Parenting

Insights and inspirations about parenting.

The “Do-Over” Strategy

I was once in a movie. Not saying which one since it didn’t star a Hollywood A-list cast and was pretty cheesy. My 5 seconds of fame, you could say.

Anyway, back to the movie. I learned how many times the same scene is filmed over, and over…and over.

From this angle. From that.

With a different perspective.

With different clothing and props.

Different emotion or words.

I now get how tedious acting in films can be. The director will keep going until he/she gets just the right takes. Only the best, Oscar-worthy acting will do. They edit them later so the viewer can see the same scene from many points of view.

If we can do that in film-making, why can’t we do it in life? Don’t we want our worst moments edited out, to end up on the cutting room floor? Maybe they’ll make the “bloopers” extra scenes to laugh about later. But for now, when we act out really terribly with our spouses or kids, can’t we give each other a “do over”?

Time out.

Take Two.

The same analogy could be said for a “rewind” button. We use it all the time on our remote control.

Here’s an idea: the next time you say or do something you regret, immediately pull out your cellphone, pretend it’s a remote control, and push an imaginary “rewind” button. Tell the other person, you are truly sorry, and want to rewind that scene. Ask permission to have a “re-do” or “do over.” They’ll probably be so stunned or amused, they won’t say no.

Then set up the scene for them with a NEW ending. Say or do the thing you should have the first time.

It’s one of the most amazing, refreshing relationship skills I know of.

Here’s some reminders of how to do this. Talk this strategy over today with those you love (and have hurt) and commit to using it from now on.

Credit given to ourmamavillage for these memes

Does Good Parenting=Good Teens?

That’s a really good question. In other words, does great parenting turn out great kids? Does doing our best guarantee the best results? Or is it all a crap shoot?

Here’s the bad news: Good parent does not always=good teens.

But here’s the good news. The following 3 points are ALL true and can guide us through the difficult times.

1. “Turn out great” is relative. A sassy, mean 10 year old you think is the devil incarnate may mellow out and be and easy adult. A rebellious teen may get their act together later in life (just needed a detour first) and become a fabulous parent themselves. If your child goes through a rough patch, hold on, love them, be firm but flexible, and chances are they will figure things out eventually. People generally do. Some just take longer than others.

It’s a trial to go through for sure, as a parent, but hang on until you get to the other side. Don’t ruin the relationship now just because the teen is acting like a terrorist. They may just be testing us to see, “Do you really love me despite my self loathing and discouragement?” They need us more than ever when they are acting out.

Wear it proudly. Say it often.

2. Raising children responsibly DOES increase the odds that the child will respond well. They will be less prone to rebellion, helplessness, addiction, or truancy. Stack the odds in your favor by being a good parent the best you can. We can make mistakes, but that’s a good thing. Owning our mistakes, apologizing to our kids, and making improvements shows them how to get through their own mistakes.

3. Remember that it’s often our own attitude that makes the difference. Do you love your teen, acne and all? Can you love them beyond anything else, and be especially kind during these years when the world is so unkind? Do you cherish them (eyes light up when they enter the room) and tell them they are welcome home every day and you love them? Or are you constantly annoyed and angry at them? They are SO perceptive and know if you care or not. If they don’t feel you care, they won’t care about being good. 

Overly strict parents=Sneaky Teens

In a parenting class I teach, a student reflected on questions I posed. Note how her parents’ response built on the trust they already had and kept communication open. She explains about the positive effect on her level of confidence and personal responsibility.

What is an example of how your parents responded to conflict during your teen years?

My parents were very authoritative* The best example of this was a night I was late for my curfew. I was out bowling with some friends in high school and knew that I was not going to make it home in time for my 11:30 curfew. Knowing this, I called my parents at about 11:15 and explained the situation. They simply asked who I was with and if I had a ride and let me come home after we finished our last round of bowling. I stayed with my friends and made it back home by 12. My parents explained to me the next day that because I was a responsible kid, making good choices, and called them to give them a heads up, they were more than happy to forgo their strict curfew for one night. 

How did that affect your relationship at the time?

This situation was very beneficial to our relationship at the time. It showed the mutual trust in all of our relationships.

How does it continue to affect your current relationship?

This was the first time that the relationship I have with my parents was ever tested. Due to the mature relationship we built from the beginning, it has been very easy for me to continue to talk to, trust, and want my parents in my life. This one incident was the beginning of many more opportunities for us to communicate and trust each other. We continue to do so today.

How has it affected who you are, your competencies, self-esteem, and socio-emotional maturity?

Having my parents trust me like this helped me to be more mature in all of my decisions in the future. It was a great boost of self esteem that my parents trusted me and my friends to be responsible. I was able to continue that maturity level all throughout high school. While other kids were sneaking out and hiding things from their parents, I knew that I would be much better off being open and honest from the beginning. I hope to continue this style of parenting when I am a parent one day. 

*An “authoritative” parent is one that is loving, responsive, sets boundaries, has reasonable expectations, and supports their child’s not-so-perfect efforts.

Don’t eat your young, eat WITH your young

So let’s not pass along the “just wait until your child is a teen” (with eye rolling) warning to each other. What a terrible way to set us up for fearing these years. They aren’t to be endured, but to be enjoyed. Having just finished raising my 5th and final teen, I call honestly say they were amazing years. Adolescents are funny, kind, smart, and in desperate need of their parent’s attention and listening ear.

Our attitude matters. Rather than “eat our young” we need to sit down at eat with our young. Talk. Listen. Laugh. And have a long-term perspective that they will outgrow these years and you will outlive them. And you can look back on those fleeting moments with wonder and say, “Yes, that was all good.”

Real Parents-Real Advice

In a university parenting class I teach, students interview their parents and ask them a variety of questions about what it was like to raise their children.

If we could have brought in these parents to class and lined them up in front, they would represent decades of experience and a rich “lessons learned” dialogue. I wish we could, but in place of that, I took some of what advice they shared and will anonymously excerpt what they said below. There’s so much outstanding advice they shared that we can all absorb, and if we do, we’d be better people and parents. They summed up all they learned in a few sentences and they are GOLD. Take note of how many times the word “love” was used and and the context spoken. Look for other repeated themes that indicate it’s important to a lot of parents looking back on their lives. 

“Everybody’s different and every parent will do it a little differently. But if you decide to have kids, recognize the responsibility that it is. A good parent only punishes out of love. Make sure you do all you do with your kids from a place of love.”

“We all just keep learning. We learn first to be parents to little kids, then teenagers, then adults… you’re never a pro at it when you start a new stage.” My mom added, “and we’ve made mistakes at every stage.” My dad’s advice was “don’t sweat the small stuff.”

“Everyone has bad days and good days. Sometimes you’ll feel really patient and others you won’t have any patience left. Don’t be too hard on yourself.” My mom said, “If you say it, do it. If you have an expectation, expect it.”

“It’s a hundred million times worth every single effort that I put into being a mom, and it is so joyful. I would not trade it for anything.” There have always been ups and downs, but there are things he has learned as a parent that would not have been possible any other way. My mom said, “ Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you’re perfect now. Give yourself grace and make sure you yourself are taken care of.”

“Have fun and enjoy your children.” It’s important to enjoy the time you have with them because one day they will grow up and you’ll wonder where the time went.

“Love. Show love to your kids and they will be ok. Love verbally by saying it, physically with hugs and kisses, and love in action. Show them by loving their mom. I believe in and love you very much. You will be a great parent. “

“Show them all the love you can muster and more. The world is a scary place, but knowing you love them and that there is always a place for them at home is the best thing you can do for them.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t be too hard on your kids. You aren’t going to do it right, the most important thing is that you do it.”

“You are never going to be ready or prepared. If you wait to be ready to be a parent you’ll wait forever. It stretches you more than anything you ever experience, but also will bring you more joy than anything you’ll ever experience.”

“I would encourage you to enjoy every single second of every age and never wish a stage away. I enjoyed every stage of every one of my children and I would encourage you to do that same thing.”

“Start a journal during the pregnancy of each  child, and to continue that journal throughout their life.  Write everything down because you think that you will remember it, but you won’t.” 

“Never yell at them and show them unconditional love. He said yelling does not get you anywhere, and is a lot more hurtful than helpful for both the parent and child. He also said to let your kids know that mistakes happen and mistakes are okay. My mom said her best advice would be to show them love at all times.”

Make sure that you and your spouse are in agreement on how certain things should be, you don’t want to have somebody that’s “Well we’ll just let it go this time. Well, no, we need to do this.” Be consistent, work together with your spouse.

She also talked about how as a parent, mistakes are going to be made and it’s important to forgive yourself and learn from the experiences and be conscious of what is happening. It is okay to tell a child that you made a mistake and are wrong and from that, kids will be able to recognize and learn to apologize and that it is okay to be wrong. With admitting wrong, children will learn they can be vulnerable and how not to be stubborn and proud.

“DO IT!” My mom said, “You aren’t going to know the best days until you are out of them, so enjoy every moment and just know that everything is going to be O.K.”  My dad said, “Always remember that they are each their own individual person.  It is so easy to make them feel small and insignificant, so don’t be too blunt or hard on them.  Your job is to support, provide guidance, and protect them.  Always make sure they know they are loved.  Just breathe and relax and know it will work out.  What is significant now won’t be significant later.”

“Each child is an individual with individual wants, needs, abilities and goals.. Although families are a group dynamic, each child needs and deserves specific care and nurturing. As the child grows into a teen and then a young adult and then an adult, the parent’s role changes to allow the child to make more and then all of life’s determinations.  A parent becomes more of an advisory than an instructor. 

“Don’t beat yourself up if children don’t always choose what you would want them to choose. Enjoy each stage, because it will pass quicker than you think. Diversify yourself outside of being a parent. Don’t lose yourself in becoming a parent. Keep your own identity.”

Mom’s advice is to not worry about control and work on fixing the power struggle between herself and her kids. Validate the child’s opinions. Their feelings are valid even if they are different from what I may think they should be. She would also focus on less fear-based parenting, but rather parent her children with hope. Let them experience life, and let them feel how they are feeling.

Take it one minute at a time
– Make sure you are super united with your husband, teenagers will destroy your marriage if you let them. Be united!
– Pray with kids, don’t lose your temper
– Hug them several times a day, tell them you love them every day
– Do activities with your kids, no phones, just quality time with siblings.
– Don’t entertain them to death, then they can’t interact with each other. Go boating, hiking, camping
– Religion is so important! Believe in something bigger than yourself, have hope!!
– Don’t over indulge kids, don’t buy their love, don’t just be their buddy, be their parent
– Eat dinner together with your family (or at least a meal)
– Your spouse is #1, their needs come before the kids. Prioritize your relationship with
them cause they will be there for you after the kids are gone.

“I would tell people the thing I learned is don’t be afraid to ask for help from other adults or professionals, read books about it. I also think that families are really important and that extended families are really important and to be involved with them.”

In Every Moment a Seed

The Night Before My Daughter’s 13th Birthday
by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
If I could do it all again,
I would—every blooming bit of it.
Every bout of pink eye,
every snotty nose, every
late night waking, every
single reading of Good Night Moon,
every fairy house, every
drive to every ballet class,
every singalong to the entire
soundtrack of Hamilton,
every wobble and stumble
and blunder and lapse
to arrive at this very moment
when we lie on her bed
in the dark and talk about
this miracle, this astonishing
life, and watch dumb videos
and curl into each other.
In every moment, a seed.
It surprises me now,
how beautiful the field.

If this school year isn’t what you hoped it would be

It’s hard to parent in a pandemic. There are so many casualties, not the least of which are uncertainties, disappointments, and crushed expectations. Today I’m sharing a post about high school graduation by @Brooke Romney Writes from Thursday, April 29, 2021. I have a child who recently graduated from a pandemic-pocked high school. It would be good for me to remember Brooke’s wisdom to “embrace reality & individual timing” and be patient with the process of becoming.

Here is the link https://brookeromney.com/2021/04/if-this-school-year-isnt-what-you-hoped-it-would-be/

It’s that time of year.

Your feed is full of kids winning elections, going to prom, making teams, collecting awards, opening mission calls & heading off to dream schools surrounded by the

“Best group of kids EVER.”

It’s an exciting time…for some. But not for all.

So, I’m just popping in for a little reality check.

It’s okay if your kid didn’t win, didn’t get asked, is sitting the bench, or is never recognized.

It’s okay if their now doesn’t include a mission or a dream school or if their future feels hazy.

It’s okay if there are just medium friends or if they are ready to bust out of high school and never look back.

It’s also okay to feel a little sad about it.

But most parents don’t post about that, so you might also feel a little lonely about it.

It’s been such a weird year, in every way.

So be happy for the kids that DID get that great experience, who had the loyal friends, all the memories and a future that looks picture perfect.

Then, find peace knowing that millions of people have found success, happiness and fulfillment without ever going to junior prom or a top tier university.

Twenty years from now, no one will remember who the quarterback was on their mediocre high school football team or care about who graduated with a 4.0. I promise.

Life doesn’t end after high school. It begins. Remember that.

So cheer your own kid on, passionately, in just the way he or she needs it.

Don’t spend the next few months drooling over the filtered photos of your friend’s family or wishing your kid’s experience was more like someone else’s.

Embrace reality & individual timing.

Recognize that your child’s life is exactly as it should be in order to become the person they were always meant to be.

Celebrate the good things, the lessons learned, the growth achieved, the relationships that mattered.

Talk about the endless opportunities the future holds & how cool it is when everyone grows up.

Help them look forward with focus, faith, openness and adventure.

And reassure them, with certainty, that the best is yet to come.

The cost of parental addictions on children

It’s tragic when a parent suffers from the chokehold of an addiction. It’s usually the case that an addiction is an unhealthy coping mechanism, or tool, a person uses to deal with painful emotions or thoughts. Parents were once children who might have experienced trauma of one sort or the other. If they don’t learn to overcome these challenges, or deal with them in a healthy way, the drugs, alcohol, or some other addiction can become their escape valve. Substances dull the senses. How tragic not only for parents, but for the children who lose their own sense of safety and connection to the adult who should be their protector.

Children in these homes often have inverted relationships; they become “parentified” too early and lose their innocence and childhood. The parent is the “child” and needing to be protected and taken care of.

In a class I teach, adult students reflect on any addiction they witnessed as a child. Thankfully, many do not have anything to report; their parents were mature, caring, and responsive. Those that report addictions have sorrowful stories. Every semester I hear them. There are the ones you expect of alcohol and drugs, but it’s amazing what other addictions these grown up children are still affected by and feel the burden of the painful past. Social science has shown that intergenerational transmission of addiction and abuse is the tragic legacy addicts are at a greater risk to leave to their children. It’s inspiring to read my students’ reports and how they have chosen to be the transitional character and break the chain of family addictions.

The following is a sample in their own words.* Are there any smaller patterns of addictions you might be indulging that you need to discard to have a fuller, healthier relationship? What are your children watching, learning, and carrying with them to adulthood? Consider these as cautionary tales of what your own children might report one day.

“I grew up with a father who was there… but not really there. He spent a lot of time playing computer games and didn’t really know how to connect to his daughters. He spent a lot of time on his computer with my brothers and had a pretty good relationship with them. My dad’s “addiction” to his computer games caused a lot of problems in my parents’ marriage and divorce has been discussed at least 3 times in my lifetime between my parents. To me, this is addiction. My dad gives so much of his time and energy to his video games that now that I am in therapy as an adult; I have come to realize that a lot of my tendencies from my teenage years to adulthood come from me being needy of male attention because I never got it as a child from my dad. I became pregnant as a teenager due to the unmet need of wanting a male to show attention to me and to love me.”

“My parents both have the same addictions. I hold the same addiction as them. They are both addicted to eating food and drinking soda.”

“I’d argue that the worst addiction my family has is tension. My dad, sister, and I all show an unhealthy addiction to creating and living with tension. That is to say, none of us grew up in environments where emotional relaxation was a luxury. When things seem to have been good for too long, we all poke at our life to find any negativity there. If we don’t find it, we create it. My sister and I have especially learned about this addiction in the past year with our own significant others and have sought out to find out why and how to fix it.”

“My parents both adamantly say they are not addicted to anything. But I have always noticed they are addicted to working. My dad has worked two full time jobs his whole life. He could retire and live comfortably but he always says he loses his mind on his days off and must be doing something. My mother is the same, goes to work, comes home, and works on the house until she goes to bed. They both never stop.”

“Within my immediate family my mom was addicted to caffeine. Her breaking point happened one day when she realized that she was happier to wake up in the morning, looking forward to having her bottles of Dr. Pepper instead of seeing her own four kids. She knew she had to stop. Once she gave up this drinking, she became more present with us. She was not as grumpy or moody when things didn’t go right. Her headaches stopped. She saw within herself that she was happier instead of depending on that addiction to bring her happiness. I learned second hand what having an addiction can do to a person as well as a family through my family being a foster home for children. It was heart breaking to see the state of these children who were ripped away from their parents because they were not being properly cared for. My parents taught me that if I do not want to be addicted to something it is better never to start. But if you were to get addicted, there is always a way to stop if you desire it enough.”

“I know that my parents can’t save money to save their lives. When I was in high school, my father got fired from a job where he made a six figure salary. My parents spent their money extravagantly, always having nice cars, a nice house, and the newest technology, not to mention making impulse purchases everywhere. Within two months of my father being fired, my family had to declare bankruptcy.”

“I inherited a negative body image from my parents. They are both fit and look nice, work out compulsively, but make critical comments about their bodies. I have had an eating disorder because of my inability to view my body as beautiful for what it is. I’ve recovered, but it can still be hard to feed my brain and body positivity when I am surrounded by comments that can be triggering. I am most definitely a perfectionist and I workout consistently.”

“My mom told us stories about her awful childhood to justify why she was always drinking. Since I can remember, my mom always had a beer in her hand, or alcohol in her cup. I knew it was alcohol when she would tell us not to drink out of her cup because it was only for adults. Drinking seemed to calm her down, her temper was not as bad when she drank. When she was drunk, she was funny and would make us laugh, we had a good time with her. After I grew up, I also found out my dad smoked weed and religiously around me and my sister.”

“My parents’ marriage ended because of lies and secrets due to a prescription drug addiction that my dad picked up when I was around 12 or 13. My mom found out about it and did everything in her power to help him for close to five years but the stress of raising a family and running a house by herself finally caused her to file for divorce.”

“My father had an alcohol addiction. Shortly after his second divorce he started to drink. It started with just a wine here and there, but it shortly led to an addiction. As a teen I would go to his business and his lips would be stained purple from his wine he drank the night before. On some weekends, he would have my friends and me drive him to Reno and drop him off to a bar. He would give us money to go to a movie or dinner so I loved taking him, but after we were done, we would sit around and wait for him for hours. Finally, we would go looking for him across town. He would end up at a different bar and he would always be so far gone. I had to drive him home and take care of him, even when I was an unlicensed, underaged driver. My dad spent all his extra money on his addiction.”

“Because of my dad’s job, we were very well off. No debt, no money issues, no problems. But because of that, we traveled whenever we wanted, we shopped whenever, ate out all the time because nobody had the energy to cook or make any food. A habit formed called retail therapy. Happy? Treat yourself to a new outfit. Sad? Treat yourself to a spa day, shopping, and whatever else you need to make yourself feel better. Mad? Angry? Annoyed? Hurt? Excited? Treat yourself. No limit. Because of that mindset, never having to cook a meal, and not having to worry about money- I have caused some financial issues in my marriage. I am learning that not every occasion needs a new outfit, not every emotion needs something to comfort and validate my actions, and grocery shopping is cheaper than eating out every day.”

“Just as any stressful situation leads most people to vices, my dad loved to gamble, drink, and I recently found out he also liked to look for relationships outside his marriage. Our family vacations were restricted to Las Vegas.”

“Addiction has plagued both sides of my family for generations. Our family’s drug of choice is alcohol. Alcoholism is extremely prevalent on my mother’s side – it has affected her, her father, his father, and for a period of time me. Through personal experiences, I have watched addictions of all shapes and sizes destroy families, including my own. They grow like weeds uprooting the foundations of marriage such as trust, loyalty, dedication and replace them with betrayal, dishonesty, and apathy.”

“The older I got the worse her addiction got. She would drink usually from 12:00 in the afternoon to midnight. I rarely saw her without a drink in her hand. When I was five years old, she had an accident and hurt her back. She did need surgery and after that is when the prescription pain and benzo medication addiction started.”

“Addiction is very prevalent throughout my lineage. In my immediate family alone, we’ve dealt with substance abuse, pornography, and sex addictions. My family has a genetic predisposition to anxiety and depression, which is directly correlated with addiction. With extensive rehabilitation and therapy, my family has worked to overcome dependency on alcohol, pornography, and sex. Having been exposed to addiction from a very young age, I’ve come to recognize it as more of a disease. So often people view addiction as a result of choice. To that I ask, who would choose to have a disease? In most cases, addiction stems from trauma. To cope with the tragedies of life, people rely on different vices to escape their reality. Having experienced it in my own home, I recognize addiction as a result of circumstance. Just as you would never blame anyone for having cancer, I don’t blame those in my family for their addictions. Rather, I’ve learned to support my loved ones to encourage healing.”

*Some specifics have been changed to protect the identity of the students.

How to talk to your child about mental health

I’ve got one of those good news-bad news scenarios to share.

The good news: there is hope that the pandemic will end soon with a vaccine now available.

The bad news: the pandemic has produced a second wave casualty–the silent and invisible plague of mental health issues.

There isn’t a quick and easy vaccine for this kind of illness. People around the world have suffered jobs loss, loss of friendship and celebrations, lost opportunities, uncertainty about the most basics of everyday living, anxiety about the future, and feelings of frustration vented onto family members crowded together in chaotic living arrangements.

The cumulative effect of stress suppressed in the body can turn into feelings of chronic depression or anxiety.

Wearing masks have shielded us from the virus. But what about the other masks we wear? The ones that lie and tell everyone that we are “doing fine” and “hanging in there” but hide the real emotion. We mask what is going on behind closed doors. According to the CDC, the social effects of the coronavirus has been associated with increased mental health challenges and anxiety and depression reports have risen during the past year. Forbes magazine also reports increased stress due to Covid-19 and a reluctance for adults to talk about how that stress affects their mental state.

So this leads me to the important question. What does a parent do when he or she is battling mental illness brought on by this pandemic, or from any other reason? How do you talk to your child if you are experiencing depression? Kids have it tough enough without having to worry about their parent.

Now’s the time to open up, take off the mask of shame, fear, guilt, doubt, and denial. Let’s replace it with safety, connection, vulnerability (which is an act of courage), honesty, and hope. Now’s the time to talk openly about mental illness.

One of the best ways to talk about difficult subjects with kids is through children’s literature…”bibliotherapy” so to speak. You learn about how other people are suffering and experiencing a wide range of emotions through fictional or nonfictional stories. It’s an indirect way to broach the topic which for many, makes it easier. Reading these books aloud with your kids will make it “safe” to talk about since it’s in a storybook format with captivating pictures.

Then, as you read each page, you can open up and talk about how you feel similar to the character in the book. Ask your child if they notice when you are in a depressed state and how it affects them. It also sparks questions such as, “Is depression contagious,” “What are my triggers?” and that it is a normal thing we are going through. The books also give ways the main character gets help from others and learns to cope, which you can discuss with your child. What a relief that will feel! No one is powerless; there is always help. Talk to them about how you are getting help (or plan to) and learning how to manage. These books can be read again and again to help your kids process their situation. Each time, you can ask different questions that are sparked from the story.

The following list are for the topic of depression. There is an equally wonderful selection of books on other topics related to mental health.

Can I Catch It Like a Cold? Coping With a Parent’s Depression
Written by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, illustrated by Joe Weissmann

Synopsis: Alex’s dad doesn’t work anymore and just wants to sleep all the time. When Alex finds out why — that he’s suffering from depression — he confides in his friend Anna. She tells him that her mom has depression too, and she sees a therapist to help her feel better. “I like that it promotes the benefits of therapy for the entire family,” says an expert at the Child Mind Institute. Ages 7-12. Published by Tundra Books.

Although this next story is about PTSD, a parent suffering from depression may identify that their depression is triggered by past experiences, smells, sights, etc. like the girl in this story. They could read it and talk about how he/she feels similarly anxious and depressed by life’s challenges.

The War That Saved My Life
By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Synopsis: During World War II, 10-year-old Ava escapes her traumatic life with her mom and goes to the countryside, where she learns to ride a pony and read. But in the country she is still struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder; for instance, going into a bomb shelter reminds her of being locked in a kitchen cabinet in her mom’s apartment. Because of some mature language and themes, it’s better read with your child. Ages 9-12. Published by Puffin Books.

Here are four more books that are sensitively illustrated and written. Choose what targets your child’s age and appropriate developmental understanding.

Meh by Deborah Malcolm (depression) (for children ages 6-10)
(https://www.amazon.com/Meh-Story-Depression-Deborah-Malcolm/dp/163411003X)

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen (for ages 6-pre-teens)
(https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Rosens-Boston-Globe-Horn-Honors/dp/0763625973)

The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones (depression) (for ages 5-7)
(https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Fog-Story-Children-Depression/dp/1849056552

Why Are You So Sad: A Child’s Book about Parental Depression (Kindergarten to Grade 3)
by Andrews, Beth, and Wong, Nicole

Now, another good resource to open up discussion with your children is short videos. This one has great animation, information, and very helpful for children. I’d suggest watching it first, then viewing it with your kids and talking about the message. It’s terrific!

Finally, this video talks about signs of depression that would be great for older kids and teens. Not only to talk about how they see your signs, but also to become aware of their own mental health as well as their friends.

Let’s mask up for the virus but unmask when talking about mental health. It’s one less thing that doesn’t have to become a casualty of our current health crisis.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Answering a parent’s question

Dear Julie,

My child has all the signs of ADHD and is driving us crazy. He is like a tornado, can’t finish any project, has trouble with his peers, and is failing in school. What are your ideas for us, his parent?

Dear Parents,

ADHD has been around for a long time. Many decades ago, it was look at disapprovingly, like some mental defect. The children adapted by being the class clowns or dropping out. They felt dumb and were treated as having a disability. In the early 60′ drugs became available on the market, mainly Ritalin, but the side effects could be severe.

“My child has turned into a zombie,” was the most frequent complaint.

Parents often opted out of medical interventions with no other recourse. Nowadays, there are at least 10 drugs that are effective to one degree or another, Adderall, being the one I’m most familiar with. They have less side effects depending on how they are dosed and monitored.

The good news is that medicine isn’t the end of the story, or even the main character. Just like your child is not just his brain, his “disorder” is interconnected to other parts of his body that can be helping or hurting his condition. Treating the other parts can pull all his body organs together into a well-functioning organism.

Body Systems

I can get you started on a journey to find resources to approach ADHD (or ADD) from many angles. Depending on the severity and origins, it may require your child’s lifestyle be examined and altered. Similar to having a child diagnosed with asthma, parents look holistically at diet, air quality, dyes and perfumes, pets and inhalers.

The same holistic approach should be taken with a child with ADHD. I believe a medical examination (or two) by trained professionals is the first step. Start with pediatrician and then consider an integrative medicine doctor, nutritionist, and other specialists as necessary. In that process, parents should always be in charge and weigh all the information they get to try what they feel is best. If something isn’t working, they keep trying.

Working with your son’s classroom educators is critical. If the teacher does not appreciate or understand ADHD or know how to structure the learning environment, it can become a frustrating, demoralizing place for that child. He/she may become ridiculed and felt to be stupid. Get an IEP if necessary and follow through that accommodations are appropriate and successful.

If your child’s educator needs a little coaching, start with structuring your son’s desk or table with “nesting.” Nesting means to set up your child’s workstation so it surrounds them. Sometimes children will struggle if they can’t find something that helps them to stay on task. For an example, having all the writing implements they need at their grasp is important. If they get up to find something, they may not sit down and refocus for a very long time. Having everything surround them, helps them to remain in place.

Depending on the severity, many young children can be trained with biofeedback and CBT/DBT, or other behavioral modifications from a trained coach.

Here are a few some websites.

https://www.adhdcoaches.org/find-your-coach

https://psychcentral.com/blog/when-you-cant-afford-adhd-coaching/

In the city where I live we have a well-respected business called Brain Balance that is found nation wide: https://www.brainbalancecenters.com/

There are also plenty of books and podcasts to listen to on this subject. Get educated as parents! Talk to others with children with similar needs and find out what they recommend. Get on Facebooks groups. However, be cautioned that one miracle cure for one child does not necessarily do the same in others.

Central to behavioral therapy involves learning organization tricks, establishing routines and schedules, taking frequent breaks with grounding (sensory grounding, not the punishment kind) and vigorous exercise, mindfulness, as well as examining the diet. If tested, many find that certain processed food, most sugars, dyes, and food common to allergies will spike the ADHD.

No Sugar Challenge - Posts | Facebook

Video gaming and device use must also be examined. I find that children, particularly those with mental/cognitive deficits, can help their brains to rewire by working closely in nature and with animals daily.

New Study Shows Having A Dog As A Child Makes You Less Likely To Suffer  From Anxiety

Sleep also needs to be examined because the brain needs to go into REM to restore and regenerative cells each night. So if the child is not getting deep and adequate sleep, that is another angle to address.

3 Tips to Help Your Tween Get to Sleep Before 10 p.m. | Parents

If the child is older and responsive to medicine, it takes time, practice, and patience to see what works. One medicine may do loopy things to the child so that means you just need to give that feedback to the doctor and try again. There are many safe and effective medicines, but everybody responds differently so it’s a trial and error to find the right one at the right dose.

Most importantly, it’s important to learn that the best perspective you can have as parents is that your son isn’t weak-minded, stupid, wrong, broken, or doing this to make everyone’s lives miserable. To be sure, the child knows that he is missing something and like having dyslexia, needs adaptive and coping mechanisms. These children are some of the brightest, most creative, and compassionate. People with ADHD can be extremely focused when they find something they are passionate about and worth diving into.

To that end, when raising a child with any “disorder” it should be framed or stated a positive way so there are no negative perceptions with which to burden a child and distort their self-concept. They have a special way of thinking, processing, and doing things that make them super. I believe fictional geniuses like Tony Stark as Iron Man

Iron Man Mark 3 - Armor Suit Up Scene | Iron Man (2008) Movie CLIP HD -  YouTube

and real people like Robin Williams

The Death Of Robin Williams: Two Psychiatrists' Perspectives | MGH Clay  Center for Young Healthy Minds

embraced their creative ADD minds to become marvelous inventors and entertainers. Kids needs to see that they are super like that, too.

Empty Nesters Now

I said goodbye to my 5th, and last, child this fall. He left for college. Some parents find this a heart-wrenching time and cry for days with the covers pulled over their head.

I get it.

My mom said when my last sibling left home, she closed the door on the house and the “click” sounded like an echo chamber in a tomb—

hollow, claustrophobic, and terrifying.

It’s a huge life transition to change from a parent fulltime to a parent… hardly ever. I mean, of course I’m still a parent forever, but not hands-on, blood, sweat, and tears rolling down my face anymore. I won’t know if he’s eating or sleeping enough, washing behind his ears, turning in his homework, and being kind to people or not.

It’s funny that you’ve only become successful at the job of parenting when you’ve been fired from it. You want to eventually get “out” of the job, the same one you’ve immersed yourself in 24/7 for decades, to see that your young adult is adulting now. Even though we’d like them to be under our protective wings forever, that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. They’re meant to grow up and make their own decisions; they’re meant to distance themselves from us to become capable, independent people who don’t need to call home to ask if Skippy or Jiff is the better peanut butter.

So here was my little boy, around 2 years old. He was my world.
And here he is on the day he headed off to college in his red car.

I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders when I shut the door. An invisible weight I hadn’t known was there for the past 33+ years. I’m not done parenting yet, but launching my last was a huge relief.

He’s a good person. He works hard. He serves others. He is responsible, just like his older siblings. There is no dossier about a parent who does the magnificent and improbable task: to raise an infant to adulthood in this wild, wild world. There needs to be more bands and parades. There needs to be confetti (or money) showering from the sky. There needs to be an Olympics Gold Medal for every parent who makes it this far.

Since he’s been gone, it’s been quiet around the house, for sure. The house stays clean. I can wake up and do whatever I want. My husband and I feel like we are back in the honeymoon years with just ourselves again (but with more money).

I highly recommend this stage to everyone.

My hat goes off to any parent who raises a responsible adult. I know just how hard it is and there are no guarantees that after all the good parenting, the child will grow up to be a good person. I guess the more accurate thing to say is my hat goes off to any parent who loves their child, and loves some more, who knows when to say “no,” and who never gives up.

Now…if you want to find me, I’ve gone to Disneyland.

Freedom!