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

Animals, Family, Home, Parenting, Philosophy

Not Your Mother’s Mother’s Day…

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.

woman kissing cheek of girl wearing red and black polka dot top
Photo by Albert Rafael on Pexels.com

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.

Sending you love from one mother to another…

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

 

Home, Parenting, Philosophy, Social

How to Manage Disappointment: When Kids Don’t Live Up to Your Expectations

Any parent knows that we should encourage children to be themselves and not mold them into “Mini Me’s.” However, sometimes this is easier said than done.

photo of a person leaning on wooden window
Photo by Dương Nhân on Pexels.com

Even if our kid isn’t going to be the next Serena Williams or Bill Gates, we all have SOME expectations. We might want them to excel in music or sports or be social or get straight A’s or be a master chess player. This may because this is something that we realized as a young person or because we see a spark in them and want them to develop that spark into something brighter.

In many cases our children will disappoint us at some point in our lives. It might be that they date someone we’re not crazy about or fall in with the “wrong” crowd at school. They might fail certain subjects or not have friends.  If our child has a mental health challenge, this can be even more disappointing – I’ve recently read of parents who were saddened by their teen not going to prom or not going to college or university when it seems like every other teen on the planet is doing just that.

man wearing black suit jacket with teal bowtie
Photo by Kam Pratt on Pexels.com

How do we separate ourselves from our children and allow them to grow and develop into the best version of themselves? Do we need to take a step back and realize that our expectations are unreasonable – or try to temper them accordingly?

With a tween and a teen, it seems that one of my kids is constantly testing me: just when I think they’ve achieved something or moved beyond a certain nagging problem, something else crops up. Honestly, it can be very hard to digest and deal with at times. For me, there are certain expectations that are non-negotiable: show up for school on time; pass all courses; get a good night’s sleep; take care of personal hygiene and chores; have a good attitude; show up for family dinner and to family events…

These are very basic things. I expect my kids to go above and beyond those basics and to achieve something more. However, sometimes even these basics are not achieved! That can be frustrating at best. Even if learning disabilities or mental health challenges get in the way, I still expect my children to try their best and not to make excuses. 

Have you experienced frustration when dealing with what you think are basic expectations? Does your child’s mental health challenges get in the way? I’d love to hear what you think and how you deal with these dilemmas.

Yours in the parenting trenches,

Lisa

Family, Home, Parenting, Philosophy, Social

Don’t forget fun: Parenting doesn’t have to be a 24/7 chore

This weekend I won two tickets to a “retro 80’s” video dance party at a club downtown. My partner and I were already thinking about attending – as two friends were going. Once I won the tickets, we decided that the universe was nudging us and that we should definitely go. While we neglected to wear our best 80’s neon and preppy clothing, it was an absolute blast and we were able to forget about life’s demands for a few hours as we danced the night away.

four person standing at top of grassy mountain
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Now, it’s not like I’m a martyr and stay home all the time to cook and clean and pay bills (though sometimes it feels like it). I go out with friends – mostly when my kids are with their dad but we do outings as a family too – and my partner and I go to the movies, to restaurants, on trips, etc. We try our best to enjoy life but, lately, the to-do list seems endless and the fun side of life gets buried in a stack of bills, report cards, and dishes. 

If you work outside the home, you know that getting kids to sleep on time and then up in the morning, packing lunches and dropping them off at school prior to getting into work can use all of your energy stores – then you still have to work all day – and then do it over and over again a la Groundhog Day. If you work at home or are a stay-at-home-parent, staying on top of and/or getting out from under the clutter of life can be a downer.

appliance carpet chores device
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But going out this weekend reminded me that parenting doesn’t have to be a chore. We all work hard and worry about our kids and their mental health – but our mental health as parents is important too. In fact, I submit that when we’re happy and cheerful and feel that our needs are met, we’re not feeling resentful to our children and can be more “present” in their lives.

Going out doesn’t have to mean an expensive get-away or partying until 3 am (though I do recommend it once in a while!). It can be as simple as going to your favourite book store or library and perusing the shelves and grabbing a coffee. Or, you can hit the local gym and do a Zumba class or lift some weights – or even go for a walk – alone or with a friend while ignoring the dirty laundry and piles of dishes for an hour or two.

selective focus photography of woman in white sports brassiere standing near woman sitting on pink yoga mat
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Parenting can absolutely take over and get overwhelming and demanding. But we owe it to ourselves and our kids to take a break every once in a while and enjoy ourselves. We are human too. I also think it’s important to show our children that we have our own lives, friends, interests, hobbies, etc. and that we can prioritize our interests at times.

So, next time a friend or neighbour asks you to grab a coffee – “get into the groove” and take her up on the offer. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Let me know about your tips for balancing life, work and parenting! You can reply in the comments or send me an email.

Yours in 1980’s “mom jeans”,

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

Conferences, Family, Parenting, Philosophy, sleep, Social

2020 Vision: Making Good Choices for Your Family’s Mental Health

Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s 2020?! Did you celebrate with family or friends last night? Have a party with neighbours or ring in the new year at home watching the ball drop in Time’s Square (if that works with your timezone)? Whatever you did, you don’t have to worry about comparing yourself to me: I did not have a Pinterest-worthy New Year’s Eve by any stretch – quite the opposite in fact; I was sick with a cold and fever and sleeping by 9 pm. Good. Times.

As bummed out as I was to not have a wild & crazy New Year’s Eve, I was happy to have celebrated the day with my partner and my children. Even though I was already starting to feel ill, my kids had been with their father for most of the holidays so I wanted to spend at least one day celebrating with all four of us. We went bowling, went out for sushi and had potato latkes  in the morning – made by yours truly along with my daughter. It was a really fun day out but, by 5 pm, I was exhausted and very sick.

woman working girl sitting
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

So, now that New Year’s Eve has come and gone: Onto the business at hand. Regardless of my cheesy headline for this post, for the past few weeks, I have been thinking about my goals and objectives for the year ahead. Have you given it much thought? Any goals – business, personal, family or otherwise?

Here are a few very basic family-oriented goals of mine for the year ahead. You are welcome to follow along with me. If you do, please let me know of your successes or any missteps. It takes a village!

2020 Family-Oriented Goals:

  • Listen more and talk less.
  • Reduce my own social media use and technology use – and encourage my kids to do the same.
  • Read more books – and encourage my kids to read more.
  • No more yelling/use silence as an alternate way to communicate.*
  • Enjoy the simple moments with my family.

woman reading book
Photo by Joy Deb on Pexels.com

Do any of the above goals pique your interest? I have already started implementing some of them: *I’ve started texting certain things instead of yelling up the stairs – for instance how many more minutes until the “taxi” i.e. me, leaves for school. I’ve also started talking/responding less both at home and at work – and even on text. Not in a snobby or rude way but just not responding if I don’t have anything constructive to say. It seems to be working – it’s certainly reducing my stress-level.

Whatever you and your family decide to do: I wish you all a very happy 2020 full of positive family interactions, peace, joy and success.

Here’s to positive strides in your and your children’s mental health!

Lisa

Parenting, Peer relationships, Philosophy, Social

Frenemies: Should You “De-Friend” Your Non-Supportive Friends?

If you’re reading this blog, you probably have ADHD, anxiety, depression, autism, mental health challenges – or you care about someone who does.

And, if you or your loved one fit into any of the above categories, you have probably suffered from being shunned, isolated, “de-friended”, bullied, unsupported, or, at the very least, misunderstood.

adult alone anxious black and white
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

As a parent, it’s hard not to blame other kids, adults or teachers who shun or misunderstand your child. It’s hard enough trying to parent a child or teen who has ADHD or other atypical traits without having neighbours, friends or family members question your parenting style, isolate your child or point fingers. When dealing with the daily stress of parenting, comments such as these can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

What do you do when people purposely leave your child out because they can’t deal with his or her behaviour? I’ve written about this issue before here, here and here.

  • Do you speak to them about why they’re doing it?
  • Do you think perhaps you’re being paranoid and that’s not the case?
  • Do you shun them yourself?
  • Do you try to be even more friendly and overcompensate for your child’s behaviour/their view of your child’s behaviour?

I don’t think there’s any “right” answer here. I do know that it’s extremely troubling, stressful and heartbreaking to discover close friends are not spending time with you because they don’t like your child. I guess the most mature thing to do would be to have a heart-to-heart with the person but, that can open a can of worms because they might be embarrassed to discuss it or deflect the blame or laugh uncomfortably and not engage.

man person school head
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

In the past, we’ve had myriad friends and family members politely decline invitations or only want to get together without kids around. One of the saddest moments was finding out that a former neighbour with whom our child was very close had a birthday party and didn’t invite our child. Of course I realize that we can’t invite everyone to every birthday party but I know why my child was not invited in this particular case.

Another neighbourhood mother who ran a home daycare pretended she wasn’t taking on new children when I inquired. But, I later saw posters everywhere advertising her daycare and promoting open spots. This type of activity can be extremely hurtful (sometimes more for the parent than the child). Luckily, for us this isn’t something we have to deal with any longer now that my children are growing up and some of those annoying traits have dissipated or disappeared.

Has this happened to you? Do you “de-friend” your friend, neighbour or family member if they don’t engage with you or your family because of your child’s condition or his/her behaviour? What’s worked best in your case? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Lisa