Is the cure worse than the disease?

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Wearing masks during a family getaway to the mountains.

There’s an epidemic hitting our country and it’s felt especially among young adults ages 18 to 29. Depression and anxiety. In California, the rates of clinical depression have hit 44% since the Coronavirus shutdowns began. I have a friend who is a psychologist who works with teens and she’s seeing patient after patient contemplating suicide.

The World Health Organization no long recommends shutdowns as the best course of action to fight the global pandemic — even as we’re getting a spike in cases. But in addition to mental illness, the WHO is concerned that shut downs are making the poor even poorer.

Here’s an excerpt from USA Today written by John Bacon:

WHO discourages lockdowns as US hospitalizations climb; 11 states set records for new COVID-19 cases

Dr. David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on COVID-19, urged world leaders this week to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” for blunting a virus surge.

“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Nabarro told “The Spectator.” Nabarro said lockdowns can only be justified “to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted. But by and large, we’d rather not do it.”

In California, we’ve been sheltering in place since mid-March. During that time people are feeling isolated, alone and there’s an increase in substance abuse and mental illness. Here’s an excerpt from an article written by Phillip Reese in the Los Angeles Times:

Feeling anxious and depressed? In California, you’re right at home

It’s official, California: COVID-19 has left us sick with worry and increasingly depressed. And our youngest adults — those ages 18 to 29 — are feeling it the worst.

Weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau from late April through late July offer a grim view of the toll the pandemic has taken on mental health in the Golden State and across the nation. By late July, more than 44% of California adults reported levels of anxiety and gloom typically associated with diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder — a stunning figure that rose through the summer months alongside the menacing spread of the coronavirus.

The U.S. at large has followed a similar pattern, with about 41% of adult respondents nationwide reporting symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression during the third week of July. By comparison, just 11% of American adults reported those symptoms in a similar survey conducted in early 2019.

The July responses showed a marked geographic variance. Residents of Western and Southern states, where the virus remains most virulent, registered greater mental distress, on average.

There are many reasons why young adults are seeing the largest increase in depression and anxiety during the shutdown. First, they aren’t able to be socially involved. Their worlds have been turned upside down being stuck in the house with their parents and away from their peers. Second, they are more open to talking about mental illness and are more willing to get help compared to the boomers or older generations. I believe that is a good thing and a glimmer of hope while we all soldier through this together.

It’s important to know the signs of depression and get your children help. Click here for a link to the National Institute of Mental Health to learn more about depression in teens and where to get help.

Coit Tower with kids

Last year we were climbing Coit Tower together on a trip to visit our kids.

Why do you think there is such a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety among teens and young adults?

Tips for Parents with Teens Sheltering in Place

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My daughter’s senior prom night a few years ago when things were normal.

I’ve been thinking about how graduating seniors are feeling — stuck at home with mom and dad. Normally, teens are seeking independence from their parents and are ready to fly from the nest — which usually means college. But with COVID-19, some universities aren’t opening in the fall or they are offering classes online only. There may be no end in sight for these teens that they will ever leave the nest. Top that off with missing milestones like graduation and prom, and I wonder how the kids are surviving? They have been away from their peers for a couple months already. I remember how important friends were to me at this age — friends were my world.

In the Los Angeles Times, I read an article called Teens are feeling lonely and anxious in isolation. Here’s how parents can help by Lisa Boone. It offered advice from several mental health experts with tips of how parents can make their kids feel less anxiety during these crazy days of shelter in place. I suggest you read the entire article here.

When my son was a senior in high school, we really had a rough year. He was desperately wanting to be an adult, live his own life, and I was hanging on to motherhood and wanting him to be the child I had loved and known for 18 years. Of course we clashed. I can’t imagine what that year would have been like for us to be stuck at home with each other day and night!

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My son at the podium giving his graduation speech.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

As tens of millions of us continue to shelter in place, the most tractable of teens are feeling frustrated and anxious. They miss their former lives. They are uninterested in online classes and don’t want to follow quarantine guidelines anymore. And who can blame them?

Living in seclusion can produce quarantine fatigue, according to South Pasadena-based psychotherapist Noelle Wittliff, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with children, families and adolescents. “Many of the teens at my practice are hitting a wall,” Wittliff said. “They are over it. They want to go outside and connect with their friends. The online connection is just not cutting it.”

Normally adolescence, a developmental period marked by impulsivity and feelings of invincibility, is a time in which teenagers separate from their parents and bond with their peers. Now that families are confined at home, parents are in a peculiar position in which they have to balance the seriousness of the novel coronavirus with their teen’s desire for social interaction.

“Many of our teens are experiencing tremendous loss, and grief is an appropriate response to loss,” Wittliff said. “Depending on the age and school year of the teen, these losses can include proms, graduation ceremonies, end-of-year sports events, dances, parties, school activities, yearbook signings and simple proximity to beloved friends, teachers or significant others. The school shutdowns happened so abruptly that many of the teens that I work with did not have the opportunity to gather belongings from their lockers or classrooms, let alone say meaningful goodbyes to teachers and classmates.

“As parents, it’s important to hold space for all of these feelings and to recognize that teens don’t always communicate sadness in expected ways,” she said. “Sadness is often masked by frustration, irritability, anger or disconnection. These are protective reactions that mask vulnerability. The goal isn’t to take these defense strategies away but rather to be curious about what other feelings might be hiding underneath.”

For teens struggling with maintaining distance from their friends, Wittliff encourages parents to validate those feelings with empathy while reminding them this quarantine is temporary. Also, as a parent or guardian, manage your teenager’s expectations and don’t make promises that won’t come true.

Wittliff offers this advice: “Tell them, ‘I hear you and I know how hard this is. I know how much you miss your boyfriend or girlfriend and your friends but this is what is going on. The entire world is going through this. We are all taking precautions to stay safe.’”

Among the advice offered by experts in this article is to establish a routine — that you let your teen help develop. Try to have a fun activity every day plus get exercise outside. There’s many more tips in the article that are so helpful like practicing mindfulness, cooking, drawing, etc.

Although my daughter has left her teen years behind, she came home to shelter in place and work remotely rather than being in a tiny apartment with two other people.  For the 60 plus days she’s been here, I’ve learned to give her space. I no longer walk into her room unannounced like I would have when she was a five-year-old. I let her come to me instead. Also, we’re enjoying an outdoor activity each day. She plays tennis with me a few mornings a week or we walk or play smashball in the backyard pool. She also rides bikes with her dad in the evening. More than that and she’d probably be sick of us

Structure and predictability will help with the passing of time and give teens something to look forward to. “Every day and week that they get through sheltering in place brings them that much closer to getting back to their lives,” Wittliff said. “This is hard, but our kids are resilient. And they will get through it.”

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My son’s senior prom. They had a catered dinner in our back yard before the dance.

How are you helping your kids with COVID-19 fears and isolation from friends?

 

Who believes Operation Varsity Blues parents are innocent?

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Proof my daughter swam her way into  college.

Seriously? The attorney for the famous couple of the Instagram influencer is saying that they are innocent to charges of bribing USC to get their kids in. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times today called New evidence backs Loughlin’s and Giannulli’s innocence, lawyer says explains why they think they are innocent.

Rick Singer was the college consultant who set up a fake charity and took large sums of money from parents to guarantee admission to universities. In Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli’s case, they paid $500,000 to have their daughters admitted to University of Southern California on the crew team — and neither daughter had ever been rowers. I guess we’re supposed to forget that the parents had pictures of their daughter taken on an erg or that they had someone photoshop their daughter’s head on a rower in a boat. That’s not suspicious at all, right?

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

BOSTON —  Lawyers for “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, said Wednesday that new evidence shows the couple is innocent of charges that they bribed their daughters’ way into USC.

An attorney for the couple said in a legal filing that prosecutors provided the defense with notes written by the admitted ringleader of the college admissions cheating scheme that support the couple’s claim that they believed their payments were legitimate donations, not bribes.

“This belated discovery is devastating to the government’s case and demonstrates that the government has been improperly withholding core exculpatory information, employing a ‘win at all costs’ effort rather than following their obligation to do justice,” attorney Sean Berkowtiz wrote.

The filing came on the eve of a status hearing in the case scheduled for Thursday at Boston’s federal court in the sweeping college admissions bribery case. It was expected that the judge would set a trial date for the parents still fighting the charges at that hearing.

Now, the couple’s attorneys are asking the judge to postpone the setting of the trial date in light of the new evidence, saying “it is the only fair way to protect the defendants’ rights.”

Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters into USC as crew recruits even though neither was a rower. Authorities say the money was funneled through a sham charity operated by college admissions consultant Rick Singer, who has pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme.

Lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli have argued that the couple believed the payments were “legitimate donations” that would go directly to USC as a fundraising gift or to support Singer’s charity. They have accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.

It comes down to some notes by the less than honest Singer that supposedly hold exculpatory evidence for Loughlin and Giannulli. Do you think that it will be enough to prove their innocence? I guess we’ll find out in the fall when the parents go to trial.

My daughter diving in a competition with her club team at the East LA City College pool.

I am particularly annoyed with these parents in the college admissions scandal because I watched my son get rejected by eight of the nine universities he applied to. He worked so hard in high school to get into the schools of his dreams. He was valedictorian, had great SATs, participated in extracurriculars like swimming, Junior Statesmen of America, and wrote and performed music with his band. My heart ached for him and now I learn that many of the spots were taken by parents cheating the system for their kids. Also, my daughter earned her scholarship through years and years of hard work as a student- athlete. How many of those spots were taken across the nation by kids not even in a sport — and taken away from someone else who worked for ten or more years to get there?

What do you think about mandatory later school starts?

IMG_3650As a swim mom, we had early mornings with practice Tuesday and Thursdays at 5:30 a.m. My son, who didn’t swim morning practices, always had zero period where he had to be in his seat for an AP or Honors class by 7 a.m. I’m interested on how the new legislation signed into law by the California Governor will affect families. In case you haven’t heard, school start times will be mandated to begin no sooner than 8 a.m. for middle schools and 8:30 a.m. for high schools.

The discussion is both positive and negative with many families wondering how they will make this adjustment to their school/work commute schedules. Many people have to be at work by 8 a.m. Not, 8:45 or 9 a.m. which would happen if you had to drop your kids off at school at 8:30 a.m. Maybe businesses will make adjustments to schedules? I’m sure the swimmers will enjoy having a little breathing room and downtime between their morning practices and the start of the school day.

An article called California becomes first state in the country to push back school start times by Taryn Luna in the Los Angeles Times that explores the new school mandates in more detail. Here’s an excerpt:

SACRAMENTO —  California will become the first state in the nation to mandate later start times at most middle schools and high schools under legislation signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday, a proposal designed to improve educational outcomes by giving students more sleep.

The new law, however, is not without controversy. It was opposed by some school officials and rejected twice before by lawmakers and Newsom’s predecessor.

“The science shows that teenage students who start their day later increase their academic performance, attendance, and overall health,” Newsom said in a statement. “Importantly, the law allows three years for schools and school districts to plan and implement these changes.”

The law will take effect over a phased-in period, ultimately requiring public middle schools to begin classes at 8 a.m. or later while high schools will start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The law does not apply to optional early classes, known as “zero periods,” or to schools in some of the state’s rural districts.

Although school schedules vary, a legislative analysis in July said that roughly half the schools in the state would be required to delay their start times by 30 minutes or less to comply with the law. An analysis of the 2011-12 school year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the average start time for California schools attended by some 3 million middle school and high school students was 8:07 a.m. Some of the state’s students were required to be in class before 7:30 a.m.

The new start times will be implemented by the beginning of the 2022-23 school year or when a school’s three-year collective bargaining agreement with its employees comes to an end, whichever is later. Schools that have recently negotiated agreements or are in the midst of negotiating new agreements with teachers have the option of adjusting to the later times when their contracts end.

In advocating for SB 328, state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), author of the legislation, cited a 2014 opinion from the American Academy of Pediatrics that said middle and high schools in most districts should not start school until 8:30 a.m.

“Today, Gov. Newsom displayed a heartwarming and discerning understanding of the importance of objective research and exercised strong leadership as he put our children’s health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change,” Portantino said. “Generations of children will come to appreciate this historic day and our governor for taking bold action. Our children face a public health crisis. Shifting to a later start time will improve academic performance and save lives because it helps our children be healthier.”

The question of whether to push back school start times has lingered for years across the nation, hotly debated by academics and health professionals. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which backed the proposal along with groups such as the California Medical Assn. and the California State Parent Teacher Assn., pointed to studies that found links between more sleep from later start times and better school performance, and better health, among adolescents.

The pediatricians’ group says it “recognizes insufficient sleep in adolescents as a public health issue, endorses the scientific rationale for later school start times, and acknowledges the potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety and academic achievement.”

“Teenagers in this country are sleep deprived,” said Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) before the Assembly approved the bill with a 44-17 vote last month. “It is a public health epidemic, and according to conclusive medical research, the primary cause of this epidemic is the early school start times that are not aligned with biological sleep needs of adolescent children.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics also called for more research to document the effects of later start times and advised that average commutes in a community and other local factors should also be considered — a key argument made by the California School Boards Assn., the California Teachers Assn. and other opponents of the bill.

Teachers unions and school districts generally argued that decisions about the appropriate time to begin classes should be determined at the local level, allowing districts and schools to determine schedules that best meet the needs of their communities.

There are pluses and minuses to this law. I will watch and see what the unattended consequences are. There usually are some when laws are passed with the best of intentions.IMG_1569-1

What are your thoughts about the new California law?

Have you ever had a gray day?

 

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My backyard is gray today.

 

I’m having a bit of a gray day today. Yesterday was my first full workday home in two weeks and I was filled with energy and enthusiasm. Today, not so much. Maybe it’s the weather. It’s decidedly gray out there. And raining!

We had two leaks on opposite sides of the house. One in our bedroom closet and the other in my daughter’s room. The repairs were done less than a month ago. This is our first rain since, and I’m not happy to report that I’m waiting for the roofer to return to fix the once again leak in my closet! We just had the closet replastered and painted, and now that will need to be done again. I have yet to get my stuff back in there. And I’m desperate to do so. The good news is that the roof repair in my daughter’s (empty) bedroom is holding.

Combine the gray, the rain, the leaks, and my not hearing back from the orthopedic surgeon to find out when he can see me—and I guess my gray day is one of frustration.

I’ve read in the news that five people have died from this rainstorm in Montecito. Montecito is a magical town adjacent to Santa Barbara. It’s where the gorgeous old Spanish mansions are with long winding driveways. It’s where celebrities live like Oprah and Ellen. But because of the Thomas fire, and now the deluge of rain, hills of mud are sliding through the town wiping out houses and causing deaths. You can read the Los Angeles Times report on the mudslides and flooding here. The freeway is closed, people are stranded, and hey, I don’t have it so bad, after all! Prayers to everyone affected by the fire and rains.IMG_0039

What do you do to lift your spirits during a gray day?

More Thoughts About Freedom of Speech on College Campuses

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My alma mater.

I worry about my kids and the world we are leaving them. I especially worry about how their ideals are so different than mine, when I was their age.

For example, I wanted to have a successful career. I was interested in getting a job. Eventually get married, buy a home and raise a family. Not that I wanted that at age 19 or even 22, but it was in the back of my mind.

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Another view from the UW.

I was a journalism major. My internships were at local newspapers and I spent one quarter at the state capital as a legislative reporter. I valued the written word. As an avid reader and writer for most of my entire life, I value freedom of speech and believe we are one of the few fortunate country’s in the world to enjoy this right. We have friends who immigrated from Eastern Europe. They told us how books were illegal in their country. They would smuggle photographs of each page to read and share with friends.

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Washington  State Capital Dome

I’m so surprised that our kids do not appreciate this right.

Did you hear that? Freedom of speech, which is our first amendment right, is not a favorable thing to a growing number of our college students. There was a recent Pew Research poll that tracked opinions about freedom of speech. Forty percent of students believe that our first amendment is outdated and that the government should have the right to censor our speech if it’s offensive to minorities.

“Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Read more here about the document called the Bill of Rights. 

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I was a young child in the 60s when protestors were taking over college campuses, bombing buildings and burning flags. They were protesting the War. They believed in freedom of speech.

You don’t have to agree with the words being said. You don’t even have to like it. You can hate it and find it offensive. But, don’t censor or silence it. It seems that our college campuses have become microcosms of group think where no dissenting point of view is allowed. If someone speaks out with a contrary opinion, they are shouted down, silenced and excommunicated.

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It’s very scary to me that the foundations of our country are not respected or valued by our youth. I’m hoping they outgrow this attitude as they enter the world, get jobs and raise their families.

There’s a book I read when my kids were in grade school called Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang. It’s a true story and eerily reminds me of what’s going on today with our college students.imgres-3

“In 1966, Ji-li Jiang was twelve years old. An outstanding student and leader in her school, she had everything: brains, ability, the admiration of her peers – and a shining future in Chairman Mao’s New China. But all that changed with the advent of the Cultural Revolution, when intelligence became a crime and a wealthy family background invited persecution or worse.”

It’s a well written book and the story is one we should think about today.

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Here’s a story from 12/9/2015 that brings up some of the issues on campuses I’ve been reading about: Importance of Free Speech on Campus .

Here’s an opinion piece from the LA Times that addresses the issue of freedom of speech with numbers.

Here’s a couple blog posts I’ve written on the subject:

Is Freedom of Speech Dead On American Campuses

Are the Right to Party and the Right to Free Speech at Odds at UCSB?

“A Birthday Day for the Dogs” and Other Reasons to Celebrate Today

robertIt’s my son’s 22-year birthday. I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around that fact. On the bright side, Spring Break allows him to come home to celebrate. This year he brought his girlfriend, too. This is all overwhelming and exciting at the same time.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his 2nd grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swalloing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

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In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!