I’m not an “ADHD Mom.” Are you?

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I hesitated in writing this post for two reasons. One: I don’t want to be a Judgy McJudgerson (we all have enough guilt when it comes to parenting) and two: I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. However, I thought about it for a few days and decided to go ahead.

Have you read or heard people say, “I’m an ADHD mom?” Or, “I’m an autism mom?” This makes me cringe. I feel we do a disservice to our children when we label their projected imperfections in our parenting style. Would you say, “I’m a cancer mom” or “I’m an epilepsy dad” when introducing yourself online or in person? Probably not.

Now, I can guess where the label comes from… social media allows us to form groups and communities which are mostly wonderful and helpful and inspirational. To gather our “tribes” sometimes we need to attach labels or attributes to ourselves so that we can draw on people going through similar challenges. For instance, there are groups about running marathons, trekking mountains, for movie buffs and abuse survivors… really, any challenge or accomplishment good, bad or neutral.

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However, by introducing ourselves or labeling ourselves online as our child’s diagnosis or disability or syndrome, we run the risk of drawing attention to something that our child may not want people to know – especially as they grow up.

Now, if you yourself are challenged with autism or epilepsy or cancer and you want to shine a light on this issue, I say go for it. But, if it’s your kid who’s dealing with something, perhaps ask them if they’re old enough or consider a different label.

What do you think? Do you agree with me? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Lisa

Kids & Exercise

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Hello! I am happy to include a guest post from the tenacious and talented Sarah Maurer of Miss Adventure Pants. I recently wrote a guest post for her site about hiking with kids and am thrilled to include her expert tips here.

Yesterday, I wrote a similar post about how I may not be the perfect parent but I am really good at getting my tween and teen outside and active as I believe it is so important for everyone’s mental health. Unfortunately that post was lost in the great unknown (most likely because I forgot to save it as a draft!) so Sarah’s helpful list has saved me and will hopefully inspire you & your family as well.

Seven Surprising Facts About Kids and Exercise

If you have a hard time getting your kids to put down their phones and play outside, you’re far from alone. Raising active kids in the information age is a challenge for almost all parents.

Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids spend an average of 7 hours a day interacting with devices and screens. That’s about the same amount of time you spend at work — and they also do it on weekends.

However, even when it feels like pulling teeth, motivating your kids to exercise is almost always worth the trouble. If you need extra motivation to persevere, consider what the research says about kids and exercise:

1. Being active at a young age helps to prevent chronic disease in adulthood.

People who were active as children have a lower lifetime risk of many chronic illnesses, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and coronary artery disease.

2. For kids, the health benefits of exercise are mental as well as physical.

Active children ages 6–17 are less likely to develop depression than their sedentary peers. A two-year study involving 4,600 middle school kids found that the exercisers among them scored lower on measures of depression like anxiety and fatigue. While the study didn’t look specifically at the effects of exercise on childhood depression, the authors posited that young exercisers probably experience the same mood-lifting benefits as adults.

3. Exercise helps kids learn.

Schools, think twice before you cut your physical education programs any further. Active kids ages 6–13 score higher on measures of cognitive function, thinking, and memory skills than their less active classmates.

4. Kids need a surprising amount of exercise.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services currently recommends that children and teens engage in 60 minutes of physical activity a day, including vigorous activity on at least 3 days a week. That may seem like a lot when you think in terms of aerobics or spin classes. But keep in mind that for kids, this can include active recreation like walking, skateboarding, biking, and ball games.

5. Kid athletes are surprisingly mighty

Until fairly recently, experts warned parents about the dangers of too much exercise during childhood. They posited that activities like weight lifting and long-distance running might harm growing bodies. However, research hasn’t borne these concerns out. Weight training in particular has been shown to be safe and effective for school age children, so long as they avoid maximal effort and explosive movements (no power cleans!).

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6. Active kids tend to become active adults.

Experts lament the fact that so many sedentary children are growing into sedentary adults who are at increased risk for chronic illness. However, the opposite is also true. Kids who enjoy exercise and physical activity will tend to maintain these interests as adults, reaping many health benefits along the way.

7. The best way to raise active kids is to be active yourself.

What’s the number one predictor of physical activity in kids and teens? It’s having an active role model in their lives, whether it’s a parent, a sibling, or anyone else they look up to. That’s a great reason to be active as a family — even when the kids would sometimes rather be playing video games.

For some excellent tips on hiking with kids, check out this blog post by Lisa. I’ve also written a 4-week walking workout plan that you can enjoy with children and teens.

Hopefully, these tips will motivate you to get active with your kids, whether you’re walking the dog together, doing exercise videos, lifting weights, or just monkeying around at the playground. And if you hit some resistance from the kids, rest assured that the lifelong health benefits will be worth it.

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Sarah Maurer is a fitness coach and hiking enthusiast who blogs at missadventurepants.com. She previously worked as a school counselor to elementary and middle school students.

Binaural beats for sleep

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Have you heard of binaural beats? In my quest for slumber, I recently discovered this niche audio element. As I’ve indicated in prior posts such as this guy or this one, sleep is not my friend. Well, to be clear, sleep *is* my friend but she can be an elusive and cruel friend at times.

Here’s a basic definition from Wikipedia:  “A binaural beat is an auditory illusion perceived when two different pure-tone sine waves, both with frequencies lower than 1500 Hz, with less than a 40 Hz difference between them, are presented to a listener dichotically (one through each ear).”

I have many tips & tricks up my sleeve when it comes to getting shut-eye. This bag o’ tricks includes *hand in front of mouth* sleeping pills which I have come to accept as a necessary part of my life and no longer feel guilty when I need to take one.

Some of my non-medicinal sleep-well tips:

  •  No screens of any kind prior to bedtime (I am only somewhat successful at this)
  •  At least 30 minutes of (ideally outdoor and vigorous) exercise during the day (generally very successful)
  •  Magnesium as a tablet or a drink with magnesium such as Calm (the jury’s out on this)
  •  A white noise machine (I’ve used a white noise machine every single night for years with good success for both slumber and drowning out background noise)
  • Spritzing or steaming essential oils such as lavender (smells lovely in any case)
  •  And, more recently, listening to YouTube videos with binaural beats included (definitely helpful for both sleeping and relaxing)

Music with binaural beats has a very zen-like, relaxing element to it. I can see this type of music driving some people nuts (and is apparently dangerous for people susceptible to seizures) but, for me, as someone who tends to be on the anxious side, I find it soothing and relaxing.

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Thankfully, my children and partner do not seem to suffer from sleep issues or insomnia. Because I’ve dealing with this issue most of my adult life, I’m used to it and can usually get through the day on little sleep when necessary. But, honestly, it sucks. I would happily pay good money for regular, long-term decent slumber.

What are your tricks and tips for sleeping well? I’d love to hear ’em.

Lisa

Help me! Resources for parents & kids

Happy Monday!

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Here in south-eastern Ontario, spring is trying desperately to make its presence known. One day it’s warm & sunny with birds chirping and little green buds pushing out of the earth, and then the next day it’s super cold and brisk.  In the very near future, we are hoping to enjoy more birds chirping and less ice scraping.

Navigating the Kids’ Mental Health System:

But I digress! As I mentioned in this post, one of the reasons I decided to reinvigorate my blog after several years’ hiatus is because a few months ago, out-of-the-blue, a woman wrote to me seeking assistance. She and her husband were desperately searching for resources in Ontario for their child who has learning disabilities and some neurological/mental health challenges. I was able to provide specific resources in the Greater Toronto Area and for that she was grateful.

For this week’s post, I’ve gone through my blog (all four or so years of posts) to capture some of the books, experts and resources I’ve collected for readers regarding kids and mental health. Note that some of these resources are specific to Toronto/Ontario/Canada but most are universal.

Helpful Posts:

  1. The Waiting Game – Anyone with a child or loved one experiencing mental health challenges will know the frustration and heartache of waiting for services. People in countries outside of Canada may think that just because we enjoy universal healthcare, we don’t have to wait for services or that every medication, procedure and assessment is free of charge. Those of us living here understand that this is certainly not the case! However, this post outlines some of the steps you might want to take while sitting on a waitlist (or ten).
  2. Results of CADDAC survey on kids with ADHD – One of the first resources I discovered when my child was diagnosed with ADHD is the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada or CADDAC. In this early post, the results of a survey of parents of children with ADHD are shared. This advocacy group helps parents, children, teens, physicians and others better understand Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder.
  3. A Trip Down Bipolar Road – “My struggle of overcoming bipolar disorder was a tortuous winding road encompassing twenty years,” says Barry Shainbaum, radio host and speaker. I love this Q&A I did with Barry many years ago. However, I notice that his web site is no longer up and running. Still, I think you’ll find his intelligent and deeply personal responses about living & thriving with bipolar disorder to be useful.
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4. The Long-Term Implications of Spanking – This is a fairly recent post that deals not so much with spanking (as most people know that it’s unhealthy for both parent and child) but the frustration that parents or caregivers can feel when a child is acting out or not listening. Sometimes it’s difficult for adults to control their temper and/or we don’t have the tools to try something else besides yelling or violence.

5. Self-Regulation is One of the Keys to Good Mental Health – Finally, here is a link to an article I wrote for Parents Canada magazine. While I was a freelance writer, I focused mostly on researching and writing about child development and parenting. “Self-regulation” is a term that many people may not be familiar with but it’s very, very important to long-term success.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for studies, experts, books, web sites, conferences, etc. that have been helpful to you or others. Write to me at: lisa.tabachnick (at) gmail.com or comment in the comments section below.

Lisa

Oh Brother

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This post contains an affiliate link. That means, if you purchase the book listed below, I may receive a commission.

My family are big readers: Fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers, periodicals, the works. I’m lucky that way; I used to take it for granted that everyone’s family read a lot but I now know that’s not the case.

As a parent, I try to instill a love of reading to my children. I thought it would come naturally but, unfortunately, I’m not sure that’s the case. For me, there will never be enough time to read all of the novels on my book bucket list.

Reading has so many benefits. Here are just a few…

  •  Non-screen entertainment
  •  Increased communication and vocabulary skills
  •  Understanding new worlds, new cultures, other religions and points of view
  •  Book clubs bring readers together to share notes
  •  Reading can save you from boredom and immerse you in a new world
  •  You can take a book just about anywhere – no WiFi or data or outlets needed!
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Popular fiction usually does it for me and my mom has given me a million excellent recommendations in the past few years. (Thank you, Mom!) In fact, these have been some of my favourite selections of all time. I’ll be sharing many of them with you in the months to come. Of course, this is a blog about kids & mental health so I will pick favourite selections that fit with this theme.

One of the best books I’ve ever read is Brother by David Chariandy.

Poetic and raw, Brother details the life of a small family from Trinidad – a mother and her two sons. They move to Scarborough (a region in Toronto) to try and make a better life for themselves. The boys’ single mother works tirelessly as a cleaner and Chariandy’s description of her slogging to work on the bus in her uniform day after day is so vivid.

The two boys, brothers, are very close but have their differences. Without giving too much of the story away, the great burden on their lives becomes too difficult and tensions ensue. Still, as heartbreaking as the novel may be, I’ll forever remember this family and many of the scenes Chariandy illustrates; in fact, I’ve been to a few of the locales he mentions, including the Rouge Valley in Scarborough.

For me, this novel also brought home the fact that, no matter what you do or how hard you try to shape them, your child is going to carve out their own path in life and eventually make all of their own decisions – whether you agree with them or not.

Check out Brother if you can. You won’t regret reading it, in fact it may haunt you (in a good way) for the rest of your life.

Lisa

Now We’re Cooking with Gas

Do you know the term “gas-lighting”? I’ll admit I didn’t fully understand it until last year. I had heard the term referenced in books, conversation and movies and had a vague understanding but didn’t dig deeper until recently.

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According to Wikipedia: “Gas-lighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.”

Basically, gas-lighting is manipulating someone into thinking that they’re imagining something. We tend to think of it happening in an adult context such as manipulation between partners: “I am not having an affair, you must be dreaming.” Or, “It didn’t happen that way, you’re crazy.”

That’s bad enough but gas-lighting can happen with siblings and between parents and their children, too. A parent might downgrade a child’s feelings or reality in a variety of ways:

  • “Don’t be silly, you’re not afraid of the dark.”
  • “Your Uncle Billy is a lovely man; don’t be afraid of going to his house for dinner.”
  • “We didn’t eat your Hallowe’en candy; you must have counted wrong.”
  • “Oh, stop crying, Jenny. It’s not that important.”

While an occasional manipulation of the truth may not harm a child’s psyche, long-term gas-lighting of his thoughts, feelings, opinions or reality is most-definitely harmful and can wreak havoc on a child’s self-confidence.

Has this ever happened to you? Do you ever “gas-light” your child or partner without realizing it? I know I’m going to be more aware of this phenomenon moving forward.

Lisa

Are you a Judgy McJudgerson?

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Have you heard this famous saying about parenting? “I was the perfect parent until I had children.”

I just love this tongue-in-cheek phrase because it’s so apt. We are all the perfect parent, teacher, doctor, actor, trainer, etc., until we step into that person’s shoes. Then it’s like, “Hmmmm…maybe this isn’t as easy as it looks.”

Before I was a parent (and, if I’m being truthful, even afterwards), I’d often think: “Oh, I would never let my kid [fill in the blank]:”

  • Eat candy before dinner
  • Watch a horror flick
  • Skip a day of school to stay home and sleep
  • Ignore another child
  • Talk back to me

But, a lot of situations have multiple variables… Perhaps that parent’s kid has been cooped up sick for a week and is finally feeling better and wants a piece of candy at 5 pm. Or, maybe the child who looks like he’s being ignored has been badgering someone else for weeks on end. Or, maybe the parent you’re judging for letting their teen walk all over him is just too mentally exhausted to reprimand their child. There is almost always more to the story than what appears on the surface.

Of course, I still have opinions, questions and concerns at times. While I’m not a social worker, therapist or doctor, I volunteered with Children’s Aid Society for five years and was on the parent advisory council for a regional children’s mental health organization and I have a good understanding of trauma, abuse and neglect.

My parenting judgements (or lack thereof) aren’t all noble either; sometimes I roll my eyes when parents or babysitters let their kids stuff their faces with sugar or run amok in the movie theatre. I mean, there are limits to everyone’s patience! However, I really do try to give people the benefit of the doubt before I become just another Judgy McJudgerson.

What about you? What’s your take on judging other parents? Do you try to hold back or abstain altogether?