Experts, Study

Take Our 2021 Parent Survey

Hello! I’ve created a short survey to find out what Highly Sensitive Parents need in terms of content & information about their kids’ mental, emotional and social needs.

I’d love to have your opinions on our upcoming content & programs

Would love to have your thoughts. You can find the survey at: https://kidsandmentalhealth.com/2021/01/16/please-fill-out-this-survey/

Thanks in advance for your opinions.

Lisa

Experts, Facts, Parenting, Philosophy, Study

I’m Mr. Brightside. Heard About Toxic Positivity?

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.

Things can’t be sunny all of the time.

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.

It’s hard sometimes but our children need us to listen and not provide platitudes.

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.

KidsAndMentalHealth.com

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.

If you have any problems signing up or just want to reach out and say hello or have a question, you can contact me here or email me at lisa@kidsandmentalhealth.com

Yours in peaceful parenting,

Lisa

Music, Peer relationships, Philosophy, Social, Study

Hello and Good-bye

Season’s Greetings and All the best in 2021

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.

Yours in holiday spirit,

Lisa

Experts, Facts, Family, Music, Parenting, Philosophy, Social, Study

Is Your Child “Highly Sensitive”?

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:

  • easily overwhelmed
  • highly observant
  • 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
Are you or your child easily overwhelmed?

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.

HSP or RSD child
Feeling lost in a world where others seem to “get it” can be frustrating and lonely.

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.

Yours in high sensitivity,

Lisa

Parenting, Peer relationships, school, Social, Study

Is there anyone out there?

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…

nodding off

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.

Distracted much?

Time will tell if our children’s learning & mental health will suffer due to the effects of the pandemic. Optimists will say that children are resilient 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.

Yours in pandemic parenting,

Lisa

Books, Experts, Family, Parenting, Services, Social, Study

In Times of Trauma: Resources that Can Help

“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.

boy wearing surgical mask
Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

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.

ground group growth hands
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

Yours quarantinely,

Lisa

Experts, Facts, Parenting, Philosophy, school, Study

What is Neurodiversity? Why There’s No Such Thing as “Normal.”

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.

photo of people holding each other s hands
Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

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.

photo of a girl wearing blue sweater
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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?

Yours energetically,

Lisa

 

Facts, Family, Home, Philosophy, sleep, Study

Big Mouth Strikes Again…

I’m listening to The Smiths right now who are one of my all-time favourite bands. While “Bigmouth Strikes Again” is a cool and iconic song (take a listen if you’re not familiar), it reminded me that, so far, my new year’s resolutions are going well. One of my major family goals is to drastically reduce – or better yet, eliminate completely – yelling.

animal bear big blur
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Believe me, I know that yelling isn’t terribly effective or good for anyone. But shouting at kids is different than shouting at another adult.  Obviously no one yells for fun or to get their kicks – it’s generally out of exasperation, overwhelm or frustration. It’s learning to stay calm when we’re stressed and not resort to yelling that’s the tricky part.

I’m reminded of an interview I did with Erin Flynn Jay about mothers’ work during economic downturns. Through her research, she discovered that child abuse increases during economically difficult times. Children might sense a parent’s stress and then act out, causing the parent to feel the need to yell or strike back. It’s unfortunately a vicious circle.

white and blue crew neck t shirt
Photo by Atul Choudhary on Pexels.com

Now, none of this is meant to stress anyone (including me) out. But it is a good reminder that our actions and reactions to things do impact our kids – even if we don’t realize it or it doesn’t seem obvious immediately.

One of my other new year’s resolutions is to “think small.” I know that sounds like an oxymoron but, really, it’s meant to celebrate the little things in life. When it comes to parenting,  in my view, we need to pat ourselves on the back more and acknowledge that even small successes are still successes – especially when it comes to our or our children’s positive mental health.

If you made any, how are your new year’s resolutions coming along? I’d love to hear about ’em.

Peace,

Lisa

Books, Experts, Facts, Family, Home, Parenting, Philosophy, school, sleep, Study

The Resilience Fallacy

“Don’t worry, she’ll bounce back. Children are resilient!”

boy child clouds kid
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Over the years, through divorce, moving, kids’ changing schools, new relationships, issues with friends, various diagnoses, etc., that adage and similar advice has been doled out to me like so much candy on Hallowe’en.

Although assuming that children will bounce back after trauma or even minor incidents may sound innocent enough and even reassuring, it can be a dangerous assumption.

What is Resilience?

Psychological resilience is the ability to cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses “mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors”. Wikipedia

Building resiliency in children is vitally important and it’s a skill that can make a critical and positive difference in your child’s life.

Here are some methods that can help:

Let them solve their own problems:

While we might want to jump in and “save” our children from falls (literal or metaphorical), it’s vitally important that kids learn how to defend themselves, stand up for themselves and others, and find ways of coping in difficult situations.

Of course, this isn’t a way to opt out of helping your children or forcing them to make bad decisions because they don’t understand the options but rather it’s a way for them to test their own skills in order to help build up their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Be a living example:

Through your words and actions, show children how you deal with problems in your workplace, with your own friends, in your neighbourhood, etc. – and also how you dealt with different situations as a child.

I find watching movies or reading books about how children deal with minute or massive problems teaches them context. For instance, my partner and I watched the movie “Lion” a few days ago and I can’t wait to watch it again with my children for both its cinematic brilliance and the incredible story-line and ending. (I won’t add too much here in case you haven’t seen it. Please do!)  My daughter is also into learning about Anne Frank – and of course there is plenty of context provided with her amazing and courageous story.

Be there for them

This may sound contradictory to the above advice but it’s not. To me (and I am certainly not perfect at this and fail regularly) it’s about trying to be there for my kids when they really need me and not hanging them out to dry. So, let’s say, your child had a bad day or was bullied at school or saw something that made them uncomfortable. Ask them about it, try to help them solve the problem, be sympathetic and perhaps brainstorm possible solutions.

Something that seems to work for me is asking my kids, “Do you want me to talk to the teacher about that?” if it’s a problem related to school. They almost always say no. Even though they often don’t want me to step in, I feel like asking my children if they’d like me to intervene puts the power back in their hands. Note: Occasionally, I do talk to teachers or principals if I feel it’s important to step in!

Get out there

Whether it’s volunteering, building leadership skills or travelling, getting outside of one’s comfort zone can build resiliency by providing new experiences and challenges.

Travelling has been one of the single most defining aspects of my life. Not only has travelling to other regions and countries allowed me to experience new worlds, but the lead-up of researching trips, booking hotel or hostel reservations and flights (even as a teenager) and asking strangers for assistance has helped to develop my self-esteem and resilience. Meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds also provides context and perspective to consider when faced with a difficult situations.

ball shaped blur close up focus
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

If you are able to volunteer and/or travel with your family, you might ask your children to help research the non-profit organization or new region, point out aspects affected by war or strife, talk to locals, learn a new language or a new skill. In any case, if you are travelling by plane, train or automobile, everyone will have to learn to be patient, creative and innovative together when faced with inevitable travel delays!

What tools have you used to help your children build resilience? What happened in your own childhood that helped you face adversity? I’d love to hear from you.

Update from May

I’d also like to provide a quick update on “No Money May” since it’s now June. I’ve recently had surgery so was forced into a no spending mode for the last part of the month. Overall, I’ll give myself a “7” on a scale of 1 to 10 for not spending frivolously. I heard from other people who were going to try No Money May too. If you did it, how did it work out for you?

Feel free to comment at bottom or write to me privately.

 

Onward and upwards,

Lisa

 

Conferences, Experts, Facts, Family, Parenting, Peer relationships, Services, sleep, Social, Study

Canadian Mental Health Week: May 6-12

This week is Mental Health Week and Children’s Mental Health Week in Canada.

group of people holding hands together
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

It’s a good time to consider all of the facets of mental health. Happily, I feel that families, communities, schools, organizations and governments are getting better at recognizing signs, symptoms and remedies.

Even though some stigma remains, more people understand that mental health challenges are common. In fact, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

  • 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally face a mental health problem or illness
  • 8% of Canadians will experience major depression in their lives
  • Mental health affects people of all ages, education levels, incomes and cultures

Regarding kids, many wonder why suicide rates for children, teens and young adults seem to be increasing* and why more children (even those as young as 8) seem to be experiencing more stress than in generations past. What might the reasons be?

bed blanket female girl
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

From reading, research and speaking with other parents and experts, here are three top-line theories:

The Sleep Factor

  • Children, teens and adults are getting far less sleep than in prior generations. Whether it’s due to the blue light from our devices, the lure of 24/7 streaming content, being overwhelmed with homework or answering emails, or parents not enforcing strict bedtimes for younger children, we all could use more shut-eye.
  • Sleep allows us to heal our bodies and minds and to recharge for the day to come. It also helps regulate breathing and blood pressure. Without consistent, regular sleep and sleep patterns we put extra stress on our mental health and well-being.

The Failure Factor

  • Over the past year, I’ve read more and more about how parents’ inability to let our children fail and experience disappointment is hindering their ability to be successful later in life.
  • While we may think we’re doing our kids a favor by protecting them from, say, losing a race or failing a test or not making the cheerleading team, it’s important that children understand how to fail. When a child gets a D on their math quiz or is not invited to the dance, she might learn how to do things differently next time and, at the same time, build resilience which can help her deal with future disappointment.

The Comparison Factor

  • Personally I think adults are just as at-risk of this as children or teens. In our social and social media-infused world, we can’t help but compare ourselves to our next door neighbour who just returned from a spontaneous trip to Italy or to our colleague who is taking a year off to write a novel.
  • I’m not at all against social media (in fact, I’m a huge fan) but it can be extremely detrimental when we (or our children) are feeling vulnerable. It’s difficult to remember that people are more than their social media profiles and that most only post the best of their lives – not the tedious chores or the endless amounts of homework or the fight they just had with their sibling.
  • Comparing ourselves to our friends, classmates, or colleagues can bring on feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, depression and doubt. For parents, talking to our kids about social media and its implications and limiting the use of personal devices and video gaming can be beneficial.

Do any of these theories about modern-day mental health resonate with you? Are you aware of your kids’ mental health on a regular basis? Do you speak with them about stress or social media or suicide? I’d love to learn about your own theories and advice.

Feel free to comment on this post or write to me.

Lisa

*Note: The web site linked to teen suicide includes some disturbing content