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?

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.

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.

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!