Tag Archives: behaviour

Sometimes it’s the little things…

Follow the path to enlightenment

Yesterday I had the good fortune to spend a few hours with my son. While that in itself doesn’t sound like a big deal, it was the quality of those few hours that made the difference.

While sometimes (okay, often) we butt heads or bicker, my son and I had a lovely time running errands, picking out a Father’s Day gift for my dad and his dad, and then enjoying a long leisurely lunch. My daughter was playing with a friend so it was just us – mother and son – for three happy hours.

Sometimes it really is these little things that make all the difference in parenting.

Sensitive much?

First off, some “housekeeping” as the corporate folks like to say. The reason I’m posting like crazy all of a sudden is because I’ve joined a “blogathon”. This special virtual event has all members posting once a day for the month of June. So far I’m on track. However, I hope those of you who are following my blog won’t get overwhelmed; after the blogathon, I plan to post weekly or bi-weekly.

emotional brainToday’s topic? Sensitivity. These days, there’s a lot of buzz around “highly sensitive people”.

Said to feel things more deeply than others, HSP can use their gifts to accelerate life but need to be aware of their limits, too.

According to Dr. Elaine Aron’s Highly Sensitive People web site, highly sensitive children and adults:

  • Are easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby
  • Notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art
  • Have a rich and complex inner life
  • Were seen as particularly sensitive or shy by parents and teachers

Does this sound like you or your child? I know I can relate. While I am sociable and love concerts and parties, I can also get overwhelmed and stressed out by loud noises such as sirens, fireworks, dogs barking, or loud children.

Do you think you or your children might be highly sensitive too? Do you want specific tools to help your children feel more comfortable in their own skin? In addition to Aron’s child-focused sensitivity quiz, another amazing resource is author and speaker Maureen Healy. Give their sites, books and blogs a quick tour; I’m sure you’ll find many valuable tips.

What have you learned from your highly sensitive child? Do you see this as an affliction or a blessing?

We Are Family

A Clear Path

Next week I’ll be attending the Vanier Institute’s Families in Canada conference. As a freelance writer  focused on subjects relating to children, parenting, mental health and social development, this is the perfect learning event.

How I’ll attend the myriad sessions in only two short days, I do not know. Themes include everything from LGBT issues to divorce, poverty, gender, northern families, volunteering, education, violence and love;  obviously there aren’t many topics that can’t be intertwined into the concept of “family”.

One of my favourite reflections on family is written by my writer colleague Christina Frank. The Half-Life of the Divorced Parent,posted on the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, is not only brilliantly written but poignant, clever and sad. I often think of Christina’s words as I go through my own parenting journey.

No one expert or speaker can define the complex topic of family as it means different things to different people. Trust, honesty, loyalty, friendship, secrets, ties, heritage, culture, blood relations, laughter, tears, journey, protection…

What does family mean to you?

Mental Health Week 2013: Meds and Kids

Canadian Mental Health Week 2013

A Kids ‘n’ Mental Health Wordle for a Rainy Day in May

Greetings, Blog Readers. I apologize for the large gap in posts. I’ve been working a lot and getting up to speed on new content, technology, travel, etc.

Mental Health Week is almost over and I feel compelled to post something on this topic as it’s so relevant to my blog.

Recently, the topic of mental health & medication has come up. I’ve read quite a few blog posts and articles by those opposed to having children take medication for “minor” mental health-related diseases and syndromes such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and Asperger Syndrome.

Beyond life-saving results for some, prescription medication can have devastating side-effects. From lethargy to increased anxiety, dry mouth, trouble sleeping and decreased appetite (I sound like an announcer on one of those pharma co. TV commercials!), the vast majority of physicians and parents of children with mental health disorders consider medication very, very carefully before introducing it to their child.

Many questions abound:

  • Do the pros out way the cons?
  • Will medication make the child’s life easier and better?
  • Does the child (if she’s old enough to understand) want to take the medication to increase quality of life?
  • Is this a “forever thing” or can he eventually be weaned off?
  • Will “talk therapy” combined with medication improve the situation even more than taking meds alone?

While meds like Adderall or Vyvanse may work for some, others might be interested in choosing an alternative to Western medicine by way of natural supplement. Here’s an informative article* that may shed light on questions about supplements: https://www.cognitune.com/best-natural-adderall-alternatives/

What are your thoughts on children and mental health medication? Do you have any experience with improvement or devastating effects? Did therapy help more than meds for your child? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Please note: *This article was shared by agreement with myself and Cognitune.

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.

A Trip Down Bipolar Road…

Barry Shainbaum

Barry Shainbaum

I was recently introduced to Barry Shainbaum through a colleague. Creative leader, entrepreneur, broadcaster, mentor, counselor and “bipolar survivor”, Barry shares his history of mental illness and advice with us.

Q:  What advice do you have for children currently living with mental illness?    

A: You are possibly at the very beginning of a long journey — “a journey into yourself.”  The road to living with and possibly even overcoming mental illness can be multifaceted and one encompassing medication, psychotherapy and spiritual exploration.

Q: How has your struggle shaped who you are today?

A: My struggle of overcoming bipolar disorder was a tortuous winding road encompassing twenty years.   From an illness that came close to taking my life, today life is rich and full, both personally and professionally, with many creative ventures.  I have evolved to become a person who finds joy in each and every day, and in the smallest things in life.  I have also become aware of the power of persistence, hope, meditation, visualization, nature, love and synchronicity.

Q: Do you think mental illness (in adults and children) invokes creativity? Do you think people who haven’t “suffered” or felt pain can be truly creative?

A: The creative urge is often greater in those facing mental health problems, as there is a need to express the pain, confusion, and to search for meaning and joy amidst darkness.  Why has it been said countless times that there is a fine line between genius and insanity?   Perhaps, those with the most pain have to work so much harder on their lives, and often that means transcending boundaries.  I have also read that [people feel] joy to the same extent that they have suffered. I agree with that statement.

Q: Do you think society will ever be free of stigma or will people living with mental health always be stigmatized?

A: Stigma against those with mental illness is slowly being eroded.   The more that mental illness and mental health issues are discussed and the more that well-known figures come forward and talk about their challenges, the more stigma will be reduced. I see a future where, those diagnosed with mental illness are told, “In time your diagnosis will unlock the door to a life grander than it had been, had you never [been] ill.”

Q: What tools, tips, or resources helped you most as a youth struggling with bipolar disorder?

A: When I “fell ill” in 1970, there were not the resources that there are today.   As a volunteer, I currently run a men’s group at the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario and at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. I recommend that a person receiving a diagnosis of mental illness  begin [their journey] in the library. Read about the numerous aspects of mental illness: psychiatric, psychological, genetic, relationship, environmental and spiritual.   It can be overwhelming so read a little bit at a time. And remember: Life is full of problems. And by facing our problems, we evolve and grow.


Barry Shainbaum overcame bipolar disorder 24 years ago.   He works in 5 disciplines:  professional speaker, photographer, radio broadcaster, singer/musician in senior homes and as a mental health consultant.  He is also a juggler!  Barry is the author of two books:  Hope and Heroes, and Dancing in the Rain.  His website is: barryshainbaum.com

Maybe It’s the Music

Take the edge off with some tunes.

Take the edge off with some tunes.

Mornings can be rough in our home. Nine times out of ten someone’s had a crappy sleep or is having a grouchy morning. If we get out to school/work on time, it’s a very good day.

My personal issue is that no matter how many times I tell myself, “Be patient” (through closed eyes and clenched teeth), I often end up yelling, cajoling, or making threats — No video games after school! No dessert after dinner! — in order to get the crew moving. That’s not fun for any of us.

However, the other day, I put a few videos on YouTube while the kids were doing last minute school prep. Before everyone got too stressed out, the mood lightened as we listed to Trouble by Taylor Swift and Dynamite by Taio Cruz. Heads bobbed, lyrics were sung… it was a very relaxing and fun way to head out the door.

Anything I can do to avoid the crazy half-dressed-where-are-my-socks-I-can’t-open-the-toothpaste-cap type of morning is absolutely worth it. And, if music is added to the mix? Even better.

Gluten-us Maximus: Does Gluten Affect Mental Health?

Swaying in the wheat

Swaying in the wheat

If you have a child with mental health issues no doubt you’ve heard that removing gluten from his/her diet may help improve symptoms.

Running the gamut from physical, emotional and mental health, there is evidence that a gluten-free and often times casein-free (milk protein) diet results in  significant and positive differences in both children and adults. The book Wheat Belly is a hugely popular resource on this subject.

Just type “gluten-free” into Google and you’ll get millions of hits. Last year, ABC News posted an article on giving up gluten. The doctor interviewed suggested that many people embrace it as a fad diet and only those who have a sensitivity to the protein should remove it from meals.

Me? I’m carefully considering it. Besides having family members who live with celiac disease, almost daily I hear about another friend, neighbour or relative who is ditching gluten.

Here’s an example: Over the holidays we had a group play date – four kids and two parents. While the kids were playing, the boys’ mother went into great detail outlining the increasingly positive effects she’s discovered by removing gluten from her family’s diet. From a decrease in tantrums (the smallest child) to a radical decrease in weight (the mom), they are absolutely embracing the gluten-free life.

Would you try removing gluten from your child’s diet if you thought it might help? 

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?