Stress, Connection, and Wellness in Our kids
Featuring Physician: Elizabeth Bech-Vainder, MD Dr. Elizabeth Bech-Vainder is a Board-Certified Pediatrician who attended the University of Miami and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology, cum laude, with a pre-med track. Dr. Vainder has always loved children. Her fascination with the connection between mind and body started very young. During her time at the University of Miami, she spent long hours in the psychobiology department, helping with research on the mind-body connection. She completed her residency in the Pediatrics department at Jackson Memorial Hospital. And then, she accepted a job at the University of Miami in one of their community clinics. She stayed in that job for nine years and then transitioned into private practice, where she has remained until today. Being a mom has made her a better pediatrician because she has blended her personal experience and expertise to provide practical pediatric care for her patients.
In the interview with myDoqter staff, Dr. Elizabeth Bech-Vainder discusses the importance of social interactions for children, featuring her article 4 Ways to Create Long-Lasting Friendships and How to Know if Your Child is Just Shy or Is Struggling with Social Anxiety.
Given the different realities that the pandemic has forced us to live, it seems crucial to focus on how children relate in this new scenario.
First of all, Dr. Vainder states the difference between Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder. She believes that shyness is normal for a child in certain situations. For example, a child might feel nervous when surrounded by people they don’t know. And some children find it easier to interact with a new surrounding than others. On the other hand, social anxiety disorder presents itself when the symptoms worsen. When this is the case, the child blushes, sweats, trembles, and feels sick. More than often, they are excessively concerned with how they look and others who can judge them.
It is interesting to see that the pandemic has brought up two dimensions to analyze this issue. In the first place, confinement has given children time to relax from their usual social pressures from school and after-school activities. They have also spent more time with their parents, who could see first-hand how they felt and discuss it. Under this light, the pandemic benefitted children. However, for other children, the pandemic impacted negatively, creating feelings of hopelessness and lack of motivation. These children have had a problem sleeping, concentrating, and even suffered from headaches and stomach aches. These psychosomatic symptoms reveal children undergoing anxiety. In this case, parents should discuss it with their pediatrician.
For teenagers, the pandemic has been beneficial since they are used to video calls. Therefore, they have been able to speak to mental health professionals via telehealth from the comfort of their homes, in their safe space.
Some children will find going back to school a stressful experience because their ability to be "social" has been limited. However, children adapt more easily than adults. What is crucial is that children should be able to forge friendships. And Dr. Vainder gives some advice on how parents can help in this matter.
Listen to other people. Many times, people don't really listen.
Encourage your child to ask questions. It is the best way to know new people. Give them examples such as where they were born, where they live, what they think about a topic, etc.
Also, encourage your child to be yourself by suggesting them to find friends with whom they feel comfortable. In this way, they will discover the difference between a friend and an acquaintance.
Dr. Vainder recommends parents to teach their kids to be generous with their time. For instance, if a friend needs something, be there for him or her or if they invite you for a party, show up. In this way, kids will learn about empathy, an essential ingredient when building friendships.
Being open-minded also gives a child the chance to meet different people and enrich their lives.
One may wonder why friendship and a regular social circle are so valuable for children. The truth is that studies show that adults with strong social support are less exposed to health problems like high blood pressure, depression, and obesity. The importance of friendship is universal and has to be a priority.
One last thought that Dr. Vainder gives is on how parents can help anxious and/or shy children. By role-playing, children can practice what to say in a given situation or when facing, for example, a teacher or a coach.
One last thing that adults should always remember is never minimizing a child’s feelings. Adults should validate their feelings and help them take small steps toward overcoming their fears and building confidence.
To read the full interview, click here.
To learn more about Dr. Elizabeth Vainder, click here.