Children, youth, and families
Former APA President Alan Kazdin, reflecting upon today’s unique challenges and opportunities for creative colleagues: “We have learned that one of the best ways to protect ourselves from the coronavirus is to distance ourselves physically from people and to stay at home, with only occasional outings for essentials. Many of us are not alone but have spouses, partners, and relatives with us. No matter how much one loves the other people in the home, a little recess, privacy, and less intense togetherness might be welcome, even if only for a small part of the day. For couples or single persons with children, the home now is the center for daycare, schooling, and some of the activities in which the children may have been involved routinely before confinement. Parents must manage all of these, often while trying to carry out their own work and to meet other demands placed on them. Balancing child time, spouse or partner time, work time, and my time is not very easy. Parents used to feel they were working 24/7, now it feels like 25/8.
“Much of my clinical research has focused on parenting and the use of parenting techniques for the treatment of children and adolescents referred for extremes of aggressive and antisocial behavior. Over the years, many parents of nonclinically referred children have asked for help with the routine challenges of childbearing (e.g., decreasing tantrums, getting children to eat vegetables, completing homework, handling teen “attitude”) and we have done that online. Parents are expressing an enormous need for help. Use of my free online parenting course has soared internationally—reaching over 85,000 people worldwide with subtitles in Spanish and Chinese—since confinement has started, which I take to be a sign of frustration, stress, and perhaps desperation.
“Relatedly, I do a few hours of interviews with journalists and others during the week. The focus is the same since confinement has begun, namely, what can parents do to cope and address the challenges in the home. I have not been able to keep up with the interview requests. Now there are also Zoom requests and last week, for example, my Zoom meeting included 600-plus parents asking questions about what psychology might offer in the way of concrete help. I have prepared some materials, initially to help journalists who made such requests, but now for scores of parents. Here is a sample of my recommendations:
- First, do no harm (make the situation more difficult) by more reprimands, nagging, and punishment.
- Lighten up on demands and do not worry so much about a slippery slope if you are relaxing rules a bit during this special period.
- Remember the power of modeling so your reactions to the special circumstances can have broad effects.
- Connect with others, including relatives and friends, through Zoom or the equivalent.
- Do some light exercises together with your child, not to get in shape, but to have a constructive shared and potentially fun activity.
- Be careful not to expose children to the endless news about how many people are dying and how dangerous the virus is—consider shielding yourself a little as well.
- Take time to do a fun family activity regularly such as telling stories based on great times that each person may have had (e.g., some vacation, party, or experience).
- Give the child choice and control on some facets of daily living (e.g., meal selection, whether to this or that activity together).
- Be sure to have routines (e.g., activities done at the same time) and rituals (what the activities are) because they can have a calming effect on home life. Not many are needed.
- Be more generous with affectionate physical contact, even if this means just sitting next to each other, leaning against each other, while you talk or read.
- Manage your own stress because parental stress can get passed on to children and also change how you interact with your child in ways that can promote noncompliance.
These and additional points can be found on the Managing Parenting Challenges of Social Distancing, Confinement, and Isolation webpage.
“I mention my story because it reflects a huge need for psychologists more generally. We already know that there are high rates of mental illness in the population (approximately 25%), that many problems (e.g., depression, suicidality, domestic violence) have increased with social isolation and confinement, and that confinement or not, most people in need of services receive no treatment at all. Psychological research has a lot to say to provide concrete help obviously well beyond the limited area I am addressing. Invariably the challenges are to mobilize our troops to help move forward to reach those in need and in ways that make a difference.”
Exciting STEM developments in Hawaii
During our tenure on Capitol Hill, one of the most inspirational programs that we worked with was the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), which possessed the vision of designing and developing a strong, sustainable, and diversified economy for Maui County. Leslie Wilkins, CEO: “Hawaii public schools recessed for spring break in mid-March with the anticipation of planned trips or time with friends at the beach, and a return to the traditional end of year milestones that mark the last quarter. Like schools across the nation, Hawaii students did not return to campus for the remainder of the school year. It was like pulling off a Band-Aid slowly, as hoped for events scheduled later in the school year kept falling off the calendar. At first, the official announcement from the superintendent was a two-week extension of spring break, then it was online education through April 30 before the final decision that online instruction would be through the end of the year.
“Some of the hard-earned opportunities for Hawaii’s STEM students included the loss of months of preparation and fundraising. Maui Waena Intermediate and Kauai STEMworks programs had raised over $50,000 to compete in the National Student Television Network Conference in Washington, D.C. Packed with masks and sanitizers, 50 students made the 16-hour flights prepared to compete and make their communities proud on a national stage. They arrived in D.C. a day early to manage the jet lag of redeye flights, only to hear upon landing the news that the event was cancelled. Several other schools that won preliminary district and statewide robotics competitions to win a coveted bid at national competitions saw those tournaments cancelled, along with the prestigious International Science Fair. Students were more than crestfallen; many of our students, especially our seniors, were grieving over the reality of not seeing their classmates again and losing the culminating events that they had worked their entire school careers to celebrate. Student grief, teacher stress, and parent concerns became MEDB’s “call to action” to step up and deliver events and content digitally.
“MEDB is a private 501(c)3 nonprofit with a mission to lead and inspire innovations in business, education, and community. Our organization’s priority focus has been to diversify Hawaii’s economy by creating the requisite infrastructure, including a skilled resident workforce, to support the growth of technology and innovation sectors. For 20 years, MEDB has been working to build the STEM pipeline from K-to-careers, inclusive and reflective of Hawaii’s rich diversity. We launched Women in Technology to engage more girls/women and other underrepresented populations and originated STEMworks, which is a project-based technology-infused lab class in 31 public schools across the state. MEDB’s Hawaii STEM Conference, teacher professional development, and internships were all cancelled with “shelter-at-home” orders.
“Our first pivot was to retrieve digital devices from our sponsored labs and lending library to distribute to students without. We ordered age-appropriate STEM-based kits and lessons mailed directly to elementary and middle school students’ homes who were enrolled in our STEMworks AFTERschool programs. We used social media to engage younger students through hands-on daily STEM activities. Our staff got in front of their cameras and hosted live activities and posted resources on Maker Mondays, Tech Tuesdays, Wildcard Wednesdays, Teacher Thursdays, and Sci-Fridays for the remainder of the school year.
The greatest challenge was designing a virtual conference to replace MEDB’s Hawaii STEM Conference, which historically attracted 1,200 students, teachers, and industry professionals from every island at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. Our five-year lead sponsor Microsoft increased their sponsorship and offered technical assistance to deliver the Virtual Hawaii 2020 STEM Conference on May 7, 8, and 9. The break-out training sessions included GIS, AI, VR, Cybersecurity, Clean Energy, Microsoft Minecraft and How to Create Your Brand. Gretchen O’Hara, Microsoft VP in charge of AI, gave an inspiring keynote address. An interactive session with a panel of young Hawaii technology professionals answered student questions on “how they got their starts.” The highlight was our STEM-MY Awards, which presented the preconference competition awards. The winners received virtual applause and thumbs-up icons. Days two and three presented an optional Hackathon, where student teams worked in Zoom rooms to create a “minimally viable product” design and business plan for producing oyster cages made with locally sourced materials. Pacific oysters are being used in Hawaii bays as natural water filtration from run-off and other pollutants. The current cages, which must be shipped from the mainland, are not made from sustainable materials. The winning team won Xboxes and will have intern opportunities this summer to implement their design.
“Encouraged by our conference success, we are planning a virtual summer. MEDB sponsored internship programs will be run on digital platforms. STEMworks staff members are working with employers to create meaningful projects and protocols for student interns to contribute to real world issues. The four-week internships will also include professional development sessions in resume and interview skills, work ethics, career exploration, and presentation coaching for their final projects, which will be presented in an internship Zoom showcase. Two other virtual Hackathons and teacher professional development sessions are planned. A partnership with Hawaii Business Roundtable will incorporate a virtual innovation challenge for college students.
“As an Economic Development Organization (EDO), the business development team of our organization has made significant pivots in our ability to provide support to our struggling businesses. The cancelation of our Hawaii Small Business Conference during May’s annual National Small Business Week prompted MEDB to deliver a webinar series of COVID-19 related business technical assistance to help companies navigate the SBA loan products. The four webinars on the Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Paycheck Protection Program Loans and Agriculture related loans have attracted over 1,800 viewers to date, with hundreds of other one-on-one answers to emails and calls providing customized guidance through the application and compliance process. This has indeed been a most challenging opportunity.”
The Japanese American Citizens League was founded in 1929 during a time when over 100 American statutes discriminated against Japanese Americans and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Orders #9066 and #9102, which ultimately resulted in 120,000 Japanese Americans and those of Japanese ancestry being moved to one of 10 internment (relocation) camps. At earlier Practice Leadership Conferences (PLCs), Shirley Higuchi chaired moving workshops drawing parallels as to how this administration has been treating children and families who are today seeking asylum on our southern boarders. Restricted by the “stay-at-home” and social distancing demands pursuant to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shirley moderated a special panel honoring Asian Pacific American Heritage month, “Lessons from the Past: Yellow Peril in COVID-19 Times.”
Shirley: “More than 250 people, many of them Asian American Psychologists, participated in a webinar sponsored by the Japanese American Citizens League, the Asian American Psychological Association, and other groups on May 29 to investigate the mental health consequences of racism and the COVID-19 crisis. Satsuki Ina, Carolee Tran, and Gordon Nagayama Hall told of their personal experiences with anti-Asian racism and treating patients who have had similar experiences. Tran, a Vietnamese American refugee who practices in Sacramento, said she was recently confronted by a racist customer in her local Costco and told him to back off. She and the other panelists said Asian Americans don’t have to apologize to anyone for being in this country and don’t have to pander to racists for acceptance. Ina is a cofounder of Tsuru for Solidarity and appeared at this year’s PLC. Hall is a member of the University of Oregon psychology faculty.” Shirley serves as chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, commemorating one of the ten camps. She received an APA Presidential Citation for her years of service to psychology and the nation.
Health care providers of all disciplines are the “educated elite” of the nation. Perhaps without exception, the government has provided considerable resources for their education and training. Accordingly, as individuals and professionals they have a special societal obligation to provide visionary leadership in addressing society’s most pressing problems. Over the years, I have personally been particularly impressed by those colleagues who have focused upon the needs of the elderly. Half of American families in the 56-61 age bracket had less than $21,000 in retirement savings in 2016. Forty percent who are over the age of 60, who are no longer working full-time, rely solely on Social Security for their income; for which the median annual benefit approximates $17,000. What are we collectively doing to address this situation during and after the pandemic? How can we effectively utilize the unprecedented technological advances occurring in today’s world? “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now” (Hamilton).
Pat DeLeon, former APA president, Div. 18