In my work with children and teens, I am spending more and more of my time focusing on building resilience. By this, I mean that I am trying to help children build coping skills to face every-day challenges. My goal, in a way, is to "inoculate" kids against the much bigger challenges we all face in life by seeing that they can cope with a bad grade on a test, a fight with a friend, or.....a snow-storm.
I am concerned with the widespread panic that seems to happen these days when even a drop of snow is coming. This weekend, we were expecting a bit of snow in suburban Philadelphia. Our school pancake breakfast was canceled, as were swim lessons. What if someone falls? What if a car skids? What if we can't get to the store for a day and we're hungry? Oh my!
This is in sharp contrast to my childhood in Toronto. I don't recall having snow days. I do recall walking home from school in 1st and 2nd grade in blizzards, chaperoned by my sister who was only three years older than me. The worst thing that ever happened to me was that my boot fell off in the deep snow and my foot got wet.
At our elementary schools, children do not have recess if it is below freezing and even above freezing, are not allowed to leave the paved surfaces. They do not want the children to get wet or throw snowballs at each other. At the school I attended in Toronto, kids are outside at recess building cross country skis out of plywood boards and having the time of their lives.
Can snow and ice be dangerous? Sure. But, I fear we are raising a generation of weather-phobic kids. Perhaps it is okay for them to go outside at recess and be cold and then come inside and see that their bodies do a very good job of warming up. It's a great lesson in social skills for a bunch of kids to work together on building a snowman at recess time. It might be okay for kids to be responsible for bringing a change of clothes to school and switching out their pants after recess if they are wet. What about walking to school on a snowy day? This could show kids that their bodies can quite impressively handle a cold walk, and wow, might even be more capable than a car!!! And hey, how about shoveling? Perhaps dangerous for a 70 year old guy with heart disease but for some healthy youth? It's great fun. Kids feel a super feeling of accomplishment from helping to shovel the driveway or shoveling for an infirm neighbor. In fact, I am going to join my kids on the driveway right now......
As a therapist who has treated obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) for several years, I "GET" OCD. Although I don't have OCD, I really understand what people go through who have it. For people in sufferer's lives, it is often difficult, if not impossible to understand. Parents, spouses, and friends wonder -- "Why can't they just NOT wash their hands?" or "Why do they have to say that prayer over and over till it feels just right?" or "Why can't they just stop thinking about the things that bug them?"
Terry Gross had a great interview on NPR today with David Adam, a science writer with OCD. I was amazed at how articulate he was about describing his obsessions and compulsions. I appreciated that Mr. Adam's OCD was not the typical washing and checking -- rather, he has a severe, irrational fear of contracting HIV. In clinical practice, we certainly see people who "wash" and "check," but even more often, we see people whose OCD revolves around more esoteric themes.
This program is a must-listen for anyone trying to relate to what their family members with OCD are going through. And, it will be great comfort to people with OCD to hear that someone struggles with the same thoughts and behaviors as they do (even if the exact content of the thoughts and behaviors differ).
Check out the interview here.
I have not yet read Mr. Adam's book. I will post again when I do...but I sense it will be a valuable read for people with OCD and those who love them!
I am a licensed psychologist working with kids, teens, and adults with anxiety disorders.