Category Archives: Peer relationships

Stay Out of It!

unnamed (1)Since both of my children’s birthdays are coming up soon, I’ve been reflecting and feeling melancholy, thinking about their younger days and some of the lessons I’ve learned. 

When my son was younger, say 6 or 7 years old, like many moms, I’d set up or help facilitate play dates for him and my daughter. If anything went wrong, say an argument between the boys or teasing that went haywire, I’d often step in – not as a grumpy “hey, my child is perfect” tiger mom but just to see what had happened and if there was any good solution. Of course I did this with the best of intentions.

I soon learned (with the help of some shy advice from a neighbour) that stepping into your kids’ social life is generally a no-no. Almost always, my seemingly innocent intervention would cause more stress or headaches for my son and his friends.

So, now, unless it’s a really big deal, I try to stay out of it. Yes, it’s hard sometimes and, as he and my daughter grow, there will be times that their father or I will have to get involved. But, I think it’s helped that I can provide advice and support but not march in to “save the day” (which didn’t really work anyway).

What’s your take on getting involved with your child’s social life?

Because of your son…

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.

Perfect Teeth

perfectionMy son was just telling me he has “the worst teeth ever”. This is far from the truth – his teeth are only slightly crooked and will look fantastic once he gets braces put on in the next year or two.

I told him if he had perfect teeth he’d be too perfect as he’s already very handsome. I said this partly to boost his self-esteem but mostly because I believe it to be true: If someone looks or acts too perfect they don’t seem real to me. I have known people over the years who never seem to be in a bad mood and are always smiling or want to see the silver lining in every situation. While I appreciate this attitude for the most part, it can get tiresome. Someone who’s never down or feels guilty or grouchy is suspicious to me – what’s under the shiny coating?! It’s our human nature to exhibit a range of emotions.

How do you feel about looking on the bright side of life? Do you try to find the realism in all situations with your children and/or the young people in your life? How do you balance our quest for perfection with life’s hard knocks? I’m still trying to figure this out myself.

White Knuckle Parenting

Walking up the hill Kortright CentreToday was my kids’ last day of school. While I scratched my head in astonishment that yet another school year had passed us by, I also realized I had to give out the teacher gifts we had purchased and arrange other end of year activities – stat.

Excited to wait at the school door when they exited for the last time this year, the sky boomed with thunder and rain just as I jumped in the car  to pick ’em up (I’m too far to walk to the school). Other parents and grandparents stood by with raincoats and umbrellas trying to say good-bye as we all huddled against the rain.

Both my children are suffering from colds but I thought we should mark this epic occasion in some way so I offered to take them for frozen yogurt. We inched our way through rainy slick traffic only to find the local fro yo shop PACKED full of kids and parents. Sigh… back into the car we went.

We arrived home, the kids dumped their bags, lunch packs, locker paraphernalia and shoes at the front door. We walked up the steps and what do we find? A big pile of cat vomit. Could this day get any better?!

I’m happy to say we turned it around. After a “surprise” dinner (hot dog mushroom bean tomato stew on garlic bread) we tried to rush my son to his baseball game (which was of course cancelled due to the rain). My daughter and I then walked to the LCBO to pick up a bottle of wine for my neighbour who was throwing herself a birthday party. We stopped in, wished her a happy birthday, said hi to neighbours new and old and now we’re home, along with a calm sky.

I hope your kids’ last of day of school is less epic.  Happy summer!

The Waiting Game

waitlistI’m sad to say I missed a day of blogging yesterday. Dock me ten points during the blogathon. ):

Ironically, I missed posting because I was attending a parent advisory board meeting for a mental health organization and passed out cold when I got home around 9 pm. This was the first meeting of a newly configured board of (mostly) women whose families are affected by mental health challenges.

One issue that always comes up when talking about mental health intervention is waiting lists. The waiting list is the torturous reality that most, if not all, parents and children face after contacting a government-run mental health care agency.

Rarely will a child be seen right away. If there’s a real crisis (and we joked last night about the clinician’s version of crisis versus the family’s version), families can head to their nearest ER and be seen within a few hours.

However, most families require short or long-term counselling and programs for their child in addition any crisis intervention.Because waiting lists are so long (many people wait 1o months or more before their first appointment), frustration, sadness and stress ensues.

What can be done? I’ll be posting more about Ontario’s changing mental health strategy (of which I have some insight) in the coming months. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) also has a decent list of ideas for children and families currently on waiting lists, including:

  • Checking in frequently with your family doctor
  • Putting your child or youth onto other lists for services in your community/city
  • Taking advantage of any employee insurance or private services (which can often happen within days) available
  • Spending good quality time with your child
  • Getting enough rest and having fun with the whole family in order to reduce stress

We have a long, long way to go before lists can be cut down to more reasonable wait times. Parents and kids with mental health challenges have enough on their plates and sitting on a waiting list for months at a time does nothing to counteract that frustration.

Incarceration Day

2prison-05Today I had lunch with an old friend from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years; needless to say we had a lot of catching up to do.

It was great fun to meet again and catch up (of course Facebook provides advanced info). Beyond discussing our youth and mutual friends, S. and I have something else in common – we both work in the field of mental health, family and corrections.

While S.’s work involves hands-on counselling, social work and research, I interview experts and write about issues related to these same topics. We had a stimulating conversation about what’s at the root of offenders – what makes them tick and what many have in common.

This topic deserves pages and pages of research and writing. But, because this is in blog format I will get straight to the point: We agreed that mental health challenges and a history of violence and abuse is at the core of most offenders/offences.

This discussion reminds me of the painfully honest film that shines a light on offenders who have gotten out of the prison system and are trying to make their way in the world. Just thinking about A Hard Name hurts my heart.

While it’s easy to say: “Lock ’em up” (and so we should in many cases), dismissing or hiding offenders away in the prison system does not get rid of the problem. Having a better understanding of good mental health, neglect, and child and domestic abuse is the key to preventing offences and ripping peoples’ lives apart.

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like governments and the public at large are realizing more and more that good mental health makes a huge impact on society.

Idle hands?

Busy bee“The majority prove their worth by keeping busy. A busy life is the nearest thing to a purposeful life.”

I had already decided to write about our culture of “busy-ness”  today and then spotted the quote above. Rather ironic when the focus of this post is the complete opposite idea.

Earlier this week, a colleague posted a link to this memorable New Yorker article about “Mr. Ravioli.” It’s a clever, insightful piece about a young girl’s imaginary friend; I encourage you to read it when you can take some time to absorb the tale

In fact, I realize this topic is coming full circle as the school year comes to a screaming halt. You see, this year, due to work flexibility and our kids’ ages, we decided to leave more gaps in their summer schedule.

When our children were younger and both parents were working full-time, we would either enroll our two kids in day camps, hire a nanny or babysitter, go on vacation or some combination of all three.  This year, they’ll both attend two or three weeks of camp but, as of now, have a lot of free time on their calendars.

I’m thinking (perhaps naively) that flexibility during the summer will allow more time to read, play with friends and wander around outdoors. It may also cause less stress for parents who don’t have to arrange pick ups, drop offs and lunches/swim suits/towels/dry clothes.

Careful of the admonishment recently doled out about overly zealous helicopter parents preventing optimal physical health in children, I’m hoping that a solo walk to the park or to friends’ homes will do the kids – and my bottom line – some good. (By the way, I’m not rolling my eyes in response to the report that finds children need more fresh air and exercise. However, I am leery of putting more pressure on parents who are already feeling all kinds of stress.)

How do you feel about our culture of busy-ness? Do you think parents and kids are overly scheduled and under creative? Are you able to give your children some freedom over the summer to explore their own interests? I’d love to hear your thoughts.