Pregnancy/Motherhood – Five-Part Series The road to, through, and during motherhood is infused with so many conflicting emotions. Women do not always feel comfortable admitting to, or even openly expressing, the extreme emotions which surface. As women fall into the expectations of society, family, and friends, most do not recognize their experiences create a significant change, and therefore a need to grieve. In this fifth, and final entry of the series, we explore the empty nester: a term used to describe a parent whose children have left home. After years spent nurturing and caring for her children, a woman can experience feelings of grief when her children move out. These can include feelings of loss, fear, even loss-of-self, as she adjusts to the change in her parental relationships with her children. Shifting from being the guardian, to a mentor or friend, is a normal and natural part of parenting. However, it can feel sad and lonely as the family dynamics change.Each and every woman will pass through this stage of parenting in their own unique way. There is no predisposed plan for how she is to move forward. The experience of watching her children “fly the coop” can be accompanied by many conflicting emotions as she celebrates their combined independence and perhaps mourns a loss. Discovering, and expressing honestly, the unique emotional challenges of learning how to “let go” is essential to a woman being able to enjoy her newfound freedom, as she creates a new relationship with her adult children. This can be one the best parts of being a mother. A time to witness the amazing person her child has grown into, embrace them with pride, and celebrate their successes. To fully accomplish this, it is vital to identify and complete any unfinished emotional business; otherwise, she can remain stuck in her previous role. It is essential to honor the emotions which present themselves, without analysis or judgement; so, she may embark on the incredible adventure empty nesting can be! --- --- --- Part Five: Empty Nesting She will always be ‘mom’ to her adult children but the tasks and duties which have defined motherhood have changed. There are no more diapers to change, skating costumes to sew, homework to supervise, and her taxi duties have been retired. Learning to let her children stumble and fall is part of this new adult experience. Her role becomes that of mentor, offering advice and support only when asked. There can be a loss of identity which accompanies this shift, a loss of purpose, a feeling of disconnect, and an insecurity of how to move forward. As she tidies their room for the last time, grief can carry so many conflicting emotions. She may feel excited to have the sewing room she has longed for. Perhaps she can create a home office or an art studio. The excitement of fulfilling a dream for herself can leave her feeling regretful, selfish, and unsure of how [...]
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Pregnancy/Motherhood – Five-Part Series The road to, through, and during motherhood is infused with so many conflicting emotions. Women do not always feel comfortable admitting to, or even openly expressing, the extreme emotions which surface. As women fall into the expectations of society, family, and friends, most do not recognize their experiences create a significant change, and therefore a need to grieve. In the fourth of this five-part series, we explore the motherhood myth.Motherhood may be one of the most important responsibilities a woman can choose. It is also an experience she often enters into with zero first-hand knowledge, followed by a belief that her life is changing for the better. The challenging experiences can, and must be,balanced with the moments of pure ecstasy. Many omit the trails, those which leave any mother, especially a new one, questioning her confidence and blaming herself for the “bad days”. This may leave her grieving the freedom of a previous life as she adapts to this enormous change. Motherhood can be complicated, and it can be riddled with conflicting emotions. Discovering and expressing honestly,the unique emotional challenges of becoming a mom, is essential to being able to fully embrace the experience. --- --- --- Part Four: Becoming a Mom For many, the experience of becoming a new mother is a choice. While some have planned this, for others it maybe a surprise. The arrival of a baby can quickly make a woman aware of the subtle and drastic changes in her life. She may find herself no longer being able to pick up and go the gym, sleep in on a Saturday morning, stay up late, or spontaneously load the kayak onto the truck and head to the lake. The everyday occurrences, once taken for granted, are no longer something she can do on a whim and must now be carefully planned around the baby’s schedule. Little excursions, such as heading to the corner store for an ice cream cone can become laborious as the baby must be strapped in their car seat, placed in a stroller or the car, and don’t forget the diaper bag just in case there is a diaper emergency while out. I had a friend head off to the ice cream store, when they suddenly realized they had forgotten the baby at home!A date-night not only requires extra planning but once one adds in the cost of perhaps dinner, a movie, and a sitter,it may not seem worth the effort nor, for some, affordable. It is normal and natural to grieve the loss of the lifestyle. In fact, it is important to express these emotions openly and honestly, especially to someone who will not judge. Burying these emotions can lead to resentment or, even worse, physical symptoms. If the woman has a partner, there will be changes in their relationship. While both parents are programmed for connection to the baby, one of them has carried this little one within her and a bond has [...]
Pregnancy/Motherhood – Five-Part Series The road to, through, and during motherhood is infused with so many conflicting emotions. Women do not always feel comfortable admitting to, or even openly expressing, the extreme emotions which surface. As women fall into the expectations of society, family, and friends, most do not recognize their experiences create a significant change, and therefore a need to grieve. In the third of this five-part series we explore motherhood through the contribution of others. Surrogacy and adoption provide the opportunity for a woman to become a mother, once the baby has been born to another. This experience can be complicated, and it can be riddled with conflicting emotions from both sides. Discovering the unique emotional challenges of releasing or receiving a baby after it reaches full-term, and the importance of processing the accompanying emotions, is essential to all parties. --- --- --- Part Three: Surrogacy and Adoption Grief is the normal and natural reaction after experiencing an emotional loss of any kind. Grief can also be the conflicting emotions we feel when there is a change in something which was familiar. Whether you are the surrogate, the parent surrendering your child for adoption, or the individual receiving the new arrival, emotions can be triggered by this event. “Babies born through surrogacy are conceived with the intention that they will be raised by the intended parents, not by the birth” mother.[i] Women, who choose to have a child for another, are very clear on their intentions and, for the most part, are happy to give the baby to the intended parents. For those who do not understand surrogacy, there can be an assumption the birthing mother will grieve the loss of the baby. Most surrogates do not relate to the baby in this way. Some surrogates admit they can grieve the loss of the friendship formed with the intended parents, they can grieve an unpleasant relationship with the intended parents, or they can grieve the end of the experience. The surrogate must still work through the hormones, and the rollercoaster of emotions, associated with giving birth. While the experience will be different for everyone, there can be feelings of sadness or of being overwhelmed. For the parent releasing their child for adoption, the birth mother has, like the surrogate, carried this baby inside her body for the past nine months. She has felt this baby move, she has experienced the physical changes, and now she too is leaving the birthing process without the baby. Again, the emotional impact of this experience will be different for each woman. A birth parent, surrendering their child to another family may experience a range of conflicting emotions such as relief and gratitude to anxiousness and despair. The experience itself can create unresolved emotions based on the level of support received from the agency or hospital. She may also grieve the loss of the parenting experience; thoughts of what could have been, or of not [...]
Pregnancy/Motherhood – Five-Part Series The road to, through, and during motherhood is infused with so many conflicting emotions. Often women do not feel comfortable admitting to, or even openly expressing, the extreme emotions which surface. As women fall into the expectations of society, family, and friends, most do not recognize their experiences create a significant change, and therefore a need to grieve. In the second of this five-part series we will explore miscarriages, discovering the unique emotional challenges of losing a baby before it reaches full-term, and the importance of processing the accompanying emotions. --- --- --- Part Two: Miscarriages Miscarriages are an emotional journey, encompassing a roller coaster of emotions, and happen far more often we realize. According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, roughly 15 to 20% of Canadian pregnancies end in miscarriage. 1 Many times, this is an unexpected loss and one we have little time to prepare for. There are two different kinds of miscarriages; one involves the end of a pregnancy any time within the first trimester and the other involves a stillbirth which can occur around or after the 20-week mark. While one might assume, the woman who has experienced a stillbirth, may suffer more extreme emotional pain, due to the length of the pregnancy please do not overlook the fact grief is individual. Regardless of the duration, the loss is experienced 100% on an emotional level and the length of the pregnancy does not dictate the emotional impact. Grief is wanting things to be different and the accompanying unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations. With our busy lives women can adopt a belief their travel, diet, career, etc. were the underlying cause of the miscarriage/stillbirth. Some women, not sure if they will be able to adjust to the demands of motherhood or the change in lifestyle, can blame themselves for “wishing the pregnancy away”. These thoughts can be followed by feelings of regret or a sadness. When I miscarried our first child, I was hesitant to talk to others about my feelings because many replied with intellectual statements that were not helpful. For example, “You are young, and you can still have children”. With a background in Early Childhood Education, I was aware, on an intellectual level, that sometimes our body aborts the baby, naturally, due to abnormal chromosomes. When I would express these thoughts, I would be accused of being uncaring and not reacting in an appropriate manner. I felt like my feelings weren’t important and quickly learned to hide them away. I felt like my need to try to understand the loss of my baby attracted statements of judgement from those who had not shared my experience. I did what I was taught, and I replaced the loss by getting pregnant again right away. The hopes, dreams, and expectations for our first baby were suddenly transferred to our second pregnancy, without taking the time to grief the first miscarriage. When my [...]
Pregnancy/Motherhood – Five-Part Series The road to, through, and during motherhood is enshrined with so many conflicting emotions. Often women do not feel comfortable admitting to, or even openly expressing, the extreme emotions which surface. As women fall into the expectations of society, family, and friends, most do not recognize their experiences create a significant change, and therefore a need to grieve. Without realizing they are grieving; women do what they are taught. They distract themselves and push their emotions down, tucking them away and out of sight. Infertility, miscarriages, surrogacy, full term pregnancies, and even empty nesting all have the ability to produce unresolved emotions. Without permission or the tools to processes these emotions, women can feel trapped, within the massive changes and disappointments. In this five-part series we will explore each of the above topics separately, discovering the unique emotional challenges of each and the importance of openly, and honestly, expressing these emotions. --- --- --- Part One: Infertility Grief has many definitions, each as unique as the person experiencing them. Infertility is new territory for many. It is an emotional journey, encompassing a roller coaster of emotions. Driving this experience are the conflicting feelings of what we wished was different (“Why can’t I get pregnant?”) and the disappointing feeling that our body has let us down (“Was it something I did?”). When we begin to plan for our first baby we have hopes, dreams, and expectations. Women are excited to move into the next stage of their lives, doing something which seems so natural. However, when these dreams do not happen, there can be a loss of hope and worry that the journey may never be successful. Next comes the time commitment, the financial commitment, and the preparatory drugs which can change the way a women feels about herself. These are all changes, and challenges, which bring their own emotional charge. As a woman’s moods shift, so does the financial burden of following a dream which has no guarantee and often seems like there is no end in sight. Finally, there are the unsaid communications. Perhaps the things women want to say to themselves, their partners, their friends, or their family. They may feel they must be strong for those around them or that others simply won’t understand if they do find the courage to say aloud how they are feeling. Well-meaning people want to share their stories of infertility. They may think they are offering support when in fact they are taking away a woman’s safe place to share, without judgement or analysis, how she is feeling. Women don’t want to be fixed. They simply want someone who will hold space and listen. Someone who will provide a calm in their storm; where, for a few moments, they can find comfort. Learning how to navigate this terrain means women must move from their heads to their hearts. They must move away from trying to understand their [...]
What is EMDR? Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful psychotherapeutic approach originated and developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987. It is a systematic approach involving dual attention stimuli, such as eye- movements, tapping or sounds, administered while a client focuses on disturbing memories, anxiety, psychological and somatic symptoms. EMDR Therapy seems to facilitate the natural processing abilities of the brain and nervous system. An individual's normal healing abilities are activated and one's body-mind balance is supported in its inner capacity to mend. What does EMDR help? EMDR therapy is effective in treating individuals who have experienced psychological difficulties arising from traumatic experiences, such as assault, motor vehicle accidents, war trauma, torture, natural or disasters, sexual abuse and childhood neglect. EMDR Therapy is also increasingly used to treat complaints that are not necessarily trauma- related, such as panic disorder, phobias, performance anxiety, self-esteem issues and other anxiety-related disorders. Who is EMDR for? EMDR therapy is not for everyone. Clients must be stable and able to maintain dual awareness during processing of material. Furthermore, clients outside of the “window of tolerance” of arousal require more preparation prior to commencing the Standard EMDR Therapy protocol. Your EMDR therapist will help you determine if you are a good candidate for EMDR therapy at this time. What does an EMDR session look like? EMDR therapy is a different way of doing things. It uses scripts and follows a process. There is not a lot of talking during an EMDR session, as the client is moving through their own adaptive information processing guided by the therapist. For some clients, this is uncomfortable at first, especially for those who are used to standard talk therapy approaches. Trusting the process is part of being open to EMDR therapy. How many appointments do I need? EMDR therapy requires a time commitment. Initial sessions are booked closer together, as the groundwork is laid for the client to process the disturbing target memories and build new adaptive neural networks. Clients and clinicians need to be able to prioritize sessions in order to move through the work in a way that promotes optimal healing. Too much time in between sessions interrupts this process and limits treatment effects. As for how many sessions are required, a general plan will be made with your therapist before beginning EMDR, but no two people are the same, and the time needed for EMDR can vary greatly depending on the client and their needs. If you have questions about EMDR and if it is the right fit for you, feel free to reach out to us at 519.302.2300 or email email@example.com to set up a free 15 minute consultation with one of our EMDR trained therapists.
Parenting is one of the most rewarding and challenging roles we can play in the lives of our children. Seldom do we feel prepared for all that parenting brings, especially when our child is facing challenges. Many parents and caregivers experience a wide range of emotions when they learn their child has an ASD diagnosis, and it is not uncommon to experience feelings of fear, anger, grief, worry and helplessness, to name a few. Instead of thinking of ASD as a disorder, it may be more helpful to think of it as a different way of thinking, being and experiencing. Having a positive mindset may help you as a parent to feel more hopeful and empowered as you support your child’s unique life journey. The following are some helpful strategies to consider when parenting your child with autism. What is Autism? Autism is a developmental disorder that is part of the autism spectrum and is often referred to as “ASD” or Autism Spectrum Disorder. While the experience of ASD is different for every child, some of the hallmarks include social impairment, non-verbal and verbal communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviours. Helpful Parenting Strategies: Learn about ASD- Knowledge is power. Learning about Autism and how it shows up for your child in different situations and people will help you plan and prepare for supporting your child throughout each developmental stage. Keep the following in mind: -What triggers challenging behaviour? -What elicits a positive response? -Why are transitions so hard? -What does your child find soothing? Knowing these things will help you to troubleshoot problems and prevent situations from developing. Be sure to seek reliable sources of information and professionals who can give you sound advice and support. Being open to learning from others who have experience with children and youth with ASD can be helpful- experience is an amazing teacher. Love and accept your child for who they are. The most critical thing that parents can offer their children is unconditional love and acceptance. See your child first, and the ASD second. Prize your child for who they are right now. Avoid comparing your child to other children the same age and instead embrace your child’s uniqueness. Celebrate each new achievement, new skill, when your child overcomes a fear and is willing to try new foods and new tasks. This will help you to shift from a deficit lens to a strength-based approach. Take parenting one day at a time, sometimes, one moment at a time. Be patient with them, and with yourself. Become an expert on your child and focus on positives. Discover your child’s strengths, interests, and affinities and build on those. Praise your child for positive behaviours, be specific about what you liked about their behaviour and reward them with things such as attention, time and play. Embrace the notion that all behaviour is communication. Learn about what triggers meltdowns and what causes stress for your child, and where you can, adjust the environment to reduce challenging behaviours [...]
Understand that it’s okay to feel homesick Moving away from home is a major life change and the change in environment and lifestyle is very much like “culture shock”. Don’t be hard on yourself if you find it difficult to adjust. Take your time. Student residences often have RAs (Residential Advisors) that can support students with this transition. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find out what supports are available on campus Become familiar with these support services on offer. There are often walk-in clinics for physical medical issues, counselling services, accommodation services for those with developmental differences, career coaching staff etc. Access these services as needed. That is what they are there for! Take your time to figure things out Moving away from home is not the only major life decision that often comes with transitioning to college or university. There are also decisions to be made about what to major in, what courses to take, what student organizations to participate in and making friendships that align with your personality and goals. Take your time with these decisions and rely on support services offered on campus to help you make these decisions. It will take time to adjust. Allow yourself that time. Find things to do outside of the classroom Look into activities and organizations that you can participate in outside of the classroom. This will help with the transition, especially from a social perspective, but may also look great as eventual additions to a resume. Take care of your health Be sure to get enough sleep, stay active and focus on eating nutritiously as well. These are two key factors that will make the transition easier, especially in regards to your mental health. Our brain and our body are so interconnected that neglecting care for one can have a significant impact on the other as well! Focus on time management for planning and organization Make good use of your time through planning and other techniques to stay organized. Some examples of these techniques may include: The Pomodoro Technique: google this for further information. Planning to do the most important tasks during a time of day when you know you are generally at your peak performance Make To Do lists to stay organized, but also make them manageable so that you don’t become overwhelmed. Change up your study environment and choose places that you know are conducive to helping you study. For some, this may be the library, for others this may be the grassy knoll in the middle of campus. Practice and learn to have an awareness of what does and does not work well for you. Connect with family and friends Be sure to stay in touch with family and friends through email, phone calls, texts, social media and planned visits. Remaining connected to these positive relationships that you have already established will make the transition easier. On the same note, try to establish new connections and friendships, [...]
Returning to school for many children, youth and families is an exciting time filled with mixed emotions. Whilst a new school year offers opportunities to build new relationships and provide new experiences, it also can mean uncertainty and anxiety about how things will unfold. The best thing you can do to prepare for September is to get ready to embrace the return to school with hope and optimism, while being prepared to face challenges and solve problems together as you journey throughout the year. The following are some tips to help support your child’s transition back to school, no matter the age. Re-establish Routines. Getting back into a routine is a common challenge as students head back to school at every stage. Take the time to reset sleep and waking schedules as well as mealtimes. Establishing consistent routines is ideal for all family members, where possible. Flexibility is also important with older youth, especially if they are working part time as well. Talk about other ground rules you want to have in place as a family to support work/life/school balance and good physical and mental health. For example, discuss and establish habits around chores, eating, screen time, homework, family time and when friends visit. This will help set expectations and avoid conflicts. Where you can, co-create the expectations so that your child feels included and respected. Create visual charts of morning routines to help younger children. Have conversations about school. One of the most powerful ways you can support your child through the process of returning to school is to talk about it, and trying to understand how they are feeling about it. Find the right time to ask them questions to get a sense of what’s on their mind, including any concerns. Listen to what they are experiencing and give them space to talk. Spend more time trying to understand your child’s point of view by asking questions instead of falling into the trap of only giving advice. For many children and youth, the more opportunities they have to be heard, the more likely they will feel comfortable to open up and talk. Here are some examples of conversation starters: “Who are you looking forward to connecting with this year?” “What is one thing you are hoping to do this school year? “How are you feeling about this school year? What is one thing you are excited about?” “Is there anything you're a bit worried about? How can I help? Validate Emotions Validate your child’s experience by letting them know whatever they are feeling is ok and reassure them by letting them know you are going to get through this together. Normalize fears as a response to the uncertainty of the new school year and let them know that their feelings are common. Ask your child how you can work together to make this a positive school year. Make a list of things that they are looking forward to, and things they enjoy about school. “I [...]
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or otherwise known as PTSD, can affect anyone who has survived a traumatic experience. The symptoms can vary on a person to person basis but some of the most reported symptoms are: Flashbacks Intrusive thoughts or images Nightmares Feeling like nowhere is safe Feeling as if you cannot trust anyone Avoiding feeling or talking about the experience When the topic of PTSD arises, it’s typically war veterans that people think of. Although they do struggle and experience this at very high rates, other incidents can cause PTSD. Individuals who experience a car accident, being bullied or assaulted, or even surviving a natural disaster can experience symptoms of PTSD. A diagnosis of Complex PTSD may be given when the trauma takes place early in life or if it took place over an extended period of time. C-PTSD can have similar symptoms as PTSD however it can also include: Regular feelings of suicide Difficulty controlling emotions Physical symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and chest pains Feelings of isolation and detach from society There are many ways to go about treating PTSD including (but definitely not limited to) talk therapy, EMDR, and equine assisted learning. When an individual participates in equine assisted learning (EAL), they are given the opportunity to learn about themselves, their emotions, and work through strong feelings and intrusive thoughts. This is done by pairing individuals with horses to work through a series of activities and conversation prompts. Working with horses can open the door to self-reflection and personal development while maintaining a recovery-focused and forward thinking mindset at the forefront. Because horses are prey animals, they scan their surroundings and reflect their findings. They almost act like a mirror into our emotions. They can sense an increase in heart rate, when the warmth in your body migrates, or if you fidget. These are all symptoms that give the horses insight as to what emotions you’re experiencing and then we receive the non-judgemental and genuine feedback from the animals. It gives individuals with PTSD and C-PTSD a break from ruminating on the past and reliving their experiences and puts them in a position to make changes to improve their present and future self.