Tag Archives: thinking

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.

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?

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?

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?

Novel Idea: How Books Spur Imagination

Got books?

This post doesn’t have a lot to do with kids or mental health except that I’m thrilled to be sharing my love of books, writing and reading with my children. I hope that they grow to cherish books and magazines and the art of the written word as much as I do.

So much can be gained from reading and thinking about books. Bored? Read the latest best seller or a long lost classic. Lonely? Off to the book store to fondle the gorgeous paper backs, hard covers and glossy magazines. Feeling blue? Write a short story about it.

I’m in two book clubs. Both of the clubs tend to focus on literary fiction. Today I participated in one book club’s meeting. The novel of choice was Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant. I didn’t have an opportunity to finish the book but I can say it defies quirkiness and creativity. If you like word play and, um, tortoises, give it a read.

It’s my turn to chose the next selection for book club # 2. I’ve chosen The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Originally, I thought the book version stemmed from a long-standing blog but, I don’t see anything confirming this idea on Rubin’s web site. If you go to Rubin’s site, check out the Foreign Cover Gallery under About the Book – very cool.  I can’t wait to get my hands on The Happiness Project and, ideally, get happier as a result. Bring it.

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!

Word up!

Yes, folks, it’s a rainy, slow Saturday. I love my blog, I do. And, I love to write. But, I will resort to incorporating some of the WordCount Blogathon‘s theme day suggestions in order to keep posting each and every day in May.

Here’s one: a super cool design site that creates a “Wordle” or word picture based on common words or blog posts. This is my Kids and Mental Health Wordle. Lovely, ain’t it?

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

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?

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.