Tag Archive for: counselling

Reading: Shared Enjoyment, Learning, and Connection with Your Child

Reading: Shared Enjoyment, Learning, and Connection with Your Child

For this blog I’ve decided to write a book review and share my thoughts with you folks. It’s a children’s book I came across at the public library and signed out. I found this book to be a wonderful piece for parents to read with their kids as a way to connect and engage with them, while both the parent and child learn new skills in a fun and playful way.

The book is titled, “Peaceful Like a Panda: 30 Mindful Moments for Playtime, Mealtime, Bedtime – or Anytime”. This book is written by Kira Willey and Illustrated by Anni Betts. The chapters in this book include: 1. Rise and Shine 2. Are We There Yet? 3. Brain Boosters 4. Playtime 5. Let’s Eat 6. Good Night.

Each chapter has different mindfulness activities that are quick and fun to do. The illustrations are great as well, very colourful and child-friendly. The mindfulness activities encourage children to practice different breathing exercises, move and use their bodies, and gain awareness of their feelings. Because the activities are playful, fun, quick, and not too difficult child can stay attentive and interested. Books are one way to make it easier for kids to learn or practice skills while staying  mindful and engaged in the process.

Engaging with a child in reading this book (or other similar books) can achieve many things at once. Books such as this one can make the skills seem less scary and less overwhelming to learn. When parents and children read together, parents can demonstrate and model the skills making them feel more understandable and less stressful to learn. Reading regularly as part of a daily routine is a way to help build parent and child connection and support secure attachment. Books provide an opportunity for a grown up to teach and share ideas and information that make feel more accessible to a child who might not be as responsive to direct teaching. I encourage folks to check out this book or the many other books available that you can use to engage and connect with your child while learning important skills and practicing strategies together.

Written by: Gary Mah, MSW, RSW, Social Worker with Wildflowers

Being a Therapist, Having a Therapist

Being a Therapist, Having a Therapist

            Providing care to another individual is a rewarding and honorable position. As social beings, having healthy connection and community makes for a fulfilling life, among other necessary and essential components of course, but let us focus on the importance of physical, spiritual, and emotional human connection. You know the kind where we feel indubitably open to express ourselves whole-heartedly because the person in front of us genuinely cares and makes our voice heard, our experience valued. A kind of connection that is confidentially accommodating to parts of us that may have never been shared, or perhaps parts that we are struggling to work through on our own. Afterall, everyone needs someone. Therapists hold a great privilege of valuing, understanding, and supporting their clients lived experience. With the privilege of tending to someone else’s well-being comes the obligation to consistently prioritize our own.

Emotional regulation within a therapeutic session bargains a trained and practiced emotional intelligence from becoming triggered into our own repressed memories; we must remain diligent in the dance of balancing empathy and honouring another person’s emotion as their own. Therapists engage in a spiritual process that takes intentional effort to let go of bias and personal persuasion. This spiritual process can be referred to as centering into the essence of Self, where we become innately responsible for our personal sense of being, creating a spiritual boundary around the emotion that belongs to me, the therapist, and recognizing the experience to that of my client, separate from myself. In the sense of spirituality for which this process pertains to is not an existential force, nor a light or figure that holds subjective opinion and ideology; here I am specifically speaking to the intrinsic self-awareness a helping professional requires to remain intentional with words and body language, regulated within their own containment, with the obligation to frequently reflect and assess our personal limits. An essential concept of being a helper is to remove the power dynamic; the person I am working with is no less and I am no more. We are merely mortals connecting on a cellular level through the complexities and dynamics of the human experience. The aptitude and necessity for professional psychological connection is a paramount component to process grief, trauma, and other natural human emotions for long term and effective overall personal healing and growth.

In a therapeutic alliance, boundaries must be drawn through ethics, professionalism, and conscious decision-making. How may I practice actively listening to my client’s story without pausing them? How may I ask essential questions that align to their unique purpose and goals for therapy? How may I remain regulated and attentive to their body language, facial expression, and inverted emotion (as well as my own)? A respected therapist must remain in control of their own intuitive journey within the confines of the therapy space and in their personal life. Do our boundaries have purpose that mutually benefit the well-being of the client and respectfully align with the abilities of the therapist? As a helper, how do we avoid burnout and ensure our sense of self is being looked after? An experienced social worker once said, “You can only take people as far as you have gone yourself.” Let us helpers be tended to as well. Every good therapist has a good therapist because our well-being is important too. If we do not look after ourselves then what happens to our clients? I believe it to be an essential component of the helping profession, that being a therapist requires having professional supervision and guidance to work through the complexities of the therapy world. We cannot ignore the emotional weight we carry as helpers because as helpers we deeply care and honour the experience of our clients. When we listen to another’s sorrows consecutively, we must acknowledge the impact it has on our own mental and emotional well-being. We must have strategies and tools to continue with optimal care for ourselves and our clients. Our own life stories have guided and influenced our decisions in profound ways to why we have chosen this career path. Personal growth with a therapeutic supervisor is a great resource for continuing professional development and attending to our clients with rejuvenated care and energy. If you are a therapist without your own personal/professional support, consider the affect this solitude has on your well-being, on your family, and your clients. We all deserve someone to hear our story too.

Written by: Cayle Fiala, Canadian Certified Counsellor

When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School

When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School

            It’s that time of year again. May is here and all of the long breaks are behind us for the school year. We are at the home stretch but can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet. School concepts, assignments, and other important parts of curriculum still have to be completed and with the changes in school schedules over the past few months, it feels like there is more than ever. Outside of school hours, spring activities are getting into full swing and schedules are usually just as hectic in the evenings and on the weekends as they are during school days.

This next stretch of all 5-day school weeks can feel long, and the next break isn’t until June when those final school bells ring for the summer.  Unsurprisingly, students might start to the feel the weight of this part of the school year but don’t have quite the same energy, motivation, or resources available anymore. When this happens, parents often notice bigger emotions at home, more difficult Sunday nights and/or Monday mornings, and get a little more push back when it comes to getting ready for school, doing homework, or even keeping up with the tasks they have been doing all year long.

But don’t panic! While we can’t change what the calendar says, we might be able to find ways to better meet our kids where they are at when they are feeling like they don’t want to go to school. Here are a few things to try out:

  1. Validate their feelings: The only thing harder than experiencing a difficult emotion is feeling like no one else understands it or has ever felt the same way.
  2. Empathize and Normalize: Share stories about times that you have felt the same way before, whether as a student or in current work or home life.
  3. Narrate: Describe the things you are seeing and hearing from your child. Make sure you understand what is happening for them from their perspective and have an accurate version of it. Don’t add details – just say what you see. Be a colour commentator! It’s a more helpful tool than you might expect.
  4. Use Emotions Language: Sure, maybe your kiddo is grumpy or irritable lately, but maybe they are ALSO anxious, worried, lonely, overwhelmed, or lack confidence. Find the words that fit for them and help them build that language into their vocabulary. Knowing our feelings and being able to communicate them is a lifelong skill.
  5. Find the Fun & Flexibility: We might not be able to let our kids miss school, but we can find ways to help them think about it so it’s not as challenging. And hey, maybe we can even find opportunities to make the end-of-the-school-year experience more fun. Plan special breakfasts, try new school snacks, leave them special notes in their room or bathroom when they wake up, or use rewards (if appropriate) to help them feel more motivated about school.
  6. Pick your Battles: Work with your child and their teacher to figure out what the most important things are to focus on as the school year comes to a close. Bring attention and effort to those things and let the other less important things slide when you can.
  7. Keep Consistent: Make sure to keep things consistent in areas that you can. Keep those bedtime routines on track, try to find opportunities for connection and quality family time, have screen and screen free down time, and when you can, prioritize your parental mental health.

If you need more help, or if you’re wondering if your child or youth’s struggles are part of a bigger issue, reach out to us, we are here to help!

Written by: Megan Adams Lebell, Registered Psychologist

Making the Most of Post-Secondary Accommodations

Making the Most of Post-Secondary Accommodations

Post-secondary school is often a very meaningful period in a person’s life. Whether it is at a university, college, or polytechnic, one’s post-secondary experience can have a big impact on the trajectory of their career and livelihood. However, students living with disabilities may experience barriers that impact their ability to learn and participate in post-secondary education at the same level as their peers.

Post-secondary institutions have a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to support students with verified disabilities. Disabilities may be sensory (e.g., vision/hearing), developmental, medical/physical, or mental health-related. It is important for students with disabilities to stay informed on the supports that are available to them and utilize their accommodations to make the most of their post-secondary experience.

What is an accommodation? An accommodation is a reasonable variation from an educational rule, standard, policy, or practice.

Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Note-taking supports
  • Exam accommodations (e.g., extra time; quiet space)
  • Assistive technology (e.g., voice-to-text software)
  • Adaptive equipment (e.g., ergonomic or modified work stations)

Here are some things to consider if you are a current or prospective student with a disability in a post-secondary program:

  • Register with the disability/accessibility center at your institution as soon as you are accepted into your post-secondary program.
  • Obtain and submit appropriate documentation which will be used to verify your disability.
    • For most disabilities, a physician can complete a disability verification form for the student.
    • Mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., generalized anxiety disorder; ADHD) may be verified by a registered psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a physician.
      • Specific Learning Disorders must be verified through a psychoeducational assessment completed by a registered psychologist.
    • Openly discuss the challenges you experience when it comes to education with your disability advisor. Offer suggestions of ways the institution can support you, drawing from experiences in high school or previous post-secondary studies.
    • Your disability advisor will let you know which types of accommodations will be most appropriate for you, based on your specific needs and the program that you are in. For example, a person with a Specific Learning Disorder in reading may benefit from extra time to write their exams, a quiet space for exams, and a reader (i.e., a person to read the exam aloud to them).
    • Communicate with your instructor and/or disability advisor as soon as you notice you are struggling in school. Your accommodation plan may need to be revised as you move through your program and as your needs change.
    • Access supports through other services within your institution, such as tutoring, academic advising, and counselling. These services are usually offered free-of-charge for enrolled students.

Post-secondary students with disabilities may be faced with increased barriers to learning and participation; however, supports and accommodations are available to ensure these students have the opportunity to reach their academic potential and future goals. Stay informed, reach out for support, utilize the resources that are available to you, and you will be on your way to post-secondary success!

Written by: Rachelle MacSorley, Registered Psychologist

A-D/HD and Self Compassion

A-D/HD and Self Compassion

People with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (A-D/HD or ADHD) are more likely to have experiences where they felt a lack of support or criticism. Such experiences can result in internalized shame and negative core beliefs.

This can be especially true for people who are diagnosed later in life.

Treating yourself with kindness and giving yourself the space to not only make mistakes, but also to be your own unique neurodivergent self, can change how you navigate your life.

It can support letting go of perfectionist expectations, bringing self-acceptance and resilience.

Kristen Neff, a pioneer in the study of the benefits of Self Compassion, found that individuals with higher levels of self- compassion reported less self-critical talk and had a lower risk of anxiety and depression than those who have lowers levels (Neff, Rude & Kirkpatrick, 2007).

Neff has formulated 3 core elements in the practice of Self Compassion:

Self-Kindness

Understanding that imperfection, failure, and other challenges are a natural part of living: being kind towards yourself and accepting limitations.

Common Humanity

Recognizing that we’re not the only people suffering or making mistakes – all people do.

Mindfulness

Acknowledging and observing your negative emotions rather than suppressing or identifying with them. Remembering that you are not your feelings.

Lea Seigen Shinraku (founder of the San Francisco Centre for Creative Self-Compassion) states that mindfulness “can help regulate challenging emotions by focussing our attention on our physical sensations or some other experience in our environment. And learning to self-soothe can also help people with ADHD cope with challenging emotions.”

Shinraku shares that “the simplest self-compassion exercise is to put a hand or two on your heart and take three breaths. This self-soothing practice stimulates the release of oxytocin and helps our nervous system calm down.” (Maria Romanszkas. “ADHD and the Power of Self Compassion.” 8/May/2023, adhdonline.org)

When you are aware that you are experiencing negative self -talk, place your hand on your heart, take 3 breaths and practice replacing criticism with more self -affirming statements.

Think about what you would say to a friend who was having those same self-critical thoughts and be your own friend.

Living with ADHD can bring challenges. It’s important to have a balanced perspective and know where you are challenged, while remembering to be realistic and kind.

It also important to recognize that ADHD can also bring strengths or what I like to call superpowers. Remember where you are a rock star and shine!

 

Written by: Lorna Brothen, Registered Social Worker and Clinical Counsellor with Wildflowers

 

References:

Maria Romanszkas. “ADHD and the Power of Self Compassion.” 8/May/2023, adhdonline.org

https://self-compassion.org

Self Compassion – The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

Kristin Neff Ph.D.

Learning to be Flexible

     Learning to be Flexible 

When my turn rolls around for writing the blog, I inevitably face writers block.  What do people want to read about?  What would be helpful?  One of my colleagues suggested that I write about something that I spend a lot of time focusing on with clients, so I have opted to go in that direction this time.

One topic I spend time discussing with clients is the concept of “flexibility.”  Flexibility is not “anything goes” but it is being willing to manage, handle, and accept those things that happen in our lives that we have no control over as well the ability to handle not necessarily getting what we want, with grace and acceptance.  Demonstrating flexibility does not mean that we have to “like” all those changes, or doing activities with others that are not our favourite things to do, or being happy about the behaviours of others that are annoying to us.  Flexibility means “accepting”, not necessarily “liking” and these are two very different feelings.

One can accept that we have to take turns without actually liking taking turns.  I can tolerate politely sit through a movie, even if that particular genre is not my thing, because it’s a friend’s turn to choose an activity.  There is the possibility that going to the Reptile Expo with me was not really the way my friend would choose to spend an afternoon (even though I can’t imagine not loving this activity :)).  Taking turns is one of the hidden rules of friendship and one way to authentically utilize social thinking.

Being flexible does not mean that we are masking our “true” selves. We hear and read a lot about “masking.”  Masking is about hiding the characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  All too often I hear people say that they do not want to mask, but instead of saying I want to be free to show that I have ASD, they use not masking as a reason for being selfish, rude or inflexible.  Masking does not really need to enter into the discussion of whether or not we can be flexible.  Learning to be flexible does not mean that we are covering our neurodivergency.  Encouraging authentic flexibility, even if it is learned later in life, is not hiding who we really are.

There are many ways to demonstrate flexibility.  This is not a complete list, but for example: we can recognize that some things are outside of our control, change our plan and accept the change; we can compromise (take turns, or do win/win types of compromises were we each get some of what we want and combine that); we can wait; we can ask instead of demand or tell (and be alright with the answer); and we can think about situations in terms of “not yet.”   If you need to flick your fingers, wear your fuzziest socks so you can squeeze your toes or wear no socks at all, to make being flexible easier, go for it!!!

Flexibility is not ease for some of us.  The good news is, that regardless of our age, it can be developed.  Sadly, flexibility is not always (for some less often than for others) easy.  If you are like me, and have to work at it, know that you are not alone.

 

Blog Post by: Tara Garratt, Registered Psychologist with Wildflowers

Emotions and Super-Feelers

Emotions and Super-Feelers

What if I were to tell you that 5 to 10% of people experience their emotions and feelings more intensely than others and that while this may pose a challenge in terms of learning how to manage these emotions, it can also be a strength; a super-power skill – if you will. A few years ago, I attended a training for a therapeutic modality called Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) facilitated by Dr. Adelle Lafrance. At this training, Dr. Lafrance posed the question, who in this room would consider themselves to be a super-feeler – of the approximately 120 nutritionists, social workers and psychologists in attendance, 120 put up their hands. This 100% ratio lent into my already existing perspective that many individuals in caring professions have high levels of empathy and compassion.

In addition to experiencing their own emotions more intensely, many super-feelers have high levels of empathy for others and tend to pay attention to the feelings and emotional states of those around them. In some cases, experiencing emotions more acutely is biologically based, similarly to how some individuals may have natural athletic qualities or seem to demonstrate a strong natural ability to solve problems and equations. While in other cases, experiences of adversity, challenge or even trauma may contribute to individuals experiencing their own emotions and the emotions of others more intensely. Additionally, the brains of children and adolescents are not fully developed, contributing to a more intense experience of being a super feeler for these young people. Ideally, over time and with the support of adults around them these young people will learn how to understand and process their emotions and emotional experiences and learn how to regulate their own emotional states. Effectively, turning their natural “sensitivity” into an asset and even a way of being within the world.

Many caregivers who choose to access counselling for their children do so, due to their children’s intense experience of emotions – ranging from anger, anxiety, worry, overwhelm, etc. and while the below the information is beneficial for super feelers, it is helpful for all children.

Ways to support your Super-Feeler Child:

  1. Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation – an ambiguous phrase – but what does it actually mean? Dr. Stuart Shanker refers to emotional regulated as “The three R’s of Emotional Regulation” a threefold process in which a caregiver first recognizes the emotional state of their child, assists to reduce both the physical and emotional state of the child and then works to restore the child to a place of equilibrium. This can also be referred to as co-regulation and it is important to note that children, especially those that are younger (infants to early elementary) require regular and consistent co-regulation prior to them being able to consistently self-regulate their own emotional states. Depending on the age and developmental stage of the child, the parents’ role in the process may differ, for example the process of recognizing, reducing and restoring the emotional state of an infant would be different than that of an older child. (Shaker, 2017)

The pattern of recognition, reduction and restoration also works in reflective and pre-emptive capacities. For example, when the child is calm and can talk about their stressors – asking what these stressors feel like in their bodies, accompanying emotions, preventative strategies and effective ways to reduce the stress response can all be part of the process. The hope and goal is that a young person can eventually learn to do this effectively for themselves and will possess (and in many ways continue to develop) these tools while moving into adulthood.

Teaching emotional regulation does not have to be complicated and in some ways can be worked right into the day-to-day routines of families. Two easy examples are:

  • Working in discussions around emotions while watching television and reading children’s books can be an easy way to discuss and normalize emotions that fit into many family’s regular routines.
  • Engaging in activities that will slowly stretch children’s abilities and then praising their efforts and validating their emotional experience can support their ability to work through difficult situations, while recognizing their own internal experience and resilience.
  1. Learn about the purpose of emotions.

Emotions are not inherently good or bad although a common perception of emotions is that positive emotions are considered “good”, while negative emotions are considered “bad”. All emotions – both positive and negative are a form of communication, described as “fundamental adaptive signals that provide individuals with information about themselves and the world” (Lafrance et al., 2020, p. 32). Normalizing emotional experiences as that of communication takes away the stigma around emotions and provides a more accurate and balanced perspective of their purpose and function.

  1. Learn how to validate emotions.

There are many strategies for caregivers on how to validate the emotional experiences of their children. One of my favorites comes from the above noted Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT). The approach taught by this model emphasizes using the word because – instead of but and uses three separate validations which deepen in their content as the validation unfolds. This model endorses the validation of feelings, emotional states, experiences or elements of the situation.

For example:

  1. “I understand that you are feeling left-out because ___________, because ____________, because ____________”.

“I understand that you are feeling left-out because you were not invited to the sleepover, because you regularly feel left out by these friends and because you wonder if there is a reason they are leaving you out”.

  1. I understand that you do not want to get out of bed today because________, because_________, and because __________.

“I understand that you do not want to get out of bed today because you are feeling sad/low and because sometimes it feels easier to take a break from the hard stuff and because you wonder if it’s worth it”.

The thing about the EFFT style of validation is that it does not shy away from validating the hard stuff, the deep emotions that are related to pain, suffering and sadness. This form of validation can be life change and dynamic changing– but it can also feel hard, different and even vulnerable. At times it can feel like speaking the “unspoken” out loud. Sometimes if we can speak to the deep and intense feelings that people are experiencing, we gain understanding and reinforce deep emotional connection. The formation of deep connections creates feelings of safety and security from which people can grow. Through these connections we can act preventatively, understand a fuller picture of what our loved one is experiencing and do our best to support their emotional regulation development. While this model is used to validate intense emotions, it is a highly adaptable tool that can be used to validate all forms of emotional experience – from day to day worry to feelings of happiness and joy.

Another amazing thing about the EFFT model is that they offer a ton of really great resources on their website: For Caregivers | mhfoundations-efft (mentalhealthfoundations.ca)

  1. Do your own work.

It is important to note that validation of emotions does not mean that you as a caregiver are agreeing with the choices or actions of your child. Agreeing and validating are two different things. In fact, the actions or decisions of your child may bring up your own difficult emotional experience or increased stress response. This is a common caregiving experience – I would not be surprised to hear that most caregivers can think back to a time when their child’s actions caused them to feel embarrassed, worried, or even in some cases to enter into the “what ifs”. At times, the actions of our children may feel uncomfortable due to our personal and/or family values, goals and even our hopes and dreams for the lives of our children. For instance, if our child engages in name-calling or even bullying – does this mean that they are going to grow up not caring about others? Or if your child appears to have low motivation for an important task or school assignment – does that mean that they will go on to be unsuccessful adults? One example of doing our own work may be becoming aware of these thoughts and what they trigger for us as a caregiver and as an individual. And if applicable, are these triggers impacting our ability to connect with our child, co-regulate our child or support the growth and development of our child?

Our own understanding and perceptions around emotions may be other areas to consider when working on ourselves as caregivers. Considering what the understanding and expectations were around emotions when we were children and how has this may have impacted us? For example, was it considered weak or inappropriate to express “big emotions” as a child and if so, what did we do to manage these emotions? Are these strategies still impacting us and if so, in what ways?

References:

Lafrance, A., Henderson, K. A., & Mayman, S. (2020). Emotion-Focused Family Therapy A Transdiagnostic Model For Caregiver-Focused Interventions. American Psychological Association

Shanker, S., Dr. (2017). Self-Reg How to Help Your Child (And You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life.

 

Blog Post by: Andrea Rhodes-Reilly, Registered Social Worker

I Like Bricks

I Like Bricks.

I like bricks. Bricks are solid, firm. I like the dark red kind, like you find on old houses. Smooth on the outside, no falsely applied ridges or perfect edges like new ones. They make me think of foundations and walls. Solidity, a past period of time, something to get hold of and hold on to. I built a lovely brick patio some little distance from my house, not far, as my yard is not big. When completed, it seemed to be floating out in the centre of the garden all by itself, not really join or connected to anything…a solid mass in a sea of green; beautiful in its symmetry but lonely somehow. So off to find more bricks, and a curvy little pathway found it way from my porch to the patio. I sat on the steps and my eyes followed the walk, saw the joining of the patio to my home, and I felt better. How like old bricks are our lives, seemingly solid and firm, smooth on the outside, but soft and crumbly within. The colour of dried blood and broken clay pots, faded on the outside from the wind and sun and rain, but still the fresh dark wound colour of the original on the inside.

We build our foundation and walls brick by brick, layer by layer, using a mortar mix of our own creation. One part memory, one part denial, one part tears, two parts love and curiosity, and a last part “I must go on”. Our walls grow, one piece at a time, as we collect experiences of joy and sorrow. We may toss those building bricks aside, not enough time, or no need in the moment. But eventually, they get used up as we fortify ourselves against perceived harms and indiscretions.

Become a mason, but choose to build a path instead of a wall. Recycle that life built slowly through the years and lay down a walkway to a new base. Where your footsteps fall will be a little chipped, a bit cracked to expose the ingredients, broken open displaying your weres and should haves and didn’ts. That new path will carry your weight and support you in a new way of living, linked with the past, but moving out and away to your new tomorrow. Taker down the walls one brick at a time if need be, and construct a path. And be on your way.

Blog Post by: Cynthia Scratch, Registered Psychologist

How Resilience Helps Us Bounce Back from Parenting Stress

How Resilience Helps Us Bounce Back from Parenting Stress

Becoming a parent is a life-altering experience, filled with highs and lows and everything in between. The wonderful memories created with your children are endless, such as bedtime snuggles, dance recitals, home runs, and so much shared love. On the other hand, there are the challenges such as sleepless nights, toddler meltdowns, financial strain, frequent guilt, and a lack of free time.

The duality of parenthood is what makes it both a beautiful and highly stressful experience. When my twin daughters were born, I had an image of the father I wanted to be and I tried so hard to be that for them. Unfortunately, I was unprepared for the hurt and self-judgement I experienced when that didn’t come as easily as I thought it should. This left me feeling angry, stressed, guilty, and exhausted.

For many parents, the ups and downs of the many stages of parenthood and their unique joys and jostles leaves parents struggling with chronic stress. This stress can leave them at risk of increased depression, anger, anxiety, mood disturbances, suicidal ideation, and decreased feelings of confidence and hope. In the face of stress, it can be easy to forget about your own needs, but this is vital to being able to care for those who count on us. Building resilience is about dedicating time to yourself so you can recharge and become the best parent you can be.

Resilience helps us to shift our perspective on the world and our problems so we can bounce back from stress. Carole Pemberton defines it as our “capacity to remain flexible in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when faced by life disruption, or extended periods of pressure, so that we emerge from difficulty stronger, wiser, and more able”.

As parents, we try to meet the needs of our children the best we can, and building our resilience allows us to do this in a way that includes us in the process. Dr. Dan Tomasulo says there are three components to building resilience: (1) gratitude, (2) acts of kindness, and (3) meditation. When we incorporate these into our lives it can allow us to embrace a perspective that sees past the stress and find hope, joy, and happiness.

Many people have heard about gratitude journals; however, I often hear clients talk about being frustrated with them. They take time each night and write down a list of things they are grateful for, and while this is a great start, many people can struggle to see benefits. Learning to be truly grateful can be a very effective way for parents to build resilience, but it needs to go beyond the act of listing things in a journal.

To be truly grateful means creating a sense of thankfulness, appreciation, and wonder for life. When we think about our struggles, we go into great detail about the pain, the loss, or the guilt. The hurt becomes tangible. We need to treat our gratitude with the same intensity and purpose as we do our hurt.

A very popular and proven exercise that I have found helpful with parents is creating a gratitude letter. The task is simple; select someone that you feel grateful for (e.g., your partner; a parent; a friend) and write them a letter of appreciation. You can even go as far as delivering the letter or reading it aloud to them. Here is a video showing how it can be done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg.

Engaging in acts of kindness is another way for parents to build resilience through the social connection that it can create. Has the person in front of you at the drive thru ever bought your coffee? It can create such a sense of surprise, joy, and thankfulness. You will probably feel inspired to do something nice for someone else that day, thus creating more connection and happiness for everyone involved. Here is a video showing it in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4ALRY5LyBM.

The last core component of resiliency is meditation. The type of meditation I often find the most helpful for stressed parents is mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being present and “in the moment”. It’s about being 100% there and engaged in your experience, and not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness is not about pretending that everything is okay or about dismissing challenges; it is about focusing nonjudgmentally on the moment so you can be present in your own life. Mindfulness-based interventions have been used successfully in helping treat issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. Here is one mindfulness meditation that parents can try: https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/loving_kindness_meditation

When parents take the time to build their resilience, it helps them to see past the daily stress of parenthood and be more present for those they love. Through gratitude, acts of kindness, and meditation/mindfulness, parents can work towards becoming the parent they always hoped to be.

References:

Benson, P., & Karlof, K. (2009). Anger, stress proliferation, and depressed mood among parents of children with ASD: A longitudinal replication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(2), 350-362. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-008-0632-0

Helgeson, V., Becker, D., Escobar, O., & Siminerio, L. (2012). Families with children with diabetes: implications of parent stress for parent and child health. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 37(4), 467-478. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jrs110

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Blog Post by: Cody MacSorley, MSW RSW, Clinical Counsellor

Caught You Doing Something Great!

Caught You Doing Something Great!

It is probably safe to say that most parents would like to increase their children’s positive behaviour.

Sometimes as parents there can feel like an overwhelming amount of things to work on with our children. Whether that be manners, prosocial skills, academic skills, independent skills, or just that overall pressure and desire to raise decent human beings.

Given the lofty task at hand, it can feel necessary to program ourselves to notice and address these concerns. Before we know it, it might feel as if alarm bells are constantly going off on all the behaviours that need addressing.

There is no doubt that addressing these things are important and part of our parental duties, and in the midst of all the correcting and teaching, I offer a suggestion. If you want to increase positive behaviours in your children, start noticing what is going well.  If your behaviour radar seems set to detect just the negative behaviours, try flipping the switch, even just a bit to start detecting the things already going well! Notice the positive behaviours already happening and acknowledge them, praise them, and high five about them. It won’t solve all your problems, but it may start to shift things and the increased confidence and positivity may be the building blocks for the next skills.

Research shows that giving attention to behaviours, whether those are positive or negative behaviours will increase the likelihood of that behaviour occurring again. Catching and acknowledging those positive behaviours really does make a difference!

Lots could be said about the art of praise but being specific and genuine is a great place to start.

So today as you go about all the things that come along with parenting, try and catch your kids doing well, and let them know! Who knows, you may be surprised to find there are more great things happening than you thought!

Blog Post by: Janelle Janzen BSW RSW, Clinical Counsellor