Books, Family, family games, Home, Money, Music, Parenting, sleep

Holiday Gift Guide for the Anxious Child

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 appreciate our 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.

Child smiling from appropriate holiday gifts for an anxious child.
Happy child during the crazy 2020 holiday season.

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.

Weighted blankets can help your anxious child sleep more soundly.

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.
Sensitivity to noise is a burden and distraction for many children & teenagers

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.

Happy Holidays!

Lisa

Exercise, Family, family games, Home, Parenting, sleep

Throw Your Hands Up in the Air Like You Just Don’t Care?

If you’re like me, you’re embracing the good but not ignoring the bad during this time of self-isolation/quarantine/physical distancing.

Sure, there’s been some lovely bonding time over card games, music and books – and walks – lots and lots of walks and hikes. In fact, my daughter and I have been making mini paintings for our “quarantine art gallery” which we display on our large back window. That has been a lovely side benefit.

Screenshot 2020-04-03 at 09.15.42

We’ve also had a few sibling/parent or full family card game and board game nights which included a few laughs and some friendly competition.

However, it’s not all been party games, cake-making (though I did make an amazing rich decadent chocolate cake!) and painting. For instance: my older teen was up until 6 am this morning. You read that correctly – he hadn’t gone to sleep yet at 6 am and thought that this was okay!

To me, even though this is a “break” (as he likes to call it) and school is not on, it doesn’t mean we do nothing and give up all semblance of a routine. For instance, I still need to work. I’m working from home most of the time but it’s been busy – and somewhat stressful. And, my partner still works on-site so we both need to get sleep (and food, and groceries, and exercise, and pay bills, do cleaning, etc.) Also, my kids’ online school starts on Monday so both will need to get assignments done and check in with their teachers.

woman in black long sleeve shirtusing a laptop
Photo by Vernie Andrea on Pexels.com

To me, being on quarantine/self-isolation doesn’t mean a free-for-all, let’s throw up our hands and give up. It does mean that I try to cut my kids some slack – let them sleep in a little, eat cake for breakfast once in a while, chat with their friends a lot on social media, etc. but I feel like self-discipline is an important principle and now is a good time for us all to motivate ourselves to achieve something.

That might mean learning to cook, doing push-ups every day, learning to play the piano, to paint, to learn a new language, practise your musical instrument, sing, make videos, write poetry…something!

I’ve been insisting on family walks/hikes every day and doing some chores or reading physical books rather than sit around looking at devices 24/7.  I have to admit, most of the time, both of my teens go on the hikes without complaint. I don’t know if they’ve given up arguing with me about it or they have learned to enjoy it. (: So, I guess that’s a win.

What do you think? Have you thrown up your hands during this time? Let your kids throw up their hands? Doing the home-schooling thing? Teaching them new skills? I’d love to hear your tips.

Yours quarantinely,

Lisa

Exercise, Family, family games, Home, Parenting

How are you feeling? You’re Not Alone.

These are crazy times, no doubt about it. I don’t use the word “crazy” without putting thought behind it but, right now, I think this is the perfect time to use such a term.

person in coveralls holding spray bottle
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

How are you and your kids dealing with the pandemic, social (now called physical) distancing, self-isolation and/or quarantine?

Just think: only weeks ago were most of us out and about, living our lives, travelling, going to any stores we wanted, dining out at restaurants, having play-dates or hang-outs, going to the park, the playground, the airport – with no other thought other than making sure we had our car keys, wallets or phones with us.

I’m sure many of you are vacillating between peace, panic, anxiety, depression, calm, laziness, thoughtfulness and boredom. That’s normal. I myself am feeling all of these things and more. My teen children are presently with their dad but I’m sure they’re starting to feel like the walls are closing in on them.

To me, getting outside for fresh air and exercise EVERY DAY has been so important. The blast of non-recycled air, blood moving, and enjoying some outdoor scenery and nature has been life-changing.  See the tweet below from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health giving the okay to go outside (taking normal precautions):

Screenshot 2020-03-23 at 12.34.32

I know people with younger children are having a lot of trouble finding ways to keep them occupied. One of my colleagues with two young boys (one a toddler, one about 5 years old) has been doing LEGO/Duplo, making crafts, having the kids go outside and splash in the puddles/play in the snow and helping them make cookies and cakes.

Many people still have to work from home (or work outside the home if they are deemed essential services and/or their employer is making them come to work or they have their own businesses). I hope that your employer and your customers are being understanding – especially if you have children or parents to care for. We all need to be mindful that this is NOT business as usual – and are working outside of normal parameters to get things done.

While my two teens were here at my house, I implemented a few hours of no-screen time. During this time, they had to read a physical book, play cards, draw, go outside, do homework or help with chores.

Here are some other ideas and resources that I’m finding helpful as I cope with working from home, co-parenting two kids, taking care of a sick cat and dealing with bouts of panic and anxiety:

What efforts have worked well for you? Have you been able to maintain some kind of normalcy? I’d love to hear from you. Please write or comment below. Also, if you like this article (or any of my other posts), please remember to share on Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook or by email.

Keeping the peace in pandemic times,

Lisa

family games, Home, Parenting, Peer relationships, school, Services, sleep, Social

Coronavirus and your Kids: Tips for Parents throughout the School Closure

I didn’t want to write this post. I feel like many people are taking advantage of the COVID-19/coronavirus to hawk things or make money (re-selling hand sanitizer anyone?), spread misinformation or cause unnecessary panic.

photo of woman covering her face
Photo by Eternal Happiness on Pexels.com

However, several close friends and family members have mentioned that their children are feeling anxious about the pandemic and they don’t know what to say or how to help their kids feel better and more calm – not to mention: what to do for three weeks while their children are off school (or out of daycare as the case may be). Here in Ontario, the government has mandated an extra two-week school closure in addition to the traditional March Break (beginning this weekend/Monday).

While, I’m not a psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist, I have written a lot about mental health, learning disabilities, anxiety and depression – both for this blog and for organizations, magazines and web sites. We can’t completely shield our children from panic or tragedy, but we can try and make sense of it for them.

For starters, depending on the age of your children, you might want to explain the science of how viruses spread and how we can ALL do our part by:

  • Washing our hands frequently and with soap (a lot of kids forget the soap part or the drying off part)
  • Not touching our faces (so difficult – especially with colds or allergies)
  • Keeping away from others as much as possible (again, tough for kids who are mostly social animals and want to give hugs and high-fives)
  • Eating healthy foods and drinks (there are lots of ways to inject fruits, veggies, fibre and probiotics into our diets)
  • Getting plenty of fresh air and exercise (more on that below)
  • Getting enough sleep (always important!)

grayscale photo of baby lying on hammock
Photo by Viswanath Sai on Pexels.com

I’ve pre-warned my tween/teen children that none of us is going to spend the next three weeks just staring at devices. We can read actual books, play games and cards and utilise this opportunity to clean and de-clutter our spaces — which is also a great way to improve mental health!

And, since we’re doing the “silver lining” thing: For me, this is just another excuse to get outside for a hike or a walk or a bike ride. (Anyone who reads this blog or knows me personally, knows that I am a hiking/fresh air fanatic!). As social distancing and no non-essential travel are being advised, local hiking, trekking and biking is the perfect activity.

Here are a few blog posts that can help motivate you and your kids to get some exercise and fresh air during the COVID-19 school closure and throughout the spring and summer:

What are you doing to keep yourself and your family sane during this unprecedented time in history? Are you able to stay calm and enjoy a hiatus of sorts or is the closing of schools and limited travel putting additional stress on your family? Feel free to write to me or comment below.

Yours in parenting peace,

Lisa

 

 

 

Family, family games, Home, Money, Parenting, school, Social

Cheap & Cheerful Ways to Enjoy the Last Days of Summer

Before digging into this post, I want to welcome my new subscribers. Despite not having posted much this summer, Kids & Mental Health has attracted quite a few new followers over the past few weeks. Welcome! Please feel free to contact me or comment with feedback or suggestions.

Here in Ontario, Canada, we’re enjoying the waning days of summer. If it’s summer-time where you are, how is the season treating you and your family? Has it been easy-breezy or is the absence of routine causing strife and chaos in the family home?

person s hand on black board with hello text beside brown mug
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

This hasn’t been a typical summer for me. There was a long recovery process from surgery, a lot of work, work, work to follow and then a wee bit of play in between – some of it with my kids and friends, some by myself and some with my partner when he’s around.

Now that it’s mid-August, I’m looking at the calendar wondering how I might wedge in some more summer-time fun with my children before they head back to school. The humidity has finally dissipated (thank you, Lord!), the days are shorter and there’s a chill in the air at night…I’d better grab a last slice of summer while I can.

ball ball shaped blur color
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here are a few “cheap and cheerful” ways to spend these waning days with your flock:

  • Head to the beach with a book, umbrella and some sandwiches
  • Have a picnic in your backyard
  • If it’s raining, have a picnic in your basement or porch
  • Visit your local library and start a family book club
  • Play old-school board games
  • Use your voice-enhanced device like Alexa to play new-school games (there are a lot of fun options such as Song Quiz and Escape the Room!)
  • Check out previously-unexplored neighbourhoods in your region (we have a Little Italy, a Little India, a Jewish area, a “J-Town”, a China Town)
  • Watch your local soccer or baseball team play a game
  • Find a new splash pad, playground or community pool to try
  • Learn to play tennis at the local court
  • Set up a scavenger hunt in the park
  • Visit local food/cookie factories that allow the public in
  • Challenge yourselves to visit as many local hiking trails as possible before September

I’d love to know if you try out any of these ideas; leave a comment below and let me know how your summer’s been treating you and your family and what you’re planning until the school bell rings once again.

Lisa

Art, Experts, Facts, family games, Home, Parenting, Study, Uncategorized

Sensitive much?

 

alone black and white boy child
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

“Calm down, you’re just being sensitive…” “Oh, don’t pay attention to him, he gets so over-sensitive about everything.”

Sound familiar? Are you or your child often labelled as “sensitive” or “hyper-sensitive”?

Hypersensitivity is common in some types of people such as those with ADHD as well as people who are very creative. I’m sure you’ve heard artists, singers, dancers, painters, and actors who are known for their intense reactions to situations big and small.

I find the link between sensitivity and creativity fascinating. I recently discovered “The Highly Sensitive Person” or HSP which I believe is a term coined by Dr. Elaine Aron. I love her site and blog as well.

While there are many good and exciting things about being a sensitive person (better overall emotional intelligence and the ability to “get” others quickly), it can be annoying to oneself and to others. However, I’ve learned that it’s important to be true to one’s self no matter what – even if others would prefer you to act or think differently.

Do you know anyone who’s “hyper-sensitive” or “overly emotional”? Is that you or your child or spouse? Feel free to comment here or reach out to me via email.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art, Facts, family games, Parenting, Peer relationships, Philosophy, school

Because of your son…

Courtesy http://static.bbci.co.uk/schoolradio/images/ic/qe//width/960/schoolradio/pshe_clips/friends_960x540.jpg
Courtesy http://static.bbci.co.uk/schoolradio/images/

This post on Facebook made my eyes fill with tears.

Parties can be hard. Even when you’re popular. They’re especially hard when you’re unpopular, different or shunned in some way.

The compassion of including a boy with autism to a child’s birthday party (and going so far as to make alternate arrangements to make sure he’s comfortable) certainly made this mom’s whole day – possibly her whole year.

While it’s easy to dismiss kids who may be hard to handle, disruptive or shy, please encourage your child to invite “outsiders” to parties and playdates. This simple effort can make a world of difference to another human being.

Art, Books, Family, family games, Home, Parenting

Little Victories

gametime-300x225Playing board games as a family isn’t always the picture perfect TV commercial some might think. At least in our family it isn’t. More often than not, games night (or day) ends in someone crying, yelling or stomping off.

I decided today that we’d play only as much as we could during a rainy day game of Risk. I think we lasted more than an hour when voices rose loud in competition and the energy reached its peak. Some might think it’s a failure to “take a break” and go our separate ways. I think it’s pure strategy. No one gets hurt, there was no yelling or sore feelings and we got to enjoy some creative non-screen interaction for more than an hour.

Hurrah for small victories!