Compassion, Part 3: Are kids with ADHD less compassionate?

Payground 4 by kkiserAs parents, we want our kids to be compassionate – to be concerned about the suffering of others. On this week’s episode of the Family Anatomy Podcast, we talked about some possible ways that parents can encourage the development of empathy and compassion in their kids. Empathy is important in relationships, and it has been linked to prosocial behaviour and reductions in aggression – both of which are likely to have a positive impact on peer relationships! However, there is a large group of children who tend to experience social behaviour problems that interfere with their friendships – research has consistently shown that kids with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more likely to have trouble in these areas. However, it isn’t clear why. Some have proposed that the impulsive behaviour of kids with ADHD gets them into trouble at school, leading to peer rejection. Others have suggested that distractibility interferes with social interactions. Researchers at University of Toronto and Dalhousie University investigated whether ADHD is linked to reduced empathy or difficulties in social perspective-taking that might affect kids’ relationships with their classmates.

Depressed Teens Reluctant To Seek Help: What Can Parents Do?

DepressedA study to be published in the June issue of Medical Care suggests that teens perceive obstacles to treatment that could make them reluctant to obtain professional help. Dr. Lisa Meredith and her colleagues contend that teen depression is a serious problem, one that has a social and academic as well as an emotional impact; they report that 15-20% of adolescents experience a clinical depression by the age of 18. Although effective treatments exist, the researchers noted that there is often a delay of multiple years before teens seek help.

Meredith and her colleagues asked depressed and nondepressed teens about their help-seeking behaviour and factors that they see as barriers to obtaining treatment. They found that less than a third of the teens (29%) accessed regular treatment in the 6 months following the identification of their depression. Although all teens perceived a number of obstacles to receiving help, depressed teens reported more barriers than their nondepressed peers. The most commonly endorsed barriers involved difficulties with scheduling appointments; responsibilities at school, extracurricular activities, having to babysit younger siblings, and difficulties getting time off work were the most commonly reported obstacles. Some teens said that the hours of therapists’ availability or the difficulty of obtaining transportation were also issues.

FA036 – Anatomy of bullying

Doctors Brian, Giuseppe, and Richard talk about bullying and how to help your kids to avoid being victims.

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Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for information only. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.


Art Therapy Helps Children Express Their Emotions

As art therapy has increased in popularity during the twentieth century, a growing number of counselors and various therapists have begun encouraging clients to do more than just talk about their feelings. Temporarily abandoning clumsy verbalizations, patients are heading for the art studios to sculpt, mold, paint, draw, and collage their innermost emotions and conflicts (Gladding, 1998). Art therapists believe that the artistic process brings to surface feelings and emotions in the same way that free association does, incorporating benefits of both talk therapy and dream analysis, but accomplishing more than either one does alone (Case & Dalley, 1992; Ganim, 1999).

Dr. Estela A. Beale, a child and adult psychiatrist and associate professor in the Department of Neuro-Oncology believes that creating pictures allows children to express what is uppermost in their minds more genuinely and spontaneously than they are apt to do in a discussion with the therapist. She believes that letting children express themselves without any influence from an adult is key.

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Editor’s Note from Dr. Brian MacDonald: In an admittedly quick search, I wasn’t able to find any studies validating the effectiveness of art therapy. Although I don’t use art therapy per se, I think it can be an important technique in the therapist’s and the parent’s toolbox. Young kids’ language development can make it difficult for them to talk about their feelings. Having them draw, paint, or work on other crafts can not only give parents insight into their children’s emotional lives, it can help the kids develop language to express themselves.

Do you draw with your kids when you talk about their day? Leave us a comment!

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Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for information only. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.