Tag Archives: friendship

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.

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.

New School Year, New Outlook

Bound for new horizons

Bound for new horizons

Like many children in Canada, today is the first day of school for my children.

Despite the hot, dry conditions much of Ontario endured this summer, it boomed with thunder, cracked with lightening and flooded with rain this morning.

Perfect way to start the school year, no? No.

Exhausted from lack of sleep (my older child must have gotten up about 18 times last night) and wet with rain, we scooted over to the local school and gathered in the gym. My son, whom I thought would be most nervous,  seemed happy with both his teacher and classmates. My daughter however was nervous, quiet and not pleased that one of her best buddies is in a different class this year.

As a parent I aim to present a positive, cheerful outlook without glossing over real anxieties. Honestly, I remember being pretty nervous about going back to school and seeing friends and teachers each year so why pretend it’s not a little nerve-wracking?

How will the first day of school pan out for my kids? Will there be cheers? Tears? Tales of gossip, friends who’ve moved, new teachers hired? I will discover all of this in about three short hours from now. Clock’s ticking…

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?

Reaching Out: Q + A with Kids Help Phone Volunteer

Suzanne Shillington - Volunteer with Kids Help Phone

I’ve long been a fan of the work done by Kids Help Phone (KHP) as have the  225,622 Canadian youth who contacted the organization in 2010.

Kids Help Phone’s is Canada’s only bilingual, 24-hour, toll-free, confidential and anonymous phone and online counselling, referral and information for children and youth.
Here’s a Q & A with Suzanne Shillington, an Ottawa-based parent who has also been a dedicated volunteer with KHP for the last 2.5 years.

Q: Why volunteer with this organization?

A: I had been wanting to volunteer but felt it had to be something that had meaning for me. I found my calling when the 15 year old nephew of friends’ of mine, committed suicide. In their despair, his parents came forward to talk about their son’s mental health and asked that if people were considering making donations in his name, that they consider donating to Kids Help Phone.  I went online to research and when I saw what they were about, I contacted them right away to offer my help.

Q: What do you do as a volunteer?

A: I do many things to help, including:

  • I am on the Walk For Kids Help Phone Walk Committee here in Ottawa.
  •  Find Corporate Sponsors for the walk. We were thrilled to secure the Ottawa Senators Foundation as a sponsor. I also look for support from local businesses who may be able to help by providing raffle prizes for the Walk.
  • Raise awareness, speak to my many contacts, help to think of creative ways to fund raise, and attend workshops where kids participate to spread the word about Kids Help Phone.

Q: What’s made the biggest impact on you and why do kids call or reach out most to KHP?

A: I think what really hits me is, that, according to KHP’s research, “100% of young people will experience sadness, frustration, grief, stress…”. The top 3 reasons that kids contact KHP are: Mental Health (about 30% of calls and online posts relate to mental health, including eating disorders, self-harm and self-esteem); Peer concerns are the second most common reason followed by family concerns.

Q: Is there any particular story that stands out?

A: One story that really sticks with me: We had a speaker at this year’s Walk who said that KHP saved his life. He said that if KHP had not been there for him when he was younger he would have committed suicide. A counsellor talked him out of committing suicide and provided him with the help he needed. The young man was very inspirational and motivating.

Currently, Kids Help Phone uses these tools and initiatives to reach and respond to children:

1. Phone counselling (including three-way call)

2. Ask Us Online (a tool for kids and parents, and the place to access tip sheets)

3. Info Booth (age-appropriate information on more than 50 topics)

4. Virtual support community created by kids viewing kids’ posts and counsellor response

5. Interactive tools

6. Community referral database of more than 37,000 local agencies in 2,750+ communities across Canada

7. IM/Chat professional counselling pilot (coming in Fall 2011)

Thank you, Suzie, for your time and generosity.

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

Speaking of Mental Health… Lemme Tell You About My Morning!

Don't forget to rinse!

The idea for this post stems from my comment on Mamalog a really attractive and witty blog that I discovered via Twitter. (See yesterday’s post for more info on the wonders of that social media site).

Mornings are rough around here as I’m sure they are for many people with kids (or lives, or jobs or pets…)  I’m over the morning rush now (and it only took me several hours and a few chocolate chip cookies…)

Here’s an overview of my day from 6:45 am (when my sweet daughter woke me up) until about 8:45 am:

  • Stumble downstairs while trying not to slip on the LEGO strewn about the stairs
  • Attempt to keep our cat, Dragon, quiet as he welcomes us with loud mewing and meowing and over-zealous calls for breakfast
  • Greet our messy, dish-filled kitchen and start emptying the dishwasher
  • Feed cat and ignore the ants that are crawling near baseboards
  • Ask my daughter what she’s like for breakfast. Answer? Cheerios and Rice Krispies mixed together with white AND chocolate milk.
  • Greet son as he comes downstairs warm, sleepy and spikey-haired
  • Make school lunches and wonder, for the 9,643th time, where all the matching Tupperware containers are hiding
  • Bring clothes and tooth brushes downstairs and ask the kids to get dressed
  • Daughter starts getting dressed and son begins playing basketball – in the house
  • Finish making school lunches and packing backpacks and ask son to get dressed again
  • Husband comes downstairs (tired and sore from tooth pain) and tries to help rally the troops
  • Continue to clean up kitchen, prevent children from injuring each other with foam swords and ask son to get dressed again
  • Breathe deeply
  • Make note of the time, ask son to get dressed as it’s getting late
  • Son is finally dressed, chase kids around attempting to brush their hair and get them to brush teeth
  • Put on rain gear, back packs and shoes and offer hugs and kisses to all.
  • Close door. Lock door. Sit down at computer. Sigh.

Does that sound at all like your morning? Is it better or worse? Do rough morning affect the rest of your day?

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!

Guest Post: How Good Deeds Help Kids’ Mental Health

We're only human

Today, I’m featuring my first guest post. Lisa Bendall is a friend and colleague whom I’ve known for many years. We often swap notes on writing, editing, and the magazine industry. Enjoy her post on how good deeding leads to good mental health for kids and adults alike.

–I’ve been writing about kids for years. And I also spout off regularly, to almost anyone who’ll listen, on the subject of good deeds and random kindnesses. So when Lisa Tabachnick Hotta asked me to drop by her blog, it was a no-brainer to merge the two topics together.

Five years ago, I set myself the challenge of doing one good deed a day for 50 days straight. Like any working Canadian parent, my life at the time was non-stop hectic. But part of me suspected it didn’t actually take so much time, energy and money to make a difference in the world. I wanted to give it a try and see what followed.

So for 50 days, a lot of the talk around the supper table each evening centered on what good deed I’d done that day, and what kind of results I’d observed. (Did I get strange looks when I collected up garbage at the park? What did the administrator at the local nursing home say when I carried in fresh flowers from my garden?)

But the reaction that left the deepest impression on me was that of my daughter. Seven years old at the time, she seemed enthralled by my various daily good-deed adventures. She offered up endearing suggestions for new good deed possibilities. And then she started going out of her way to do good deeds of her own.

Emily had always been a rather considerate kid, at least I thought so. But even more so now, after 50 days of good deed discussions around the dinner table, she began to accept random kindness as a normal part of the family culture: It’s what we do.

I love this, because of course we all want our kids to be good citizens. Kindness, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, these are character traits we feel right about instilling in our children. But what I didn’t consider then was the impact this could have on my child’s mental health. And now, thanks to five years of exploring the topic of good deeds, I know it’s one of the healthiest practices any of us can have.

Research consistently demonstrates that doing good deeds is good for us. Counting up the deeds we do actually raises our level of happiness. Helping others increases our sense of connection with our community. Doing volunteer work reduces stress and symptoms of depression. Volunteering even makes old people live longer, for Pete’s sake!

I don’t know about you, but when I’m mapping out my kid’s future, that all sounds like pretty spectacular stuff to me.

So the word is: Teach your children the value of good-deed-doing, and you’ll be increasing their odds of lifelong mental health. It’s not hard: Have conversations about kindness. Be a role model by performing simple acts of helpfulness, even if it’s just holding the door for a stranger. Let them choose the foster child you support in Africa.

You’ll raise caring, compassionate kids, but you’ll also be doing so very much more for them.

–Bio: Lisa Bendall is a freelance writer and author of two books, including Raising a Kid with Special Needs: The Complete Canadian Guide. Her award-winning blog on acts of kindness and other ways to make a difference can be found at www.50gooddeeds.com.