Tag Archives: children

Health and Wellness Scholarship

Go nuts! Image courtesy of NutsforLife.com

Go nuts! Image courtesy of NutsforLife.com

It’s a well known fact that nutrition (or lack thereof) is linked to mental health.

If a child is eating sugar-laden chemical-filled donuts and additive-filled juices dyed a creepy blue colour, behaviour and mood can be affected.

I thought I knew a lot about additives and dyes until I researched an article for KIWI magazine on Food Choices for Kids with ADHD. Some parents remove all dyes (blue and red are said to be the worst) from their children’s diet – often with dramatic results. I do my best to avoid artificial dyes which are added to cake icing, juice, sports’ drinks, candy, vitamins and cough syrup. It’s a slippery slope.

In related news: In January I was notified that I won a scholarship to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Health Coach Training Program. I’m pleased to be chosen and am seriously considering taking this course. Learning more about the foods, vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to develop and thrive is fascinating. I’d love to help myself, my family and others flourish as a result.

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.

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.

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.

It’s Canadian ADHD Week: Learn. Understand. Inspire.

CADDAC’s 2012 ADHD Week banner

The Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada has launched ADHD Week. Celebrated October 14-21 2012, this week is meant to inspire, educate and inform.

In light of the launch, last Thursday and Friday I attended CADDAC’s annual ADHD Conference which was held in Markham, Ontario. The four day conference included distinct presentations for educators, parents, adults and girls.

Thursday night’s presentation was aimed at parents of children with ADHD. About 200 parents of children ranging from toddlers to those heading off to university took in a presentation from Dr. Kathleen Nadeau, a woman who has ADHD and an American licensed psychologist.

Here are highlights from Dr. Nadeau’s talk on ADHD-Friendly Parent Coaching:

  • Medication is NOT a magic bullet that solves all problems
  • Develop a CLOSE* relationship with your child
  • Don’t hold a grudge: you can be loving and still set limits and consequences
  • Get enough sleep. Work on your own bedtime as well as your child’s sleep habits
  • Perfection is not required! (Be a GEM = Good Enough Mom/Man)
  • Engage in “social engineering” to help your child make and keep friends
  • Proper nutrition, sleep and exercise is key
  • Anticipate and avoid the “upset zone” i.e. late afternoons
  • Understand the difference between a “punishment” and a “consequence” i.e. a consequence does not come from anger
  • Learn the art of habit-building to set the path for success later on in life

Do these tips and suggestions resonate with you? Do you know someone with ADHD to whom this could be helpful? Feel free to share this post and/or the ADHD Week Facebook page or share your comments on this blog. We all have a lot to learn.

*The CLOSE model involves: choices, consequences, collaboration, calm and consistent parenting, loving, looking out for good behaviour, special time every day, and empathy for your child.

Who Are You? Creativity Springs from Despair

Rock Star Status. Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This past weekend I watched a fascinating interview with The Who’s Pete Townshend on the CBS television show Sunday Morning.

Much of it focused on Townshend’s love/hate relationship with his “rock star” status but a chunk of the interview was dedicated to his rocky childhood.

At the age of 6, Townshend’s parents sent him to live with his grandmother who was mentally ill.

The boy suffered tremendously; here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“That probably more than anything, probably far more than whether or not my grandmother tried to drown me or made my life miserable or denied me sleep or food or whatever it was that she did, whether or not any of her weird boyfriends abused me in the middle of the night, that stuff I think I could understand,” Townshend said. “What I can’t understand is why that feeling of being abandoned is so huge and so difficult to get past.”

Townshend believes that much of his intensely creative musical compositions stem from that dark period of life. The synergy between melancholy and creativity is nothing new; I’ve also blogged about this connection. It’s an arena I find deeply intriguing.

I wonder: Do all great artists/writers/singers/actors/composers come from a place of pain and despair or can you live a life of happiness and peace and still be a creative genius?

Mr. Sand Man…Bring Me a Dream

It’s been weeks (possibly months) since I’ve posted here. Sorry ’bout that to those of you who were hoping for more frequent posts. I am thoroughly wrapped up in my current full-time job and all that comes with having two parents who work full-time and two kids who go to school, play dates, activities,  after-care, etc. It’s chaos but, so far, we’re managing to hold it all together.

Sleep much? (image courtesy of The Mattress Club of Canada)

Right now, it’s exactly 4:11 am. Yup, four in the morning. It’s cold, it’s dark, the cat’s snuggled behind me and I, as per usual if I’m not snug in bed, am on the internet. My daughter woke me up about 50 minutes ago as she was sneaking into my bed after having a bad dream. There’s hardly a night that goes by without one of our children waking up, not being able to get to sleep, having a nightmare or waking up too early in the morning. Normal, I know. But, I’m curious as to how sleep – or lack thereof – affects kids’ mental health.

We all know that a good night’s sleep leads to a productive, happier day. The last thing I want for my kids is to have them tired, grumpy, and agitated – not good for mom and not good for them. I do my best to follow a routine with them – no sweets or loud music/TV after dinner; dimming the lights; getting into PJs as early as possible; lots of stories before bed, that type of thing. And, usually it works but very often (see above) something happens in the middle of the night.

I remember having nightmares as a child and being really terrified so I try to remain calm and reassuring – which can be exceptionally difficult when one has to get up early and be calm, productive, efficient and friendly at work the next day! If I don’t have to open my eyes or turn on the lights in the dark depths of night and can just mutter something reassuring and have everyone go back to sleep – great! But, more often than not, there’s a drink to be found, a teddy bear to be retrieved and, sometimes, the “stay with me until I fall asleep” card is pulled. That one’s a doozy because it leads to a very sleepy parent who sometimes has work or (gasp) something fun to do after said child gets back to sleep.

For us, it’s all a matter of  routines, investigation, luck and “do what works for each child”. What is your experience with kids and sleep? Any tips to share?

Exploring Van Gogh’s Mind

Van Gogh's self-portrait taken from Wikipaedia

In an earlier post focused on the connection between creativity and mental illness, there were some excellent comments, including people asking to know more about Van Gogh (the famous European painter) and his well-documented challenges with mental illness and inner demons.

After conducting research, I’ve found that Van Gogh suffered (and, yes, I will use the word “suffer” as he seemed to live a rather tortured life) from a host of mental and emotional health problems.

Van Gogh smoked extensively, drank absinthe (a potent and sometimes lethal alcoholic beverage), and massive amounts of coffee, and is said to have a very poor and nutritionally-empty diet. These factors, of course, could have spurred on or impacted any of his emotional or mental conditions.

In addition to self-diagnosed epilepsy, Van Gogh lived with bipolar disorder, possible sun stroke, Meniere’s Disease, lead poisoning, hallucinations and depression.

Living with one of these illnesses could be debilitating but, the fact that Van Gogh was able to create works of art while battling chronic malnutrition, addiction and mental and physical illness is an amazing feat! I continue to be amazed by the secret lives of artists. However, as Susan K says in the comments section linked above in this post, is the price of mental illness worth it to the people who live it?

The Play Date Conumdrum

Play with me?

Today is a slow day. I’m trying desperately to get ready for a full-time gig that’s coming up in the next few weeks.

My husband has a cold today and has plopped himself on the couch, yet the kids are bored and chores need to be done. My son has a play date scheduled for later today, and my daughter desperately wants to play with someone. We’ve tried two different neighbours but they’re both busy.

I have a tendency to take things too personally; whether that’s someone who doesn’t want to “play” with me or a kid that doesn’t want to play with my child. It’s not like there was  a date scheduled in advance – we just showed up at the neighbours’ doors but, I still think children should be pleasant and polite even if they can’t play. One child just said, “No” as soon as my daughter cheerfully asked if he wanted to play. However, the other child was much kinder with the father explaining that they’re putting on a party for relatives today. Completely understandable but my poor daughter is disappointed.

What do you think? How do you handle bored and distracted children? Do you tell other children to be polite and respectful or just bite your tongue? Do you just slough off no-go play dates?