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July 2016 Archives

In a climate of racial violence and unrest, much of the conversation focuses on how to fix the country-at-large's issues with racism. But the President of the Child Mind Institute, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, wants to redirect the conversation to focus on some of the most vulnerable members of society: our children. The letter in its entirety is posted below.

Dear friend,

In the wake of last week's racially charged violence, our dismay and distress have reached a fever pitch. These tragic shootings -- of black men by police and policemen by a sniper -- add fuel to a burning conversation in this country, and I think it's important for all of us to take part. The conversation is about the relationship between police and black communities, about violence, racism and divisiveness. 

To be honest, part of me wants to ignore it and keep my head down. Can a white child psychiatrist have a role in addressing this crisis? If I did not want to raise eyebrows or potentially offend anyone, I'd stop writing now.

But my job is to speak for children, who too often get short shrift because it is "inconvenient" to put their interests first. And here is the truth: the outbursts and the arguments, the anxiety and enmity, the killings and memorials are out there in full view of our kids -- black or white, documented or undocumented, immigrants or native born.

Our children need help. They need the adults in their lives to step up and comfort them and also to be honest with them. And though the conversation is different from community to community, parents need to talk to their children about the way things are and the way we think they should be.

Last week's violence was particularly painful because it threatens to turn even our mourning into something that divides, rather than uniting us. Our children look to us not only to keep them safe but also to help them think about upsetting information, including injustice, violence and division.

Many people have published helpful guidelines for talking to children about these very American issues of race, racism, equality and responsibility. I offer just a few:

  • Acknowledge injustice in our society. Children know when adults are hiding things from them, and it makes them feel unsafe.
  • Talk about the power of positive action. It helps children to know that adults are working together to make our communities and our country more fair.
  • Communicate hope to children. Feeling powerless or passive in the face of bad things makes them more painful.
  • Focus on togetherness and our common welfare. We need to stress that if some Americans are vulnerable, none of us should be comfortable.
  • Affirm the value of peaceful dissent. Passionate differences of opinion are the lifeblood of this country, but disagreements are never an excuse for violence.
  • E pluribus unum. When the conversation turns ugly, our children should know that uniting rather than dividing is the course that gets results.

Speaking these words to our children is very hard when we feel strongly that we are right, and the other side is wrong. The conversation devolves into fearful stereotypes, unkind words and hurtful shouting. Too often it is punctuated with gunfire. Let us remember that this violence and these words and this free-floating anxiety are not lost on our children.

Luckily, we have examples that we can aspire to. Three of them spoke at Tuesday'smemorial for the fallen Dallas police officers. Rabbi Andrew Marc Paley connected the anxiety so many of us live with to its unfortunate outcome. "Those of us who are scared and afraid, angry and confused," he said, are suffering with an "illness of violence, hatred, xenophobia and indifference that plagues us every day."

President Obama spoke movingly about the challenges we face in confronting that illness. "I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," he said. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been." But examples like the people of Dallas are strong. "All of you," he told the mo­urners, "out of great suffering have shown us the meaning of perseverance, of compassion, of hope."

The best gift we can give our children, and the best way to make them feel safe, is to let them hear and see our efforts to work towards change. "There is no greater love than this," Dallas police chief David Brown said in memorializing the five officers killed while protecting a protest. "These five men gave their lives for all of us."

In moments when hope eludes us, let us remember the power of constructive action and of investing in our children -- all our children, not just yours or mine. If we help our children, if we nurture and protect their childhoods, if we spare them from our prejudices and misunderstandings, they have a chance to be better than we are. And in turn they will create a better country and lead us to a more perfect union.

With my warmest regards,    

Harold S. Koplewicz, MD
Child Mind Institute

Summer at the Guggenheim


From new exhibitions to free admission to multimedia architecture guides for children, the Guggenheim is one New York City cultural institution that can't be missed this summer.

Two exciting new exhibitions are running throughout the summer. Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is a retrospective of László Moholy-Nagy organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Moholy-Nagy is known for his "radical innovations...with cameraless photographs (which he dubbed 'photograms'); his unconventional use of industrial materials in painting and sculpture; experiments with light, transparency, space, and motion across mediums; and his work at the forefront of abstraction." It runs until September 7th. But A Storm Is Blowing From Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, which explores artistic practices within both the region and its diaspora. Curated by Sara Raza, the Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, this exhibition "will feature installations, photographs, sculptures, videos, and works on paper from a broad selection of artists." After the exhibition closes on October 5th, it will travel to Istanbul's Pera Museum in 2017.

The Guggenheim is also offering free admission to active-duty military personnel and their families until Labor Day, September 5th. The admission includes active-duty Reserve and National Guard. Each serviceperson will be able to bring up to five family members. The Guggenheim is working with Blue Star Museums, a collaboration between Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 U.S. museums. For more information, and to find out other participating museums, visit https://www.arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums.

The Guggenheim is housed in an iconic building by Frank Lloyd Wright. In order to connect musem-goers with the building, a multimedia guide was created--and now that guide has been made available in a format for children. The guide "explores the landmark structure from various points of view and helps kids discover special locations and architectural features, including the exact center of the rotunda, a staircase shaped like a football, and the Aye Simon Reading Room, tucked away behind its distinctive, keyhole-shaped entry."

Anxiety disorders can lead to disruptions in children's lives, especially in the classroom. For those children struggling with anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, has allowed them to retake control of their lives. Standard CBT treatments range from three-to-four months, but an accelerated program is allowing students to complete the course within "a few weeks," according to the Child Mind Institute, which this week published an in-depth look at the process.

The intensive CBT courses allow students access to the relief they need as soon as possible. "As kids learn the skills faster and get results faster," says Dr. Jerry Bubrick, "they get more and more empowered."

The post from the Child Mind Institute covers a range of topics from the nature of OCD and anxiety to the importance of children spending time in nature. The complete list of topics is below:

Caroline Miller is Editorial Director of the Child Mind Institut, an independent nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children struggling with mental health and learning disorders. For more information, see childmind.org.

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