Have you heard the phrase “toxic positivity”? Recently I wrote a blog post about this phenomenon in regard to parenting. A simple way of explaining the term: Coating any and all emotion or emotional reactions with honey, butterflies and rainbows.
While reframing experiences and finding silver linings isn’t a bad thing at all, we can’t immediately go to Sunshine & Lollipop Town whenever our kid, friend or partner is feeling down, worried or sad about something.
Instead of providing comfort and support, someone immersed with toxic positivity might provide a trite, cheerful, meme-like response if our child comes to us because his friend is ghosting him or if our daughter received a poor mark on a test.
However, there’s a fine line between going down a rabbit-hole of despair with our loved ones & flaming them with insincere, invalidating remarks in response to their pain, frustration or disappointment.
Trust me, we’re all guilty of second-guessing ourselves when it comes to responding to parenting crisis and issues…
Be too cheerful and we’re accused of being false or flaky; be too interested or serious and we’re accused of being helicopter parents.
There’s not necessarily a correct answer here but I think it’s valuable to be aware of phenomenon like “toxic positivity” on our continued parenting journey.
And, as a reminder: My blog has moved. I’m still at KidsAndMentalHealth.com but not here within WordPress.com. Most of you are “followers” via WordPress.com so I don’t have your email addresses. I would love it if you would subscribe to my newsletter (there’s a pop-up subscribe button on the site) and/or search out my blog on the regular.
Season’s Greetings! Many of you have been following KidsAndMentalHealth.com for years – in fact I founded this blog in 2011! Thank you for your readership, comments and questions over the years.
Recently, I had someone move this blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (a self-hosted platform) though the blog name & URL remain the same. I’m going to be ramping up this blog in a big way and I hope you’ll join me in my new “home” for more quality content about:
I haven’t yet installed a “subscribe here” widget (though I may do that today!) but if you’re interested I would love it if you’d visit KidsAndMentalHealth.com regularly, comment, like, share, subscribe, and read my posts. If you have questions or would like a particular topic covered, please contact me any time.
Sending you heartfelt wishes for a cozy holiday season. May your 2021 be full of positive mental health, enjoyable family moments, well-balanced kids and serenity.
The holidays are going to MUCH different for everyone this year. Most of us won’t be able to be together with our families or friends and we may not be able to purchase gifts as usual. First and foremost, we want to appreciateour health, friends and family.
However, if you’re feeling the holiday spirit and would like to purchase presents for a child who deals with anxiety, ADHD, high sensitivity or self-esteem issues, here’s a round-up of very specific, curated options. Many of these products I use myself or have purchased as gifts for my kids or for friends.
Please note that these items contain affiliate links and, if you choose to click the link and purchase the item, I may be compensated.
Here is the curated gift guide:
Weighted Blankets: I’ve written about weighted blankets here and here and the posts have been popular. I myself bought a weighted blanket several months ago and find that it does help me fall asleep and to sleep more deeply. Weighted blankets are NOT recommended for babies or young toddlers. Choose a weight that is 7-15% of your child’s body weight.
Noise Cancelling Headphones: Many kids & adults are sensitive to noise and noise pollution. This could be due to being on the autism spectrum, having high anxiety or being a highly sensitive person. Noise cancelling headphones can help many people focus on their work, studying, sleep or relaxation without being bothered by their surroundings.
ProCase Kids Noise Cancelling Ear Muffs This is a great option for toddlers as they’re lightweight, cushioned and more like ear muffs rather than headphones which might be too bulky or heavy for little kids.
Lavender Essential Oils & Diffuser: For centuries, lavender has been used to induce calm and sleep. Whether you spritz some on your pillow or diffuse it with reeds or a diffuser, lavender essential oils may help your older child or teenager feel more relaxed and calm. Note: Be very careful with essential oils and do not apply them directly to skin nor drink or swallow the oils.
Bleu Lavande True Lavender: This essential oil brand has 5 star reviews with no bad reviews. You may want to use a diffuser with a drop or two of lavender oil in your older child or teen’s room to help them stay calm and sleep.
ASAKUKI 500ml Premium, Essential Oil Diffuser: This is diffuser I’ve linked to above. It has 17,000 reviews and is an “Amazon’s Choice” product. I find diffusers are great at offering a subtle natural scent in rooms. Make sure to clean out the diffuser regularly to avoid mold build-up.
Family Games: When my kids were younger we would spend hours playing games. I like board games (or cards) because they’re simple, don’t involve screens, make us use our brains and (usually) bring people together for a laugh. If you’re going to be sitting around with your family this holiday season, you may want to get some board games to pass the time!
Apples to Apples: I like this board game because it’s inexpensive, fun for the whole family and easy to play. It also teaches strategy, comprehension and communication skills.
Yatzee!: This is an old favourite that I used to play with my parents and still has great value – plus it teaches math, memory skills and strategy.
Gifts for Parents of Anxious Children:
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, PhD: This book has been a game-changer for millions of people around the world who want to have a positive mindset. Here’s a blurb from the promotion page: “People with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are far less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and mentorship.Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.”
The Highly Sensitive Parent by Dr. Elaine Aron:I’m currently going through this book on Audible but plan to buy a print copy and re-read it each year. Finding out that I’m a highly sensitive person has been life-changing for me. If you are a parent and suspect you are an HSP or your child is highly sensitive, reading this book will make a huge difference for you.
Let me know if this gift guide was helpful for you or if you have other suggestions to add. You can contact me here.
I was recently talking with a friend about being an HSP or “highly sensitive person.” She hadn’t heard the term before so I briefly outlined the criteria:
prefers to spend a lot of time alone
intuitively “gets” people and feels their vibes
passionate about the arts and music
does not like to be rushed
cannot watch bloody or violent movies or shows
doesn’t like to be watched while performing or taking a test
You can take the full quiz here on Dr. Elaine Aron’s site. Dr. Aron is one of the foremost experts on highly sensitive people. Once my friend heard me mention some of the items on this list, she thought it sounded like one of her sons.
The realization that I was an HSP has been a godsend to me as I often wondered why I reacted differently to things than most people. If your child or teen is an HSP you’ll probably have an “a-ha” moment when you take the quiz.
Your child may have been told, “You’re too sensitive!” or “Don’t take it personally” over and over again. Unfortunately, when you’re an HSP, you have no choice but to take things personally and to feel things deeply. Understanding this will help you relate to your child.
It’s important to let your highly sensitive child know that you understand her and get what she’s feeling. Read up on HSPs and try to interpret how they might be feeling at a big, loud party where others are having fun but she’s covering her ears from the noise.
Similar to HSP is RSD or rejection sensitivity dysphoria– both can cause major upset to the nervous system and need to be managed correctly. If a child grows up without understanding and nourishing their sensitivity, they may experience a lot of stress, pain, frustration, misunderstanding and feeling of “otherness.”
Let your highly sensitive son spend some time alone if he’s had a rough day or a busy week but encourage him to get out in nature, spend time with family or get some exercise too – staying in a quiet room all day isn’t good for anyone.
Overall, your HSP kid can be a wunderkind with room to be creative, original, loving, daring and innovative. If you show him the path and appreciate that he might feel things that you don’t feel, you’ll be giving him a big advantage in life.
Does this resonate with you? Do you feel your child might be an HSP? If so, let me know here in the comments or by contacting me. And, by the way: I hope you like the look of my site – I installed a new theme recently.I’m really happy with it.
No doubt you’ve heard of “imposter syndrome” – the idea that we achieved something through luck or by accident – not by hard work, expertise or skill – and that it could disappear at any moment.
According to Wikipedia: “The feeling of being a fraud that surfaces in impostor phenomenon is not uncommon. It has been estimated that nearly 70% of individuals will experience signs and symptoms of impostor phenomenon at least once in their life. This can be a result of a new academic or professional setting. Research shows that impostor phenomenon is not uncommon for students who enter a new academic environment. Feelings of insecurity can come as a result of an unknown, new environment. This can lead to lower self-confidence and belief in their own abilities.“
You know what? Kids can have it too. You may have noticed a hint of this if your child says something like, “I’m not good enough to be in the school play so I won’t bother trying out” or “I can’t accept that spot on the team. I’m not fast enough; they’ll probably cut me” or “Maybe they should ask someone else to be the student council treasurer – it must have been a mistake.”
Now, this could be due to anxietyof course and we all get anxious or have doubts about achievements, promotions, try-outs, etc. It could also be due to low self-esteem which can be something that plagues kids and adults pervasively.
To help counter-act imposter syndrome, experts talk about building self-esteem, resilienceand understand the concept of “fake it ’til you make it.”
Other ways to help your child combat imposter syndrome is to provide examples in your own life – when you’ve felt like an imposter or a fraud in a new situation – say a great new job, the go-to yoga teacher, school mom, president of a non-profit board, presenter in an awards show, mentor for others, speaker at a conference – and how you overcame (or masked) those feelings to take on scary new situations and thrive.
If 70% of people experience imposter syndrome, it’s pretty likely that our kids will experience it too. We should be ready to show them that many people feel like frauds when presented with exciting opportunities and that’s okay – we can:
give ourselves a pep talk
discuss the feelings with trusted adults or mentors
and… hopefully tackle the situation and come out more confident on the other side!
Do you or your child suffer from imposter syndrome? If so, what did you do to combat it?
Hello! Let me first apologize for my abhorrent delay in posting. It’s been 4 months (!) since my last post and I don’t really have a decent explanation for the ridiculous gap. Is pandemic madness a good enough excuse…?
Now that my apology is done, let’s get down to brass tacks: School 2020.
Normally, the beginning of September is an exciting (albeit anxious) time for parents, children and young adults.
Being that it’s 2020, even the term “back to school” is tenuous. Are your children doing virtual schooling? Attending physically? A combination? No matter the mode, how are you and they handling it?
I’ve had friends and family members tell me that they’re freaking out, worried and anxious about their children attending school due to Covid. I totally get that – anyone who reads, watches or listens to the news knows that there’s a SERIOUS risk of getting sick once school starts.
However, even though I’m an anxious person by nature, I’m doing a pretty good job of staying calm. First of all, my teens want to go to school so that’s good. I feel like it’s important for their mental health to be physically at school interacting with their peers and teachers.
And, while I’m a huge fan of all things digital, virtual school just doesn’t cut it for me. Even my high-achieving daughter tells me that virtual school did not work for her and it certainly didn’t work well for my super intelligent son who also happens to have ADHD.
The chance of…
getting hungry and grabbing a snack
losing interest in the content
having technical issues
becoming distracted by ambient noise
etc. etc. etc. is so great.
Time will tell if our children’s learning & mental health will suffer due to the effects of the pandemic. Optimists will say that children areresilient and most can adapt. Realists will tell us things will never go back to normal, our children and young adults will lose much of their academic smarts and that we’re going to have to re-think our education system.
There ARE some cool creative options that people are investigating including: learning pods, outdoor or “forest” schools and OG homeschooling. We have no choice but to adapt and move forward.
I’d love to hear what you and your family are planning to do for school 2020. Feel free to comment here or write to me at the email address in the “About” section.
As we’re all very much aware, it ain’t business as usual this Mother’s Day. There may be flowers, there might even be breakfast in bed. But, if you were hoping for brunch at a fancy restaurant – or even breakfast at your local greasy spoon a la Rory and Lorelai – you’ll have to wait until next year.
Many of us won’t see our own mothers today – heck, if you’re an essential worker or in quarantine or sick or otherwise separated from your family, you might not even be able to see your child today. If that’s the case, I send you my kindest thoughts.
Likewise, if you’re the parent of a child or children with mental health challenges such as ADHD, autism, depression or learning disabilities being cooped up with your family for the last few weeks may mean your own mental health is tenuous at best right now. This year, you may be craving independence and freedom in order to regroup rather than family time.
Last Year Vs. This Year
Last Mother’s Day, I was sitting on this same couch in my living room around the same time, writing about eating brownies for breakfast. This year, I’m pleased to say that it’s much of the same. My 16-year-old son and I went for an early morning walk around the empty streets. My daughter is sleeping. My partner is at work. It’s extremely quiet and sunny. I’m drinking coffee and listening to the birds chirp happily. Yes, we’re all a year older but are we wiser? And, a year from now: Will we have become wiser still?
I’m certain we’ll all look back at this year as one of the strangest in history. But we have an opportunity to examine our lives as parents, partners, workers, human beings. Will we savour the simplicity (fraught with disappointment, sadness and worry of course) or will we mourn the losses? I imagine it will be a combination of both; I truly hope that we can all carefully examine how we want to treat ourselves, our kids, our friends, our neighbours and our planet moving forward. Clearly, the universe is trying to tell us something.
I wish for you a day of peace and good mental health. I hope that your children and your family treat you well and that you feel important today. Like other iconic times, do you think you’ll look back at this special date in history and remember exactly where you were and how you felt? I can guarantee your kids will.
“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not have to be a life sentence.” I like this quote from Dr. Peter A. Levine, psychologist. We’re all going through some form of trauma right now – whether that’s being laid-off; having to cope with new responsibilities; concerns about sick family members or friends or feeling scared of the unknown.
Our kids are suffering too. They may be silently mourning the end of their school year, missing friends and teachers or feel isolated and alone.
There are lots of suggestions to keep kids busy, happy and healthy during these strange times (some of which are mentioned here and here).
But there are also ways in which parents might think about helping themselves if we’re feeling traumatized, ill, anxious or scared. I wanted to create a short “round-up” of resources and suggestions that may help.
A freelance writing colleague Meredith Resnick, LCSW, has written a number of books about narcissism. She just had a new edition published in April in her series of books. Check out this edition or her other books if this is an issue you or a loved one might be dealing with.
A woman named Rachel whose blog I follow and whom I respect wrote a book called Yeshiva Girl about a young woman forced to go to a religious Jewish school and the conflicts she feels towards this and her father who has been accused of sexual misconduct. I’m really looking forward to reading this book as Rachel is a wonderful writer, has two Master’s degrees and is working on a third!
Caring Organizer is a platform built by a friend of mine who saw a need for “meal train” software. This site offers a concrete way for friends, family and neighbours to help those who are sick or have someone who has passed away. This site, available for people in the U.S. and Canada, not only offers meal organization tools but tips, resources and calendars as well.
I hope these resources are of assistance to you. Sometimes if we better understand ourselves as adults – or help someone in need – we can be better partners, friends and parents.
As an aside: I’m going to be working on upgrades to this blog in the very near future. I’m excited about this change and the new look that will accompany the swap to a self-hosted platform. Thank you for your support and please stay tuned.
As always, feel free to comment or write to me with any feedback or questions.
If anything is clear right now, it’s that “we’re all in this together” (cue the music from High School Musical).
With most of the world being shut down due to the spread of COVID-19 and an understanding that the virus doesn’t discriminate based on gender, age, ability, education or income, many are realizing that we’re more alike than we are different.
To that end, I read a fascinating article today about neurodiversity on Psychology Today. Do you know the term “neurodiversity“? I had heard it bandied about in relation to autism and Asperger’s which are diagnoses now widely pulled together under the general term“Autism spectrum.”
As is related in the Psychology Today article, neurodiversity is becoming a movement – with people advocating that many forms of brain “disorders” including epilepsy, Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, psychosis and others, are simply different ways of thinking and processing information – and they are not “abnormal” or “disordered.”
You probably know that someone with ADHD or a learning disability or dyslexia may process a question or a conversation or a math problem more slowly or differently than others. In the past (and even now), children and/or students may have been chastised or stigmatized or embarrassed by their inability to answer quickly or “the right way.”
But this old thinking may be flawed. We know that the brain can change and augment and develop and, like snowflakes, no two brains are the same. Therefore there isn’t necessarily a typical brain from which all human can be modeled. Just like there’s no “normal” body type.
In fact, many people with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities are now looking upon their diagnosis as a gift – as an opportunity to be creative and discover new ways of thinking or solutions to ongoing problems.
This isn’t meant to candy-coat (dis)abilities and diagnoses and pretend everything is lollipops and rainbows. Parents of children with mental health diagnoses often face steep challenges every day.
But, with a better understanding of growth-mindset parenting and the inspirational movements of neurodiversity, kids and parents can feel better about their abilities and their future opportunities by embracing what was once brushed off as “different”, “wrong” or “weird.”
What do you think? Does the neurodiversity movement make you or your child feel empowered and hopeful?