Category Archives: Books

The Resilience Fallacy

“Don’t worry, she’ll bounce back. Children are resilient!”

boy child clouds kid

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Over the years, through divorce, moving, kids’ changing schools, new relationships, issues with friends, various diagnoses, etc., that adage and similar advice has been doled out to me like so much candy on Hallowe’en.

Although assuming that children will bounce back after trauma or even minor incidents may sound innocent enough and even reassuring, it can be a dangerous assumption.

What is Resilience?

Psychological resilience is the ability to cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses “mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors”. Wikipedia

Building resiliency in children is vitally important and it’s a skill that can make a critical and positive difference in your child’s life.

Here are some methods that can help:

Let them solve their own problems:

While we might want to jump in and “save” our children from falls (literal or metaphorical), it’s vitally important that kids learn how to defend themselves, stand up for themselves and others, and find ways of coping in difficult situations.

Of course, this isn’t a way to opt out of helping your children or forcing them to make bad decisions because they don’t understand the options but rather it’s a way for them to test their own skills in order to help build up their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Be a living example:

Through your words and actions, show children how you deal with problems in your workplace, with your own friends, in your neighbourhood, etc. – and also how you dealt with different situations as a child.

I find watching movies or reading books about how children deal with minute or massive problems teaches them context. For instance, my partner and I watched the movie “Lion” a few days ago and I can’t wait to watch it again with my children for both its cinematic brilliance and the incredible story-line and ending. (I won’t add too much here in case you haven’t seen it. Please do!)  My daughter is also into learning about Anne Frank – and of course there is plenty of context provided with her amazing and courageous story.

Be there for them

This may sound contradictory to the above advice but it’s not. To me (and I am certainly not perfect at this and fail regularly) it’s about trying to be there for my kids when they really need me and not hanging them out to dry. So, let’s say, your child had a bad day or was bullied at school or saw something that made them uncomfortable. Ask them about it, try to help them solve the problem, be sympathetic and perhaps brainstorm possible solutions.

Something that seems to work for me is asking my kids, “Do you want me to talk to the teacher about that?” if it’s a problem related to school. They almost always say no. Even though they often don’t want me to step in, I feel like asking my children if they’d like me to intervene puts the power back in their hands. Note: Occasionally, I do talk to teachers or principals if I feel it’s important to step in!

Get out there

Whether it’s volunteering, building leadership skills or travelling, getting outside of one’s comfort zone can build resiliency by providing new experiences and challenges.

Travelling has been one of the single most defining aspects of my life. Not only has travelling to other regions and countries allowed me to experience new worlds, but the lead-up of researching trips, booking hotel or hostel reservations and flights (even as a teenager) and asking strangers for assistance has helped to develop my self-esteem and resilience. Meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds also provides context and perspective to consider when faced with a difficult situations.

ball shaped blur close up focus

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If you are able to volunteer and/or travel with your family, you might ask your children to help research the non-profit organization or new region, point out aspects affected by war or strife, talk to locals, learn a new language or a new skill. In any case, if you are travelling by plane, train or automobile, everyone will have to learn to be patient, creative and innovative together when faced with inevitable travel delays!

What tools have you used to help your children build resilience? What happened in your own childhood that helped you face adversity? I’d love to hear from you.

Update from May

I’d also like to provide a quick update on “No Money May” since it’s now June. I’ve recently had surgery so was forced into a no spending mode for the last part of the month. Overall, I’ll give myself a “7” on a scale of 1 to 10 for not spending frivolously. I heard from other people who were going to try No Money May too. If you did it, how did it work out for you?

Feel free to comment at bottom or write to me privately.

 

Onward and upwards,

Lisa

 

Eating Brownies for Breakfast

Happy Mother’s Day! For those of us in North America, we celebrate on the second Sunday in May. In the UK and elsewhere, I believe it’s celebrated on a different date.

photo of boy hugging his mom

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Did any of you get breakfast in bed on a tray with a mason jar filled with daisies…? Me neither! I’m not bitter though, honestly. I’m over the traditional, commercial idea of Mother’s Day and hoping for a peaceful, quiet day with my kids which should include no arguments, complaints or nagging (from me or my children).

Special dates like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day can be fraught with expectations and disappointment. As my children and I get older though, I realize more and more it’s not about the gifts and expensive dinners but rather, as cliche as it sounds, the time we spend together and the way we treat each other on this day and throughout the year.

Regardless, I won’t be preparing a lavish brunch or taking anyone out to celebrate this year. Due to my self-imposed No Money May, the fact that my partner is working, my tween daughter is at a sleepover and my teen son is still sleeping (and probably will be until noon or later), it will be a simple Mother’s Day. I’m hoping for a hike in the woods and of course will contact my own wonderful mom who lives in another city.

brownies

As a strange start to the day, I’m up at the crack of dawn (not a good start but apparently sleeping isn’t my jam), cleaning the kitchen and making marshmallow chocolate brownies. I will most likely eat said brownies for breakfast – and I’m okay with that! They don’t look that pretty (see photo above) but smell great. Yesterday, I made a chocolate peanut butter version for my daughter to take to her sleepover.

What are you doing to celebrate? Do you have a special tradition? Do you expect your partner or children to pamper you on Mother’s Day? Are you on the hook to host your own family?

However you celebrate YOUR day, whether reading a favourite book, snuggling with your babies, taking a walk, going to the spa, fêteing your own mom or simply being you, enjoy and cheers to all of the hardworking, dedicated, savvy moms out there.

Yours in good maternal mental health,

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

boys brother children country

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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 true of all families.

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 small sample:

  •  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

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

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!

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.

Don’t Cry Out Loud

3738_98280902386_5922513_nYears ago, my cousin told me a story about her friends and their new baby.

She and her husband were visiting the couple and their newborn. The adults were downstairs in the living room and the baby was crying upstairs in her crib or bassinette. The child’s father wanted to go soothe the baby. However, the mother “forbid” the father from going to the baby because they were “putting her on a schedule“.

My cousin explained how uncomfortable and emotionally difficult it was to hear the little baby crying and how the father desperately wanted to go soothe the child (his instinct I’m sure).

Even though that situation has nothing to do with me, I still think about it from time to time. Newborn human babies only have crying, laughing, and other basic sounds as their communication tools. They need their parents or other adults to respond to their needs as they’re basically helpless without support.

Further, avoiding your baby because he’s crying or distressed can be emotionally draining for parents and especially damaging for the child. In fact, studies now show that not coming to your baby’s aid when he or she is crying, may cause brain damage and severe distress. While that news may be hard to hear, it’s very important to be attentive to your baby.

Excessive crying can be extremely stressful and I’m not one for guilt-tripping parents; we  all have enough on our minds and  often feel conflicted trying to decipher whether we’re making the right decisions for our children. However, instincts and common sense should always dictate.