Tag Archives: definition

Damned if We Do, Damned if We Don’t…

Parent Trap

Parent Trap

As a freelance writer, I regularly receive articles, books, gadgets and expert opinions pertaining to parenting and health.

Usually I’m happy to discover new philosophies and content but, sometimes, it can be too much.

For instance, this Huffington Post article Anxiety in Children: Are We to Blame was shared by friends on Facebook yesterday.

The article is certainly valid, focused on the increase in “helicopter parenting” and our apparent inability to lay off kids and give them the independence they require. “…Seligman also identifies learning independence as a major source of growth. Kids need the opportunity to learn for themselves, the chance to make their own decisions and to see how the consequences work out.”

It’s a tough call. After hearing about an eight-year-old girl who was almost snatched on her way to school this week, parents have every right to be concerned about children’s safety.

Is it possible to encourage independence and learning while still maintaining a safe vigil? Where is that illusive line between hovering and respect, loving and awareness?

What’s your take?

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?

Ode to a Blogathon

WordPress logo

As the WordCount Blogathon comes to a close (four more days!), I can say that, although I’ve blogged for myself and for organizations in the past, I’ve learned a lot about the art of blogging. This includes:

  • Using WordPress
  • Re-learning blogging basics (with assistance from Jane Boursaw)
  • The art of commenting
  • Creating compelling content
  • Publishing on the fly
  • Posting images
  • Sharing posts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook
  • Updating widgets and… a whole lot more. However, as you can see from the wonky bullet points in this post, I still have more to learn!

In addition, I’ve gained more knowledge about children’s mental health through new research, interviews with experts and through the useful comments that others have posted here.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have met (mostly virtually) some wonderful fellow bloggers. Many of their sites are linked on my Blogroll on the right hand side of the main page. I encourage you to check out their blogs.

What do you love about blogging? Is it sharing information with others? Connecting with fellow bloggers? Learning new tools and tricks? Self-publishing? Social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Guest Post: With a Little Help From Their Friends

I’m pleased to include a guest post by Eileen Kennedy-Moore. Eileen is an author, psychologist and speaker whom I’ve gotten to know through a professional writers’ forum. After some back and forth, Eileen and I decided to focus on  friendship and its impact on mental health. Here’s her take on the merits of friendship for children.

Children Thrive With A Little Help From Their Friends

When I was a child, my sister and I used to get together with the neighbour kids and create shows. There would be numerous and varied acts, multiple costume changes, and a shifting cast. We created tickets and offered refreshments for our parent audience members. Preparing the show involved inspiration, arguments, and the occasional tears, and the performance invariably had calamities like falling curtains and wandering toddlers, but somehow the show went on, and we all enjoyed the final bows.

For most adults, some of our fondest memories of childhood involve the times we spent playing with friends. In some sense, friendship is what childhood is all about. Friendships are not only a source of fun; they also help children grow in meaningful ways.

Here are some of the things that children can gain through friendships:

1) Identity: Friends help children begin to discover who they are outside the family. Friendships are based on common interests, so by selecting friends, children declare something about who they are: “My friends and I play baseball” or “We all like the new Harry Potter movie!” When children have a friend who likes them, it can also help them to see themselves as likeable.

2) Coping: A friend is an ally. Having a friend means it’s easier to cope with disappointments.A recent study also found that children who have at least one friend are less likely to become depressed.

3) Problem solving: Friendships give children lots of opportunities to work out disagreements. This gives kids a chance to practice skills of persuasion, negotiation, compromise, acceptance, and forgiveness.

4) Empathy: Probably the most important benefit of friendship is that it encourages children to move beyond self-interest. Caring about a friend, or even just wanting to play with that friend can help children reign in selfish impulses and encourage caring responses.

Friendships are fun and painful, exciting and frustrating, challenging, enjoyable, and unpredictable—kind of like life. Whether children are putting on a show, negotiating where base is during a game of tag, or deciding which video game to play together, they are developing the skills they will use through out their lives.

Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD is a Princeton, NJ psychologist (lic. #4254) who works with adults, children, and families. She is co-author of two books for parents: Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential (NEW! Jossey-Bass/Wiley) and The Unwritten Rules of Friendships: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends (Little, Brown).

She is also the author of a children’s book, What About Me? 12 Ways to Get Your Parents’ Attention Without Hitting Your Sister (Parenting Press). Her website is http://www.EileenKennedyMoore.com

Tweet Much? Who to Follow in Mental Health Field

Tweet, Tweet

Are you on Twitter? I am @UGoGrrl. You can follow me if you like. At first I took the same tack as so many others: “Why on earth would I want to ‘tweet’ in 140 characters with a bunch of strangers?”  Recently though, I learned (just like the 200 million others with Twitter accounts) that tweeting is a fun, useful social media tool that is easily incorporated into both business and social life.

Here’s a list of some of the people and organizations I follow on Twitter; they tweet about children, mental health, psychology or all of the above:

@MadPsych

PhD Candidate at York University; Therapist at The Clinic on Dupont; Guest tweeting for Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services

@HelpMeSara

Author – Am I a Normal Parent? & Character is the Key Individual, couple & Family therapist (registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario)

@TrishRohani

Marriage and Family Therapist, wife, mother, purveyor of hope, dispeler of shame, creative soul

@CherylJackson

Host/producer of tvoparents.com, TVO’s educational parenting website.

@CAMH Media

Official CAMH twitter acct. Media rep for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

There are many, many more fantastic experts, laypeople and organizations to follow on Twitter. And, you can check out my quick guide to MH experts online here, too. In fact, I’ve gained much knowledge and more than a few contacts since becoming active on this tool. Are you on Twitter? Who do you follow in the parenting or mental health field? If you’re got suggestions, let me know – you can comment here or send me a DM on Twitter!

Nuts, Crazy, Insane

I wanted to write a post on We Need to Talk About Kevin, a disturbing and thought-provoking book written by Lionel Shriver. The novel has been made into a film starring Tilda Swinton and it comes out this fall.

Image from NutsforLife.com

However, I am running out of time so I’ll leave that idea for another day.

Recently, I’ve become more sensitive to words associated with mental health:

-You’re crazy!

-That’s insane. You’re off your rocker.

-He’s nuts! Why would he do something like that?

These are common phrases used among adults and kids alike. But, at the risk of being too politically correct, do they damage our understanding of mental health? Obviously saying, “you’re crazy!” is meant as a negative. So, lately, I’m trying to avoid using: nuts, crazy, insane, wacko, nutty, etc. in daily life. It’s a challenge.What about you? Do you agree with my train of thought here?

Quick Guide: Children’s Mental Health Resources in Canada

Here’s a short list of some of the fantastic (online and offline) resources I’ve found during my research this year:

Walking Towards the Light

Children’s Mental Health Ontario – a general portal consisting of facts, information, and listings of children’s mental health centres and programs.

LD Experience – Kathryn Burke is a speaker, author and advocate based in Alberta. Her site offers information about learning disabilities and ADHD.

Hincks-Dellcrest is a kids’ mental health centre located in Toronto. The centre offers a variety of in and out-patient programs.

CHEO Mental Health (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario – in Ottawa) offers a useful advocacy page with reports and stats on the subject. They also offer in-patient counselling and programs within the hospital system.

The Province of British Columbia’s “Teen Depression Tool” page is useful for those living in the area (and elsewhere).

Halton Region has a very attractive and user-friendly web site with blogs, tools, resources, and specific information for both parents and youth dealing with mental health questions and concerns.

Finally, if you’re interested in the association between nutrition and mental health, check out my article, “The Right Stuff” which explores the possible connection between dietary choices and ADHD in May’s issue of Kiwi magazine. The article is not available online and it can be tricky to find Kiwi in Canada. However, the magazine is said to be available at Loblaws and Chapters/Indigo.

Stats and Facts: It’s Children’s Mental Health Week

A Clear Path

I’ve been lucky enough to build relationships with mental health professionals throughout my years as a writer, researcher and curious human being.

Because it’s Children’s Mental Health Week (May 2-8, 2011) I want to present some (perhaps startling) statistics on the subject. These facts and stats are courtesy of the experts at The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, a Toronto-based children’s mental health centre.

  • One in five Canadian children suffers from a mental health problem, affecting families, schools, and sometimes entire communities.
  • For school-aged children, most mental health problems take the form of “acting out” – defiant behaviour, arguing, not following the rules, or not listening.  These behavioural problems can also lead to social difficulties if the behaviour affects kids’ ability to get along with other children.
  • While some teens experience behavioural difficulties similar to those experienced by younger children, others begin to display mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.  In some instances, the teenage years may be a time when acting out becomes more serious, leading to dangerous or criminal activity.

Like so many other health issues, early intervention appears to be a key factor in the realm of children’s mental health, too. And, for children of any age suffering from mental health problems, getting help early gives the best chance for a positive outcome.  “Most mental illness first appears in childhood or adolescence,” says Dr. Marshall Korenblum, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre.  “If mental health problems are left untreated, they tend to grow worse as children get older.” Parents who feel their child might benefit from help can consult their family doctor or pediatrician, or directly approach a community mental health facility.

What are your thoughts on these mental health stats? Are you surprised or intrigued? How can we foster a better mental health system for children and families in Canada and world-wide? I queried a few other experts in the mental health field last week and, tomorrow, I will post their opinions on what’s top of mind in the field.

I’m Coming Home… Welcome

No, this isn’t a blog about that fabulous song by Diddy though I do love  the tune. However, it is a “coming home” of sorts. The focus of this blog is – yup, you got it – children and mental health. Mental health is a subject that’s intrigued me for so long and, with the onset of blogging, I’m provided the opportunity to explore the subject in more detail and share ideas.

So, welcome one and all. Grab a coffee and pull up a chair. There’s more about me and my professional writing background on the About page. But, what will this blog focus on specifically? The plan is to home in on a wide range of mental health issues pertinent to professionals, children and families, including:

  • depression
  • ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • autism
  • anxiety
  • self-esteem
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder

Beyond common mental health issues and what’s new in this field, I plan address subjects in an off-beat way; perhaps look at the connections between mental health and music or children and poetry and philosophy. -So, it’s not just the science behind the diagnosis but exploring the many facets that make up who we are and why we are the way we are.

Once again, welcome. I hope the coffee was tasty and the text satisfying.What are your thoughts and ideas on the subject of kids and mental health? I’ve got reams of ideas but am open to hearing about yours, too.

All's fair in love and sand