Tag Archives: child’s voice

The Waiting Game

waitlistI’m sad to say I missed a day of blogging yesterday. Dock me ten points during the blogathon. ):

Ironically, I missed posting because I was attending a parent advisory board meeting for a mental health organization and passed out cold when I got home around 9 pm. This was the first meeting of a newly configured board of (mostly) women whose families are affected by mental health challenges.

One issue that always comes up when talking about mental health intervention is waiting lists. The waiting list is the torturous reality that most, if not all, parents and children face after contacting a government-run mental health care agency.

Rarely will a child be seen right away. If there’s a real crisis (and we joked last night about the clinician’s version of crisis versus the family’s version), families can head to their nearest ER and be seen within a few hours.

However, most families require short or long-term counselling and programs for their child in addition any crisis intervention.Because waiting lists are so long (many people wait 1o months or more before their first appointment), frustration, sadness and stress ensues.

What can be done? I’ll be posting more about Ontario’s changing mental health strategy (of which I have some insight) in the coming months. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) also has a decent list of ideas for children and families currently on waiting lists, including:

  • Checking in frequently with your family doctor
  • Putting your child or youth onto other lists for services in your community/city
  • Taking advantage of any employee insurance or private services (which can often happen within days) available
  • Spending good quality time with your child
  • Getting enough rest and having fun with the whole family in order to reduce stress

We have a long, long way to go before lists can be cut down to more reasonable wait times. Parents and kids with mental health challenges have enough on their plates and sitting on a waiting list for months at a time does nothing to counteract that frustration.

Incarceration Day

2prison-05Today I had lunch with an old friend from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years; needless to say we had a lot of catching up to do.

It was great fun to meet again and catch up (of course Facebook provides advanced info). Beyond discussing our youth and mutual friends, S. and I have something else in common – we both work in the field of mental health, family and corrections.

While S.’s work involves hands-on counselling, social work and research, I interview experts and write about issues related to these same topics. We had a stimulating conversation about what’s at the root of offenders – what makes them tick and what many have in common.

This topic deserves pages and pages of research and writing. But, because this is in blog format I will get straight to the point: We agreed that mental health challenges and a history of violence and abuse is at the core of most offenders/offences.

This discussion reminds me of the painfully honest film that shines a light on offenders who have gotten out of the prison system and are trying to make their way in the world. Just thinking about A Hard Name hurts my heart.

While it’s easy to say: “Lock ’em up” (and so we should in many cases), dismissing or hiding offenders away in the prison system does not get rid of the problem. Having a better understanding of good mental health, neglect, and child and domestic abuse is the key to preventing offences and ripping peoples’ lives apart.

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like governments and the public at large are realizing more and more that good mental health makes a huge impact on society.

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.

You’re Getting Sleepy

sunsetEarlier today, I posted a status update on Facebook about feeling like “a zombie in the sunshine” after experiencing a terrible night’s sleep. (Full disclosure: I was sleeping with my daughter who was tossing and turning though really I’m not a great sleeper at the best of times.)

As we all know, sleep can be a challenge for adults and children alike. According to the Better Sleep Council, toddlers, children and teens need a minimum of 10 hours of sleep to stay healthy, babies need 16 and adults require 8. Lack of sleep can cause disturbances in mood, behaviour, learning ability, friendships, processing, relationships and work.

My status update received about a dozen replies and lots of advice. Suggestions included everything from taking magnesium (which I do) to using essential oils (wild orange on the big toes – who knew?!) to listening to relaxing, sleep-inducing music.

I’m a big fan of essential oils. We’ve used them in the diffuser; mixed with coconut oil for stomach aches, headaches and cramps; and I even ingested a tiny dollop of oregano oil when I had a cold. (It worked but it was one of the worst tastes I’ve ever experienced.)

For years, I (and sometimes my children) have used a white noise machine to block out extraneous noises and mimic sounds from the womb. It works like a charm, especially for those who are light sleepers.

Still, no matter what tips and tricks make for decent slumber, I’d love to have consistently good restful sleep. It makes life so much easier.

What’s your experience with sleep? Are you and your kids naturally good sleepers? If not, what’s your best tip? Please share. I’d be ever so grateful.

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.]

You’re the Voice Inside Their Head

Admission: I’ve missed my self-imposed weekly deadline by about 9 hours. You know what? After the day I had yesterday, I’m going to give myself a break. Enjoy the post.

Image

Help me shape my brain, will you?

Being a writer and a “people person” (whether that’s virtual or IRL) I tend to be on social media a lot. Now, I’m not even close to the top of the heap for followers, friends, link-ers, plus-ers, pin-ers, etc., but I do post information, thoughts, images and review others’ posts almost daily.

If you’re on Facebook, you know it’s rife with serious or tongue-in-cheek e-cards, mini-posters and political statements. I see dozens each day. However, recently, a friend posted an inspirational ad which really struck me.

It said something like, “The way you speak to your child will be the voice inside their head.”

Why did it strike such a chord with me? I’m not sure but I’ve been thinking about the statement ever since I saw it. Perhaps it’s because I have so much going on in my own brain – always have. Conversations, admonishments, occasional encouragements, comments, questions, nagging reminders…the list (and those nagging reminders) goes on and on.

If mine is going to be the voice inside my child’s head, I want it to be the practical yet positive lead cheerleader not the bitter, angry football coach. I know firsthand how harsh inner voices (read: critics) can be and, ideally, my children’s not-so-silent inner voices will be shouting out, “Way to go!” and “Keep your head held high” instead of, “Why are you so stupid?” or “Try harder next time, moron”.

What does your inner voice have to say today?