Category Archives: Family

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

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?

 

The Long-Term Implications of Spanking

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For decades, spanking (also known as physical discipline or corporal punishment) has been used and thought of as an effective way to discipline children.

Parents, teachers, ministers, coaches, babysitters, and others have used force to keep kids in line, as punishment for misdeeds or to “teach them a lesson.” Sometimes, young children – even babies and toddlers – are spanked, hit and slapped.

Why resort to violence?

Generally, common sense or one’s own inner voice tells us that any type of physical force or violence is not appropriate or helpful in child-rearing. Yet, anyone who’s a parent (or teacher or babysitter or grandparent) knows that it is very easy to lose one’s patience and lash out at a child who is acting out, causing frustration in the home or classroom, not listening or talking back.

Last week, I received a press release stating that the American Psychological Association has adopted a resolution on physical discipline of children by parents. The findings won’t surprise you: Overall, the APA has amalgamated several studies showing that, over the long-term, spanking and other forms of physical discipline can:

  • cause harm to children’s mental health
  • negatively affect their cognitive, behavioral, social and emotional well-being
  • cause children to mimic their parents’ behavior and repeat the same patterns later in life

Most parents would never want to physically or emotionally harm their child and only use force out of aggravation or frustration. But, understanding the toll that physical violence takes on children is paramount to successful parenting.

Where to get help and guidance:

As we all know too well, parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world. We need all the help we can get whether that’s from fellow parents, teachers, friends, neighbours, community resources, books, pastors or others. 

Personally, I think parents could use further free resources on parenting at different stages i.e. baby, toddler, elementary, teen, young adult, etc. There is so much to learn and grasp and so many questions popping up. Yes, there are various parenting programs available (especially in major centres) but perhaps a government run system of parenting workshops over time would be helpful both in the short and long-term.

Please see the short list at bottom of immediate helpful resources. A more fulsome list is coming soon.

Before I go… Let’s not forget the upside of mental health:

“Mental health” doesn’t have to be a downer or a negative thing. There are so many intriguing, fascinating, useful phenomena around mental health, illness and wellness.

For instance, one of my kids is in a new, progressive high school. Many of the teachers there use what is known as a “growth mindset.” I’ve heard about this philosophy recently in regards to adults and learning development. So, for a positive bent, I plan on writing in an upcoming post about understanding and taking on a “growth mindset.”

As always, feel free to like, follow, comment or contact me, any time.

Lisa

Helpful links & resources:

Grateful or Hateful?

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I am working on an in-depth post about new guidelines issued from the American Psychological Association regarding physical discipline i.e. spanking and children.

For now, I wanted to post something that’s less research-intensive. I’ve been thinking about kids & gratitude. Lately, as a parent, I vacillate on how much to push my children to say “thank-you” to me and to others.

Firstly, I’m big on people (all people, not just kids or my own kids) saying “please” and “thank-you” or “no, thank-you.” To me, it’s the least one can do if someone is offering you something or gives you a gift or a compliment. I usually cringe when someone neglects to say thank-you after dinner has been made or a gift given or someone goes out of their way to do something nice.

However, similar to recent expert advice provided on kids & hugging, I am wondering if children should be forced to say thank-you by parents, relatives or teachers. Obviously, saying something verbally isn’t as intensive or invasive as having to hug or kiss a relative or friend but, perhaps pushing children to say something that’s not natural to them, isn’t right either.

Or, have we all become too politically-correct? Isn’t is a parent’s job to teach their kids right from wrong as well as manners and socially acceptable behavior? Usually, I’m steadfast in my thoughts about such things but, as mentioned above, I’m struggling with this lately.

What are your thoughts? Do you “force” your child to say thank-you or write a thank-you card when given a gift or cash? Did that change as they got older? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Yours gratefully,

Lisa

Weighing In on Weighted Blankets

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If you or your child deals with insomnia (*raises hand*) and/or sleep challenges due to autism, anxiety or depression, you may have considered investing in a “weighted blanket” to encourage better rest.

Whether or not you’ve tried one, you’ve most likely heard about weighted blankets as they are wildly popular right now. Here is an overview: weighted blankets are regular blankets or comforters filled with, well, weights! These can vary from plastic pellets to metal ball-bearings or chains to engineered heavy foam inserts. The general idea is that the firm pressure from the blanket feels heavy, snug and cozy – allowing people to fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

Proven Results?

Though the idea is meaningful and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence showing that weighted blankets promote better sleep, has it been scientifically proven? The results vary.

The results of a small 2015 study in Sweden can be found in Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia. In this scientific study, people of varying ages with insomnia tried out and reported back on their quality of sleep using one particular weighted blanket.

Overall, the results from the study were positive: “…a chain weighted blanket was found to be effective at improving sleep quality in recognized insomniacs, both in parameters measured objectively and subjectively. The impact was more pronounced objectively when the participants reported having a positive experience of using the weighted blanket and if they used sleep medication. No adverse effects of using the weighted blanket were found.”

This is good news. However, I notice that the weighted blanket used by participants is produced by the same company that sponsored the study. This is both curious and worrying.

In another small 2014 New Zealand study, Effectiveness of Weighted Blankets as an Intervention for Sleep Problems in Children with Autism, the results were not as favorable. Unfortunately, in this study, “…Consistent with previous research, the current study did not find weighted blankets to be an effective aid in promoting sleep for children with autism.”

There are other studies of course. And, regardless of their results, it is not to say that a weighted blanket won’t work for you, your child or loved one. But, again, it appears that it is not a “one size fits all” solution.

Options, Options, Options

When it comes to weighted blankets, there are myriad options for weight, size, colour and style.

  • Weight-wise, it seems the most popular categories are: 10 pounds, 15 pounds or 20 pounds. Apparently, one should use a blanket that is 10% of your weight. So, if your child is 100 pounds, buy her a 10 lb. blanket.
  • The outer covering can be made from anything from polyester to satin to bamboo to cotton.
  • Styles/sizes seem to focus on queen or king-size but I am sure singles and doubles can be found.
  • There are myriad colours available but, again, generally I’ve seen mostly grey, brown, white, cream and taupe.

No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn!

I am keen to try one out. Unfortunately, my initial jubilation about purchasing such a blanket has abated.

You see, I had recently spotted an ad for a Canadian-made weighted blanket on a social media site (Instagram I believe) offering a special $15 discount. That was just the push I needed as I was considering buying one anyway. As you may know, they’re not cheap: Including the $15 discount and free shipping, with taxes it was still going to be $241 CAD. I was willing to pay that if the health benefits proved true.

However, sadly, it appears this particular company (I won’t name it at this point) is either unscrupulous, unusually busy or highly disorganized. Their initial estimated shipping time went from “end of January” to middle of February to, now, February 22. I ordered and paid for the blanket on January 15! So, um, no. Suffice it to say that I’ve now called my credit card company and asked them to cancel the payment and the order.

My Kingdom for a Good Night’s Sleep

Have you tried a weighted blanket with positive results or do you have a family member or friend pleased with their results?

If so, please comment or contact me to recommend a company (big or small) from which to buy one. I am still game to try out a weighted blanket. However, as outlined above, I had a negative initial purchasing experience and there are so many options to consider and factors involved.

Should I end up buying one, I promise to provide an update.

Lisa