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

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

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

Home, Music, Parenting, Peer relationships, school, Social

Dear Evan Hansen: Top-Rated Musical Depicts Teen Loneliness in a New Light

Dear Evan Hansen:

Today is going to be a good day…

Dear Evan Hansen shirt

Um, no. I’m afraid it wasn’t a good day for Evan.

Have you seen this musical that won 6 Tony Awards and myriad other honours? We recently had friends in from out of town so my partner, newly teen daughter and I saw it in Toronto with our adult friend and her ‘tween daughter.

The play depicts a lonely teenage outcast named Evan who is trying desperately to overcome obstacles in his life, make friends, get through high school and bond with his working single mother. One innocent misunderstanding turns into a labyrinth of lies and deceits.  

While the performance received a standing ovation and our friends (and seemingly the rest of the 1,200 person audience) seemed to love the play, I had mixed feelings.

The Good:

  • The set is amazing. The use of long transparent screens to highlight social media feeds and videos shown throughout the play is very clever. It’s a striking and fresh production.
  • The performers themselves are engaging. We saw the “alternate” Evan but he seemed perfect for the role. It’s a small cast and most of the actors were excellent and had beautiful voices. I was fond of some of them more than others but overall very professional.
  • The topic is timely. Dear Evan Hansen depicts themes of loneliness, heartbreak, family break-up, bullying, suicide, relationships, and social media madness in a clear, non-cliche manner. I wish my older teen had seen it with us but he was out of town.
  • It was cool seeing the show band in the background and their musicality is stellar.

 

Dear Evan Hansen set
The opening set of Dear Evan Hansen

The Not-So-Good:

  • I didn’t love the actual songs. Usually when I see a musical we’re humming the songs on the way home, dying to buy (or download) the soundtrack. Certain songs are indeed thought-provoking and unique but only one or two really stuck with us. Alternatively, I saw A Star is Born a few months ago and still sing many of those songs in my head and purchased the official soundtrack which is excellent.
  • The performance itself is very long. The Royal Alexandra is a gorgeous theatre in downtown Toronto built in 1907 but the seats are quite close to one another and I started to get antsy towards the end of the first act.

Overall, I am always happy to see live theatre or concerts and am almost never disappointed to have the opportunity – even if it’s not 100% fantastic. If you are interested in seeing modern life from a lonely teen’s perspective, definitely give Dear Evan Hansen a go.

Have you seen the play? Did it resonate with you or your children/teens? What did you think of the content? Feel free to comment below.

Note: This post contains an affiliate link which means I may receive a small commission should you click on the link and purchase the product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music, Social

Sweet for Sia

Photo captured from Sia Official Fan Bridge web site
Photo captured from Sia Official Fan Bridge web site

I’m a huge music fan. In fact I just don’t understand when people (very few I  will admit), tell me: “I don’t really like music”.

To me, music is the key to happiness, productivity and inspiration.

Studies show that music can:

  • uplift mood
  • inspire creativity
  • cause relaxation, and
  • lower stress levels

These days, my favourite is  Australian singer/songwriter Sia. Modern, creative, artsy, animal-loving Sia doesn’t show her face on camera or while singing live but has climbed the charts as one of today’s most popular artists.

Her latest single is Elastic Heart. Although I had heard the song on the radio, it was my son who alerted me to the insanely watchable and incredibly weird music video. If you love eccentricity, wild innovation and catchy lyrics, I encourage you to check it out.

Books, Facts, Home, Music, Parenting, sleep

You’re Getting Sleepy

sunsetThis post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase any of the items listed, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.

Earlier today, I posted a status update on Facebook about feeling like “a zombie in the sunshine” after experiencing a terrible night’s sleep. (Full disclosure: I was sleeping with my daughter who was tossing and turning though really I’m not a great sleeper at the best of times.)

As we all know, sleep can be a challenge for adults and children alike. According to the Better Sleep Council, toddlers, children and teens need a minimum of 10 hours of sleep to stay healthy, babies need 16 and adults require 8. Lack of sleep can cause disturbances in mood, behaviour, learning ability, friendships, processing, relationships and work.

My status update received about a dozen replies and lots of advice. Suggestions included everything from taking magnesium (which I do) to using essential oils (wild orange on the big toes – who knew?!) to listening to relaxing, sleep-inducing music.

I’m a big fan of essential oils. We’ve used them in the diffuser; mixed with coconut oil for stomach aches, headaches and cramps; and I even ingested a tiny dollop of oregano oil when I had a cold. (It worked but it was one of the worst tastes I’ve ever experienced.)

For years, I (and sometimes my children) have used a white noise machine to block out extraneous noises and mimic sounds from the womb. It works like a charm, especially for those who are light sleepers.

Still, no matter what tips and tricks make for decent slumber, I’d love to have consistently good restful sleep. It makes life so much easier.

What’s your experience with sleep? Are you and your kids naturally good sleepers? If not, what’s your best tip? Please share. I’d be ever so grateful.

Facts, Home, Music, Social

Maybe It’s the Music

Take the edge off with some tunes.
Take the edge off with some tunes.

Mornings can be rough in our home. Nine times out of ten someone’s had a crappy sleep or is having a grouchy morning. If we get out to school/work on time, it’s a very good day.

My personal issue is that no matter how many times I tell myself, “Be patient” (through closed eyes and clenched teeth), I often end up yelling, cajoling, or making threats — No video games after school! No dessert after dinner! — in order to get the crew moving. That’s not fun for any of us.

However, the other day, I put a few videos on YouTube while the kids were doing last minute school prep. Before everyone got too stressed out, the mood lightened as we listed to Trouble by Taylor Swift and Dynamite by Taio Cruz. Heads bobbed, lyrics were sung… it was a very relaxing and fun way to head out the door.

Anything I can do to avoid the crazy half-dressed-where-are-my-socks-I-can’t-open-the-toothpaste-cap type of morning is absolutely worth it. And, if music is added to the mix? Even better.

Music, Philosophy, Social

Who Are You? Creativity Springs from Despair

Rock Star Status. Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This past weekend I watched a fascinating interview with The Who’s Pete Townshend on the CBS television show Sunday Morning.

Much of it focused on Townshend’s love/hate relationship with his “rock star” status but a chunk of the interview was dedicated to his rocky childhood.

At the age of 6, Townshend’s parents sent him to live with his grandmother who was mentally ill.

The boy suffered tremendously; here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“That probably more than anything, probably far more than whether or not my grandmother tried to drown me or made my life miserable or denied me sleep or food or whatever it was that she did, whether or not any of her weird boyfriends abused me in the middle of the night, that stuff I think I could understand,” Townshend said. “What I can’t understand is why that feeling of being abandoned is so huge and so difficult to get past.”

Townshend believes that much of his intensely creative musical compositions stem from that dark period of life. The synergy between melancholy and creativity is nothing new; I’ve also blogged about this connection. It’s an arena I find deeply intriguing.

I wonder: Do all great artists/writers/singers/actors/composers come from a place of pain and despair or can you live a life of happiness and peace and still be a creative genius?

Books, Music, Philosophy, Social

Novel Idea: How Books Spur Imagination

Got books?

This post doesn’t have a lot to do with kids or mental health except that I’m thrilled to be sharing my love of books, writing and reading with my children. I hope that they grow to cherish books and magazines and the art of the written word as much as I do.

So much can be gained from reading and thinking about books. Bored? Read the latest best seller or a long lost classic. Lonely? Off to the book store to fondle the gorgeous paper backs, hard covers and glossy magazines. Feeling blue? Write a short story about it.

I’m in two book clubs. Both of the clubs tend to focus on literary fiction. Today I participated in one book club’s meeting. The novel of choice was Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant. I didn’t have an opportunity to finish the book but I can say it defies quirkiness and creativity. If you like word play and, um, tortoises, give it a read.

It’s my turn to chose the next selection for book club # 2. I’ve chosen The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Originally, I thought the book version stemmed from a long-standing blog but, I don’t see anything confirming this idea on Rubin’s web site. If you go to Rubin’s site, check out the Foreign Cover Gallery under About the Book – very cool.  I can’t wait to get my hands on The Happiness Project and, ideally, get happier as a result. Bring it.