A Controversal Parenting Topic

I just read an article in the Guardian titled “Parents will raise happier children ‘if they put them second to their marriage'” Interesting. The title, of course, drew me in.

Then they started to talk about not being that ‘helicopter’ parent. Yup, I can agree with that. A lot of the helicopter parents aren’t allow their children to make mistakes or to grow resilience. Okay, I can go along with this idea.

They said, don’t cram their free hours with tons of stuff, from tutoring to sports to music and beyond. Again, I agree. Like all human beings, we need some down time to process everything that comes at us, we need time to play and we need time to do the not so fun stuff (like learning to clean) in our lives. So far, so good.

The rest of the article goes on to explain why doing the above would be a good thing, not only for your child, but also for you and your partner. Too much focus on your child puts too much pressure on them to be your everything and to be ‘successful’, thus raising their anxiety levels to an unhealthy state.

So, what’s the happy medium? How much time should a child be spending on those extra activities? How much should a parent check on how the child is doing? What happens if your kid is about to fail? That’s something that no one seems to talk about in this article. But I do think it’s out there. What I teach in my parenting classes, Positive Discipline, is that you want to raise you child looking at what qualities and strengths you want them to have at 25. If you think of a list of those traits, then think about what a child needs to get there…this can be your path forward. If I had a child, I would want them to know how to problem solve, to be kind, to be caring and to have a work ethic – all of which comes from some training but also from making mistakes and the learning that follows.

So, how do you parent well and still allow your relationships to thrive?

An Introvert in an Extroverts’ world

I don’t mind being an introvert most of the time.  I get to enjoy the house that we bought and I learned how to listen to my more extroverted friends at a young age, thus leading to my career in counselling.  But sometimes it is tough to be an introvert.  When trying to start up a business, it pays to be an extrovert.  Last night, I went to a gathering of various types of therapists and heard a presentation on networking.  And I wish I could do it better.  Cause not only am I an introvert, but I’m also shy.  Most people wouldn’t recognise this as I fight through it a lot, but it’s hard.  I have a tough time of making cold calls and asking people to like my Facebook page.  And so building a business and, to be honest, this blog has been a much slower process.

I’ve left parties early, I’ve chosen not to date certain really interesting (and way too extroverted) people…you get the idea.  But, there are some positives to being an introvert and I’d like to try to celebrate them.

Susan Cain has a wonderful Ted Talk on how introverts ought to be celebrated.  And I do appreciate some of my qualities.  I do work quietly and quickly, with confidence.  I don’t have to ask someone else what they think about it.  I can be content with a book.  And I have a very powerful imagination, which is fabulous when you can’t fall asleep (I just tell myself stories to calm my brain).

So, how am I going to cope as an introvert in an extroverts’ world?  I’ll do it slowly, get it done and hope that I don’t have to stay at too many parties for too long.

Parenting on the Edge

I’m not a parent. I’ll put that out there right now. But I have studied developmental psychology, worked with multiple child and adolescent therapists, gotten further training in working with children and am a parent educator. I’m sure that experience would help me dramatically, but then again, each parent’s experience is unique to their own child and so may not give me any info about children in general.

One thing I have noticed in my readings about child-raising over the years is that parents are getting more and more fearful about everything their child might do that could harm them in any way. I see more parents attempting to wrap their children in ‘cotton wool’, hoping that they will never get hurt or make a mistake. And that, my friends, IS a mistake. Do you remember learning to climb a tree or ride a bike or any other fun thing you did as a child which could have caused you some harm? What did you learn? That you shouldn’t go up too high, or that you might fall and get hurt…but you also learned that you could still dust yourself off, deal with the pain and be okay. You learned. Again, YOU LEARNED! And by not allowing our children to make mistakes, to potentially get hurt in some ways, you are keeping your child from developing that lovely key word floating around right now – resilience. Clearly, we want to try to teach our children to not put themselves in major harm’s way – I don’t want any child to be maimed or to die. But we can’t stop everything. And sometimes we go to far to try to keep them from it all.

Recently, I saw a small article in the Huffington Post, in their Ted Weekends section, on some things that parents should let their kids do that might just hurt them. And it was interesting. I hope you’ll watch the video and comment upon it. I don’t have a child, but I hope I would let them do the 5 Dangerous Things. Honestly, I’m not sure I would…but I like to think that I would let them climb trees and play sports which might make me squirm.

What are your interests?

I love writing on my blog and on my Twitter, but I know that I want to write things that will be of interest to my current or future readers. So…if you read my blog, what do you want to hear about? What are your interests? Let me know and I’ll do the research and reading for you…and try to write about it in a language with is accessible.

Get in touch on my Twitter or here in the Comments. And if you find something you like, please feel free to share on Twitter or Facebook!

How Should We Talk About Mental Health

I just read a fabulous TED blog. It was written by Thu-Huong Ha, who does a lot of writing for TED. She asked several people their thoughts on how to speak about mental health in a ‘healthier’ manner. Here are a few ideas, but you should check out the full blog post!

End the stigma – this is one that I fight all the time as a therapist. People seem so ashamed and it’s because it’s always looked down upon to have an ‘issue’. I know so many people who think that seeking help for anxiety or depression makes them or shows them to be weak. It’s just not so!

Avoid correlations between criminality and mental illness – we’re seeing a lot of this with the gun issues in the US. But what isn’t pointed out is that most gun deaths AREN’T caused by someone who is mentally ill. People who commit crimes may just be bad people. But if they do have some mental health issue, then shouldn’t we try to help them out through therapy?

But do correlate more between mental illness and suicide – you don’t kill yourself just because you are weak or just because something has gone wrong in your life. You attempt to take your life because of mental health issues, which as very treatable.

Avoid words like “crazy” or “psycho” – I have to admit that this is one I need to work on too. It adds to the stigma or makes mental illness seem ‘funny’ or not as serious as it should.

If you feel comfortable talking about your own experience with mental health, by all means, do so – this was something that was powerful for the teens I worked with. When we would bring in people who had suffered themselves but where willing to share in their journey, it helped those who were also suffering and had lost hope.

Don’t define a person by his/her mental illnesses – you are not the illness. You are not anxiety or depression, even if you are suffering from it at this moment. You may have bipolar disorder, but you are not a bipolar person. You are a person in your own right!

Sometimes the problem isn’t that we’re using the wrong words, but that we’re not talking at all – sometimes we get so worried about how people are going to feel about talking about depression or anxiety that we just shut up. That’s wrong. Talking about mental illness does not create it, but can help make it more normalised and thus people may feel better about getting help

Recognize the amazing contributions of people with mental health differences – I can’t even begin to list the number of amazing people who have suffered a mental illness and yet contributed so much to society.

Humor helps – I think Ruby Wax was the first person I knew of who really focused on depression in her comedy routine. And I think it helped a lot by normalising it and bringing it out into the open.

I do hope you read the entire blog post on TED, as there are great thoughts from great people on there!