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

Experts, Facts, Parenting, school, Social

Imposter Syndrome in Kids

No doubt you’ve heard of “imposter syndrome” – the idea that we achieved something through luck or by accident – not by hard work, expertise or skill – and that it could disappear at any moment.

Photo by meijii on Pexels.com

According to Wikipedia: “The feeling of being a fraud that surfaces in impostor phenomenon is not uncommon. It has been estimated that nearly 70% of individuals will experience signs and symptoms of impostor phenomenon at least once in their life.[17] This can be a result of a new academic or professional setting. Research shows that impostor phenomenon is not uncommon for students who enter a new academic environment. Feelings of insecurity can come as a result of an unknown, new environment. This can lead to lower self-confidence and belief in their own abilities.[8]

You know what? Kids can have it too. You may have noticed a hint of this if your child says something like, “I’m not good enough to be in the school play so I won’t bother trying out” or “I can’t accept that spot on the team. I’m not fast enough; they’ll probably cut me” or “Maybe they should ask someone else to be the student council treasurer – it must have been a mistake.”

Now, this could be due to anxiety of course and we all get anxious or have doubts about achievements, promotions, try-outs, etc. It could also be due to low self-esteem which can be something that plagues kids and adults pervasively.

To help counter-act imposter syndrome, experts talk about building self-esteem, resilience and understand the concept of “fake it ’til you make it.”

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Other ways to help your child combat imposter syndrome is to provide examples in your own life – when you’ve felt like an imposter or a fraud in a new situation – say a great new job, the go-to yoga teacher, school mom, president of a non-profit board, presenter in an awards show, mentor for others, speaker at a conference – and how you overcame (or masked) those feelings to take on scary new situations and thrive.

If 70% of people experience imposter syndrome, it’s pretty likely that our kids will experience it too. We should be ready to show them that many people feel like frauds when presented with exciting opportunities and that’s okay – we can:

  • prepare
  • act confidently
  • be self-aware
  • give ourselves a pep talk
  • discuss the feelings with trusted adults or mentors
  • and… hopefully tackle the situation and come out more confident on the other side!

Do you or your child suffer from imposter syndrome? If so, what did you do to combat it?

Yours autumnally,

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

 

Books, Experts, Facts, Parenting, Services, Social

Mood River: Highs and Lows of Mood Disorders in Children

The murky waters of mood disorder
The murky waters of mood disorder

Recently I asked “Ashley” to share advice on my blog. Ashley is a colleague and parent to an 11-year-old girl diagnosed with Mood Disorder

I have learned a lot about mood disorders and was blown away by her candor.

Please note that this post was originally published in 2013.

1) Can you describe “mood disorder” and its symptoms?

Last spring, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and we put her on a stimulant. She began having rages, getting verbally aggressive (threatening to kill people) and physically aggressive (biting, hitting, kicking) family members to the point that she left bruises and other marks. We took her off the medication and the rages decreased for a while, but returned along with ADHD symptoms that interfered with school.

We tried another stimulant and the rages increased. Her paediatrician suggested that because she was raging on stimulants that he highly suspected that she had a mood disorder.  At his suggestion, I read the book The Bipolar Child and cried because the symptoms described in the book were almost a verbatim description of my daughter. 

2) Why were you surprised by this revelation?

I was surprised that the way that bipolar presents in children is very different from the way it looks in adults. Some of the symptoms that resonated with me:

  • severe irritability
  • night terrors
  • raging
  • oppositional behaviour
  • rapid cycling (going from giddy to irritated very quickly and back again)
  • sensory issues
  • carb cravings (my daughter would binge on sweets and bread)
  • hyper-sexuality

Another trait exhibited by my daughter was that she didn’t show her rages and violence to anyone outside the family and I was her main target.

toddler with red adidas sweat shirt
Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com

3) Please provide some insight into the relationship between ADHD and mood disorders and how they’re sometimes confused.

According to the book The Bipolar Child, one-third of the children diagnosed with ADHD actually have early onset bipolar. Many symptoms of bipolar overlap with ADHD, such as being impulsive, emotionally volatile, hyperactive and distracted. When I was reading Bipolar Child for the first time, the description in temper tantrums between children with ADHD and children with mood disorders was what finally convinced me that my daughter was bipolar.

Bipolar temper tantrums can often last for hours, can involve destruction or violence and are typically triggered by not getting what they want. The book described that ADHD tantrums typically last 20-30 minutes and are caused by sensory or emotional stimulation. I thought about the previous evening and how my daughter had spent over two hours hitting us, screaming and chasing after us and realized that my daughter was bipolar.

4) What advice can you offer parents?

My biggest advice is to find support. I found the forums and support groups at The Balanced Mind to provide me great information on both the medical side and the coping side.

At first I was really scared to tell anyone about my daughter’s diagnosis and even more about her repeatedly hurting me. I would wear long sleeves to cover the bite marks and bruises and worry that someone would see. But then I shared with trusted friends what we were going through and was very surprised that instead of judgement, I received love and support.

My other advice is to find the right team of doctors and therapists. It took several tries to find the right fit for our family and my daughter’s situation, but we finally found a neuropsychiatric that has been lifesaving for us. We also began working with a behavioural therapist to help our whole family learn strategies to deal with the bipolar symptoms.

medication pills isolated on yellow background
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

5) How do you and your family (and your child) best cope with this mental illness?

When she is raging, we try to remind ourselves that this is the bipolar talking, not our daughter. We also make sure that every member of our family gets time to enjoy the things that make them happy and get a break from my daughter. We also all meet with a therapist to talk about our feelings of living with the disease in our family.

6) Anything else you’d like to add?

If you suspect that your child has a mood disorder, get him or her evaluated as soon as possible. Life has gotten dramatically better once we found the right medication and have begun learning to understand the disease.

Does any of this resonate with you? I thought republishing this post might help a parent or friend who has a child with a mood disorder.

Yours,

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

Facts, Home, Parenting, sleep

Weighty Issues: An update on Weighted Blankets & Sleep

Hello! It’s been some time since I last posted but life has gotten in the way – again! Between Canadian Thanksgiving, travelling for work, work itself, kids, friends, chores, commuting… there sometimes just isn’t enough time to devote to this blog. But, I am still invested in this topic so, while I may not post regularly, I will be always be back.

apartment bed carpet chair
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of the most popular posts on this blog in recent years is one about weighted blankets. Whether it’s for ourselves, our partner, parent or child, everyone is looking to get the best possible sleep.  In my original post, I lamented about not having purchased a weighted blanket but wanting to. Well, I’m happy to say I purchased a 7-pound weighted blanket about two weeks ago and I think it’s working!

I won’t tell you which brand it is because I think I got ripped off quite frankly. However, it does seem to be helping me get a deeper, higher quality of sleep. What I do like about this particular blanket (which looks something like the one in the image below) is that it’s heavy but not too heavy – common consensus is that the ideal weighted blanket is 10-15% of your body weight. As well, it has a cotton-like cover that can be taken off and washed.

tulips in clear vase beside window
Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

Special Note: Please be careful with toddlers and young children; even the lightest weighted blanket can be heavy and you don’t want them to get smothered.

As a reminder, the popularity of weighted blankets in recent years is due, in part, to the following reasons:

  • The steady weight calms the body and helps us to relax and sleep
  • The evenly distributed weight (usually in the form of pellets or ball bearings sewn into rows in the fabric/filling) is applied to the whole body, not just one portion
  • Those with ADHD, anxiety, insomnia, depression or restless leg syndrome often find the heavy constant pressure soothing and provides a zen-like response in many (but not all) people

Weighted blankets can even help our pets stay calm in extraordinary situations like loud parties, fireworks or thunderstorms!

Time will tell if the weighted blanket will help me get better quality sleep long-term but I am already searching for the right blanket for my kids. I think I’ll let them try mine first and then invest if they like it.

Also, I recently received a query from the owner of this site  on bedding and the importance of sleep. There isn’t any affiliation on my part but I looked at some of the info about different types of mattresses and it seems worthwhile; you may find it interesting too.

If you’ve purchased or used a weighted blanket for yourself or your child or teen, please comment below or write to me and let me know. I’d love to hear your opinion and findings.

Yours dreamily,

Lisa

 

 

Books, Experts, Facts, Parenting, school, Social

Growth Mindset Parenting

No doubt you’ve heard the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset” bandied about in relation to learning. While they’re not new ideas, these concepts are very “buzzy” right now in everywhere from the classroom to the boardroom.

selective focus photography of chess board set
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Last year, my son mentioned that his high school math teacher repeatedly brought up the growth mindset philosophy when teaching.  Initially, I thought that was quite fascinating and odd — I mean, how does a growth mindset matter in a math classroom?

But, of course, it does! Many people have a fear of mathematics and feel they’re not clever enough to learn advanced math or that their brain doesn’t work that way. I know I used to think, “Well, I’m just not a math person” so I didn’t try to excel in that subject – I merely tried to pass the class. However, if we go into our math (or chemistry or art or aerobics or welding) class knowing that we are all capable of learning new things, we will be better able to relax, comprehend the information and then learn or adapt.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

So, what is “growth mindset” exactly? According to Carol Dweck, the Standford professor who coined the phrase and wrote the groundbreaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, someone who employs a growth mindset understands that learning is always possible – no matter your status, past successes/failures or accreditation. The concept reminds me of the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…” However, according to Dweck, it’s more than just a positive outlook.

From the book’s overview: “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…”

Growth Mindset Parenting

Beyond math and classroom learning, we can also apply “growth mindset” to parenting. In my mind, having a growth mindset is somewhat tied to the idea of resiliency which I wrote about recentlyIn a way, to be resilient is to not let past failures define you. This can be taught to your kids as well.

We can teach our children that none of us are perfect or successful in everything but that we can all set goals we’d like to achieve – this can be social, emotional, spiritual, academic, athletic, long-term or short-term. If we go in with a growth mindset – understanding that we are physically capable of achievement and set realistic goals – and put the work in to achieve them – then we don’t have to let our own (or other peoples’) ideals and expectations define us.

abstract blackboard bulb chalk

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This is a massive concept and one that can be explored from many angles. I love this post on the “Children’s Library Lady” web site which focuses on books related to growth mindset. Through her post, I’ve learned that there are many ways to incorporate this vital concept into parenting and kids’ everyday learning. It’s a idea that, if used properly, can benefit us and our children for the rest of their lives.

Do you incorporate growth mindset into your parenting style? If so, how? I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below.

Happy Growing!

Lisa

Please note: This post contains affiliate links which means that, if you decided to click on and purchase one of the items listed in this post, I may receive a small commission at no additional expense to you.

And, I apologize for getting off-schedule with my weekly posts. I had surgery about a month ago and then a nasty case of strep throat and am now getting to a place where I can focus on work and blogging. Thank you for your recent comments, messages and emails.

Books, Experts, Facts, Family, Home, Parenting, Philosophy, school, sleep, Study

The Resilience Fallacy

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

boy child clouds kid
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

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
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

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

 

Conferences, Experts, Facts, Family, Parenting, Peer relationships, Services, sleep, Social, Study

Canadian Mental Health Week: May 6-12

This week is Mental Health Week and Children’s Mental Health Week in Canada.

group of people holding hands together
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

It’s a good time to consider all of the facets of mental health. Happily, I feel that families, communities, schools, organizations and governments are getting better at recognizing signs, symptoms and remedies.

Even though some stigma remains, more people understand that mental health challenges are common. In fact, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

  • 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally face a mental health problem or illness
  • 8% of Canadians will experience major depression in their lives
  • Mental health affects people of all ages, education levels, incomes and cultures

Regarding kids, many wonder why suicide rates for children, teens and young adults seem to be increasing* and why more children (even those as young as 8) seem to be experiencing more stress than in generations past. What might the reasons be?

bed blanket female girl
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

From reading, research and speaking with other parents and experts, here are three top-line theories:

The Sleep Factor

  • Children, teens and adults are getting far less sleep than in prior generations. Whether it’s due to the blue light from our devices, the lure of 24/7 streaming content, being overwhelmed with homework or answering emails, or parents not enforcing strict bedtimes for younger children, we all could use more shut-eye.
  • Sleep allows us to heal our bodies and minds and to recharge for the day to come. It also helps regulate breathing and blood pressure. Without consistent, regular sleep and sleep patterns we put extra stress on our mental health and well-being.

The Failure Factor

  • Over the past year, I’ve read more and more about how parents’ inability to let our children fail and experience disappointment is hindering their ability to be successful later in life.
  • While we may think we’re doing our kids a favor by protecting them from, say, losing a race or failing a test or not making the cheerleading team, it’s important that children understand how to fail. When a child gets a D on their math quiz or is not invited to the dance, she might learn how to do things differently next time and, at the same time, build resilience which can help her deal with future disappointment.

The Comparison Factor

  • Personally I think adults are just as at-risk of this as children or teens. In our social and social media-infused world, we can’t help but compare ourselves to our next door neighbour who just returned from a spontaneous trip to Italy or to our colleague who is taking a year off to write a novel.
  • I’m not at all against social media (in fact, I’m a huge fan) but it can be extremely detrimental when we (or our children) are feeling vulnerable. It’s difficult to remember that people are more than their social media profiles and that most only post the best of their lives – not the tedious chores or the endless amounts of homework or the fight they just had with their sibling.
  • Comparing ourselves to our friends, classmates, or colleagues can bring on feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, depression and doubt. For parents, talking to our kids about social media and its implications and limiting the use of personal devices and video gaming can be beneficial.

Do any of these theories about modern-day mental health resonate with you? Are you aware of your kids’ mental health on a regular basis? Do you speak with them about stress or social media or suicide? I’d love to learn about your own theories and advice.

Feel free to comment on this post or write to me.

Lisa

*Note: The web site linked to teen suicide includes some disturbing content