Home, Parenting, Philosophy, Social

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

Family, Home, Parenting, Philosophy, Social

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.

appliance carpet chores device
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

 

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

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Conferences, Family, Parenting, Philosophy, sleep, Social

2020 Vision: Making Good Choices for Your Family’s Mental Health

Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s 2020?! Did you celebrate with family or friends last night? Have a party with neighbours or ring in the new year at home watching the ball drop in Time’s Square (if that works with your timezone)? Whatever you did, you don’t have to worry about comparing yourself to me: I did not have a Pinterest-worthy New Year’s Eve by any stretch – quite the opposite in fact; I was sick with a cold and fever and sleeping by 9 pm. Good. Times.

As bummed out as I was to not have a wild & crazy New Year’s Eve, I was happy to have celebrated the day with my partner and my children. Even though I was already starting to feel ill, my kids had been with their father for most of the holidays so I wanted to spend at least one day celebrating with all four of us. We went bowling, went out for sushi and had potato latkes  in the morning – made by yours truly along with my daughter. It was a really fun day out but, by 5 pm, I was exhausted and very sick.

woman working girl sitting
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

So, now that New Year’s Eve has come and gone: Onto the business at hand. Regardless of my cheesy headline for this post, for the past few weeks, I have been thinking about my goals and objectives for the year ahead. Have you given it much thought? Any goals – business, personal, family or otherwise?

Here are a few very basic family-oriented goals of mine for the year ahead. You are welcome to follow along with me. If you do, please let me know of your successes or any missteps. It takes a village!

2020 Family-Oriented Goals:

  • Listen more and talk less.
  • Reduce my own social media use and technology use – and encourage my kids to do the same.
  • Read more books – and encourage my kids to read more.
  • No more yelling/use silence as an alternate way to communicate.*
  • Enjoy the simple moments with my family.
woman reading book
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Do any of the above goals pique your interest? I have already started implementing some of them: *I’ve started texting certain things instead of yelling up the stairs – for instance how many more minutes until the “taxi” i.e. me, leaves for school. I’ve also started talking/responding less both at home and at work – and even on text. Not in a snobby or rude way but just not responding if I don’t have anything constructive to say. It seems to be working – it’s certainly reducing my stress-level.

Whatever you and your family decide to do: I wish you all a very happy 2020 full of positive family interactions, peace, joy and success.

Here’s to positive strides in your and your children’s mental health!

Lisa

Family, Home, Parenting, sleep, Social

Merry and Bright? Dealing with Holiday Stress

Let me guess…You’re finding the holidays stressful?! Either your kid(s) are driving you nuts, you’re trying to buy gifts that you can’t afford or don’t know what to get, you forgot to pick up something for your neighbour/coworker/boss/niece/cousin/dog, or you feel like everyone’s invited to all of these fab holiday parties except for you.

Me? My kids are getting older and would rather hang out with their friends for the most part. That, coupled with the +9 Celsius weather (!) today, makes the holidays feel rather “meh” at the moment. In my family, we celebrate Hanukkah and, if I’m honest, I am just not in the latke-frying/menorah-lighting mood unfortunately.

close up photo of star of david ornament
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

 

I remember when our kiddos were little and everything seemed new and exciting. We celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas and, although that meant extra work and wrapping, travelling, and buying and baking, etc., it was still a lot of fun. This year I haven’t done a darn thing so far except buy some holiday gifts and also birthday gifts for the great many people I know whose birthdays fall in late December.

No matter what you celebrate, there is a lot of pressure on people at this time of year i.e. “What are you doing for Christmas? Have all your shopping done?!” (Um… if you’re not Christian/don’t celebrate Christmas/don’t have a big budget this can be an awkward question to answer!)

What else can feel awkward this time of year…?

  • Kids are happy to have two weeks off school but that may mean finding childcare alternatives or taking time off work
  • Your partner (if you have one) may have a different (or no!) holiday schedule then your own
  • Your kids may have big expectations for foods or gifts or outings that you’re not prepared for
  • Your own mental health issues may prevent you from doing what you feel you should do (or what you feel everyone else is doing)
  • Your children’s mental health may mean not attending certain parties (or not being invited to parties!) or leaving early before they get upset or too tired or too hyper
  • The weather may prevent you from doing what you planned – for instance, here the snow is melting rapidly so no tobogganing or skiing or snowshoeing will work at this point
  • Perhaps you or your kids want to invite someone over or get together over the holidays but you’re worried that the parent has heard something negative about your child and doesn’t want them to play together or be friends
smiling boy holding sliced cake sitting near girl holding whip cream
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Although intentions are usually good, this can be an arduous time for many people. So, feel free to take a break and just go for a walk or go out for a cheap & cheerful dinner or head to the movies.

I know one woman who, though she has two weeks off of work, is still sending her toddler to daycare every day. I don’t necessarily agree with her decision but perhaps that’s what she needs to do in order to feel rejuvenated, rested and refreshed. It can be hard to parent at this time of year – especially if you don’t have family around to assist you or your child experiences any form of mental health challenge.

I wish for all of us a peaceful and zenfilled holiday season – full of minimal family fighting, decent gift exchanges, a few walks in the woods and one or two nights of restful sleep.

Yours in good holiday spirits,

Lisa

Books, Experts, Home, Parenting, Peer relationships, school, Social

Educational Options for Your Child, Part 2: Homeschooling Continued

Good morning! I apologize for the delay in posting – I was on a much-needed vacation last week. I also apologize for the font changes in this current post: I tried to do some adjustments behind the scenes but it looks like two different font styles still appear.

A few weeks ago, a fellow blogging associate, Heidi, kindly provided info on how and why parents might decide to homeschool . Until recently, this was an area of parenting/teaching/education that I had known about for some time but didn’t fully understand. Homeschooling is chosen by families for a variety of reasons. For this blog, we discuss it from a mental health/learning disabilities perspective.

woman reading book to toddler
Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

Another fellow blogger, a successful business owner, parent and home-schooling expert, also agreed to answer some burning questions that may help you decide if homeschooling is right for you and your kids.

Dana is the owner of Train Up a Child Publishing.  The information on Dana’s site/blog is extremely helpful and may assist you in understanding the ins and outs of homeschooling as well as the various methods and philosophies involved.

Here are a few of her answers. I will add a second part to this post soon – she provided such important and detailed information that I can’t fit everything into one post!

Question 1: From your perspective, what’s the criteria for homeschooling? For instance, do you feel it’s best in all cases for both parent and/or child?  

There are many circumstances and possible criteria for homeschooling. I don’t feel like homeschooling is best in all cases. Regardless of the criteria, if parents aren’t committed, willing to invest time and money in curriculum/supplies/and possibly tutors, and willing to make homeschooling a priority in their lives, it’s probably not a good choice.   
 
From the parent perspective, they might feel homeschooling would be better for their child because: 
  • They disagree philosophically/religiously with some of the content of what is taught. For example, the school policy changes you may have heard about in California that have literature that talks about many genders. Many parents that this area should remain within the realm of what parents would teach in the home, rather than in their first grader’s classroom.  
  • Their children may have been diagnosed with epilepsy, or other medical condition that require closer medication management/health care than may be possible in the public/private school system
  • Their child(ren) may have been diagnosed with ADHD or are on the Autism spectrum and have or have had difficulty coping with a typical public or private classroom. Parents who homeschool these children can provide them an environment that better suits their needs:
    • a less distracting room for homeschooling, without every inch of wall space covered with colorful things, like many elementary classrooms, particularly
    • the opportunity to give children their own quiet space to learn and focus, complete with a bouncy ball or other soothing/tactile objects
    • hands-on and other customized lessons that appeal to their student
    • customized therapies and methods that parents have found to work for their child at home because their school systems aren’t able (or perhaps willing) to implement them in a classroom situation
    • more frequent opportunities for breaks, more easily incorporate movement into studies
    • can take the time and provide mentorship in teaching their child relational behaviour — one to one. I’m sure this would be impossible for most teachers because of the teacher to student ratios, even in special ed classes
  • They feel as though their child would be safer at home from bullying, school violence, etc.
man wearing black crew neck shirt reading book
Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com
Question 2) What would you say to a parent who is considering homeschooling due to their child’s anxiety, depression, bullying, etc.?
 
I would tell them what it’s like to homeschool and give them places to research it further in their state/country. I’d suggest they visit and get plugged into a local homeschool support group, ask lots of questions and maybe shadow a homeschooling family or go on a field trip or park day with a homeschooling group. If parents are strongly considering homeschooling, it would be good to bring their child into the discussion. 
 

I’d let the parents know to look for a support group that met together regularly with activities for parents and for kids, went on field trips, provided a co-op or group classes, etc. (With ours, we had yearly school pictures, a yearbook, a prom, lots of field trips and small classes in many academic and enrichment areas, from writing classes to Taekwondo.)  

Question 3) What are some characteristics of successful homeschooling parents/teachers? What are two or three things that must be in place? 

Homeschooling parents must be committed to homeschooling at the start. That doesn’t mean they have to do it forever, but they need to be committed to at least a year at a time.
They have to be willing to spend money as necessary for their child’s curriculum and activities, and they have to be willing to make homeschooling a daily priority for at least one parent. That doesn’t mean the homeschooling parent can’t work parttime, but homeschooling has to happen daily in spite of the job. Sometimes homeschooling happens on the weekend or at night — it doesn’t have to look the same in all families and nor does it have to look like public school. 
 
It works best if parents have taken the time to train their children to [listen] when they were small.  Mutual respect between parents and children makes it a ton easier. And it’s easier to start with that in place, although it’s never too late to develop.
 
As I said, at least one parent has to assume the responsibility for homeschooling and make it a priority in their life.  Also, most homeschooling parents have to be willing to take the time to learn along with the child. They have to commit to at least weekly planning time, they have to be able to grade papers or get help from someone who can do this if they need help.  Sometimes moms change kids — one who did well in math might teach math to her child and mine, and maybe I teach writing to my child and hers, for example.  
accomplishment ceremony education graduation
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thank you so much, Dana, for your insightful views. Again, please visit Train Up a Child Publishing to learn more.

I was doing some further research on supports for homeschoolers: If you are in Ontario, Canada, the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents looks to be an amazing resource. I am very impressed with their site and how user-friendly it is to access.

Let me know if you find this information useful and if you have other advice or resources to share. I’d love to hear from you.

Lisa