Doing Life Together

teen bullyWith all the talk about bullying and its damaging effects on kids, we don’t often hear much about sibling bullying. Isn’t it normal for little Billy to push around his brother Joey?

Sibling bully, it turns out, is just as damaging to kids as other types of bullying. A new study  in the July journal of Pediatrics found that kids victimized by their siblings are at more risk  for depression, anxiety and anger. And the findings include both psychological and physical bullying, both mild and severe.

The study looked at 4 specific types of bullying:

1) Mild physical assault like being hit

2) Severe physical assault like being beaten

3) Property aggression like breaking a toy on purpose

4)Psychological aggression like name calling

When a child was a victim of the above, he or she had lower scores on overall well-being.

So parents, watch your kids when they interact and stop any repeated one-way bullying of a sibling. Not only will the sibling learn better ways to deal with his brother or sister, but you will improve the mental health of the victimized child.

The home is one place you have control over teaching your children appropriate ways to behave interpersonally. If more parents would discipline bullying in this home, maybe  we would see fewer bullies in the school place as well. And this also means mom and dad need to model healthy relationships as well.

Parenting Tips: 

1) Hold kids responsible for their behavior. Don’t let them justify being aggressive to a sibling. Set limits on what is right and wrong.

2) Referee arguments that get out of hand. Teach your kids to solve conflict without becoming aggressive. Let them work problems out without you, but step in when they cross the line.

3) Identify feelings of jealousy and envy, but teach your kids how to handle those feelings. Get at what is behind those feelings.

4) Reinforce the idea that we are family and take care of each other. You have to model this on the parent level as well.

5) Fill your home with love and nurturing, praising often and tangibly showing love by spending time with your kids. A secure and safe environment goes a long way to preventing bullying.

sad coupleLet’s say it has been a rough year on the job. Your boss finally tells you he is downsizing and you are out of a job. Your kids are struggling in the job market as well. Your wife has been anxious and is dealing with caretaking her parents. It feels like life is closing in on you and you become depressed.

Depression has its own set of problems, but it may have one that you haven’t thought about. Researchers now believe that when people get depressed in middle age, they are more likely to develop dementia in old age. They are not sure why this connection has been made.  You can recover from a mood disorder, but why would it change the brain and make you at risk for dementia?

One thought is that maybe inflammation involved in both depression and cardiovascular disease plays a role.

Another idea is that maybe the stress hormone cortisol is involved. Excess amounts of cortisol produced by depression can affect the part of the brain responsible for memory.

These are simply ideas as researchers have not proven the brain changes found in depression contribute to later dementia.

Perhaps the best advice from this possible connection between mid life depression and old age dementia is to help people, especially the elderly, prevent depression whenever possible.

If you know an older person who struggles with depression–is not eating well, sleeping, not exercising and isolated, get the person help. Depression is treatable and may just save a person’s mind for later life.


For more help with depression, get my small booklet, Breaking Free From Depression




Source:  Diniz, Butters, Albert, Dew and Reynolds (2013). Later-life depression and risk of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: systematic review and meta-analysis of community-based cohort studies, The British Journal of Psychiatry. 202, 329-335

depressed studentsYou are sick with the flu so you stay home so as not to infect anyone. But did you ever think your mental health could be contagious?

Researchers at Nortre Dame discovered that thinking styles can be contagious. Your negative thinking can infect another person. Here is what they found.

Notre Dame, like most universities, assigns roommates their freshman year. The researchers looked at how the roommates responded to diversity, specifically how they thought about problems in school like failing an exam. When a more positive person was paired with a more negative person, the negative person infected the positive. Students who were more negative saw failure as a personal problem compared to the more positive student who chalked it up to circumstances like not studying enough. The students who attributed failure to personal problems were more at risk for depression down the road.

But what was really interesting is that the researchers tracked pairs of students who had different styles of responding to adversity and found they infected each other. Within 6 months, the negative students had successfully infected the formally cheery students! And the reverse was also true. The cheery students infected the negative students in a good way making them more resilient.

The take away–you can catch the cheer from cheery people. Try to surround yourself with people who are upbeat and look at the glass half full. if you are heading off to college, find a roommate who is upbeat and deals with adversity in a positive way. Or become that person who refuses to give in to the negative and sees the bright side of even the most difficult situation.

Spread the cheer. Infect someone today!


Source: Haeffel & Hames, Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression Can Be Contagious. Published in Clinical Psychological Science, April 2013.



I’m feeling blog lite today. So let me focus on a rather unimportant issue, well at least unimportant to most of us, but not to one little girl. One little girl will grow up with an unusually name that could be the brunt of teasing. Right now, her parents are not  married. Not sure if they ever will be. And she will grow up in an incredible spotlight, making it difficult to have any type of normal life. That girl is the new baby of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. They named her North West!

Yes, you read that right–NORTH WEST.

I”m not even sure how to think of that name. It’s really a direction. Can you imagine how confused Siri will be?

With all the hype around the birth of this baby, the couple is still unsure about getting married. I know that isn’t a big deal in Hollywood anymore, but it is a big deal to children. They need mothers and fathers around to model a committed marriage. Marriage has benefits for both children and parents. And let’s not forget, that marriage is still God’s plan for raising children. But God isn’t consulted much these days when it comes to people having babies out of wedlock. What was a stigma years ago in my lifetime, has now become posh, at least among the wealthy. But what disturbs me most is this growing belief that both mothers and fathers are not needed to raise children.

If we follow the data, we find this isn’t true. Children, raised by single parents don’t fare as well as those raise by two. Money isn’t what makes it all OK. It’s the necessary roles both parents play in a child’s life. And I am sad when I read stories like the Kardashian-West relationship in which Kanye is given big points for being interested in his new daughter. Really, this child is his responsibility, not a new toy or gadget trying to interest him.

So here’s another child brought into the world in an unstable family. But we celebrate it because of celebrity, which has nothing to do with raising a healthy child.




Previous Posts