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How To Support and Connect With Your Children As They Become Adults

As our children become adults and venture out into the world, carving their own path, it can be challenging for us as parents to understand how best to support them and how to continue to grow and nurture the relationship. Many of us struggle with the change in the relationship and knowing when we are and aren’t needed. Sometimes it is easier to parent a young child as most of our parenting is based on basic human needs, for example, providing shelter, food, emotional support, but the complexities of forming a relationship between a parent and their adult child can come with a wide range of emotions from both sides. In this blog we will share a few brief pointers to help those of you who are trying to navigate connecting with your adult child(ren). Connection is a lifelong endeavour: It is important to know we never truly arrive at a specific “destination” when it comes to connection with our child(ren) as they enter into adulthood. It is helpful to remain curious and compassionate observers and supporters in our children’s lives. Advice might not always be welcomed or warranted: Asking what they have learned, what they think and what they want to share is a way of learning. Remembering to respect our collective wisdom without placing ourselves in a position of being the “expert” over their lives is also important. Learn from your adult children: Let your adult children be your teacher, you might be amazed by what you learn! Understand and learn from your own childhood: Contrary to what many people believe, your early experiences do not determine your fate. If you had a difficult childhood but have come to make sense of those experiences, you are not bound to recreate the same negative interactions with your own children. Siegel and Hartzell (2003). Take care of yourself: Taking care of yourself encompasses physical, mental and spiritual care (whatever that looks like for each of us.) When we do this, we work towards being the best version of ourselves, which in turn helps us to take care of our relationships. Be humble and reflect on yourself: Adult children can continue to thrive when we remain humble and are able to apologize when we make a mistake or overstep. We are all fallible humans and need our children (whatever age) to see us as this to create a close and lasting connection. Avoid comparisons: It can be easy to look at our adult children and compare where we were in life at their age. Whilst it’s ok to have hopes and dreams for your adult children, it is important to remember they are on their own path and have their own goals, priorities and timeline, which is based on many factors. Reminding them that by their age you had achieved x,y,z will only create tension and distance in your relationship. If you are struggling to connect with your adult child and would like to see if [...]

How To Support and Connect With Your Children As They Become Adults2024-05-31T19:04:53+00:00

Happy Father’s Day to Single Dads

It takes a village, the saying often goes; parenting was never designed to be on one person and yet, the realities of life persist. Plans change, tragedy strikes, people change or they don’t and we all ultimately make decisions. Often times parenting begins as a team, being able to relate to a shared experience and be available to support each other emotionally.  The strength of a team is built on a foundation of similar values, having each other’s backs, and progression towards the same goal.  When there is a significant shift in the relationship and values feel strained, different, or unfamiliar it can be challenging to recognize how we approach the goal on our own, without the strength of a full team. There were no practices for this. Our initial response might be filled with a wave of overwhelm; how do I manage a job where I know the work wasn’t designed to be done by one person? At times, it feels impossible. A lot of literature discusses the impact on children when they don’t grow up in a two parent or multi parent household, but what about the impact on the single parent? How does the role of dad, for example, morph or adapt when there is no partner to lean on and spread the joys, pressures, and responsibilities of parenting with? Having a village means the load can be shared and you can more easily bring the parts of yourself that you want to your children. When you don’t have a village or are still in the process of trying to build one it can feel very lonely. Without outlets in place to share emotions, feelings, and what the experience is like for you, any heavy, troublesome or other feelings that we need to express or release can become trapped in our bodies. How we adjust to living with the remnants of feelings and energy that no longer serve us informs our behaviour or response to it. When you notice that this might be impacting your relationship with yourself, your children, and/or others you can reflect on these points below to see if anything resonates. Here are some tips to remember or things to pay attention to as you are on your journey Notice the plate in front of you and everything you have on it. Are things overflowing off the edges? Maybe you need a bigger plate (increase the size of your village) or you need a side plate where you can save your leftovers (what can be offloaded and be done tomorrow or another time in the future?) When you try and consume everything on the plate at once you might get bloated or feel sick and in turn you become less available to yourself and your children by extension. You can also reflect by asking yourself about the size of the load you are carrying and how might you be holding it? Perhaps a shift in the weight distribution over [...]

Happy Father’s Day to Single Dads2024-05-30T15:00:13+00:00

Anxiety and The Nervous System

Stress and Anxiety Due to the uncertainty of life events, stress is inevitable and can be triggered through a variety of reasons or events. The human mind tends to respond to stress in either an adaptive or maladaptive way.  A maladaptive response would be known as Anxiety. Anxiety causes symptoms related to a fear of the future and concerns around things that have yet to occur or may never occur. When this type of maladaptive thinking occurs, the stress it causes leads individuals to develop avoidance behaviours that can cause issues to last longer. Often, these symptoms may cause a person to ask themselves “what if” questions, which can create more maladaptive scenarios, further amplifying the anxiety and therefore leading to extreme feelings of worry. The Nervous System and Its Relation To Stress/Anxiety   With regard to the nervous system and its response to Anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal glands come in to play. Our sympathetic nervous system controls the flight, fight or freeze response during an event where stress is emerging. Adrenal glands help regulate our system when under stress by releasing necessary hormones that help with metabolism regulation, as well as regulation of immune system and blood pressure which are essential for human functioning. During an event where Anxiety is developed, the sympathetic nervous system sends a signal to our adrenal gland to release adrenaline, which leads to increased heart rate. With prolonged stress, the adrenal glands are also exposed to prolonged stress and essential hormones are surpassed from production leading to anxiety. Managing stress/anxiety   Often in therapy, mindfulness is a strategy that is discussed when working with stress/anxiety related concerns. With mindfulness, one can learn to focus on the present moment, as often anxiety leads to unrealistic future thoughts and worry about events that are not in one’s control. The present moment can help establish the perspective that one can control what occurs in front of them in the present time and then focus on the goals that they would like to accomplish to create a better future without the barrier. Some mindfulness tasks can include: Informal mindfulness such as reframing focus to what you are doing in the current moment, for example if you are drinking coffee, re-focusing your thoughts on the cup you are holding, the surroundings in the area you’re in, or even naming things that you can see to reshape focus to what is occurring now. Formal mindfulness includes deep breathing, taking deep breaths, focusing on the breath and guiding your mind away from maladaptive thoughts. Nature walks. Setting an agenda for the day. Therapeutic help can also be beneficial in supporting individuals as they reframe their thinking. It is the therapist’s job to work with the client to understand their concerns and to help try and reduce stress levels by providing psychoeducation and tools to better help them cope with and manage their anxiety responses. This blog was written by Registered Psychotherapist, Shiwan [...]

Anxiety and The Nervous System2024-05-30T14:54:27+00:00

Navigating Mother’s Day with Grief

This is the first Mother’s Day our family will celebrate without our mom, since she died earlier this year. Joining the ranks of those without their mothers on Mother’s Day, I’ve had some time to reflect on why this particular holiday is so difficult for those who are grieving. Losing a mother can feel like losing a part of ourselves. For me, when she died it felt as though I was untethered, left without an anchor. It’s going to take some time to reconfigure life without her. I know it is a process. I am also anticipating that Mother’s Day this year is going to be hard for myself and my family. We can suffer from the loss of relationship with our mother in many different ways- not just loss through death. Illness such as dementia, family conflict, estrangements and separation within families can all lead to a loss of connection with our mothers. No matter the reason for your loss, take some time to be gentle with yourself this Mother’s Day as you navigate your own difficult emotions. Whether it’s been a few days or a few years, the loss of your mother in your life is huge. The following are some ideas to help you. Give yourself permission to honour your feelings and grieve Losing your mother is a significant event in your life, regardless of the reason, and you will likely experience many different emotions. Sadness, anger, loneliness, regret, longing, despair, guilt and feelings of depression are all normal reactions to loss. Be kind toward yourself and make space for your feelings, while having reasonable expectations of yourself and what you can manage. Be willing to accept support and help from others. Surround yourself with supportive people. Establish an intention for how you want to spend Mother’s Day and with who If you need time alone to grieve and mourn, take that time for yourself and invest in self care. If you want to be with others, make a plan that reflects your intention. Be thoughtful about how you want to honour this day and let others know what you need. If celebrating is not going to work for you, give yourself permission to withdraw from those plans. Remember that holidays and special days are often when “grief bursts” will occur and we may feel that we are at the beginning of grieving all over again. As painful as it is, grieving is a natural and necessary process that will move us toward healing and growth over time. Expect that you may be triggered by external reminders of Mother’s Day all around you, such as advertisements, social media and displays in stores, as well as people making plans for the day. Give yourself permission to limit exposure to things that might intensify grief, and engage in self care to manage grief bursts, including reaching out to others. Have a self care plan. When we are grieving, we are suffering, which impacts us [...]

Navigating Mother’s Day with Grief2024-04-29T14:31:34+00:00

Postpartum Depression in Dads

The experience of postpartum depression and anxiety or PPD for moms is under discussed but dads with this experience are even more rare. PPD in dads has been found to be linked to hormonal changes during pregnancy which helps to foster a father/child bond post birth. It is believed that the transition to parenthood may be inhibited if PPD is being experienced. Statistics show that up to 10% of men struggle pre and post delivery of their baby. PPD effects adult functioning and the parent-child relationship, thus, it is imperative that we draw attention to and address experiences of PPD in dads. Risk Factors for Dads Experiencing PPD There are risk factors that may predict the likelihood of a dad experiencing PPD. Identifying these risk factors early allows practitioners to address the possibility of PPD, resulting in support measures being put into place to preserve the parent-child bond. Risk factors include: Relationship challenges General lack of support Previous depression and anxiety Stressful life events Past trauma Communication problems Spousal depression Symptoms of PPD in Dads Isolation Restlessness Pessimism Aggression Irritability Violence Anxiety Depression Substance use Anger Barriers to Help Seeking Inability to recognize symptoms of depression Lack of knowledge about PPD Societal stigma of mental health and men Conforming to masculine norms Lack of screening Feelings of powerlessness in the new role as “father” Supporting Dads If you are experiencing symptoms of PPD it is important to reach out to your health care provider or mental health counsellor for support. Supporting someone you love may include listening, encouraging the person to seek professional help and offering to help with the baby or daily tasks. Resources Barooj-Kiakalaee, O., Hosseini, S.-H., Mohammadpour-Tahmtan, R.-A., Hosseini-Tabaghdehi, M., Jahanfar, S., Esmaeili-Douki, Z., & Shahhosseini, Z. (2022). Paternal postpartum depression’s relationship to maternal pre and postpartum depression, and father-mother dyads marital satisfaction: A structural equation model analysis of a longitudinal study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 297, 375–380. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2021.10.110 Johansson, M., Benderix, Y., & Svensson, I. (2020). Mothers’ and fathers’ lived experiences of postpartum depression and parental stress after childbirth: A qualitative study. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 15(1), https://doi.org/10.1080/17482631.2020.1722564 Paulson, J. F., & Bazemore, S. D. (2010). Prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and its association with maternal depression. JAMA, 303(19), 1961. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2010.605

Postpartum Depression in Dads2024-04-29T14:33:38+00:00

Grounding Technique For First Responders

Grounding technique for first responders Despite the best intentions from our departmental leadership, HR and wellness advocates, we’re sometimes not equipped with actual tools for self-rescue. The flyers and e-mail attachments are useful, I guess, but I’m interested in actual techniques that people can adopt, employ and engage with. We need real-world tactics to help us decompress. I picked this grounding technique up while researching ideas for our post-Jiu-Jitsu mindset development exercise. The thing that really speaks to me about this technique is that it is transferable. You could use this for yourself after a difficult call or an argument with your spouse. You can also use this to help comfort somebody else who may be experiencing distress. So, here’s how it works; TLDR: Isolate three things you can see, three things you can feel and take three big, deep, breaths.  This technique can help people focus on the present moment, which allows for a little bit more room for other coping strategies. So, this would be a useful thing to plug into if you’re just getting back on the truck after a VSA – but it would also be a great thing to coach a victim through to help decompress some of the psychological hardship in the middle of a call. First, you’re going to find three things you can see and say each one out loud. You don’t have to intently focus on each one. Also, you don’t have to blast through the list with the first things that are in front of your face. That’s the beauty of this exercise. It’s up to you. Find three things you can see. Say them out loud. Next, tune in just a small percentage more than you already are. Feel your body against the chair you’re in. Note the way your sweater hangs off of your forearms. Sense the tightness of your shoes. Physically feel three things. Say them out loud. Finally, take three big, deep breaths. Here, I like to use ‘belly breathing’. To work through this, place a hand on your chest and one hand on your belly – it works best if you’re laying down, but can be done in practically any position. Offer a little resistance on your belly. This allows you to focus your deep inhalations into your diaphragm as opposed to shortening your breath with your chest. Another way to explore belly breathing is by trying to ‘fill up’ your belly with air as you breathe in. Once your belly is ‘full’, focus on breathing ‘into’ your chest and finally, into your throat. This process should help you breathe a little slower and, alongside the previous focus points, is a data-driven method for battling unhelpful thoughts and feelings. The ‘333 Rule’ is a time-proven tool for learning how to decompress. It’s a helpful method for in-the-moment coaching that first responders can step their patient’s through, but it’s also a back-pocket secret weapon for battling your own difficult moments. This technique is something you can pick [...]

Grounding Technique For First Responders2024-04-18T15:08:34+00:00

Power and Control

When we think of domestic violence, we tend to think of physical abuse. In more recent years society has begun to understand the impact emotional/verbal abuse can have on a person, but we often forget that there are many ways an abusive partner or family member can exert power and control over the abused. Many therapists will use the “Power and Control Wheel” to help their clients understand the various forms of abuse that can happen in an intimate relationship. Many clients will say that the first time they saw the Power and Control Wheel, what they were going through suddenly made sense. But what does each section of the wheel mean? And what can you do if you feel you, or someone else is in an abusive relationship? Section by Section 1. Coercion and threats This information, shared from Domestic Violence Services Network explains how an abuser will threaten harm to what the victim values as a way of getting what they want. The threats can include: Harm to the victim or to someone they care about (such as children, pets etc) It can involve the abuser making a threat towards themselves, for example threatening to commit suicide if the victim doesn’t cooperate. The abuser may tell the victim that they will take, damage or destroy valuable or sentimental items. The abuser may say they will expose secrets if they know the victim values certain relationships or their privacy. There are many ways coercion and threats can play out, these are just a few examples. 2. Intimidation Intimidation often involves violent acts and involves taking coercion and threats and acting upon them. Intimidation can be a broad range of behaviours from looks, actions and gestures to destruction of property, or physical violence towards the victim, their child(ren), family pets etc. Often those who have experienced domestic violence will say the intimidation can become so bad, that even a look causes the victim to feel instant fear and live in a state of constant anxiety. This is of course, the goal of the abuser, and helps them to exert further power and control over their victim. 3. Emotional Abuse Some examples of emotional abuse include the following: Insulting comments, Name calling, Frequent attempts to belittle the victim and make them feel as though they can’t do anything right. Silent treatmentMany victims of domestic violence will say that the abuser would play mind games with them and that it created a situation where they felt unsure of what their reality was. This can be even more present if the abuser uses “love bombing” as a way of manipulating and controlling. Love bombing is where an abuser will shower their victim with gifts, and make over the top gestures. This can draw the victim back in and make them question or disregard the abuse they have been experiencing.Emotional abuse can be quite devastating for the victim as over time they lose their sense of self and they [...]

Power and Control2024-04-02T16:13:50+00:00

Grief – How to be an Informed & Effective Supporter

Grief is a normal and natural experience. Regardless of our education or experience, at some point we all experience loss. This loss may present as the death of a loved one. It may also be the conflicting feelings brought about by a change in what was familiar; the things in our life we wished had been different; all our lost dreams; or even unresolved emotions driven by unsaid communications. Regardless of the cause of our loss, as a griever, we are usually ill-equipped to identify and process our emotions. As someone offering support to a griever, we have even fewer tools. We have never been taught, nor fully understood, that grief is an emotional experience. It is not something we can think our way out of. This is an opportunity to understand the grieving process on a deeper level and gain helpful strategies to use when stepping into the role of supporter.  You will become not only more informed but more effective in your interactions with those who are grieving. From a griever’s perspective, they may reach for 1, if not all, of the 6 common myths. These include: a belief their feelings don’t matter; it is safer to isolate from those who could support them; they may replace the loss with food or activity; they could attempt to be strong for others; stay busy; or even wait for time to heal their wounds. As an individual in the role of supporting a griever, with our desire to help our friend or family member process their emotional pain, we may unknowingly substantiate these myths. Many times, it is because we don’t know how to support someone who is grieving. If we change the subject because their grief makes us feel uncomfortable, we deny them the time to express their emotions. Or we could unwittingly push their experience aside as we share our own journey of loss, mistakenly believing that our sharing offers support and understanding. Both examples send a message that it is not safe to be vulnerable and to be totally honest with how they are feeling. These messages, even if unintended, encourage the griever to pull away. We may hesitate to mention the name of the person who is no longer in our friend or family’s life, believing this will only remind them of their loss. In fact, the person is very familiar with the loss, they need no reminding. However, mentioning their name sends a message to the griever that we remember the person and their life, or their time with that person, mattered. We have been taught by our well-meaning parents that when a loss is experienced, we can lessen or remove the emotional pain, by replacing the loss. Our first experience is usually the death of an animal companion. Our parent(s) will tell us not to feel bad, they will get us another dog. In our teen years our friends encourage us to find another partner, immediately following a painful [...]

Grief – How to be an Informed & Effective Supporter2024-03-28T18:40:19+00:00

Importance of Youth Mental Health

Mental Health and its effect on youth development:  Adolescent development is a complex change in life. Young individuals will experience change in both biological and social aspects in development that may be met with effects that can impact their mental health in a positive or negative direction. One of the main reasons why mental health professionals as well as mental health related field of research dedicated effort to understand adolescent mental health because of its complexity, but most importantly due to the fact that majority of adolescents may often be reluctant to share what they are experiencing and how it is affecting them (Guyer et al., 2016). Emotional Hyperreactivity  During adolescence, emotions tend to be intense, leading to developing euphoric and depressed-like states when involved in social contexts or events that occur in life. For adolescents, they may also experience positive emotions in short-term spells, unlike adults, and this is aligned with their development and the changes that are occurring to them neurologically (Guyer et al., 2016). Understanding emotions and how to manage them is crucial at this stage, as adolescents is stage of vulnerability and opportunity, which can lead to behaviours that are of benefit to the growth and development or behaviours that impact development (drug use, risk taking, self-harm and or suicide) if emotional dysregualtion is long term (Guyer et al., 2016). Several Signs of Emotional Hypersensitivity in youth:  - High empathy - Prone to perfectionism and overstimulation - Hard to understand their emotional state of being - Unable to bare change - Unable to regulate emotions on their own How therapy can help adolescents understand their emotions and learn to regulate:  Through the process of talk-therapy, youth can learn/understand the emotions that they are currently experiencing, as well as gain tools that can help them manage such emotions in an effective and adaptive manner. Due to their nature of reluctance to discuss mental health concerns, mental health professionals can take their time and pace the sessions until the client feels comfortable discussing their concerns, which research has shown that adolescents prefer this as they develop a therapeutic relationship with the therapist as well as feel comfortable to discuss their concerns (Lukoševičiūtė-Barauskienė et al.,2023). Methods of helping youth cope and regulate emotions can very, but can include journaling one's thoughts and feelings, learning breathing techniques that can help regulate the emotions experienced during a specific event, and learning ways to develop self-care strategies that can promote healthier mental well-being.A strong asset to working with youth and helping them in their mental health journey is parental involvement in the care. Oftentimes things that occur in the home are related to how the youth is being impacted emotionally. Discussing with parents plans of care, as well as establishing a connected support unit with the therapist and client with the family may help develop a positive change in youth mental health (depending on case and situation). How to be supportive in these situations as a parent [...]

Importance of Youth Mental Health2024-03-26T16:39:48+00:00

Eating Disorders in Athletes

What is an eating disorder? An eating disorder is defined as a mental health condition that leads a person to overeat, starve themselves, or adopt other unhealthy behaviours related to food and body weight. What Makes Eating Disorders Unique in Athletes? Athletes are under pressure to perform and compete.  Dietary restrictions, excessive exercise outside of scheduled conditioning and consuming “healthy foods” are all normal behaviours for someone to be successful. Demands to perform, competitive environments and pressures to look a certain way bring on praise and accomplishment which may increase the struggles the individual is experiencing. For these reasons, eating disorders in athletes can be hard to recognize. Eating disorders can cause significant medical issues for individuals but there are increased risks for those who are athletes.  Specifically, athletes may experience RED-S or Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport which occurs when the expenditure of energy exceeds energy intake, creating energy deficiency. Metabolism, menstrual function, bone health, immunity, protein synthesis, cardiovascular health and psychological health are all systems that maybe effected. If an athlete is following a sport related diet and exercise plan, their goal is improved performance rather than weight loss or an altered body shape with an emphasis on what needs to be done rather than what is forbidden. Symptoms A fixation on body weight, shape, or size Counting calories Fear of weight gain Preoccupation with nutritional details Skipping meals or rarely eating Excessive rules surrounding food Low stamina Lethargy Impaired concentration Feelings of shame and guilt about food Not eating in front of others Eating large amounts of food after practices Cuts or marks on fingers (specific to those who suffer from bulimia)   Long Term Effects Include: Metabolism issues Increased risk of athletic injury Poor performance in sport of choice Impaired judgment Decreased coordination Impaired aerobic functioning Organ damage Fertility issues Bone and muscle loss Gastrointestinal issues Dental issues Mental health issues including depression, anxiety, suicide and addiction Treatment Treatment for athletes experiencing eating disorders include; Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and, Family Based Treatment. It is important to support individuals by emphasizing the importance of the person over the sport. Recovery is possible, but it is important that the focus is on themselves rather than their sport for a period of time if one is to return to their sport. If you are interested in more information around the support available in this situation, feel free to give our office a call at 519.302.2300 or email reception@brantmentalhealth.com Resources https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/ss/slideshow-eating-disorders-overview   https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/risk-groups/eating-disorder-athletes   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3289170/

Eating Disorders in Athletes2024-03-26T16:32:18+00:00