Category Archives: Parenting

Is there anyone out there?

Hello! Let me first apologize for my abhorrent delay in posting. It’s been 4 months (!) since my last post and I don’t really have a decent explanation for the ridiculous gap. Is pandemic madness a good enough excuse…?

Now that my apology is done, let’s get down to brass tacks: School 2020.

Normally, the beginning of September is an exciting (albeit anxious) time for parents, children and young adults.

Being that it’s 2020, even the term “back to school” is tenuous. Are your children doing virtual schooling? Attending physically? A combination? No matter the mode, how are you and they handling it?

I’ve had friends and family members tell me that they’re freaking out, worried and anxious about their children attending school due to Covid. I totally get that – anyone who reads, watches or listens to the news knows that there’s a SERIOUS risk of getting sick once school starts.

However, even though I’m an anxious person by nature, I’m doing a pretty good job of staying calm. First of all, my teens want to go to school so that’s good. I feel like it’s important for their mental health to be physically at school interacting with their peers and teachers.

And, while I’m a huge fan of all things digital, virtual school just doesn’t cut it for me. Even my high-achieving daughter tells me that virtual school did not work for her and it certainly didn’t work well for my super intelligent son who also happens to have ADHD.

The chance of…

nodding off

getting hungry and grabbing a snack

losing interest in the content

having technical issues

becoming distracted by ambient noise

etc. etc. etc. is so great.

Distracted much?

Time will tell if our children’s learning & mental health will suffer due to the effects of the pandemic. Optimists will say that children are resilient and most can adapt. Realists will tell us things will never go back to normal, our children and young adults will lose much of their academic smarts and that we’re going to have to re-think our education system.

There ARE some cool creative options that people are investigating including: learning pods, outdoor or “forest” schools and OG homeschooling. We have no choice but to adapt and move forward.

I’d love to hear what you and your family are planning to do for school 2020. Feel free to comment here or write to me at the email address in the “About” section.

Yours in pandemic parenting,

Lisa

Not Your Mother’s Mother’s Day…

As we’re all very much aware, it ain’t business as usual this Mother’s Day. There may be flowers, there might even be breakfast in bed. But, if you were hoping for brunch at a fancy restaurant – or even breakfast at your local greasy spoon a la Rory and Lorelai – you’ll have to wait until next year.

woman kissing cheek of girl wearing red and black polka dot top

Photo by Albert Rafael on Pexels.com

Many of us won’t see our own mothers today – heck, if you’re an essential worker or in quarantine or sick or otherwise separated from your family, you might not even be able to see your child today. If that’s the case, I send you my kindest thoughts.

Likewise, if you’re the parent of a child or children with mental health challenges such as ADHD, autism, depression or learning disabilities being cooped up with your family for the last few weeks may mean your own mental health is tenuous at best right now. This year, you may be craving independence and freedom in order to regroup rather than family time.

Last Year Vs. This Year

Last Mother’s Day, I was sitting on this same couch in my living room around the same time, writing about eating brownies for breakfast. This year, I’m pleased to say that it’s much of the same. My 16-year-old son and I went for an early morning walk around the empty streets. My daughter is sleeping. My partner is at work. It’s extremely quiet and sunny. I’m drinking coffee and listening to the birds chirp happily.  Yes, we’re all a year older but are we wiser? And, a year from now: Will we have become wiser still?

I’m certain we’ll all look back at this year as one of the strangest in history.  But we have an opportunity to examine our lives as parents, partners, workers, human beings.  Will we savour the simplicity (fraught with disappointment, sadness and worry of course) or will we mourn the losses? I imagine it will be a combination of both; I truly hope that we can all carefully examine how we want to treat ourselves, our kids, our friends, our neighbours and our planet moving forward. Clearly, the universe is trying to tell us something. 

I wish for you a day of peace and good mental health. I hope that your children and your family treat you well and that you feel important today. Like other iconic times, do you think you’ll look back at this special date in history and remember exactly where you were and how you felt? I can guarantee your kids will.

Sending you love from one mother to another…

Lisa

In Times of Trauma: Resources that Can Help

“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not have to be a life sentence.” I like this quote from Dr. Peter A. Levine, psychologist. We’re all going through some form of trauma right now – whether that’s being laid-off; having to cope with new responsibilities; concerns about sick family members or friends or feeling scared of the unknown.

Our kids are suffering too. They may be silently mourning the end of their school year, missing friends and teachers or feel isolated and alone.

boy wearing surgical mask

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

There are lots of suggestions to keep kids busy, happy and healthy during these strange times (some of which are mentioned here and here).

But there are also ways in which parents might think about helping themselves if we’re feeling traumatized, ill, anxious or scared. I wanted to create a short “round-up” of resources and suggestions that may help.

  • A freelance writing colleague Meredith Resnick, LCSW, has written a number of books about narcissism She just had a new edition published in April in her series of books. Check out this edition or her other books if this is an issue you or a loved one might be dealing with. 
  • A woman named Rachel whose blog I follow and whom I respect wrote a book called Yeshiva Girl about a young woman forced to go to a religious Jewish school and the conflicts she feels towards this and her father who has been accused of sexual misconduct. I’m really looking forward to reading this book as Rachel is a wonderful writer, has two Master’s degrees and is working on a third!
  • Caring Organizer is a platform built by a friend of mine who saw a need for “meal train” software. This site offers a concrete way for friends, family and neighbours to help those who are sick or have someone who has passed away. This site, available for people in the U.S. and Canada, not only offers meal organization tools but tips, resources and calendars as well.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I hope these resources are of assistance to you. Sometimes if we better understand ourselves as adults – or help someone in need – we can be better partners, friends and parents.

As an aside: I’m going to be working on upgrades to this blog in the very near future. I’m excited about this change and the new look that will accompany the swap to a self-hosted platform. Thank you for your support and please stay tuned.

As always, feel free to comment or write to me with any feedback or questions.

Yours quarantinely,

Lisa

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

 

Four Things You Can Do Today to Help Your Child’s Mental Health

Whether you live in India, Finland, Canada, Britain or anywhere else — we’re all feeling the sting of self-isolation. Here are a few important and relatively quick ways you can help improve your children’s mental health.

boy child clouds kid

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

  1. Move!

Sitting in a chair doing school work or on the couch using SnapChat all day isn’t healthy. Depending on their age, you can offer to sing silly songs or make up a song. You can do a TikTok dance, you can ask Alexa to play “workout songs” and do an indoor workout. This family has fancy outfits and a choreographer to design their dance but you can still make your own silly video!

And, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you definitely know how I feel about the importance of going outside.

woman wearing red dress jumping

Photo by Godisable Jacob on Pexels.com

2. Connect!

We’re all missing our friends, colleagues and/or extended families. For single parents or essential workers, life isn’t necessarily boring but it can be stressful and lonely. If your kids are missing their friends, grandparents, or cousins, there’s always social media of course.

But if you’re trying to get them offline – you could show them how to write a letter or poem. Some parents are using this time to teach their kids life skills, like laundry, dishes, garbage, etc. Depending on the age of your child, you could do something more fun like writing a handwritten letter, write the address on the envelope, put a stamp on it and put it in the mailbox. It might seem funny to some of us, but many children and even teens have never written a letter!

happy birthday card beside flower thread box and macaroons

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

3.  Read!

Have you or your kids had a chance to read any new books (or re-read favourites) during the shut-down? Now that online school is on for many in different parts of the world, reading books may fall to the wayside.

I admit that even my reading has waned recently but I’ll get back at it this weekend. I am actually paying my kids (judge me if you must!) to read books during the pandemic. They have to be “real” books (not comics or magazines) but the topic and genre can be of their choosing.

Reading is an easy, low-cost, educational, fun way to pass the time – and increase imagination and comprehension at the same time.

couple reading books

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

4. Shut down!

Remember that it’s okay to shut down mentally, physically and literally (shut down your computer, your kids’ devices, the TV, etc.) at the end of the day or whenever makes sense) for you – and do something that takes your mind off of current events.

Sometimes the path of least resistance is best. So, if you and your kids like to ride bikes – do that (in a socially distanced manner of course!). If you prefer playing cards or listening to music, by all means! Maybe drawing or talking or just sitting quietly is best for everyone.

Whatever you do, remember that we don’t need to be watching the news online or on TV or the radio constantly; we can all use the time to sleep, dream and think.

What have you and your family been doing to stay healthy & sane? I’d love to know.

Yours in quiet solitude,

Lisa

Throw Your Hands Up in the Air Like You Just Don’t Care?

If you’re like me, you’re embracing the good but not ignoring the bad during this time of self-isolation/quarantine/physical distancing.

Sure, there’s been some lovely bonding time over card games, music and books – and walks – lots and lots of walks and hikes. In fact, my daughter and I have been making mini paintings for our “quarantine art gallery” which we display on our large back window. That has been a lovely side benefit.

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We’ve also had a few sibling/parent or full family card game and board game nights which included a few laughs and some friendly competition.

However, it’s not all been party games, cake-making (though I did make an amazing rich decadent chocolate cake!) and painting. For instance: my older teen was up until 6 am this morning. You read that correctly – he hadn’t gone to sleep yet at 6 am and thought that this was okay!

To me, even though this is a “break” (as he likes to call it) and school is not on, it doesn’t mean we do nothing and give up all semblance of a routine. For instance, I still need to work. I’m working from home most of the time but it’s been busy – and somewhat stressful. And, my partner still works on-site so we both need to get sleep (and food, and groceries, and exercise, and pay bills, do cleaning, etc.) Also, my kids’ online school starts on Monday so both will need to get assignments done and check in with their teachers.

woman in black long sleeve shirtusing a laptop

Photo by Vernie Andrea on Pexels.com

To me, being on quarantine/self-isolation doesn’t mean a free-for-all, let’s throw up our hands and give up. It does mean that I try to cut my kids some slack – let them sleep in a little, eat cake for breakfast once in a while, chat with their friends a lot on social media, etc. but I feel like self-discipline is an important principle and now is a good time for us all to motivate ourselves to achieve something.

That might mean learning to cook, doing push-ups every day, learning to play the piano, to paint, to learn a new language, practise your musical instrument, sing, make videos, write poetry…something!

I’ve been insisting on family walks/hikes every day and doing some chores or reading physical books rather than sit around looking at devices 24/7.  I have to admit, most of the time, both of my teens go on the hikes without complaint. I don’t know if they’ve given up arguing with me about it or they have learned to enjoy it. (: So, I guess that’s a win.

What do you think? Have you thrown up your hands during this time? Let your kids throw up their hands? Doing the home-schooling thing? Teaching them new skills? I’d love to hear your tips.

Yours quarantinely,

Lisa

How are you feeling? You’re Not Alone.

These are crazy times, no doubt about it. I don’t use the word “crazy” without putting thought behind it but, right now, I think this is the perfect time to use such a term.

person in coveralls holding spray bottle

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

How are you and your kids dealing with the pandemic, social (now called physical) distancing, self-isolation and/or quarantine?

Just think: only weeks ago were most of us out and about, living our lives, travelling, going to any stores we wanted, dining out at restaurants, having play-dates or hang-outs, going to the park, the playground, the airport – with no other thought other than making sure we had our car keys, wallets or phones with us.

I’m sure many of you are vacillating between peace, panic, anxiety, depression, calm, laziness, thoughtfulness and boredom. That’s normal. I myself am feeling all of these things and more. My teen children are presently with their dad but I’m sure they’re starting to feel like the walls are closing in on them.

To me, getting outside for fresh air and exercise EVERY DAY has been so important. The blast of non-recycled air, blood moving, and enjoying some outdoor scenery and nature has been life-changing.  See the tweet below from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health giving the okay to go outside (taking normal precautions):

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I know people with younger children are having a lot of trouble finding ways to keep them occupied. One of my colleagues with two young boys (one a toddler, one about 5 years old) has been doing LEGO/Duplo, making crafts, having the kids go outside and splash in the puddles/play in the snow and helping them make cookies and cakes.

Many people still have to work from home (or work outside the home if they are deemed essential services and/or their employer is making them come to work or they have their own businesses). I hope that your employer and your customers are being understanding – especially if you have children or parents to care for. We all need to be mindful that this is NOT business as usual – and are working outside of normal parameters to get things done.

While my two teens were here at my house, I implemented a few hours of no-screen time. During this time, they had to read a physical book, play cards, draw, go outside, do homework or help with chores.

Here are some other ideas and resources that I’m finding helpful as I cope with working from home, co-parenting two kids, taking care of a sick cat and dealing with bouts of panic and anxiety:

What efforts have worked well for you? Have you been able to maintain some kind of normalcy? I’d love to hear from you. Please write or comment below. Also, if you like this article (or any of my other posts), please remember to share on Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook or by email.

Keeping the peace in pandemic times,

Lisa

Coronavirus and your Kids: Tips for Parents throughout the School Closure

I didn’t want to write this post. I feel like many people are taking advantage of the COVID-19/coronavirus to hawk things or make money (re-selling hand sanitizer anyone?), spread misinformation or cause unnecessary panic.

photo of woman covering her face

Photo by Eternal Happiness on Pexels.com

However, several close friends and family members have mentioned that their children are feeling anxious about the pandemic and they don’t know what to say or how to help their kids feel better and more calm – not to mention: what to do for three weeks while their children are off school (or out of daycare as the case may be). Here in Ontario, the government has mandated an extra two-week school closure in addition to the traditional March Break (beginning this weekend/Monday).

While, I’m not a psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist, I have written a lot about mental health, learning disabilities, anxiety and depression – both for this blog and for organizations, magazines and web sites. We can’t completely shield our children from panic or tragedy, but we can try and make sense of it for them.

For starters, depending on the age of your children, you might want to explain the science of how viruses spread and how we can ALL do our part by:

  • Washing our hands frequently and with soap (a lot of kids forget the soap part or the drying off part)
  • Not touching our faces (so difficult – especially with colds or allergies)
  • Keeping away from others as much as possible (again, tough for kids who are mostly social animals and want to give hugs and high-fives)
  • Eating healthy foods and drinks (there are lots of ways to inject fruits, veggies, fibre and probiotics into our diets)
  • Getting plenty of fresh air and exercise (more on that below)
  • Getting enough sleep (always important!)

grayscale photo of baby lying on hammock

Photo by Viswanath Sai on Pexels.com

I’ve pre-warned my tween/teen children that none of us is going to spend the next three weeks just staring at devices. We can read actual books, play games and cards and utilise this opportunity to clean and de-clutter our spaces — which is also a great way to improve mental health!

And, since we’re doing the “silver lining” thing: For me, this is just another excuse to get outside for a hike or a walk or a bike ride. (Anyone who reads this blog or knows me personally, knows that I am a hiking/fresh air fanatic!). As social distancing and no non-essential travel are being advised, local hiking, trekking and biking is the perfect activity.

Here are a few blog posts that can help motivate you and your kids to get some exercise and fresh air during the COVID-19 school closure and throughout the spring and summer:

What are you doing to keep yourself and your family sane during this unprecedented time in history? Are you able to stay calm and enjoy a hiatus of sorts or is the closing of schools and limited travel putting additional stress on your family? Feel free to write to me or comment below.

Yours in parenting peace,

Lisa

 

 

 

How to Manage Disappointment: When Kids Don’t Live Up to Your Expectations

Any parent knows that we should encourage children to be themselves and not mold them into “Mini Me’s.” However, sometimes this is easier said than done.

photo of a person leaning on wooden window

Photo by Dương Nhân on Pexels.com

Even if our kid isn’t going to be the next Serena Williams or Bill Gates, we all have SOME expectations. We might want them to excel in music or sports or be social or get straight A’s or be a master chess player. This may because this is something that we realized as a young person or because we see a spark in them and want them to develop that spark into something brighter.

In many cases our children will disappoint us at some point in our lives. It might be that they date someone we’re not crazy about or fall in with the “wrong” crowd at school. They might fail certain subjects or not have friends.  If our child has a mental health challenge, this can be even more disappointing – I’ve recently read of parents who were saddened by their teen not going to prom or not going to college or university when it seems like every other teen on the planet is doing just that.

man wearing black suit jacket with teal bowtie

Photo by Kam Pratt on Pexels.com

How do we separate ourselves from our children and allow them to grow and develop into the best version of themselves? Do we need to take a step back and realize that our expectations are unreasonable – or try to temper them accordingly?

With a tween and a teen, it seems that one of my kids is constantly testing me: just when I think they’ve achieved something or moved beyond a certain nagging problem, something else crops up. Honestly, it can be very hard to digest and deal with at times. For me, there are certain expectations that are non-negotiable: show up for school on time; pass all courses; get a good night’s sleep; take care of personal hygiene and chores; have a good attitude; show up for family dinner and to family events…

These are very basic things. I expect my kids to go above and beyond those basics and to achieve something more. However, sometimes even these basics are not achieved! That can be frustrating at best. Even if learning disabilities or mental health challenges get in the way, I still expect my children to try their best and not to make excuses. 

Have you experienced frustration when dealing with what you think are basic expectations? Does your child’s mental health challenges get in the way? I’d love to hear what you think and how you deal with these dilemmas.

Yours in the parenting trenches,

Lisa

Don’t forget fun: Parenting doesn’t have to be a 24/7 chore

This weekend I won two tickets to a “retro 80’s” video dance party at a club downtown. My partner and I were already thinking about attending – as two friends were going. Once I won the tickets, we decided that the universe was nudging us and that we should definitely go. While we neglected to wear our best 80’s neon and preppy clothing, it was an absolute blast and we were able to forget about life’s demands for a few hours as we danced the night away.

four person standing at top of grassy mountain

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Now, it’s not like I’m a martyr and stay home all the time to cook and clean and pay bills (though sometimes it feels like it). I go out with friends – mostly when my kids are with their dad but we do outings as a family too – and my partner and I go to the movies, to restaurants, on trips, etc. We try our best to enjoy life but, lately, the to-do list seems endless and the fun side of life gets buried in a stack of bills, report cards, and dishes. 

If you work outside the home, you know that getting kids to sleep on time and then up in the morning, packing lunches and dropping them off at school prior to getting into work can use all of your energy stores – then you still have to work all day – and then do it over and over again a la Groundhog Day. If you work at home or are a stay-at-home-parent, staying on top of and/or getting out from under the clutter of life can be a downer.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But going out this weekend reminded me that parenting doesn’t have to be a chore. We all work hard and worry about our kids and their mental health – but our mental health as parents is important too. In fact, I submit that when we’re happy and cheerful and feel that our needs are met, we’re not feeling resentful to our children and can be more “present” in their lives.

Going out doesn’t have to mean an expensive get-away or partying until 3 am (though I do recommend it once in a while!). It can be as simple as going to your favourite book store or library and perusing the shelves and grabbing a coffee. Or, you can hit the local gym and do a Zumba class or lift some weights – or even go for a walk – alone or with a friend while ignoring the dirty laundry and piles of dishes for an hour or two.

selective focus photography of woman in white sports brassiere standing near woman sitting on pink yoga mat

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Parenting can absolutely take over and get overwhelming and demanding. But we owe it to ourselves and our kids to take a break every once in a while and enjoy ourselves. We are human too. I also think it’s important to show our children that we have our own lives, friends, interests, hobbies, etc. and that we can prioritize our interests at times.

So, next time a friend or neighbour asks you to grab a coffee – “get into the groove” and take her up on the offer. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Let me know about your tips for balancing life, work and parenting! You can reply in the comments or send me an email.

Yours in 1980’s “mom jeans”,

Lisa