Tag Archives: strategies

Owning Our Depression

a woman in shadow looking out a window at fall leavesThe weather, our hormones, the way our lives change when we become mums and dads, financial woes, broken sleep, so many responsibilities, things not working out the way you had dreamed… There are many reasons for parents to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, or depressed.

The first step in dealing with depression is often simply admitting defeat: “I AM SO DEPRESSED!” We are used to carrying on as normal, saying “I’m fine thank you,” and not making changes for our health. Often we are so very busy, we feel that we cannot stop and give ourselves the time and love that we need. But a parent who is tired and unhappy is not the best parent, partner, or friend they can be.

    “There is no doubt that depressed mothers can also have a big
    negative impact on their babies’ brains.”

               – Sue Gerhardt, psychotherapist

If making ourselves happier is going to help our kids to thrive, then bring it on I say!

Getting Better:

Old wives used to say “Fresh air and Exercise, that’s what you need!” and there is certainly something in that. Walking in the sunshine is proven to beat some types of depression, and exercise releases endorphins, which acts like a shot of happiness.

Talking to others about it can help, if you have a spouse, friend, mum, fellow volunteer, or doctor with whom you feel comfortable opening your heart. Other people can often see a practical solution to a problem when we are just too miserable to think clearly.

Cleaning! When my house gets too cluttered and chaotic, I get crabby. It’s time to put on the cleaning music, grab a bag, and go from room to room throwing stuff out. By the time I’ve got all of the dirty socks in the laundry bin and wiped everywhere with nice-smelling stuff, I definitely feel better. I’ve even had friends come over and fold laundry while I tidied around them, which is TRUE friendship. (Okay, so they couldn’t find a chair to sit on unless they moved the laundry heap… but it’s the actions that count!)

Vitamins and a healthy diet: Omega 3, B vitamins, and several others nutrients are found to aid recovery. Our modern lifestyles are stressful and much of the food we eat is not of the best quality. I know that when I feel blue, I don’t feel like cooking, and go for easy snacks.

Hydration: Drinking enough water is a simple way to detox and feel more energetic. Drink your eight glasses a day!

Meditation can be useful in learning to quiet the mind and deal with stress.

Helping others can be uplifting. Volunteering your skills with a local charity, for example, will win you many enthusiastic friends!

And If That Doesn’t Work…

We all have bad days, but ongoing depression can be your mind telling you that something has to change. Unresolved issues from our own childhood can affect the way we feel about ourselves as parents, and talking about it can help.

Ask your GP for advice: they can often help you by listening, and they may have excellent suggestions. Your doctor can refer you to a counsellor or psychologist if you need further assistance, and these specialists are a wonderful resource. The earlier you can deal with the issues that cause you stress, the faster you can get on with your life and be the best parent possible.

Depression can also be a symptom of a medical condition, such as some viral infections or hypothyroidism, and your GP may want to check that you aren’t suffering from any treatable condition. So do see your doctor if you can’t seem to beat the blues.

Remember, most kinds of depression are temporary: Post Natal Depression will lift, and those of us who get depressed when the weather is grey feel better in the Spring, so there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Getting help can make you feel better sooner, and might just prevent recurring blues. Take care of yourself, so that you can be the best for your family!

by Nan Sheppard

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Photo graciously provided by Denis Collette…!!!, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Condoning Avoidance

kids hands with friendship braceletsNow that the summer is over and the kids are back in school, I thought I’d take this time to reflect on our latest experience with Summer Camp. The daycare located on site where I work offers summer camp for children entering kindergarten through those entering fifth grade. My son is a veteran now, since this was his third time in the summer camp program. This year was my daughter’s (who just started kindergarten) first time. Up until this summer, she was technically still in the preschool that is offered for the younger kids.

For my daughter, everything new about the way things were done in summer camp caused her to be nervous. She adapted to riding the bus on field trips after I chaperoned a couple of the first ones and she decided that riding the bus wasn’t such a big deal after all. She adapted to field trips in general, even ones I couldn’t go on, both because her big brother was always with her and because she had a great time. She got to know new kids in her class and adapted to making new friends.

The two things she didn’t come around to liking were swimming lessons and what the summer camp called “sports day”, or something very close to a physical education intro to organized sports sort of class. She very strongly disliked both of them with all of the emotion that her little body could generate.

Both my son and daughter disliked sports day enough that getting us out of the house on Wednesday mornings (the day that was sports day) was more than a chore. They’d think of every way possible to delay leaving the house so that we’d arrive late enough that they didn’t have time enough to participate. From waking up crying or just crabby in general, to dragging their feet getting dressed or eating breakfast, we never left on time. After a while, I just decided to stop trying to make them go, and scheduled shopping trips or doctor’s appointments for Wednesday mornings rather than spend all my time nagging them to go. They run around all day, and neither of them are in any way out of shape. I figured it was alright to negotiate this one away.

The last one, swim class, was tougher. I want both my kids to learn how to swim for their own safety. I never formally learned myself, and can sort of get by enough to splash my way through a swimming emergency if need be. For my daughter, she was literally terrified about going. She’d cry in my arms when I dropped her off at school, something she hasn’t done since she was three. She would wake up on swim lesson days sobbing so hard I could barely understand what she was saying and I often thought she was going to make herself sick.

I tried to ask her what was making her so scared of swim lessons. She couldn’t really tell me other than she just really didn’t want to go. I tried explaining that the swim instructors would be there, and her teachers would be there, and that nothing bad was going to happen. Nothing seemed to help her. She would go to the class, but she’d opt to sit next to her teachers on the bench, while her classmates would go in the water and splash around. At this age, none of them are really swimmers, and lessons mostly consist of getting their face wet and floating. Eventually, I let her stay behind at the summer camp and hang out with her brother on swim lesson days (they sent girls as a group on one day and boys as a group on another), rather than go with her class to the pool.

I know that others would probably have pushed her to conquer her fears, or somehow made her just suck it up and go, but that wasn’t what my gut was telling me. She was so out of sorts and so communicative about how distressing she found the lessons, that I felt it was alright to let her skip this year. There will be swimming lessons again next year. She will have another chance at trying. I felt it was better to listen to her feelings and find a way to work with them and validate them, rather than just forcing her to do something that’s “good for her.”

For me, listening to my children and helping them to conquer there fears at their own rate has always been more important to me than forcing them to get there on my terms and in my timetable. They’ve managed to accomplish things they first were afraid to, and they have done it when they felt safe enough and ready to do them. Perhaps it’s going to take longer this way, but in the end, I hope that I’ve helped them to feel confident that they can step back and take a breather from life when they need to every now and then, as long as they give it another try when they are ready.

by Rocket Science Mom

Photo graciously provided by amanda.venner , through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Starting School, Is It Ever Easy?

a hand holding a chicken nuggetThe first day of school can be pretty traumatic for parents and children alike. I would like to say that there is a special technique you can use to make it easy for everyone, but since all kids (and all parents) are different, all I can really do is to pat you on the back and say “there, there…”

My own kids are a fine example. They were raised and prepared for school in the same way, and reacted to it so differently.

My first son Chas cried a bit at first, then got a grip. He was never a big fan of school but resigned himself to fate.

Sam spent his first month screaming blue murder whenever I dropped him off, leaving me a quivering wreck every morning. He’d cling to the car seat, the gate, the school door, and me like his life depended on it. The teacher had to PEEL him off me every morning. I’d creep back, peek in at the window and the little wretch would be playing happily with his buddies, but that didn’t help me the next screaming morning! One day I said to him “Sam, I can’t take this any more. I understand that you need to cry if you are upset, and that is fine. But dude, this every-morning drama is too much for this mama. If you DON’T cry when I drop you to school this morning, I’ll take you to KFC when I pick you up.” Sam’s three-year-old eyes got as round as plates, and angels sang for him. He whispered, “…chicken nuggests???” and I nodded.

That morning, he waved me goodbye and skipped merrily into school, and never cried again. Huh.

When Max MY BAAAYBEEEE! started play school for the first time, I was all prepared for the tears, the creeping back, the talking it over, the extra hugs. I dropped him off the first day, steeled myself, and HE waved me cheerily goodbye and ran in to say hi to a whole new bunch of interesting people.

I wept all the way home. Am I qualified to advise anyone, therefore, on pre-school preparation? I think not!

But there are a few things you can do to make the first weeks of school easier in general:

• Talk about school, mention how much fun you had when you were little (even if you didn’t!) and take it lightly. Don’t treat it like a huge big deal.

• Routine matters. If your child is in a routine at home, this will help them to get used to eating, playing and putting things away on a schedule.

• Be sure your child can get dressed and undressed independently (including coats and shoes), use the toilet without help, and feed themselves. Help them to feel that they can cope, and encourage independence.

• It helps if your child has some concept of time. “I will see you after snack time” will make the day seem less long.

• Emphasise the things they may enjoy doing. Does your child love to play with clay? That’s a school thing!

• TELL THEM that you will collect them at the end of the school day. Sometimes they don’t realise this!

• Trust the school. They generally know what they are doing, and you can ask them for tips. Chances are, your child is perfectly happy once you are out of sight. Most schools will allow you to peek in later if you need reassurance!

• When you do collect them, mention the routine things you did, and what a nice day you had. Kids like to know that everything is okay while they are away from you. You don’t want your child worrying about you all day!

• Read to your child. This is the most important thing you can do to prepare them for school: Reading aloud to kids improves their listening skills, vocabulary and comprehension. Some kids learn to read simply by looking at your finger moving under the words and ALL kids find reading easier if they are read to. Make it part of your bedtime routine.

• And finally, if you can drop your child to school that first day without crying or clinging… give yourself a sticker for being a brave parent!

by Nan Sheppard

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Photo graciously provided by my_amii, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Time For Your Own Bed, Sleepyheads!

a girl jumping on a bedEveryone knows I’m a fan of Co-Sleeping. It’s easy, safe, and good for kids and parents. Many families continue to co-sleep until the kid decides to move out into their own room. This can be at age two, when independence rears its interesting head, or at five, when your snuggler starts school and wants to be grown-up… or at ten? Who knows! In most societies (and most do still co-sleep) babies sleep with their parents until the next baby comes along.

It’s all simple and loving, when babies are small. It makes the nights so easy when they need frequent attention: between feeding, nappy changes, teething and the first colds there are just too many things to wake a baby in the first year. But they grow up! Do we really need to wait for our child to make the decision to move to their own bed? Many experts say YES: like child-led weaning, child-led co-sleeping is natural and healthy and non-traumatic. Me? I say, “AAaaaargh!” Like a mother bird that pushes it’s fledglings out of the nest, I got weary of co-sleeping (it was a love/hate thing) when my kids began to sleep lightly enough to be woken by grownup night activities (you know, reading…) And I felt that, once my boys were able to communicate, I was okay with putting them into their own beds. I hope that they got most of the benefits of co-sleeping as babies, and they don’t appear to have been traumatized either way.

Sometimes, there were tears. But these were not the tears of a baffled and terrified six-week-old who thought that Mama had gone forever, left to sob themselves to sleep in the darkness while their mother wept on the floor outside the door. My kids were old enough to say if they needed to go to the loo, or felt sick, or had an earache; and they were old enough to understand “night night” and “mummy’s right here”. It may seem arbitrary, but many parents appear to have had enough of co-sleeping around the time their kids become verbal. Many breastfeeders wean babies off their night feeds at around this age too, an often noisy process where Mama wears lots of clothes to bed and Baby bawls. (Sam would tuck my boobies in: “Night night, boobies!” and seemed to accept that there would be no night nursing, because the boobies were asleep. No doubt he will be having therapy for this in years to come.)

We had a bedtime routine since babyhood: supper, bathtime, stories, specific lullabies and sleep. When it was time to move to their own bed, we kept a similar routine, depending on the child. We talked about their new bed, with nice sheets and pillow of their very own, favourite stuffed toys and all. We got into it and said, “Hey! Mama can fit in this bed too!” And then, without too much fanfare, we went to sleep in the big-boy bed.

Gradually, I crept away. I would say, just as I used to in my own bed, “I’m just going to the bathroom, be right back” and “Bleah, I have to brush my teeth.” I always came right back. Or I would sit quietly on the floor of their room, humming a lullaby and folding laundry (at no other time has my laundry been so conscientiously folded!) Once they got used to the fact that they would survive my absence, I could chat on the phone in the next room, or potter around tidying… as long as they could hear me, they felt that all was well. I would sing as I pottered, and when they called, I answered, and brought two hundred and twenty-seven glasses of water till they gave up the tactic, but I refused to be drawn into those night-time discussions!

I know that some kids like to fall asleep entwined in a parent’s hair or clinging to their ears. For these kids, a more gradual removal (parent sitting on side of bed, parent sitting in chair next to bed, moving a few inches a night till you are just out of arm’s length and can fold your laundry or do some silent yoga…) may be needed. They fear that they will be left alone, and need to know that a parent will ALWAYS come when called. They will test this, repeatedly, until they are satisfied that they can trust you. Tedious, I know, but in the long run, it works well for everyone.

Sometimes, my kids went through a phase of getting out of bed, resisting sleep, bawling, “Iiiii’m noooooot tiiiiiired!” in the time-honoured manner of exhausted kids everywhere. Sometimes, I would snap, “Don’t you DARE get out of that bed! If you need me, call me and I will come, but STAY IN BED!” in the time-honoured manner of weary mothers everywhere. But my aim was to gradually, calmly, get them used to getting to sleep alone, happily.

It’s a shame that bedtime happens at just that time of day when you’re most exhausted, when as a parent, you feel ENTITLED to some peace, finally, and a shower, perhaps? When as a child, you are not prepared to do anything sensible. It’s a good idea to discuss the new bed in the daytime and snuggle and play in it, while everyone’s feeling positive. And the BEST way to avoid night-time discussions and arguments, (OH how my kids could discuss and argue at that age!!) is to yaaawn largely, and say, “Hmmmm? What was that honey? Oh, I’m too sleepy now, let’s talk about it in the morning…” Everyone knows that yawns are catching, and once you have settled on the bedroom floor with the laundry, folding boringly in the darkness, yaaawning, your little debator will probably give up and drop off. In time, the dropping-off will happen more quickly and easily, and will not require your presence. You might drop off, too, and be discovered by your spouse, snoring and drooling into the neatly-folded laundry. If you’re lucky, your spouse will put you to bed, and you can enjoy co-sleeping, grownup style.

And if, in the wee hours of the morning, a warm little snuggler climbs into your bed? I used to say, “You are welcome here, but I am a very tired mommy so bring your own blanket and DON’T wake me up unless it’s really necessary!” Max was a pro at creeping in without waking me, and I never minded. Inevitably, they grow out of needing their parents at night, except on nights of scary dreams and fevers or big changes. No-one ever said that the job of parenting kept regular hours. And of course, they still know that I’ll be there if they need me, night or day. Always.

by Nan Sheppard

Photo graciously provided by adwriter, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Parenting In The Media: Dinner Makeovers for Picky Eaters

Here’s a link to a step-by-step program for slowly adjusting home dinners prepared for your picky eaters. As the mom of a picky eater, I frequently search for these types of articles. Here’s one that came to my inbox today:

Dinner Makeovers For Picky Eaters