health.

Written by guest contributor and mental health campaigner Polly Allen, for Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk).

communication depression News0 comments

To Smack or Not to Smack? A Sting in the Tail

Child reeling from parent's smack - physical abuse and smacking debate

Delivering a smack to your child: cruelty or discipline?

To smack or not to smack?  The debate rages on. Max Pemberton, a journalist and NHS psychiatrist, has caused a bit of a stir. He claimed that smacking doesn’t cause deep-seated psychological damage to children.

The issue was also aired on the TV show Good Morning Britain, on Tuesday 15th August. ‘Parenting Guru’ Sue Atkins and pro-smacker Katie Ivens both argued their cases, amidst some input from Jeremy Kyle (read more about the debate here).

In the wake of these opposing media views, I’d like to invite Dr Pemberton and Ms Ivens to shadow me on a working day. A working day where the effects of child violence, often verbally disguised as discipline, are all too poignantly seen. In a few cases, with tragic consequences.

The legal position on smacking: UK, Wales, Scotland and Ireland

Currently, smacking a child is legal in the UK as long as it doesn’t result in visible injury, but some members of the Welsh government and Scottish Parliament are lobbying for change. In December 2015, Ireland removed the ‘reasonable punishment’ exception and made smacking illegal.

In theory, many would agree that the occasional controlled smack, carried out by a loving parent, does not harm kids in the long term.

Imagine a situation where your toddler suddenly runs into a busy road.  There’s no time call him back.  Instinct ensures that you grab him, often roughly, by the nearest part of his body to prevent a tragedy.

This is necessary manhandling, fuelled by adrenaline. Most of us have done this and followed it up with a hug of relief, thankful our child is safe.  When a smack follows, rather than a hug of relief, what is it really about?  Is it to teach? Is it an outward expression of parental rage, a venting of feelings of failure for taking the eye off the ball so to speak? Is it perhaps an asserting of adult control over a smaller individual?  Is smacking for the good of the child, or to soothe the bruised adult ego?

In spite of this argument, there may be a case for smacking, but consider this. If all parents’ had adequate ego control, positive coping strategies and good emotional regulation, perhaps controlled smacking might be acceptable on some occasions.

The line between a controlled smack and physical abuse

The hard truth is, the abused children we clinicians meet up and down the country have never experienced a controlled smack in an environment of care.

The reality is that many children are physically abused daily under the pretence of smacking and good discipline.

When a parent loses control and physically chastises a child (which is often how smacking happens), it is often explained as disciplining an out-of-control child.

The situation is often that the parent has snapped, has in the moment lost parenting skills, and has instead reacted physically to the child’s behaviour.

Smacking would be okay, perhaps, if all adults could remain rational, calm and in control of their emotional regulation in times of stress.

The huge number of physical abuse cases show that many parents have neither the emotional resilience or practical skills to manage their children’s difficult behaviour and resort instead to physical punishment.  A smack in the hands of an angry and out of control adult can escalate into extreme violence. This is often under the misguided notion of discipline.

Physical abuse is one of the primary causes of both attachment difficulties in children, and more enduring mental health conditions. This is a primary reason why smacking is not acceptable. Smacking is the thin end of the wedge.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk). 

News parenting Psychology0 comments

Walking Towards a Better Mood – New Research

Walking in front of a brick wall that says 'good' in a mural - suggesting walking is good for you

Walking towards a better mood.

It’s official: walking off a negative mood, and seeing quick results no matter what your speed, is possible.

A team of researchers at Iowa State University have confirmed that walking can blast away a negative mood. Better still, it does not need to be a fast aerobic stroll. Astonishingly, a 12-minute walk at speeds of just 3mph will raise a bad mood.

A study involving 400 undergraduates at Iowa State University and published in the Journal Of New Emotion has confirmed this amazing fact.

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that the walk location was unimportant. Forget the thought of the beautiful Sussex downs in autumn hues.  Participants who merely walked around an urban, drab and featureless university concourse (not to shame those at Iowa – many campuses aren’t easy on the eye) were just as likely to report an improvement in mood as those who had walked in beautiful surroundings.

Even students who walked on a treadmill for 12 minutes reported an increased mood. In contrast, those who sat at the end of the treadmill waiting for their friends felt worse than when they entered the gym.

Walking Off a Bad Mood: Why You Should Try It

Jeffrey Miller, study author and assistant professor at Saint Xavier University, said: “There seems to be something about that brisk, purposeful walk that is really good for you.”

The study increases the previously held view that even a short walk can be a valuable counter-measure in a difficult situation. So, what are you waiting for? You could take some of the heat out of that imminent meeting with the boss. It is certainly worth a try.

These findings also add weight to the already well-known physical benefits of walking.  Previous research has concluded that regular walking can slow dementia progression, prevent osteoarthritis, lower overall cancer risk and help in weight and blood pressure maintenance.

Try walking the next time you feel stress or worry clouding your thoughts: no matter the location, the walk itself could make a tangible difference to your mood.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk). 

health News wellbeing0 comments

The Academy Fire Selsey – A Loss

THE SELSEY ACADEMY FIRE – Moving forward.  

academy fire

The Selsey Academy Fire

The 21st August 2016 was a sad day for Selsey.  The Selsey Academy fire will go down in the history of the town.

It will be remembered in a similar way to the tornado that ripped through roofs in January 1998.  After the tornado the stoical folks of Selsey pulled together.  Yesterday, some 18 years later, the ‘Selsey Spirit’ rose  again.  Social media helped mobilise the ‘troops’ who organised themselves efficiently to supply food and drink to the firefighters. The smoke has cleared. The reality has begun to bite.  Selsey has lost a focal point of the community.

Similar to Bereavement

The feelings that arise are similar to those of bereavement. Nobody has died yet a sense of loss hangs in the air.

There is initial shock. Statements are heard like ‘This can’t be true’, (Denial).  Quite quickly awareness widens to acknowledgement.  The Academy was destroyed by fire. It will leave a gap in the community. As the reality sets in, some people will express anger.  Already and without concrete evidence there have been claims that the fire must have been started by an arson attack.  When people feel helpless, the blame game is played. To play the blame game a  ‘scapegoat’ is needed.   You will hear questions like – Were the firefighters quick enough? and Were there sprinklers fitted in the building?

Each of these comments are normal when individuals feel powerless. The objective of the blame game is to feel less powerless.  Try not to buy into it. It divides us and delays the process of moving forward.  After this comes a sense of sadness for what was lost. Finally, acceptance will be reached and we will be able to move forward as a community.

The town is going through a process of disbelief, anger, blaming and sadness. All of this is normal and takes time until we reach acceptance

Possible effects on pupils

For students the process is more difficult. They need to adapt to the loss of their school. There is  likely to be a period of anxiety about the future and about where they will go to school. They will also worry about their friendships.

Parents may notice a quietness in their children or an increase in teenage moodiness. They need time to adjust. This is big news to them. Their cognitive systems need time to process this knowledge. Children who have experienced a change in family situation in the last 12 months may feel the uncertainty more. Take time to listen to your child’s concerns and respond with the actual knowledge you have.

At present the precise arrangements for the children’s schooling is not clear, it can’t be as yet.  It’s crucial that the children are supported at this time.

Parents can help by reassuring their child that clear plans are being made for their education. It may take a while to fine tune the details but what is certain is that a practical solution is being developed.

It is an unpleasant situation but if handled sensitively, your child will have developed important coping strategies and an ability to manage unexpected change. This lesson will be as important as any formal teaching of emotional intelligence.

 

Witten by Christine Tizzard Psychology

Press Release Uncategorized0 comments

PTSD Triggers – The Known and Unknown

triggers of ptsd

 

It had been a perfect day, despite PTSD.

You were having fun. All of a sudden the fear, the flashbacks, the avoidance and the panic of PTSD returns. Why now?

This is the question often asked by patients in clinic. There is a simple answer: panic frequently re-appears in PTSD.  When it does, it often reduces sufferers to jelly.

This often happens suddenly and without warning.  It is all to do with PTSD triggers – things that resemble or remind the brain of the original traumatic incident.

Big triggers and small triggers can both cause a massive panic response

Most people are aware of the big things connected with a trauma. Some people consciously make a list of things that were connected with the traumatic incident – these lists become their conscious trauma triggers.  They believe that they can then anticipate the ‘hot spots’ and take action to manage the uncomfortable scenarios. However, this doesn’t often work. The problem is, it’s the unconscious and unknown triggers that knock us off balance and onto our knees.

For example, Gill* is a successful career woman.  She was raped six months ago, on her way home from a nightclub. Gill is very aware of certain triggers: she is scared of being alone in town at night, particularly in a certain part of town.  She also jumps at the sight of a certain make of car, and freezes if she hears any door slam. 

Gill recalled that recently she was hosting a presentation at her gallery in Geneva.  All was well.  There were many high-profile clients attending. Naturally, she wanted to make a great impression.  Instead, she suddenly found her mind racing, her heart pounding, and a pressing desire to sprint right out of the room.

At that moment, she felt that her very survival depended on escaping. She lurched to the ladies room, where involuntary shaking gave way to floods of tears.  The presentation now seemed a threat. She was unable to regain her composure.  Instead, she called a friend to collect her and left by the back entrance.

Hidden PTSD triggers

It was the following week, during treatment, that she suddenly recalled that she had registered a strong smell of a particular masculine fragrance at the gallery presentation. She remembered that her attacker had smelt the same. She hadn’t been aware of that hidden piece of the jigsaw previously.

Suddenly it made sense: it had been an unconscious trigger, that had remained below consciousness until the evening of the presentation.  Now she is aware of a new trigger, she is able to use techniques learnt in therapy to tolerate her acute sense of fear.  She is able to use learnt strategies to reduce that trigger’s effect on her.

PTSD set-backs are temporary

The point is that, for as many triggers we are aware of, there are also just as many that remain out of range.  These are like rocks under the water. It is so important to recognise this fact.

It is tough to accept that, even where fantastic progress is made during treatment, there are likely to be temporary set-backs.  But these set backs are exactly that: temporary ones. This is the nature of PTSD.

*Client’s name and occupatiation has been changed due to client confidentiality.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, BSc, MSc, PsychD, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Find out about EMDR treatment for PTSD at Christine Tizzard Psychology here

News PTSD0 comments

Terror Attacks – Helping Kids Cope

Worried about terror attacks and the effects on children's mental health - upset child in profile

Is your child worried and upset by the recent terror attacks?

It is every parent’s nightmare: despite your best attempts, somehow your 6-year-old daughter has learnt of recent terror attacks.

She is scared and tearful. She asks you if she or you are going to be hurt by bad people. She tells you there are some ‘mean’ people who want to hurt others.

You don’t want her  innocence to be lost so soon; at the same time, you do want to be truthful. This is a scenario that every parent fears. It is also, sadly, one we are having to deal with more frequently. What is the best way of handling it? How does a parent explain terror attacks?

The most important thing, which most adults forget, is: a child who has a secure relationship with their parents already has a fortress of containment. This is the best possible starting point for tackling the unpalatable. You can reduce the fear of terror attacks through everyday parenting.

Parents view terror and trauma from an adult perspective, through adult eyes. We recognise the ugliness of horror and atrocity. Small children have not yet developed this depth of understanding, thank goodness. Their innocence is also a protection. Unless Children are directly affected by trauma, they don’t recognise it in quite the same way as adults, unless we teach them through our own fear. It’s really important that your children do not see your fear, your rage or your feelings of powerlessness in response to a terror attack. If a child knows their parents are scared, they will be too.

Explaining terror attacks to your children: Eight things to consider

  1. For children, a secure and containing relationship with a parent, or another attachment figure, is the most important safety feature that protects them from acute fear.
  2.  Explain that there are a few bad people in the world who want to cause harm but that there are many more good people. Fictional characters can often be used as good examples for younger children.  They are often powerful archetypes of strength and character that children can easily relate to.
  3. Tell them the good people in the world outnumber the bad. Point out all the people who your child knows who help others in different ways. These people could be friends, family members, teachers, doctors etc.…
  4. Tell them that they have no need to worry, as Mum, Dad, Nanny, or another attachment figure, will always keep them safe. Explain to them that it is the parents’ job to protect them from the few bad people in the world.
  5. Never provide more information than needed about a horrific situation. Use factual language, but avoid the over use of descriptive phrases and pronouns.  It’s correct to say ‘Some people were hurt’, rather than ‘Some people had their arms and legs smashed or crushed’.
  6. Always answer their questions truthfully, in a basic age-appropriate manner.
  7. Try to find a positive balancing thought to your child’s concern. In the case of the events in Nice, a balancing thought would be: a) The good and brave people who stepped in to help, or b) The doctors who are working round the clock to make the injured better.
  8. The focus here is to help the child balance their nebulous fear of bad people posing a threat in the world, with concrete evidence of the certainty of many better people in the world. This will help a child to form a mental representation of safely, particularly a young child, where the ability to engage in abstract thinking is not yet developed.

If your child does want to engage with the news, they may find it useful to look at the BBC’s Newsround, aimed at children aged 6-13; find an interview with Newsround’s deputy editor, Kirsti Adair, here.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Psychologist. 

News parenting wellbeing0 comments

Is it good or bad to praise the kids? It all depends on how it is done.

shutterstock_102473987

To praise or not to praise, that is the question.

Several research reports published recently have asserted that ‘overpraising’ children can actually set them up to fail. One such study carried out at Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that over exaggerated praise is well intended, but for. kids who have low self-esteem it can make them less confident. Eddie Brummelhein, a doctoral student at Utrecht, states that praise causes less confident children to believe that they must constantly achieve to a high level. Unfortunately, this belief actually stops those students trying new tasks in case they fail.

A similar study found that telling pupils they are clever before an examination can actually worsen their grades. The rationale is that in telling a student that they are bright can increase performance anxiety and fear of failure.

It is understandable that some parents are left feeling a little confused. Mums and Dads are left thinking do I or do I not praise my child? What is helpful encouragement and what is potentially damaging? So should you praise your child?
The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. It is good to praise your child and to start praising them early. The guiding rule is that praise must be appropriate to the task accomplished. It must also be earned.

Exaggerated praise, however well-meaning is likely to eventually backfire. Too much praise and your child may acquire a tendency to give up early on tasks or to over inflate their skills. These behaviours could eventually result in underperformance, a lack of general efficacy and ultimately the Achilles syndrome, (the secret fear of failure.) Appropriate praise and encouragement on the other hand builds genuine self-esteem and self-confidence. Well-proportioned praise leads to self-belief.
The development of self-belief is essential for the concepts of stamina, perseverance and successful problem solving.

It is also the case that children are able to recognise when you are over egging the praise. When an adult gives exaggerated praise, children tend to think you are ‘bigging up’ their skills because they are really not good at something. Essentially praise that was meant to build esteem actually kills it stone dead. Some professionals assert that praise makes a child dependant on an adult and instead encourage parents to simply reflect back to the child what they have accomplished. ‘Oh you finished that puzzle’ rather than ‘well done for finishing the puzzle’. The belief being that the child will respond to ‘Oh you finished that puzzle’ with ‘I am clever’. This is potentially dangerous thinking. A young child needs to hear positive reinforcement to develop the ability to self-evaluate. They are unable to self-evaluate fully unless they are shown how to do this.

Many decades ago the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky in his seminal work on child development spoke of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and the role that parents play in scaffolding or helping a child to extend their skills beyond their chronological age. Praise given correctly is a vital component in scaffolding a child’s emotional and physical development. This remains true.
The key is to provide appropriate and encouraging praise in a timely and proportioned manner. It is not overpraising every routine thing your child does. The most effective praise contains the message ‘you have done well and you have the potential to build on this’. Not, ‘you are fabulous’, the ‘cleverest’ and the ‘greatest star’, even if, like most parents you really believe they are.

References:

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner & E. Souberman., Eds.) (A. R. Luria, M. Lopez-Morillas & M. Cole [with J. V. Wertsch], Trans.) Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. (Original manuscripts [ca. 1930-1934])

Written by Dr Christine Tizzard Consultant Chartered Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychologist. Clinical Director Sheehan Brooke Psychology. Chichester. www.sheehanbrooke.org
shutterstock_63826204

News Uncategorized0 comments