During our talk, which aired live on Facebook, Dr. Freedanthal provided valuable tools for recognizing signs of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues in our children. She also encouraged parents and caregivers to establish an open dialogue with their children that enables them to feel seen and heard.
Here are some of my top takeaways from our conversation.
Talk to your kids, or find them a trusted adult they feel comfortable with enough to share their concerns, worries and feelings with. This may include a fellow family member, a mental health professional or a combination of several individuals.
Let your child know they will not be judged or blamed if they have suicidal thoughts or are thinking of harming themselves. Too often, children won’t speak up because they are scared of getting in trouble or letting their family down.
Be mindful of how you speak about suicide. Children take in what we say, and if they hear us referring to someone who committed or attempted suicide as selfish or attention-seeking, they may not feel OK coming to us if they are considering ending their own lives.
Keep talking. Though it may seem counterintuitive talking to your kids about suicide, and even asking them if they ever think about ending their lives, won’t cause them to want to commit suicide. Instead this will let them know they are encouraged to share what’s on their mind and know they are supported.
If you would like to watch the full, edited interview, please click on the image below to watch the video on YouTube.
Before reading further, be advised I am not a professional in the field of mental health, and what I share here should never replace the services provided by someone who is trained to help those who struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety or other mental health issues.
January is a difficult month for many people. We come in at the start full of excitement and hope, determined to accomplish our goals, only to find by the middle of the month, we have already failed to follow through on our resolutions. Add to that feeling of dejection days of minimal sunlight, and, for some, seasonal depression.
Yes, January can be tough. However, January can also be freeing and satisfying. As a person born in January, this month holds deep meaning for me, and I hope the ideas shared below serve you well in the coming weeks and beyond.
Reassess Those Resolutions
Many of us use the upcoming year to make resolutions and set intentions for ourselves. After sticking with them for a few days, often we fail to keep following through. For example, you may have gone in to 2023 determined to run three miles a day, and after a week, you found yourself lacing up your running shoes less and less. You may feel angry, disappointed and frustrated at your failure to follow through. All of these are valid feelings. Failing to stick with a resolution, especially so early on in the year can be such a blow to our egos, many of us see little point in even trying again.
There is a point, and being able to come back to something like running or learning a language or volunteering more is admirable. Yet, when we approach these goals the same way we always have, chances are, we will struggle once more. We tend to believe we need to think big, when thinking small, that is setting tiny, easily attainable goals is a better path toward success.
I first came across this idea of setting small goals when listening to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits on Brene Brown’s “Dare To Lead” podcast. He shared an example of someone’s goal of simply driving to the gym (I believe once a week). Did this person go in the gym at first, no, but the small, repeated habit of just getting there set the stage for them to do so. Even driving might be too much, it could just be the simple act of packing a gym bag one day a week. The point is, even if you “failed” to follow through on those resolutions, you can try again by giving yourself simpler and more attainable goals.
Celebrate The Small Wins
After the past few years we have been through, I believe we all deserve a lot of love and grace for getting to this moment. For many of us, the pandemic has left us with an overwhelming question of “what am I doing with my life?” We feel pressured to make big changes and “correct” areas of our lives.
Pandemic or not, any moment any of us can say I am here, I am alive, I am present is worth celebrating. For some, this could just mean getting out of bed and getting dressed in the morning. For others, it might mean taking a walk around the block. For others, it could just mean spending a minute in front of a mirror brushing their hair. These little moments are huge, and should be celebrated.
Focus On The Present
January tends to be a time of looking ahead. I am guilty of using this time of year to obsess over summer plans and other happenings long in the future. While, planning ahead is necessary at times, and there is nothing wrong with thinking about the future, I know the idea can be stressful.
I find taking the time to be mindful of where I am and what I am doing to be centering and gives me the focus I need to take on more challenging tasks. If you find yourself spiraling into worry, you might find this tip I learned from my therapist helpful. Wherever you are, take a few moments to play a game of “I Spy” (yup the game you play with your kids). By focusing on items in our current space, we can calm our minds and center ourselves.
Remember Even Those “Lost” Days Have Value
I have many days where I intend to check a bunch of items off of my to do list, but my mood, extenuating circumstances or other unexpected things pull me off course, and I am left at the end of the day wondering what I did with my time.
For many of us, we feel like we need tangible evidence of a productive day. This could mean cleaning out our inbox, scheduling doctors’ appointments, putting away laundry and other tasks on our to-do lists. When we have those days where it feels like nothing got done, it can be devastating. However, those “nothing” days are important. Sometimes, we go into them with intention, purposely committing to avoiding most tasks in order to recharge, and sometimes we just find our bodies and minds need a rest and have to cancel plans or put off our task list for a day. Taking care of ourselves, in whatever way that means, isn’t being lazy or self-indulgent, it is vital for living a healthy life.
As I said in the beginning of this post, I am no expert, and I often fail to heed my own advice. I wrote this as much as a guide for myself as anyone else. If you leave with anything, know you are incredible as you are and that every day is a new opportunity.
“Will G-d punish me?” My son asked after admitting he had lied to me earlier that day.
The question caught me off guard, because, while my son does have a strong moral compass and feels ashamed when he makes a mistake, never before had he pondered G-d’s involvement in his own life.
I am all for intense philosophical and theological debates on the existence of a higher power, and what, if any, role said power plays in the shaping of human existence.
However, when these questions come from your own child, no amount of scholarly texts or Biblical excerpts will ease their fears.
Before I could approach my son’s question, I needed to take account of our current reality and it’s impact on my children and indeed all children around the world.
We are in the midst of what maybe the most frightening experience thus far for many of our children. Certainly, this is the case for mine.
And, even if we as adults do our best to keep COVID-19=related news to ourselves, our childre are smart. They can sense our fear and worry. They see us donning masks to run errands. They conduct their studies via video meetings. They wave to their friends from across the street.
They know life is far from normal.
Take ten minutes to peruse online parenting groups, and you fill find countless cries for help, frustrated commenters and moms and dads at their wits end over their kids’ behavior. Continue reading →
The first few months or so after I gave birth to my first child were a blur of sleepless nights, days without a decent shower, and scrambling to eat to keep up with the never-ending hunger I felt from constant breastfeeding.
I was often exhausted, overwhelmed, angry, sad and confused.
New motherhood brought on a slew of emotions I had little experience with before I had kids.
I needed a way to process those emotions — to make sense of what I was experiencing — so, I turned to writing.
I started this blog in 2013, shortly after I made the decision to leave my job and become a stay-at-home mom.
My first entries were short, often nonsensical ramblings, I never intended many people to see. Though, I guess, subconsciously, I was hoping others would read it, otherwise I would have stuck with an old-school journal.
Regardless of my intent, getting my thoughts about parenting out of my head and on to the screen helped me to work through some of the harder parts of motherhood.
Writing might seem like a simple solution, but for me and others, like Kimberly Zapata, the founder of Greater Than Illness, there is so much more to writing than words on paper.
On May 12, millions of Americans spent the day celebrating the mothers in their lives. Mother’s Day serves to remind us of all these women have done.
Later this month, Americans will celebrate another special group of people. A group, much like mothers, who put others before themselves. A group who paid the ultimate price for what they loved — their country.
This Memorial Day, we will place flags on our windows; we will march in parades; we will cheer for those who serve, and bow our heads for those who died in the process. We will swell with patriotic pride.
But, what happens when the parades end, the flags come down, and everyone goes back to their lives?
Like mothers, veterans give their all for what they love. And, like mothers, veterans, all too often, get so little in return.
We praise those who serve, yet when the time comes to provide the services they need to cope with the toll of warfare, America falls short.
Our soldiers return from battle, suffering from the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and are often left to fend for themselves. The resources they find may be limited or too expensive.
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