Category Archives: Philosophy

Frenemies: Should You “De-Friend” Your Non-Supportive Friends?

If you’re reading this blog, you probably have ADHD, anxiety, depression, autism, mental health challenges – or you care about someone who does.

And, if you or your loved one fit into any of the above categories, you have probably suffered from being shunned, isolated, “de-friended”, bullied, unsupported, or, at the very least, misunderstood.

adult alone anxious black and white

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As a parent, it’s hard not to blame other kids, adults or teachers who shun or misunderstand your child. It’s hard enough trying to parent a child or teen who has ADHD or other atypical traits without having neighbours, friends or family members question your parenting style, isolate your child or point fingers. When dealing with the daily stress of parenting, comments such as these can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

What do you do when people purposely leave your child out because they can’t deal with his or her behaviour? I’ve written about this issue before here, here and here.

  • Do you speak to them about why they’re doing it?
  • Do you think perhaps you’re being paranoid and that’s not the case?
  • Do you shun them yourself?
  • Do you try to be even more friendly and overcompensate for your child’s behaviour/their view of your child’s behaviour?

I don’t think there’s any “right” answer here. I do know that it’s extremely troubling, stressful and heartbreaking to discover close friends are not spending time with you because they don’t like your child. I guess the most mature thing to do would be to have a heart-to-heart with the person but, that can open a can of worms because they might be embarrassed to discuss it or deflect the blame or laugh uncomfortably and not engage.

man person school head

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In the past, we’ve had myriad friends and family members politely decline invitations or only want to get together without kids around. One of the saddest moments was finding out that a former neighbour with whom our child was very close had a birthday party and didn’t invite our child. Of course I realize that we can’t invite everyone to every birthday party but I know why my child was not invited in this particular case.

Another neighbourhood mother who ran a home daycare pretended she wasn’t taking on new children when I inquired. But, I later saw posters everywhere advertising her daycare and promoting open spots. This type of activity can be extremely hurtful (sometimes more for the parent than the child). Luckily, for us this isn’t something we have to deal with any longer now that my children are growing up and some of those annoying traits have dissipated or disappeared.

Has this happened to you? Do you “de-friend” your friend, neighbour or family member if they don’t engage with you or your family because of your child’s condition or his/her behaviour? What’s worked best in your case? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Lisa

Educational Options for Your Child, Part 1: Home Schooling

For some parents and guardians, having their child attend a regular public school isn’t an option. This is due to many factors: religious or cultural concerns; clashes with administration; bullying issues; physical abilities that are not or cannot be addressed by the school and mental health/neurological issues like anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism or concussion.

In these instances, some parents decide to go the homeschooling route.  Even as a child I had heard about homeschooling but no one I knew/know was homeschooled and, up until quite recently, I knew very little about how one would go about setting up a home school and teaching their children. That has changed!

man in black and white polo shirt beside writing board

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Through a blogging community I belong to, I have “virtually” met many wonderful people who are doing amazing work through their blogs/sites. One of these wonderful people is Heidi who runs The Unexpected Homeschooler.

Heidi has kindly agreed to answer some questions about homeschooling and about why parents or guardians of children with mental health challenges might do better learning from home. She lives in the U.S. and worked for many years as a special education teacher in a public school system.

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?

I think homeschooling is a personal choice for every family, and sometimes even per child. It has a lot to do with their reasons. For some families, it’s a religious reason and they most likely would want all their children homeschooled. For others, it may be academics or special needs and it would depend on each child’s needs.

two girls doing school works

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2) What would you say to a parent who is considering homeschooling due to their child’s anxiety, depression, bullying, etc.?

As a parent of a child with anxiety, I personally feel being at home is the best place for her. Of course it can depend on the type of anxiety a child has, but the public school system can be overwhelming for a lot of these kids and even detrimental in some cases. Being able to provide a positive, loving environment allows these children to have exposures to certain situations when they are ready for it. They can be themselves without being ridiculed, teased, or bullied. I have found that most of them blossom when homeschooled and have much more success.

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

I think every parent is a homeschooler whether they realize it or not. They have been teaching their children since the day they were born. No one else is going to love or understand a child better than his parent. The best homeschool parents/teachers are the ones that understand every child learns differently and at his own pace. It is not a race and we can’t compare our children to everyone else’s.

Figuring out their child’s learning style and presenting information in that format can make a huge difference. That’s not something that can be done in a classroom of 25 students. The second factor is a combination of organization and teaching their children to become independent learners. If the parent can set up systems to teach their students to work on their own, the benefits are huge and will carry over into adulthood.

4) Obviously, each state/country/province’s rules differ, but what do parents need to know before they pull a child out of public or private school?

Any time a child is pulled out of the school system, the parent needs to realize the child may need some time to “de-school” especially if the child is coming from a negative situation. De-schooling is the adjustment period a child goes through when he leaves the school system. He may need time to explore his interests, feel safe (if he’s come from a situation where he was bullied), time to figure out how he learns best, and perhaps time to build some self-esteem.

Learning at home is different from school and parents need to realize it’s okay to take a few weeks or even a few months to let their child get used to it. It doesn’t mean academics aren’t being taught; they are just being presented in a different way. It could be in the form of field trips, projects, reading books, and many other ways.

5) Do you know of instances where homeschooling has made a positive difference in a child’s life that was previously difficult due to mental health matters?

I don’t. However, while my own daughter has always been homeschooled, I do think putting her in the school system would have had a negative effect. I think her anxiety would have gotten in the way of her learning.

I also know of a child who is autistic and was not getting the kind of education he was capable of in the school system. In fact, he wasn’t even being supervised properly. This child is now doing amazingly well and has far exceeded the educational expectations the school system had for him.

library photo

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6) Do you know of instances where it hasn’t worked?

I don’t know of any particular situation where it hasn’t worked but I know it can be more difficult to pull a child out in the high school years because of the loss of friends.  Homeschoolers are socialized, despite what many people think, but older teens don’t want always want to make new friends at that age.

7) What resources can you recommend?

I recommend finding a local homeschool group so families can have support and find friends to do things with. It’s not necessary, but often when a family is new to homeschooling, it’s nice to have other parents who have been through it to ask questions. Also, there are a lot of Facebook groups homeschoolers are active on and these are a great resource as well.

8) Do you feel that liaising with other parents/teachers/families in similar situations makes a big difference?

It’s always nice to have a circle of homeschoolers to bounce ideas off of and to do outside activities with. It’s very helpful, especially when you are just starting to homeschool.

Thank you, Heidi, for offering your advice and opinion. Of course, you can visit The Unexpected Homeschooler for more resources, tips, book reviews and ideas.

I also want to add that parents (regardless of your country of origin) should look into the rules and regulations for homeschooling in your state or province and what type of exams, essays and tests that children must take in order to qualify legally for homeschooling.

Enjoy your autumn,

Lisa

The Resilience Fallacy

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

boy child clouds kid

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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

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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

 

Summer Daze

As a warm breeze blows through the window and birds chatter happily in the backyard ravine, I am wondering where the school year has gone.  Wasn’t it just the first day of school for my newly minted ‘tween and teen? Weren’t we just making plans for Christmas and then March break?

colorful umbrellas

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In our region, there is approximately one more month left of school. I can tell that my children are looking forward to having a break from the seemingly-endless days of early wake-ups and constant assignments as well as the periphery of peer drama; (one or two) ineffective teachers and constantly being told what to do, when and where.

Breaking Bad

Summer can (and should) offer a break for kids but what about parents? In days gone by it was the norm for mothers to stay home and enjoy summers off with their kids. I always imagine picnics in the park, swimming at the local pool, soccer with the neighbours and play dates galore. These days, though I know some people who are teachers or stay-at-home parents, I don’t know many who have the luxury of taking entire summers off.

sea sunset ocean relaxing

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Is it so bad to take two months off to rest and relax? Of course not – in theory. As most people know, constant deadlines and over-scheduling puts undue pressure on children and teens (and adults).

But what’s the grey area between idleness and helicoptering? As much as we want our kids to have a break on weekends, holidays and in the summer-time, sometimes this just isn’t possible or can lead to chaos in the household. I like this post I wrote about this same topic back in 2015: Idle Hands? I also enjoyed this funny and honest New York Times portrayal of after-school scheduling in the age of working parents.

The point is that too much “on time” can cause depression and anxiety in children. All human beings need to have quiet time with no deadlines, no rushing from Point A to Point B, no “end game” in mind. I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that idle time isn’t always a bad thing: It can actually lead to improved mental health, better sleep, more happiness and even creative insights on how to solve a problem or write a song. Our brains need time to breathe.

Despite not having scheduled one single activity at this point, I am still confident this summer will be one for the memory books. If you’re a parent, what plans do you have for your children this summer? Are they going to camp? Hanging with grandparents? Going to summer school? Traveling? Volunteering? I’d love to hear your thoughts on scheduling and plans for the season.

Please note: I will be taking a short medical leave of absence soon so please excuse any related absence from this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Eating Brownies for Breakfast

Happy Mother’s Day! For those of us in North America, we celebrate on the second Sunday in May. In the UK and elsewhere, I believe it’s celebrated on a different date.

photo of boy hugging his mom

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Did any of you get breakfast in bed on a tray with a mason jar filled with daisies…? Me neither! I’m not bitter though, honestly. I’m over the traditional, commercial idea of Mother’s Day and hoping for a peaceful, quiet day with my kids which should include no arguments, complaints or nagging (from me or my children).

Special dates like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day can be fraught with expectations and disappointment. As my children and I get older though, I realize more and more it’s not about the gifts and expensive dinners but rather, as cliche as it sounds, the time we spend together and the way we treat each other on this day and throughout the year.

Regardless, I won’t be preparing a lavish brunch or taking anyone out to celebrate this year. Due to my self-imposed No Money May, the fact that my partner is working, my tween daughter is at a sleepover and my teen son is still sleeping (and probably will be until noon or later), it will be a simple Mother’s Day. I’m hoping for a hike in the woods and of course will contact my own wonderful mom who lives in another city.

brownies

As a strange start to the day, I’m up at the crack of dawn (not a good start but apparently sleeping isn’t my jam), cleaning the kitchen and making marshmallow chocolate brownies. I will most likely eat said brownies for breakfast – and I’m okay with that! They don’t look that pretty (see photo above) but smell great. Yesterday, I made a chocolate peanut butter version for my daughter to take to her sleepover.

What are you doing to celebrate? Do you have a special tradition? Do you expect your partner or children to pamper you on Mother’s Day? Are you on the hook to host your own family?

However you celebrate YOUR day, whether reading a favourite book, snuggling with your babies, taking a walk, going to the spa, fêteing your own mom or simply being you, enjoy and cheers to all of the hardworking, dedicated, savvy moms out there.

Yours in good maternal mental health,

Lisa

 

I’m not an “ADHD Mom.” Are you?

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

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I hesitated in writing this post for two reasons. One: I don’t want to be a Judgy McJudgerson (we all have enough guilt when it comes to parenting) and two: I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. However, I thought about it for a few days and decided to go ahead.

Have you read or heard people say, “I’m an ADHD mom?” Or, “I’m an autism mom?” This makes me cringe. I feel we do a disservice to our children when we label their projected imperfections in our parenting style. Would you say, “I’m a cancer mom” or “I’m an epilepsy dad” when introducing yourself online or in person? Probably not.

Now, I can guess where the label comes from… social media allows us to form groups and communities which are mostly wonderful and helpful and inspirational. To gather our “tribes” sometimes we need to attach labels or attributes to ourselves so that we can draw on people going through similar challenges. For instance, there are groups about running marathons, trekking mountains, for movie buffs and abuse survivors… really, any challenge or accomplishment good, bad or neutral.

Im not an adhd mom are you

However, by introducing ourselves or labeling ourselves online as our child’s diagnosis or disability or syndrome, we run the risk of drawing attention to something that our child may not want people to know – especially as they grow up.

Now, if you yourself are challenged with autism or epilepsy or cancer and you want to shine a light on this issue, I say go for it. But, if it’s your kid who’s dealing with something, perhaps ask them if they’re old enough or consider a different label.

What do you think? Do you agree with me? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Lisa

Oh Brother

boys brother children country

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My family are big readers: Fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers, periodicals… the works. I’m lucky that way; I used to take it for granted that everyone’s family read a lot but I now know that’s not true of all families.

As a parent, I try to instill a love of reading to my children. I thought it would come naturally but, unfortunately, I’m not sure that’s the case. For me, there will never be enough time to read all of the novels on my book bucket list.

Reading has so many benefits. Here are just a small sample:

  •  Non-screen entertainment
  •  Increased communication and vocabulary skills
  •  Understanding new worlds, new cultures, other religions and points of view
  •  Book clubs bring readers together to share notes
  •  Reading can save you from boredom and immerse you in a new world
  •  You can take a book just about anywhere – no WiFi or data or outlets needed!
blur book stack books bookshelves

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Popular fiction usually does it for me and my mom has given me a million excellent recommendations in the past few years. (Thank you, Mom!) In fact, these have been some of my favourite selections of all time. I’ll be sharing many of them with you in the months to come. Of course, this is a blog about kids & mental health so I will pick favourite selections that fit with this theme.

One of the best books I’ve ever read is Brother by David Chariandy.

Poetic and raw, Brother details the life of a small family from Trinidad – a mother and her two sons. They move to Scarborough (a region in Toronto) to try and make a better life for themselves. The boys’ single mother works tirelessly as a cleaner and Chariandy’s description of her slogging to work on the bus in her uniform day after day is so vivid.

The two boys, brothers, are very close but have their differences. Without giving too much of the story away, the great burden on their lives becomes too difficult and tensions ensue. Still, as heartbreaking as the novel may be, I’ll forever remember this family and many of the scenes Chariandy illustrates; in fact, I’ve been to a few of the locales he mentions, including the Rouge Valley in Scarborough.

For me, this novel also brought home the fact that, no matter what you do or how hard you try to shape them, your child is going to carve out their own path in life and eventually make all of their own decisions – whether you agree with them or not.

Check out Brother if you can. You won’t regret reading it, in fact it may haunt you (in a good way) for the rest of your life.

Lisa

This post contains an affiliate link. That means, if you purchase the book listed below, I may receive a commission.

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.

gray coat and blue jeans

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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

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: