My Child’s Anxiety is Running My Life!

As an adult you might think, life is so easy for a child what do they have to worry about? There are so many factors that play into how much anxiety your child has. Genetics, their inborn temperament, their environment and how resilient they are. Some children are just more anxious. This makes them more sensitive and more aware of the world around them and how others react to them. Their perception may be skewed by their anxiety.  How they see the situation and what really happened, may not be how the child interepreted it. 

For example, they may have the common thinking trap that they can read minds: here is an example

Emily walks into a room and two kids start whispering. Emily may already be sensitive and nervous about entering the room. So when she sees the two kids whispering, her automatic thought is to think the worst. 

“They are talking about me.” 

“They are making fun of me.”

 “See, I knew I shouldn’t have come.”

As the parent we can help them with some detective thinking:

Where is the proof that they were talking about you? 

What can you say instead that can be more helpful?

Helpful thought: “I actually don’t know if they are talking about me. They may be talking about their after school plans.”

This is easier said than done, but with practice your child can get there. 

1. The first step is to get your child talking.  Being aware of your child’s unhelpful thoughts can be your way to really understand what they are going through.

2. Give an empathetic ear. Just listen. Hear them. Don’t interrupt. Active listening and giving empathy will help the child open up more.

 “Of course you feel that way, you’ve had a hard day.”

3. Name it to tame it (Dr. J. Siegel):

 Label the feeling. :  “Looks like you’re feeling frustrated.”

Teach them feelings words so they can label their own feelings. Eventually with practice they’ll be able calm themselves down.

4. Do some detective thinking. As used in the example above ask questions. 

“So what’s the worst thing that would happen if you didn’t get perfect on the test?”

4. Make a plan. Don’t fight fires. Plan ahead for situations that don’t go well. Think about why it’s not going well. Ask your child what would help. Work on it together. 

5. Work on ways to turn the volume down on their stress and anxiety. Does your child know how to calm themselves down? Create a little quiet zone they can go to proactively to calm down. Make it part of the routine. Relaxation needs to be practiced when they are calm.

6. Tolerate the distress in your child. Working on your child’s anxiety will be pushing them out of their comfort zone. It will also cause you stress. You don’t want to push too hard, but you have to push a bit. Some children will act out because they haven’t be pushed before, they don’t want to be pushed. If I fight enough, my parent will step back, right? 

Remain consistent. The purpose of making a plan together is that they are part of the new change. If it doesn’t go well don’t give up. Talk about it later when everyone is calm. And then try again.

7. Self care for the parent. Your self care is so important. When was then last time you did something for yourself. Start with five minutes a day. Children learn what they live. Be a good role model. Take care of your own stress and mental health. It’s difficult to be patient and support an anxious child when your own stress levels are high.

8. Take it one step at a time. What are the steps you can take to get to your goal? Work on the steps together with you child. Be consistent. 

Problem: Swimming lessons.                           Step one: go to family swim.                     Step two: Watch a class.                             Step three: sit on the edge of the pool.           Step four: go in for half the lesson.                 Goal: take a full lesson

This is just one example of how to slowly expose your child to their stressor one step at a time.

Anxiety is normal. When it’s running your child’s life it’s time to make a change. Your child may need professional help. Your Doctor should be the first step. They can direct you to the support and services in your area. 

Good luck! You got this, take it one step at a time.


Social Skills are Not Easy For Everyone

Did you have to work hard at making friends and keeping friends?  Do you usually make a good first impression or do you find yourself feeling akward in social settings or regretting what you said moments after it came out of your mouth? Social skills are hard work for many people.  What may be common sense for you and I, is a skill that your child might not have.  It may be a concept they do not understand, or would have never thought about.  

Conversations can be tricky.  Your facial expression, your tone, and pace all need to be considered. Do you know what to say next, can you catch the cues the other person is interested?  If you don’t smile because your nervous or speak too loudly because you’re heated about a topic, it can send the wrong message. Social skills are give and take.  You have to respond to the other person, it can’t be one sided.56824914_s.jpg 

Things to think about when engaing with others:

  1.  Do I look interested?  Am I approcable?  Am I smiling?
  2. Remember to pause and wait for the other person to speak as well
  3. Don’t interrupt
  4. Ask the other person about themselves.
  5. Know the other person’s name
  6. Are you open minded?  Can you tolerate someone else disagreeing with you or having a difference of opinion?
  7. Body talk: are you looking down or have your arms crossed?
  8. Personal space.  Don’t stand too close.
  9. Pay attention.  Be interested.
  10. Ask questions
  11. Is the other person interested, do they appear engaged in your conversation?

 Why do people struggle?

1. Shy temperament 

2. Social anxiety

3. Haven’t been taught, don’t have the skills naturally.

4. Poor executive functioning skills (see chart below). Can’t wait their turn, impulsive, emotional control, rigid thinker.

5. Poor perception, difficulty reading social cues. 

6. Lack of practice and opportunity to social situations.

7. Can’t follow through appropriately, so feel it “doesn’t work”.


 How to help: 

1.Understand what your child needs help with

2. Teach the skill

3. Talk about situations that didn’t go well and brain storm how to do it a better way.

4. Be a good role model, children learn what they live. 

5. Plan ahead: what are conversation starters? What do you do when things don’t go as planned.

6. Practice! Work on it at home first.

7. Have playdates at home to see how the skills are being used. Be close by, but don’t jump in too quickly.

Children with ADHD don’t get social skills fully until the teen years. 
They will get there with encouragement, practise and a lot of patience. It may take time. 

Social skills are vital to a fulfilling life. It’s worth the time you put into helping your child learn how to interact and fit in with others. 

It’s not ADHD it’s Just Behaviour… Or Is It?

Do you have a wild child? A child that doesn’t stop moving, doesn’t stop talking, makes poor decisions on a regular basis, can only focus on things they love, such as video games? The world is full of these types of children and adults. Some have a diagnosis of ADHD. Some have the combined type of ADHD with the inattentive subtype (aka ADD). 

 Life is not easy when you have a child that struggles with constant behaviours, poor time management and social skills. A child that needs constant reminders and extra help. However, these children are the ones that suffer the most. They can’t do what other’s appear to do with ease. They get quickly blamed, shamed and labelled. This effects their self concept, their feeling of belonging and fitting in. When their self concept is hurt their self esteem suffers. This image below breaks down what these children struggle with: 

These children struggle with executive functioning: 

Can you imagine waking up each day and trying to do well at school, with friends, and extra curriculars without these skills? Skills that you and I find easy. Skills we may not realize need to be taught. Not once, but over and over again. There are children that are born resilient, that can do things on their own, they figure it out. Many cannot, it’s our job to help them. This task can be very frustrating, especially when we can’t relate to their daily struggles. I promise the work will be worth it. 

Children with ADHD need patience from us, the tools to succeed and lots and lots of repetition. It will be a lot of work now, but in time you will teach your children how to be independent and successful people. 

A short list of helpful tools: 

  1. visuals (lists, pictures, calendars etc)
  2. checklists ( rountines, what goes in my school bag, hockey bag etc)
  3. timers (clocks, microwave timers, egg timer etc)
  4. fidget toys (silly putty, fidget for your digit etc)
  5. lots of praise for their effort will go a long way.

Remember they aren’t waking up each day trying to make you angry. They need help and guiadance. The more attention you start giving to the good behaviour the more you will see the behaviour you want.  Children want to do well. Once they learn the skills, parents can start stepping back and watch them do well! 

Start with catching them being good. If they can’t sit for ten minutes, catch them in the first five minutes and praise their efforts. Notice what they need help with. What skill do they need and take small broken down steps to show them. 

You can do this! Your children will thank you for it later. 

Celebration of Life

via Daily Prompt: Heal

wp-image-442375963jpg.jpgFamily means everything to me. Traditions, meals, time spent together. I was blessed to grow up with these values, and it all started with my grandparents. My sister and I spent weekends with my dad’s parents on a regular basis.  Sleepovers were filled with free play, bedtime stories, yummy treats and staying up late to watch Love Boat.  My babcia (grandmother) was the strongest woman I knew. She told it like it was, but loved with all her soul. She was so proud of her family. You could always count on her. She wasn’t afraid of hard work, and was an amazing cook.

When she had to live in the home it was hard watching her deteriorate. She remembered us, but got confused with the present and past. One moment she was asking about my kids, the next moment she thought she was back in Poland.

Losing her was the hardest thing I had to go through, I’ve never known loss like that before. It shook me to my core. I didn’t feel like getting off the couch. I didn’t feel joy, I felt empty and in pain all at once.

Seeing her for the first time after she died was both a relief and horrible experience. She didn’t look like my babcia anymore. Her hair and makeup made her look like someone else. I said my goodbyes in private. I cried and was devistated that I would no longer have her here with me. I was thankful however she was out of pain in a peaceful place. The thought of her being with her family comforted me.

Friends and family visited to pay their respects. It was cathartic to talk about her and all my found memories I had.

Her funeral was hard, but that is the point. To say goodbye, to cry, to remember and celebrate the wonderful woman she was. The sad music evoked emotion. My husband and children gave me comfort. It was so hard to go through, but I’m glad that I did. To smile and say  we should be celebrating, not crying was not realistic for me. I needed to mourn her. I felt pain like I never have before. But feeling it, allowing myself to grieve has allowed me to move forward. I think of her each day. I feel connected to her today as though she was still alive. Today I celebrate her, I celebrate her life. I was able to heal after she died, because I didn’t try to smile through the pain and move on.

I will always have her in my heart. I feel her presence always.

Love you Babcia today and always, until we meet again xoxo.

No Time Like the Present

Procrastination was a lifestyle for me. A way to feel less pressure, to give me more time. It didn’t work. I got more behind. The small jobs got bigger. The work kept piling up. The stress didn’t go away, I just felt more overwhelmed and irritated.

When I did end up getting the job done, I thought, why didn’t I do that sooner? It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. 

Change can be hard, but it’s worth it. I’m doing things now, not later. I put things where they belong right away. I kiss my husband when the urge strikes me. I save for a rainy day each pay. I tell people how much they mean to me in the moment. I make my happiness a priority today, not tommorow or when my kids are grown.
Do you ever say? “We should get together sometime”.  Why not make a plan? Set a date. Life passes us by so quickly. What are you waiting for?

Get the short haircut you want, take a trip, call a friend, take the leap. What is the worst thing that will happen? 

Our brains are automatically wired to look at the bad first. When you fill your cup each day with things that make your soul happy, it’s much easier to fight the negative thoughts. It’s easier to focus on the good things, to be more fun and be happy. 

Do it today. Make your happiness a priority right now… Not later. 

Later –

My Kids Drive Me Crazy On Purpose!

One day your child can follow instructions and have a good day. Then 24 hours later you are staring at a holy terror! When they act out we tend to jump to conclusions about why they act this way. We have little patience for their disruptive behaviour. We know they can do better… But why don’t they? They must be doing it on purpose!

Children DO NOT wake up in the morning wondering how many times they can make you angry or deliberately making poor choices.  Well, sometimes they do. I will explain this later. Children struggle for different reasons. Development, temperment, impulsivity, mental health, cognitive delays, lack of ability… I could go on and on. Children want to do well, we all do. Have you ever said or done something in the heat of the moment? Have you forgotten to turn off the coffee pot or lock the door because you were in a rush? As adults we should know better, but we are only human. 

We expect children to know better. But are we being too hard on them? Have you taught them how to do things? Do you have visuals and check lists? Timers and house rules are a must in most homes. Some children need more tools to succeed and more patience from us. If you label your child as difficult, hard to love, argumentative etc. the attachment between you and that child suffers. When we think negatively about our child it is hard to have patience and empathy toward their struggles. We have to change our thinking. 

Once you learn to think about your child’s behaviour as a cry for help, instead of a deliberate act of defiance you will start acting differently. Think about what skills they need help with. What tools they need. And how much time they need to learn the skill. It’s hard work, but it can be done. 

On the other hand those children that act out deliberately have learned “this behaviour gets me what I want”. They either want attention or to get out of something they don’t want to do. If the parent yells at the child as they clean up their room for them… It worked! “I got out of cleaning my room!”

When we ignore good behaviour such as playing quietly, or when they get ready right away, we give the message this isn’t important.  When the child acts out, THEN they get our attention. Children learn bad behaviour gets noticed. What motivates a child that struggles to work harder, when its rarely acknowledged?

Some parents claim that if they say something positive, the behaviour stops. Some children get irritated from positive feed back. 

So what is the possible message from the child?:

  1. I don’t know how to react.
  2. I don’t hear this often enough. 
  3. I don’t know how to act appropriately. 
  4. I want MORE of this attention, I just don’t know how to maintain it in a positive way. 

What do you think your child is trying to say with their actions/behaviours?

Children have a hard time expressing what they need. It’s up to us as the parent to help them. Wishing the bad behaviour away doesn’t fix anything. 

Take it one struggle at a time. Break it down. Mornings are a struggle is too vaugue. 

What is hard?

  1. Showers take too long  
  2. They don’t know their routine yet
  3.  There is a fight not to go to school every day.

What could be done differently? 

1. Pack lunches the night before

2. Realize your child us a slow poke and they need more time. Set the alarm for an extra half an hour earlier.

3. Set up a check list for what needs to get done : 1. Brush teeth 2. Brush hair 3. Get dressed 4. Pack backpack 5. Eat breakfast (use pictures if they can’t read)

4. Set a timer so they know how much time they have to do the task or routine.

5. Acknowledge the effort

6. Add a reward or incentive. For example, “If you finish early you can go outside and play.”

7. Give empathy and encouragement, instead of a lecture on why they need to go to school. I complain about going to work some days. My husband doesn’t start to panic and tell me I need to go because we have bills to pay! 

Empathy would be to say: “I know buddy, wouldn’t it be great if we could take the day off!”

8. What is triggering your child?

  • A young brother that won’t leave them alone.
  • No friends at school. 
  • Having trouble with math? 

Ask why mornings are so hard.

If you think about the behaviours that take over your house and think of some possible solutions, you are closer to a calmer home and a better relationship with your child.

You can do this! Just give it some time, and expect set backs. If it doesn’t work right away the plan might need to be altered. Take a break if you need to, but don’t give up completely.

Taking the Winner and Loser Out of Sports Gives Children a False Sense of Accomplishment

When I was growing up we had winners and losers in sports.  Gold, silver and bronze in dance competitions.  Today things are different.  My children have many participation trophies from their days of beginner sports.  If a team doesn’t keep score, does that mean the kids are unaware whether they won or lost?  I have had many heated debates on this subject and I can tell you my children have learned so much from sports and the participation trophey has nothing to do with any of it.

As a former rep soccer mom I understand why they do not keep score until the age of thirteen years old.  The purpose is player development.  There are many coaches that are still fixated on the win.  The end result is most important, and the process is not the main focus. I watched a girl score a beautiful goal, from the half way line.  It was an unbelievable goal, but she was not a team player.  She took the ball down the field on her own and scored the goal as though she was the only one on the field. This player was never substituted out, but instead was left in the rest of the game.  The whole point of playing on a team is working together.  This girl was rewarded for scoring a goal, it didn’t matter how she did it. We weren’t keeping score… Apparently. Clearly this team was, and winning was the main focus. I’d much rather have my team lose because the players had tried new positions, or tired to kick with their non-dominant leg. 

Winning is fun. It’s quite an accomplishment to bring home a medal and know your hard work counted. It makes you work harder to get it next time. But for many this doesn’t matter. The child that comes in 23rd or 53rd at the school cross country meet for example, still tried something and finished. Would a participation ribbon really be that bad? Especially since that child was too worried to run for the past two years and finally signed up. 

What matters is that they are part of something. They have fun and learn something while doing it. Its being proud of putting in an effort, and having your family come and watch and cheer you on. 

It’s not a black and white answer. Focus on the process, and the effort given. The end result is a bonus… Or not.

Organizing My Day with a Paper Notebook

Yes I said paper. I’m going back to my old school agenda and making lists in a notebook.

In my line of work I talk about executive functioning on a daily basis. I also promote self care as the first step for parenting success. Through my own journey I have learned that the two topics go hand in hand.

6 & 8 are a struggle for me. When I was in school I had an agenda. I planned things out because I had to. I don’t have deadlines and specific homework I have to write down and remember in my personal life. However my life is full of commitments, events and chores that have to be done. But instead of writing things down and setting my own deadlines, I was flying by the seat of my pants. I felt like I was in a state if chaos most days. This method was not working. When I finally realized the root of my problem I made it a goal to fix it.  The funny thing, is I had a plan at work. I just wasn’t transferring the skills to my home life.

I started with making goals and writing down lists of things I wanted to get done. I bought an agenda and started filling in my commitments. I would use the whole month page to write things down such as: what days I had to drop the kids off to different sports, birthday parties and appointments. I wanted to see the whole month at a glance.

I wanted to see the whole week at a glance on the following pages. I used those pages to write specific tasks or appointments for each day. I wrote a master list. I would choose three things to accomplish a day from the master list. It helped me prioritize and empowered me to keep going.

It seems so simple, but it works! I’m no longer feeling overwhelmed, or like I’ve forgotten something. I have recently learned about the Midori travelers notebook. It enables you to keep everything you need all in one neat and compact place. That will be my next purchase. Right now I have a seperate bullet journal and agenda.

What I have learned is that the more organized and clutter free you are, the more time you have. I have made time for me because I had a plan. It motivates me to keep going. I’m a work in progress, but I can see first hand how the hard work is starting to pay off.

How Was Your Day?… Fine, Learn Anything New?… Nope

Me:How was your day today?  Child: Fine. Me: Learn anything new?  Child: Nope.     Me: Do anything exciting  on your break? Child: No.

And there goes my attempt to find out how my kids day went. I used to give up. Then I tried a different tactic. When we sat down for dinner I introduced a new “game”: Highs and Lows. Everyone participated. I started with myself. Each person shared their high and low for the day.

At first my son didn’t want to participate. Instead of getting upset (I was disappointed, but kept it to myself. I didn’t want to give attention to the behaviour that frustrated me). I went on to my husband and so on. After everyone was done sharing, my son remained silent. A few minutes later he said “I want to share my highs and lows now”. 

This has turned into an everyday ritual at the dinner table, and it’s usually initiated by the kids. It may not take off so quickly at your house, but don’t give up. Always give them the option to participate, but if they don’t want to answer don’t make it a big deal. Eventually they’ll want to join in.

If the dinner table isn’t an ideal time for you, it can be done in the car on the way to practise or on the walk home from school.  This is a nice way to find out about your child’s day. To get them to open up, show them you care and that you’re interested in what happens in their lives. This will work for all ages, even your teens. 

This is a nice way to open up communication in your home. It’s a fun way to get to get to know more about your child and teen. It’s also a good way to show how even when things don’t go well in your day, you can find one good thing that did go well. 

The truth is, the snoring has been a blessing in disguise. PLEASE DON’T TELL MY HUSBAND!

Before children I could sleep through anything; oblivious to the world around me.  That all changed after I gave birth.  I was easily awoken by a cry, a whimper, or the drop of a soother onto the floor.

As my children got older, I learned how valuable uninterrupted sleep really was. Lately, this has not been my reality.  It’s not my children keeping me up, it’s my husband! His snoring is making me feel like the mother of a newborn.  Remember that broken sleep that made you walk around like a zombie the next day?  It’s happening again, but now it’s my husband waking me through the night.

The truth is, the snoring has been a blessing in disguise.  PLEASE DON’T TELL MY HUSBAND!

My frustration with his snoring has forced me to leave the room.  Leaving the room was a nuisance. But it turned into a positive.  The snoring gave me an excuse to crawl into bed with my children, for a peaceful night’s sleep.

When your children reach milestones of independence it can be bittersweet. Despite this new freedom I have as a mother, I still have a hard time watching them mature.  I often wish I could have one more day with each of them as a baby, a toddler and a preschooler.   I tried to take it all in at each stage of their lives, but time has always moved on, whether I’ve been ready for it or not.

My daughter is eleven and my son is eight, but when they are sleeping they turn back into the little babies I had; the babies that have grown into smart, independent and charming little humans.  Before I turn off the night light I stare at their peaceful faces.  I breathe in their youth, their innocence and their positive energy.

Most days I put in my ear plugs, and try to get to bed before the snoring starts.  But now and again, I crawl into bed with my babies and anticipate waking up to their adorable, groggy faces.

There are things in life you can’t control.   I can’t control the snoring, or my children growing up.  I can control how I react.  I can get angry, or I can go  cuddle with my kids instead.  I have to continue making time to have quiet moments with my children.  The snoring has opened my eyes to missed opportunities.

Maybe I should be thanking my husband.