Category Archives: Peer relationships

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.

Virtual Sunshine Part Deux

Zen parenting

Zen and the art of good deeds

In January 2013 I shared this post about virtual sunshine – offering readers links to positive, and inspiring blogs.

I just checked to make sure the links were all still viable and they are.

Even though summer has barely arrived, it’s a good time to get kids thinking about how to do their best and be productive and charitable over the break and into next year.

Sometimes when I need motivation and inspiration in order to dive into work or other endeavours, videos and sites like these help me remember that I’m really just a tiny grain of rice in the massive casserole dish we call life. (: If we can all spread a little happiness each day, then we’re doing a good job.

Can We Handle The Truth?

Photographer attribution: "Aboriginal War Veterans monument (close)" by I, Padraic Ryan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Photographer attribution: “Aboriginal War Veterans monument (close)” by I, Padraic Ryan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Here in Canada, The Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has just concluded.  The TRC took an in depth look at how and why 150,000 First Nations children were not only taken against their will and forced to attend church-run “schools” starting in the 1950s but why so many were abused – sexually, physically and mentally – most for years at a time.

Labeled a “cultural genocide” by one TRC investigator, Canadians as a whole will have to reconcile this terrible time in history and understand why non-Indian and religious leaders felt they had a right to overtake a community and force thousands against their will. The results for many are a lifetime of anguish and mental health challenges including depression, anger, anxiety, sadness, grief and suicide.

The stories, pictures, anecdotes from the official testimony are heart-wrenching. Children as young as five years old were severely beaten and raped; First Nations people were made to feel like second-class citizens and, for decades, no one did anything about it – either through apathy or ignorance.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have much to learn about this period and about the First Nations experience. I know many friends and neighbours are horrified and embarrassed that we did nothing to stop it.

But, this is the truth and we all need to learn from it.

[Note: I’m happy to receive constructive criticism about First Nations, TRC or any other fact or idea mentioned here. Feel free to comment or email me directly.]

Boy Meets Girl

Boy Meets GirlLast night, my partner and I watched Boy Meets Girl, a touching, funny film  about transgender love and friendship.

No, we didn’t pick the title because of the hubbub around Caitlyn Jenner (though I’m sure Netflix moved it to the top of their list due to recent controversy and publicity).

I’m glad we had the chance to view the film. Powerful and witty, it offers insight into the world of a transgender woman, her friends, family and lovers. I don’t want to spoil the plot so I won’t give away too much information but, if you want to experience life from someone else’s perspective (unless of course you’re a trans person), I suggest you give this sweet, simple and funny film a try.

It was refreshingly honest without being cloy, depressing or one-sided. And, Michelle Hendley is a force to be reckoned with. Check out Michelle and her gorgeous web site. I’m simply in awe of people who are willing to “put themselves out there” and truly be, well, themselves.

When Vicious Behaviour Goes Viral

Towards the Light

Towards the Light

By now, most of the world has heard about Rehteah Parsons’ life and death.

Beautiful, young and said to show great compassion for both humans and animals, Rehteah was sexually assaulted at a party, photographed and then victimized all over again when the photo was posted and shared by who knows how many students.

Ironically, the cause of so much of Rehteah’s pain and torture (social media) is now one of the vehicles being used to express outrage and promote justice.

Just this morning I signed a petition on Change.org demanding an independent inquiry into the police investigation which declared that no crime had taken place regarding both the rape and distribution of graphic and revealing photos. There are also Facebook pages set up, tweets posted and emails being sent to Justice Minister Ross Landry.

Why does it take death and despair to invoke a change in our laws? How can we use social media in a way that’s innovative and useful without promoting hatred, bullying, stress and destruction? Obviously, the way we engage in and rely on social media must change. Now.

SNAP to it!

Stop Now and Plan program logoWhat if, when confronted with a stressful or contentious situation, instead of instinctively fighting or fleeing, we made the decision  to SNAP – stop now and plan?

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Alas, if it were, there were be a lot less brutality and trauma in this world. SNAP was developed in the 1970s at the former Earlscourt Child and Family Centre, Toronto, Canada (now called the Child Development Institute). The program teaches children to come up with positive and proactive strategies and is aimed primarily at kids under the age of 12 who experience behaviour issues.

A more formal definition from the SNAP web site: It is a cognitive-behavioural strategy that helps children and parents regulate angry feelings by getting them to stop, think, and plan positive alternatives before they act impulsively.

More key info:

  • SNAP is available across Canada and is utilized by social workers, psychologists, parents and teachers in Australia, the U.S., Sweden and the Netherlands.
  • Its emotional regulation techniques are universal but social workers do tweak the program to accommodate clients in different regions/cultures.
  • Dr. Leena Augimeri, SNAP’s co-creator, explains that behaviour can’t be changed overnight but the techniques help clients to “slowly undo and unwind”.
  • The program is free of charge for clients who meet the SNAP criteria!

“Families are the key to success,” explains  Dr. Augimeri. However, she understands that sometimes “families are depleted and have nothing else to give...” Based on this, SNAP staff work with what/who they have in the program.

I was wowed by the awards and honours bestowed upon SNAP and its creators.

  • Just recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented SNAP with the inaugural Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award. SNAP won in the category of Social Innovator in Ontario.
  • Last month, Dr. Augimeri was the recipient of the 2012 Elizabeth Manson Award for Community Service in Children’s Mental Health from the Department of Psychiatry at The Hospital for Sick Children.

If you know a child who fits the criteria outlined in the SNAP model, I urge you to read up on this fantastic program. If it’s not available in your area, try asking your local social services agency to adopt it or contact the CDI or Children’s Mental Health Ontario for more information.

The Mental Health Blog Conundrum

Puzzling pieces of the heart together

Puzzling pieces.

This is a blog focused on children and mental health so it would make sense to provide comment on the Connecticut school shooting.

At the same time, I feel uncomfortable with people and editorial outlets that take advantage of tragedies in order to boost readership or bring attention to their own cause.

I thought about focusing on personality disorders since it’s said that Adam Lanza was diagnosed with such a disorder.

There is also the topic of the hugely popular (now viral) I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother post written by Liza Long. Personally I think she’s brave to write so honestly about her struggles with her child’s mental illness. There has been a huge amount of discussion on her stance as well as backlash aimed at Long’s bare honesty.

What I will say is that I’m still chewing on my fingernails, mourning the loss of those children, parents and teachers. I’m still trying to figure out what to say to my own children about the tragedy. I’m still pondering why this has to happen, what drove Lanza to kill innocent people, why he had access to so many firearms and what (if any) help he could have received to improve his mental health.

While we ponder these disturbing questions I will wish you readers a very healthy and peaceful holiday. Thanks for your ongoing comments and thoughts.

Is Your Kid’s Glass Half Full?

Is positive thinking the key for kids?

Is positive thinking the key for kids?

I haven’t been feeling motivated to blog lately. That’s ironic because today’s post is all about positive thinking.

As a freelance writer and researcher, it can be hard to stay positive and focused. Deadlines and money are certainly motivators but when writers pitch ideas to magazines or bid on projects without an immediate return,

it can be difficult to stay on track.

What about kids? What keeps them positive and motivated? Certainly personality plays a part. My own children have wildly different personalities: one tends to be naturally upbeat, curious and positive while the other tends to be more serious, philosophical and wary.

Parents and teachers also influence this thinking. A study, written about in The Atlantic, found that parents have a role in helping children learn how to use positive thinking to feel better when things get tough. Re-framing potentially negative situations into positive ones helps children to cope with stress.

While I’m not going to suggest that positive thinking is the be-all and end-all of emotional success, I am trying to put into practice more of a “glass-is-half-full” approach. Teaching children to be grateful, optimistic and to re-frame situations is a life-long skill that can be used during challenges with school, friends, homework or family.

Do you or the children in your life tend to fall into the “half full” or “half empty” category? What have you done to teach kids to see the positive? I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Kids’ Mental Health & Family Resources

Bringing colour and light to kids with mental health challenges

In contemplating the next post for this blog, I came upon an article in the Hamilton Spectator about the possible closing of Canada House – an eight-bed home in the Burlington area for teenage boys with mental health issues.

In light of this, I decided to compile a short list of the resources, groups and education services that have recently come across my radar.

This post also provides some background on mental health experts and online resources.

Please note: This is not an exhaustive list nor do I necessary endorse any of the following.

Canada House: This residence and its operator, Woodview, provides service to children, youth and their families with social, emotional, psychological and/or psychiatric difficulties. Located in Burlington, Ontario.

Autism Speaks: North America’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families

Kinark: A range of treatment services including individual, family and group counselling is provided to children and their families within local communities. These services are provided to children who are living at home or youth living on their own in their communities, as well as to children who are in residential care.

Vanier Institute of the Family: Not necessarily a resource for mental health, the Vanier Institute of the Family seeks to create awareness of, and to provide leadership on, the importance and strengths of families in Canada and the challenges they face in all of their structural, demographic, economic, cultural and social diversity.

What resources are on your radar? What else should I add to this list? Feel free to contact me or leave your comment below.

Wild: Boots and Hearts

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Image from Amazon.com.

This post contains affiliate links meaning that if you purchase this book through my link below, I may receive a commission.

I just finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It was chosen by a book club member which gave me a reason to quickly purchase and read the memoir but I would have read it anyway given the fascinating subject matter.

The story centres on Strayed who, when she was 26 years old, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail after suffering a series of devastating events including the death of her cherished mother, a heroin binge and the disappearance of her abusive biological father.

Stayed admits she was woefully unprepared for the journey: She had never  backpacked overnight; she hadn’t tested her hiking boots or too-heavy backpack (which would end up being a serious mistake) and ventured out solo on an approximately 2,600-mile journey!

Still, through near-death experiences with rattlesnakes, wild life and creepy men and enduring excruciating injuries to her feet, Strayed reaches her goal, hikes the trail and changes her life forever.

I was proud to accompany Strayed on her hard-won journey (albeit wrapped up in blankets in the comfort of my home) and so admire her resilience and fortitude.

Have you read the book? What’s your take? Did you find the tale inspirational?