Category Archives: Peer relationships

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

 

Dear Evan Hansen: Top-Rated Musical Depicts Teen Loneliness in a New Light

Dear Evan Hansen:

Today is going to be a good day…

Dear Evan Hansen shirt

Um, no. I’m afraid it wasn’t a good day for Evan.

Have you seen this musical that won 6 Tony Awards and myriad other honours? We recently had friends in from out of town so my partner, newly teen daughter and I saw it in Toronto with our adult friend and her ‘tween daughter.

The play depicts a lonely teenage outcast named Evan who is trying desperately to overcome obstacles in his life, make friends, get through high school and bond with his working single mother. One innocent misunderstanding turns into a labyrinth of lies and deceits.  

While the performance received a standing ovation and our friends (and seemingly the rest of the 1,200 person audience) seemed to love the play, I had mixed feelings.

The Good:

  • The set is amazing. The use of long transparent screens to highlight social media feeds and videos shown throughout the play is very clever. It’s a striking and fresh production.
  • The performers themselves are engaging. We saw the “alternate” Evan but he seemed perfect for the role. It’s a small cast and most of the actors were excellent and had beautiful voices. I was fond of some of them more than others but overall very professional.
  • The topic is timely. Dear Evan Hansen depicts themes of loneliness, heartbreak, family break-up, bullying, suicide, relationships, and social media madness in a clear, non-cliche manner. I wish my older teen had seen it with us but he was out of town.
  • It was cool seeing the show band in the background and their musicality is stellar.

 

Dear Evan Hansen set

The opening set of Dear Evan Hansen

The Not-So-Good:

  • I didn’t love the actual songs. Usually when I see a musical we’re humming the songs on the way home, dying to buy (or download) the soundtrack. Certain songs are indeed thought-provoking and unique but only one or two really stuck with us. Alternatively, I saw A Star is Born a few months ago and still sing many of those songs in my head and purchased the official soundtrack which is excellent.
  • The performance itself is very long. The Royal Alexandra is a gorgeous theatre in downtown Toronto built in 1907 but the seats are quite close to one another and I started to get antsy towards the end of the first act.

Overall, I am always happy to see live theatre or concerts and am almost never disappointed to have the opportunity – even if it’s not 100% fantastic. If you are interested in seeing modern life from a lonely teen’s perspective, definitely give Dear Evan Hansen a go.

Have you seen the play? Did it resonate with you or your children/teens? What did you think of the content? Feel free to comment below.

Note: This post contains an affiliate link which means I may receive a small commission should you click on the link and purchase the product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian Mental Health Week: May 6-12

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

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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

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.

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:

Grateful or Hateful?

affection appreciation decoration design

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I am working on an in-depth post about new guidelines issued from the American Psychological Association regarding physical discipline i.e. spanking and children.

For now, I wanted to post something that’s less research-intensive. I’ve been thinking about kids & gratitude. Lately, as a parent, I vacillate on how much to push my children to say “thank-you” to me and to others.

Firstly, I’m big on people (all people, not just kids or my own kids) saying “please” and “thank-you” or “no, thank-you.” To me, it’s the least one can do if someone is offering you something or gives you a gift or a compliment. I usually cringe when someone neglects to say thank-you after dinner has been made or a gift given or someone goes out of their way to do something nice.

However, similar to recent expert advice provided on kids & hugging, I am wondering if children should be forced to say thank-you by parents, relatives or teachers. Obviously, saying something verbally isn’t as intensive or invasive as having to hug or kiss a relative or friend but, perhaps pushing children to say something that’s not natural to them, isn’t right either.

Or, have we all become too politically-correct? Isn’t is a parent’s job to teach their kids right from wrong as well as manners and socially acceptable behavior? Usually, I’m steadfast in my thoughts about such things but, as mentioned above, I’m struggling with this lately.

What are your thoughts? Do you “force” your child to say thank-you or write a thank-you card when given a gift or cash? Did that change as they got older? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Yours gratefully,

Lisa

Stay Out of It!

unnamed (1)Since both of my children’s birthdays are coming up soon, I’ve been reflecting and feeling melancholy, thinking about their younger days and some of the lessons I’ve learned. 

When my son was younger, say 6 or 7 years old, like many moms, I’d set up or help facilitate play dates for him and my daughter. If anything went wrong, say an argument between the boys or teasing that went haywire, I’d often step in – not as a grumpy “hey, my child is perfect” tiger mom but just to see what had happened and if there was any good solution. Of course I did this with the best of intentions.

I soon learned (with the help of some shy advice from a neighbour) that stepping into your kids’ social life is generally a no-no. Almost always, my seemingly innocent intervention would cause more stress or headaches for my son and his friends.

So, now, unless it’s a really big deal, I try to stay out of it. Yes, it’s hard sometimes and, as he and my daughter grow, there will be times that their father or I will have to get involved. But, I think it’s helped that I can provide advice and support but not march in to “save the day” (which didn’t really work anyway).

What’s your take on getting involved with your child’s social life?

Because of your son…

This post on Facebook made my eyes fill with tears.

Parties can be hard. Even when you’re popular. They’re especially hard when you’re unpopular, different or shunned in some way.

The compassion of including a boy with autism to a child’s birthday party (and going so far as to make alternate arrangements to make sure he’s comfortable) certainly made this mom’s whole day – possibly her whole year.

While it’s easy to dismiss kids who may be hard to handle, disruptive or shy, please encourage your child to invite “outsiders” to parties and playdates. This simple effort can make a world of difference to another human being.

Perfect Teeth

perfectionMy son was just telling me he has “the worst teeth ever”. This is far from the truth – his teeth are only slightly crooked and will look fantastic once he gets braces put on in the next year or two.

I told him if he had perfect teeth he’d be too perfect as he’s already very handsome. I said this partly to boost his self-esteem but mostly because I believe it to be true: If someone looks or acts too perfect they don’t seem real to me. I have known people over the years who never seem to be in a bad mood and are always smiling or want to see the silver lining in every situation. While I appreciate this attitude for the most part, it can get tiresome. Someone who’s never down or feels guilty or grouchy is suspicious to me – what’s under the shiny coating?! It’s our human nature to exhibit a range of emotions.

How do you feel about looking on the bright side of life? Do you try to find the realism in all situations with your children and/or the young people in your life? How do you balance our quest for perfection with life’s hard knocks? I’m still trying to figure this out myself.

White Knuckle Parenting

Walking up the hill Kortright CentreToday was my kids’ last day of school. While I scratched my head in astonishment that yet another school year had passed us by, I also realized I had to give out the teacher gifts we had purchased and arrange other end of year activities – stat.

Excited to wait at the school door when they exited for the last time this year, the sky boomed with thunder and rain just as I jumped in the car  to pick ’em up (I’m too far to walk to the school). Other parents and grandparents stood by with raincoats and umbrellas trying to say good-bye as we all huddled against the rain.

Both my children are suffering from colds but I thought we should mark this epic occasion in some way so I offered to take them for frozen yogurt. We inched our way through rainy slick traffic only to find the local fro yo shop PACKED full of kids and parents. Sigh… back into the car we went.

We arrived home, the kids dumped their bags, lunch packs, locker paraphernalia and shoes at the front door. We walked up the steps and what do we find? A big pile of cat vomit. Could this day get any better?!

I’m happy to say we turned it around. After a “surprise” dinner (hot dog mushroom bean tomato stew on garlic bread) we tried to rush my son to his baseball game (which was of course cancelled due to the rain). My daughter and I then walked to the LCBO to pick up a bottle of wine for my neighbour who was throwing herself a birthday party. We stopped in, wished her a happy birthday, said hi to neighbours new and old and now we’re home, along with a calm sky.

I hope your kids’ last of day of school is less epic.  Happy summer!