Category Archives: Parenting

Round Up

232Only four more days to go!

As much as I love to write, blogging every day for 30 days isn’t always fun and comes with its own stress. Still, I’m happy to report that I only missed one day of blogging and now have a great deal of content to look back on and share with readers, editors and friends.

Today I want to do a round up of some of my favourite and the most popular posts on Kids and Mental Health:

For Extreme Parenting Read The Glass Castle – I’ve read this blisteringly honest memoir a few times. It’s a true story that you’ll never get out of your head once you’ve read it. Trust me on that.

Can Children Be Hoarders? This is by far the most popular post on my blog. I hadn’t realized that children can also have hoarding tendencies. Guest poster Janine Adams outlines how hoarding can start and what to do about it.

Is Your Kid’s Glass Half Full? This is also a popular post based on parents’ ability to influence positive thinking in our children. Not always easy to do when you’re tired or not feeling so positive yourself.

What topics would you like to see explored on this blog?

Shake It Up For ADHD

adhdAre you aware of the advocacy group CADDAC (Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada)? This organization (and its sister org CADDRA) is a useful resource for parents, families, psychologists, educators and those diagnosed with ADHD themselves.

Today, on the CADDAC blog, there’s a useful explanation of a new University of Mississippi study indicating that movement actually helps facilitate learning and growth for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. From the study: “Hyperactive movements associated with the disorder may allow children with ADHD to enhance their cognitive abilities.”

This makes sense in many ways as many of us (even those without ADHD) feel the need to stand up, “fidget”, tap fingers or toes, twirl hair, or bounce up and down to get our creative juices flowing.

Sitting still for long periods of time not only inhibits healthy development and may cause severe health implications but, for children with ADHD, it can cause stress and dissuade imagination and working memory. 

Is positive thinking the key for kids?

Here’s more from U of M: “By allowing the hyperactive behaviors to continue, children with ADHD are able to increase their arousal and remain alert in the classroom. Yet conventional teaching and treatment methods demand ADHD children remain still, and the ability to focus on the lesson is lost in the child’s struggle to focus on not squirming or fidgeting, said Sarver.”

These days, many educators and teachers (at least in our school board) better understand that occasional movement, special seating arrangements, more frequent “health breaks” and re-imagined dynamics not only allows all students to more fully enjoy school but allows those with ADHD to fit in, become more engaged and reach their full learning potential.

Father’s Day Blues

fathers-day-300x300If you’re in North America, you’ll know today is Father’s Day.

While this is a joyous occasion for many families, there are others for whom Father’s Day brings grief, indifference or painful memories.

Stemming from a quick peek at Facebook today, I see that many are happy (me included) to reflect heartfelt wishes to fathers who are present and also tender words for those fathers who are no longer around – both literally and figuratively.

For children living with divorce, adoption, death or who are estranged from their dads, occasions like this spark sadness. Many will be spend today celebrating or reflecting on good times with loving fathers yet many others will reflect on “what could have been” or “what should be.”

What does Father’s Day mean to you?

Happiness is A Warm Furball

334734_10151049749272387_1404699166_oToday my partner and I ventured down to The Beach (or Beaches) – a gorgeous, popular strip of boardwalk, beachfront and shops along Lake Ontario.

The weather was perfect for people-watching, froyo, listening to music, walking the long stretch of boardwalk and petting the myriad dogs who accompanied their owners on this beautiful sunny day.

Canines of all kinds were in abundance – dachshunds, German Shepherds, dalmatian puppies, golden retrievers – you name it, we saw ’em. As much as I’d love to get a dog and one day I will – I’ve already promised my kids – we currently have a fantastic, clever cat whom everyone adores.

Not only are pets fun and playful (and I lot of work of course), studies show they’re good for both children’s and adults’ mental health.

Image from Animal Planet

Image from Animal Planet

While it seems counter-intuitive,  the dander and bacteria from pets can actually help babies develop their immune systems.

By exposing children to various pet allergens, some allergies and diseases like asthma can be avoided.

Owning a pet also breeds empathy, compassion, love, friendship and  key social skills.

What does the special furball, fish or ferrat in your life do for your family? Can you imagine life without Fido?

The Waiting Game

waitlistI’m sad to say I missed a day of blogging yesterday. Dock me ten points during the blogathon. ):

Ironically, I missed posting because I was attending a parent advisory board meeting for a mental health organization and passed out cold when I got home around 9 pm. This was the first meeting of a newly configured board of (mostly) women whose families are affected by mental health challenges.

One issue that always comes up when talking about mental health intervention is waiting lists. The waiting list is the torturous reality that most, if not all, parents and children face after contacting a government-run mental health care agency.

Rarely will a child be seen right away. If there’s a real crisis (and we joked last night about the clinician’s version of crisis versus the family’s version), families can head to their nearest ER and be seen within a few hours.

However, most families require short or long-term counselling and programs for their child in addition any crisis intervention.Because waiting lists are so long (many people wait 1o months or more before their first appointment), frustration, sadness and stress ensues.

What can be done? I’ll be posting more about Ontario’s changing mental health strategy (of which I have some insight) in the coming months. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) also has a decent list of ideas for children and families currently on waiting lists, including:

  • Checking in frequently with your family doctor
  • Putting your child or youth onto other lists for services in your community/city
  • Taking advantage of any employee insurance or private services (which can often happen within days) available
  • Spending good quality time with your child
  • Getting enough rest and having fun with the whole family in order to reduce stress

We have a long, long way to go before lists can be cut down to more reasonable wait times. Parents and kids with mental health challenges have enough on their plates and sitting on a waiting list for months at a time does nothing to counteract that frustration.

Incarceration Day

2prison-05Today I had lunch with an old friend from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years; needless to say we had a lot of catching up to do.

It was great fun to meet again and catch up (of course Facebook provides advanced info). Beyond discussing our youth and mutual friends, S. and I have something else in common – we both work in the field of mental health, family and corrections.

While S.’s work involves hands-on counselling, social work and research, I interview experts and write about issues related to these same topics. We had a stimulating conversation about what’s at the root of offenders – what makes them tick and what many have in common.

This topic deserves pages and pages of research and writing. But, because this is in blog format I will get straight to the point: We agreed that mental health challenges and a history of violence and abuse is at the core of most offenders/offences.

This discussion reminds me of the painfully honest film that shines a light on offenders who have gotten out of the prison system and are trying to make their way in the world. Just thinking about A Hard Name hurts my heart.

While it’s easy to say: “Lock ’em up” (and so we should in many cases), dismissing or hiding offenders away in the prison system does not get rid of the problem. Having a better understanding of good mental health, neglect, and child and domestic abuse is the key to preventing offences and ripping peoples’ lives apart.

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like governments and the public at large are realizing more and more that good mental health makes a huge impact on society.

Idle hands?

Busy bee“The majority prove their worth by keeping busy. A busy life is the nearest thing to a purposeful life.”

I had already decided to write about our culture of “busy-ness”  today and then spotted the quote above. Rather ironic when the focus of this post is the complete opposite idea.

Earlier this week, a colleague posted a link to this memorable New Yorker article about “Mr. Ravioli.” It’s a clever, insightful piece about a young girl’s imaginary friend; I encourage you to read it when you can take some time to absorb the tale

In fact, I realize this topic is coming full circle as the school year comes to a screaming halt. You see, this year, due to work flexibility and our kids’ ages, we decided to leave more gaps in their summer schedule.

When our children were younger and both parents were working full-time, we would either enroll our two kids in day camps, hire a nanny or babysitter, go on vacation or some combination of all three.  This year, they’ll both attend two or three weeks of camp but, as of now, have a lot of free time on their calendars.

I’m thinking (perhaps naively) that flexibility during the summer will allow more time to read, play with friends and wander around outdoors. It may also cause less stress for parents who don’t have to arrange pick ups, drop offs and lunches/swim suits/towels/dry clothes.

Careful of the admonishment recently doled out about overly zealous helicopter parents preventing optimal physical health in children, I’m hoping that a solo walk to the park or to friends’ homes will do the kids – and my bottom line – some good. (By the way, I’m not rolling my eyes in response to the report that finds children need more fresh air and exercise. However, I am leery of putting more pressure on parents who are already feeling all kinds of stress.)

How do you feel about our culture of busy-ness? Do you think parents and kids are overly scheduled and under creative? Are you able to give your children some freedom over the summer to explore their own interests? I’d love to hear your thoughts.