Category Archives: sleep

Big Mouth Strikes Again…

I’m listening to The Smiths right now who are one of my all-time favourite bands. While “Bigmouth Strikes Again” is a cool and iconic song (take a listen if you’re not familiar), it reminded me that, so far, my new year’s resolutions are going well. One of my major family goals is to drastically reduce – or better yet, eliminate completely – yelling.

animal bear big blur

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Believe me, I know that yelling isn’t terribly effective or good for anyone. But shouting at kids is different than shouting at another adult.  Obviously no one yells for fun or to get their kicks – it’s generally out of exasperation, overwhelm or frustration. It’s learning to stay calm when we’re stressed and not resort to yelling that’s the tricky part.

I’m reminded of an interview I did with Erin Flynn Jay about mothers’ work during economic downturns. Through her research, she discovered that child abuse increases during economically difficult times. Children might sense a parent’s stress and then act out, causing the parent to feel the need to yell or strike back. It’s unfortunately a vicious circle.

white and blue crew neck t shirt

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Now, none of this is meant to stress anyone (including me) out. But it is a good reminder that our actions and reactions to things do impact our kids – even if we don’t realize it or it doesn’t seem obvious immediately.

One of my other new year’s resolutions is to “think small.” I know that sounds like an oxymoron but, really, it’s meant to celebrate the little things in life. When it comes to parenting,  in my view, we need to pat ourselves on the back more and acknowledge that even small successes are still successes – especially when it comes to our or our children’s positive mental health.

If you made any, how are your new year’s resolutions coming along? I’d love to hear about ’em.

Peace,

Lisa

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

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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

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

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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

Weighty Issues: An update on Weighted Blankets & Sleep

Hello! It’s been some time since I last posted but life has gotten in the way – again! Between Canadian Thanksgiving, travelling for work, work itself, kids, friends, chores, commuting… there sometimes just isn’t enough time to devote to this blog. But, I am still invested in this topic so, while I may not post regularly, I will be always be back.

apartment bed carpet chair

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One of the most popular posts on this blog in recent years is one about weighted blankets. Whether it’s for ourselves, our partner, parent or child, everyone is looking to get the best possible sleep.  In my original post, I lamented about not having purchased a weighted blanket but wanting to. Well, I’m happy to say I purchased a 7-pound weighted blanket about two weeks ago and I think it’s working!

I won’t tell you which brand it is because I think I got ripped off quite frankly. However, it does seem to be helping me get a deeper, higher quality of sleep. What I do like about this particular blanket (which looks something like the one in the image below) is that it’s heavy but not too heavy – common consensus is that the ideal weighted blanket is 10-15% of your body weight. As well, it has a cotton-like cover that can be taken off and washed.

tulips in clear vase beside window

Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

Special Note: Please be careful with toddlers and young children; even the lightest weighted blanket can be heavy and you don’t want them to get smothered.

As a reminder, the popularity of weighted blankets in recent years is due, in part, to the following reasons:

  • The steady weight calms the body and helps us to relax and sleep
  • The evenly distributed weight (usually in the form of pellets or ball bearings sewn into rows in the fabric/filling) is applied to the whole body, not just one portion
  • Those with ADHD, anxiety, insomnia, depression or restless leg syndrome often find the heavy constant pressure soothing and provides a zen-like response in many (but not all) people

Weighted blankets can even help our pets stay calm in extraordinary situations like loud parties, fireworks or thunderstorms!

Time will tell if the weighted blanket will help me get better quality sleep long-term but I am already searching for the right blanket for my kids. I think I’ll let them try mine first and then invest if they like it.

Also, I recently received a query from the owner of this site  on bedding and the importance of sleep. There isn’t any affiliation on my part but I looked at some of the info about different types of mattresses and it seems worthwhile; you may find it interesting too.

If you’ve purchased or used a weighted blanket for yourself or your child or teen, please comment below or write to me and let me know. I’d love to hear your opinion and findings.

Yours dreamily,

Lisa

 

 

What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

Have you heard of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)? Many people with ADHD also have RSD which means they are more sensitive to things like smell, touch, taste and sound – even criticism.

group of people gathering at party

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This type of response can be both a blessing and a curse. While none of us want to be immune to the excitement of the world around us, being “extra” can be overwhelming for many people. Imagine being in a big city and being bombarded by every sound around you: Every car zooming by, every honk of the horn, every snippet of music blaring from a car window would feel heavy, stressful and suffocating. For highly sensitive people and/or those with RSD, the world can literally be unbearable at times.

What is RSD?

According to WebMD:

“When you have ADHD, your nervous system overreacts to things from the outside world. Any sense of rejection can set off your stress response and cause an emotional reaction that’s much more extreme than usual.”

Because people with ADHD often perceive ideas, situations and experiences differently, it can be frustrating for them to not “jive” with others who are in the same situation. What they perceive as reality is often not the reality of those around them. Add RSD to ADHD and life can become extremely debilitating and frustrating for someone already sensitive to criticism.

While some may be able to slough off small doses of negative feedback or criticism, those with rejection sensitivity dysphoria feel negativity more deeply and often have a very difficult time sloughing it off (if ever) or feel the presence of that criticism weighing on their shoulders for a long period of time.

black and white black and white depressed depression

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The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

I’ve written about HSPs before. While I’m not a psychologist, social worker or counselor, I have researched and written a great deal about mental health and ADHD. I can see that  there are many links between the two mental health facets.

If you are interested in the life of a highly sensitive person, I’m a fan of Dr. Elaine Aron and her HSP blog/site and resources. Please check it out if you wish – there is a tremendous amount of useful information available on her site.

Of course, there are good things about being sensitive to the world around you. While others might not notice a beautiful sunset, a favourite song playing in the background, a tiny animal hiding in tree or the way someone reacts in a crowd, those who are highly sensitive are more astute and will take note.

How Can We Help Those with RSD?

For both RSD and HSP, the following things may help:

  • Medicine – Some children, teens and adults use pharmaceuticals which can be helpful. See an MD, psychologist or psychiatrist for more information.
  • Yoga – Practicing yoga and meditation are highly encouraged for everyone. Both practices can relax the body and mind and make us more serene and resilient.
  • Talk therapy – Speaking with a social worker or psychologist can be extremely rewarding if the right connections are made. Ask for referrals from guidance counselors, doctors, friends or neighbours. If possible, see the specialist first for an informal chat to see if you (or your child) and he or she hit it off. Even if the specialist is licensed, experienced and professional, he or she may not be the right fit for your family.
  • Proper sleep and rest – I may sound like broken record here but regular, sound, healthy sleep is key to managing one’s life in a productive and positive way. If you or your child is exhausted, managing stress and criticism is going to be that much harder.
  • Exercise – Like sleep, daily exercise (whether it’s running, ballet, yoga, hiking, biking, karate, gymnastics, dancing or something else) is critical to a healthy, happy life. We may not always feel like it, but getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day is important for our and our children’s mental and physical well-being.

Do you or your child have RSD or HSP? I’d love to hear about your stresses and successes managing these complex challenges. Feel free to write to me or comment here.

Lisa

 

School’s In: Let’s focus on those A, B, Z’s

I know many of us say this every year but… “Boy, did the summer whiz by!” Here in Ontario, most kids will start their new school year tomorrow, the day after Labour Day.

man reading a book

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The night before school starts can be like the night before Christmas (if you celebrate, which, funnily enough, I do not!): there’s excitement, nervousness, curiosity, minds racing… which inevitably leads many students to suffer from lack of sleep. And, this leads me to my topic for today: 

The incredible importance of sleep.

Sleep is critical for health, happiness and success. This is true for babies, toddlers, ‘tweens, teens and adults.

I’m by no means a perfect parent (ask my children!) but one thing I think I did well is ensuring that they adhered to nap-time as babies and toddlers and I try, try, try to make sure they get enough sleep at teens.

Have you read the book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth? Someone gave it to me when I was a new mom and it stuck with me. Dr. Weissbluth talks about sleep schedules in babies and to how to understand their natural sleep and wake cycles. It worked really well for me and my kids and I stuck to it whenever possible.

toddler lying on pink fleece pad

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Likewise, I am not one of those “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” type people and never have been. (I mean, if you’re not going to sleep properly you might be dead sooner than you think!) Beyond coping with my own general anxiety and unfortunate sleeplessness I fully realize that having well-rested children can lead to:

  • better ability to study/higher grades
  • less grumpiness and tension
  • a happier household
  • a lack of sleep-related disorders
  • improved mental health
  • a better chance at overall success

Having good sleep hygiene is just as important as regular hygiene – bathing regularly, brushing our teeth, eating healthy foods, proper grooming, going to the dentist, etc. I feel it’s my job as a parent to make sure my children are healthy in myriad ways – and that includes getting a good night’s sleep whenever possible.

Whether we use binaural beats to help ourselves or our children sleep, use weighted blankets, get enough exercise & fresh air each day, or become more aware of our own sleep and wake schedules and then honouring those cues, let’s start off this school year on the right foot and make sleep a priority in our households.

Do you relate? Is sleep a priority for you and your family? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or by contacting me directly.

Happy First Day of School!

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

 

Canadian Mental Health Week: May 6-12

This week is Mental Health Week and Children’s Mental Health Week in Canada.

group of people holding hands together

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It’s a good time to consider all of the facets of mental health. Happily, I feel that families, communities, schools, organizations and governments are getting better at recognizing signs, symptoms and remedies.

Even though some stigma remains, more people understand that mental health challenges are common. In fact, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

  • 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally face a mental health problem or illness
  • 8% of Canadians will experience major depression in their lives
  • Mental health affects people of all ages, education levels, incomes and cultures

Regarding kids, many wonder why suicide rates for children, teens and young adults seem to be increasing* and why more children (even those as young as 8) seem to be experiencing more stress than in generations past. What might the reasons be?

bed blanket female girl

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From reading, research and speaking with other parents and experts, here are three top-line theories:

The Sleep Factor

  • Children, teens and adults are getting far less sleep than in prior generations. Whether it’s due to the blue light from our devices, the lure of 24/7 streaming content, being overwhelmed with homework or answering emails, or parents not enforcing strict bedtimes for younger children, we all could use more shut-eye.
  • Sleep allows us to heal our bodies and minds and to recharge for the day to come. It also helps regulate breathing and blood pressure. Without consistent, regular sleep and sleep patterns we put extra stress on our mental health and well-being.

The Failure Factor

  • Over the past year, I’ve read more and more about how parents’ inability to let our children fail and experience disappointment is hindering their ability to be successful later in life.
  • While we may think we’re doing our kids a favor by protecting them from, say, losing a race or failing a test or not making the cheerleading team, it’s important that children understand how to fail. When a child gets a D on their math quiz or is not invited to the dance, she might learn how to do things differently next time and, at the same time, build resilience which can help her deal with future disappointment.

The Comparison Factor

  • Personally I think adults are just as at-risk of this as children or teens. In our social and social media-infused world, we can’t help but compare ourselves to our next door neighbour who just returned from a spontaneous trip to Italy or to our colleague who is taking a year off to write a novel.
  • I’m not at all against social media (in fact, I’m a huge fan) but it can be extremely detrimental when we (or our children) are feeling vulnerable. It’s difficult to remember that people are more than their social media profiles and that most only post the best of their lives – not the tedious chores or the endless amounts of homework or the fight they just had with their sibling.
  • Comparing ourselves to our friends, classmates, or colleagues can bring on feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, depression and doubt. For parents, talking to our kids about social media and its implications and limiting the use of personal devices and video gaming can be beneficial.

Do any of these theories about modern-day mental health resonate with you? Are you aware of your kids’ mental health on a regular basis? Do you speak with them about stress or social media or suicide? I’d love to learn about your own theories and advice.

Feel free to comment on this post or write to me.

Lisa

*Note: The web site linked to teen suicide includes some disturbing content