Archive for February 2017

Grief and Loss

Losing someone or something you love or care deeply about is very painful. You may experience all kinds of difficult emotions and it may feel like the pain and sadness you’re experiencing will never let up. These are normal reactions to a significant loss. But while there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain that, in time, can renew you and help you move on.

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be. You may associate grief with the death of a loved one—which is often the cause of the most intense type of grief—but any loss can cause grief, including: Divorce or relationship breakup, loss of health, losing a job, loss of financial stability, a miscarriage, retirement, death of a pet, loss of a cherished dream, a loved ones’s serious illness, loss of a friendship, loss of safety after a trauma, or selling the family home.

The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. However, even subtle losses can lead to grief. For example, you might experience grief after moving away from home, graduating from college, changing jobs, selling your family home, or retiring from a career you loved.

Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.



Single Parenting Struggles and Support

If you are a single parent, or if you are considering supporting a single parent family, please know this is one of the most meaningful things you can do. Below are some of the real challenges of life as a single parent in America today.

Resource Management: This can be anything from finances to childcare to food. Stretching the dollar to cover normal daily needs–and dare I say desires/wants-of self & family. If finances are not the challenge, single parents must make the most of time to pay the attention required to meet children’s needs (like school, activities, quality communication, and care) the demands of employer(s), and expectations of extended family, while still making room for recreation and rest. There is often more month than money or time in a single parent household. When a single parent comes home from work and starts their “second job” of cooking, cleaning, homework, bill paying, project making, and grocery shopping – they have completed a solid 12-14 hour day. Normally, social connectedness, and self-care suffer tremendously. Self Care – if you do not take care of yourself with proper nutrition, rest, exercise and spiritual food – you cannot possibly be balanced enough to take care of others and make sound and healthy decisions alongside having sound and healthy reactions to life’s more challenging moments. A single parent must remember to ASK FOR HELP. There is no replacement for investigating and learning the community resources and unapologetically putting them in place as an active part of their home. This can be like recreation centers, libraries, coupon groups, babysitting exchanges, the church, and so on. maintain a work life balance.

Social Networking: Because time and money is stretched, it is difficult to build a support network, but it is a MUST. Many single parents have mentioned that they struggle with loneliness and isolation. Often, the dynamics of dating are so challenging that people choose to stick to themselves. Many adults do not want to date a full time single parent and share attention with the children or bother to try and “blend” a family. This type of rejection is often met with heartache and brings about low self-esteem. I believe a sound solution is to surround oneself with other FAMILIES. You are not a single – you are a FAMILY. Our first priority as a family is to its members. Our activities as “grown ups” like dating, girls/guys night out, trips to the salon, etc can be supported by the circle of families to which we belong. In turn, we can offer the same.

Making up for the missing Parts: Many single parents try to play both parent roles. If there are any moms like me, the lack of interest in baiting a fishhook or tying knots with the boy scouts must be met a neutral role model of the opposite parent that is trustworthy and consistent who will commit to this type of relationship on an ongoing and long term basis. Additionally, it is very difficult to balance the demands of work fully when your child needs you at school or at home. Overtime crushes more than the clock for a single parent– it crushes our ability to give our hearts in full connection with our child–and then crushes them. A single parent needs a network – this can be with neighbors, school, church, family – whatever circle is safe, consistent, and reflective of good & sound ethics that support the parent and the children and is at the ready for life’s unexpected moments.

Guilt /Shame/Self Worth: Many single parents feel guilty and some even ashamed of having to ask more of their children than in terms of sacrifice and household operations. Often, “letting a kid be a kid” is a rare privilege. Single parents carry guilt about this at times, or overcompensate with tough love, which can be good–or build walls, depending on how it is approached and presented. Making choices about what we can do and cannot do as it relates to time and money adds to the guilt that parents carry regarding their situation. However, single parents MUST build each other up. They MUST commit to a positive and productive perspective for their kid’s sakes.

Anxiety/Fear: Single parents are often faced with making the quality of interactions make up for the lack of quantity interactions. Most single parents, however, find themselves in what I call “survival mode” emotionally, financially, or physically. They are in a stance of fight or flight rather than in a place where decisions can be made based on patient, thoughtful, well strategized, and intentional efforts. Hearts that filled with grief, guilt, shame, anxiety and fear are however leading homes and families all across America. It is VERY IMPORTANT that we recognize this and develop healthy alternative habits. AWARENESS is step one – ACKNOWLEDGEMENT of this reality and a plan to replace unhealthy perspectives with positive and productive perspectives and reactions is a commitment we must make and apply starting today.

Many children in single parent families face their own challenges:

Countless studies show that children in single parent households are under a lot more stress. When the stress accumulates it can lead to problems in school and behavioral issues. So what are single parenting’s effects on a child’s mentality overall?

Effects on Your Child’s Emotional Health – When a single parent argues with the other parent in front of the child, this can lead to stress in the child. It is especially problematic when the parents try to get the child to take sides or deliver critical messages to the other parent through the child. The conflicts between parents and single parenting’s effects on a child’s mentality can lead to the child’s inability to grow an attachment with either parent. This lack of an emotional attachment can lead to feelings of insecurity in the child.

The Effects of Abandonment on a Child’s Mentality – When discussing single parenting’s effects on a child’s mentality, it is important to note the effect abandonment can have. Abandonment refers to when a parent leaves the household and cuts of all contact. Feelings of abandonment can lead a child to question his or her own self-worth. The remaining parent must help the child cope with the other parent’s absence so the child doesn’t develop low self-esteem. Abandoned children also tend to have trust issues and bottle up their emotions rather than express them freely.

The Effects of Constant Moving on Children – Single parents move around more often usually because they face more economic hardship and must move around frequently in order to find more affordable places to live. This frequent moving is another one of single parenting’s negative effects on a child’s mentality. Each time children move they have to leave behind their neighborhood friends and the transition is even more difficult when they change schools. The possible effects of frequent moving are a sense of isolation, depression, and anxiety.

A toxic combination of unstable schedules and unstable access to childcare leads to a pattern of serial quitting. Single parenting’s effects on a child’s mentality vary but due to its inherent challenges, single parenting can cause stress for both parent and child and it is the parent’s responsibility to make it as least traumatic as possible. It is possible for the negative effects to be balanced out if the parents make an extra effort to provide their child with all the emotional support they need.

How to Help Kids talk about Learning Disabilities

“I learn differently.” Three small words that can make a world of difference for kids like me who grew up struggling with learning issues. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong.

If your child has a learning disability, getting her help—working with the school to get an effective IEP—is the first thing on your mind. But helping her get comfortable talking about it is also important. And for a lot of kids, opening up isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Why your child needs to speak up

Without context, the symptoms of LD can look like laziness or disobedience, and, more often than not, that means kids find themselves being disciplined rather than helped.

I have ADHD and dyscalculia. As a kid I was dreamy, disorganized, and really (really) bad at math. I doodled during class and regularly missed homework assignments. On the other hand I was also smart, talkative, and good at writing. The discrepancy made my weaknesses seem willful.

“I was in trouble all the time,” agrees Kaitlin, a 16-year-old high school student with ADHD and auditory processing issues. “I was afraid to tell them what was going on with me, so they just thought I was a bad student. It seemed like I didn’t care about doing well, which wasn’t true.”

Kaitlin’s mother was working with the school to get her the accommodations she needed, but Kaitlin was still uncomfortable talking about her learning disability.

“It took time for me to open up, but in my second semester of 9thgrade I started telling my teachers that I had learning difficulties and right away things got a lot better,” she says. “For the first time, they saw that I really was trying, even if it didn’t always seem that way, and I got the help I needed.”

How to help kids open up

When you’re a kid who’s struggling to stay afloat, drawing attention to yourself can feel scary. If your child is reluctant to open up about her learning needs, doing a little groundwork at home can help get the conversation started.

  • Assess readiness: Some kids, especially younger ones, might not be ready to speak up, and that’s okay! You can model good advocacy skills by talking with your child (and letting her see you talk to others) about learning differences frankly and comfortably.
  • Ask and listen: If your child is uncomfortable talking to others about her learning issues, have a talk about what’s bothering her. She may be feeling embarrassed or ashamed of being “different.” Take this as an opportunity to reassure her and talk through her fears or doubts. She’ll feel better and you’ll have the information you need to support her emotionally, as well as academically.

What to say to teachers: 

Once your child is feeling comfortable and you’re confident she’s got a strong understanding of her LD, help her get her message across clearly with these pointers:

  • Name your LD: Even though teachers should have the information, it’s good for a child to get in the habit of naming of her learning difference—for example, “I have auditory processing disorder”—so there is no confusion.
  • Be specific: Not all kids with learning issues are the same, so encourage your child to spell out the ways her LD affects her personally: “It’s hard for me to hear when there’s a lot of background noise, so sometimes I miss parts of the lecture.” Knowing what has worked for her in the past—and what hasn’t—will give teachers a head start on providing the best support.
  • Talk about strengths, too: Encourage your child not to just recite a list of things she’s “bad” at, but to talk about things she’s good at, too, and her interests. This will not only boost her self-esteem, it will help the teacher place her in activities that allow her to demonstrate her strengths.
  • Express enthusiasm: Sometimes learning issues can make it hard for others to see how passionate kids are about succeeding in school. Expressing enthusiasm and interest in doing well will help your child turn her teachers into allies.
  • Tell on yourself: If your child has habits or strategies she uses to manage her LD that don’t necessarily look like what they are, encourage her to let the teacher know. For example: I pay attention best when my hands are occupied, so I used to draw all through class. I heard every word, but to my teachers I looked disinterested and bored. Once I learned to let teachers know why I was doodling, they knew I was paying attention, even if it didn’t always look like it.
  • Test drive: When she feels ready, go over what she’s going to say a few times at home. This way you can be sure she’s sharing useful information and give her a chance to practice in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
  • Provide back up:  Talk to her about how she’ll handle situations that are less than perfect. And if she’s not getting the accommodations she is entitled to, agree that she’ll tell you about it right away. This way you can provide comforting, positive feedback, and make a time to talk with the teacher and the administration if you need to.
  • Start small: If she’s feeling nervous, encourage her to pick one person she feels comfortable with—a favorite teacher, camp counselor, or even a family friend, as a “test” candidate she can practice on.
  • Provide back up:  Talk to her about how she’ll handle situations that are less than perfect. And if she’s not getting the accommodations she is entitled to, agree that she’ll tell you about it right away. This way you can provide comforting, positive feedback, and make a time to talk with the teacher and the administration if you need to.

Help your child talk to peers, too

“I didn’t really learn to talk about my ADHD until college,” says Lauren, who struggled with learning issues throughout middle and high school. Looking back, she feels strongly that finally having a community of LD/ADHD-friendly peers was what helped her to open up.

“I ended up at a school where other students had learning issues and talked about them!” she says. “For the first time I had friends who spoke openly about having LDs. Finding out I wasn’t alone made me feel more comfortable talking about my ADHD. Now I’m more forthcoming. It’s almost like a disclaimer: ‘You’ll have to be ok with this part of me if you want to be my friend.’ ”

For many kids who struggle with the stigma of learning differently, finding out that other kids they like and respect also struggle with learning issues boosts self-esteem and helps bust stigma. It was huge for me.

We all have, somewhere, a list of things we wish we could tell our younger selves. It’s going to be okay. You don’t have to change to fit in. Your hair looks great. I promise!

But if I had to pick just one thing to tell my past self it would be this: 

Speak up about your learning issues. Do it loudly and often. Don’t be scared. You won’t be sorry.

As a parent though, you don’t need to be a time traveler to help your kids develop the confidence to advocate for themselves. Just pass the message on. You’ll be giving them the tools they need for a brighter, better future.