Posted in Education, Family, literature, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, reading, Social Change

New Release

So it’s been awhile since I’ve made any new posts. It’s not for lack of motivation or even inspiration, but I have finally been able to release my book about special needs parenting. I think a lot of my readers, from some of the messages and conversations we’ve had, can relate to many of the struggles my family’s had to tackle. Now that it is out and ready to be digested by the masses I will get back to regularly scheduled posting.

The book uses a mix of humor and mental health research to try and bring light to pediatric mental illness, which is greatly debated and even denied thanks to overdiagnosis and ignorance by some. If you give it a read please take a minute to leave a review. It would greatly help me out with future writing endeavours.

YOU’RE GOING TO BE FINE is available here in print or eBook.

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Posted in Family, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

The importance of ignoring

When I see the breakdown starting; the clenched fists, the low growl, the slanted eyes, my first reaction is start figuring out exactly what happened to trigger her. Sometimes I have to know. We were having such a nice time, and boom. But through the past two years of dealing with emotional disorders in my child I have learned that sometimes it’s best to ignore it. Ignoring is a controversial topic and I’m not here to change your mind about it necessarily, but there are pros to learning when to meddle and when to let be. Image result for preschool tantrum

Last night we had a tantrum starting. It was late, close to bedtime, and she wanted to watch a movie. Of course she knew it wasn’t going to happen but as soon as I start explaining why she fell to the floor, kicked her legs, and yelled at me “no, no, no, movie”. She did this lovely little regression she does when she’s not getting her way. She’s five now, so this kind of behavior is getting to be not age appropriate. I started trying to talk over her but decided to use the ignore tactic instead. It may or may not have helped there were other people there at the time. My husband and mother were both standing, watching her little body flare on the floor.

“I can’t talk to you when you are acting like this so I’m going in the other room until you’re ready.” (Note: I could still hear/see her she wasn’t in any danger for anyone who automatically goes to the worst case scenario). I expected the usual heightened screaming and yelling but I heard nothing. She stayed on the floor and kicked a few

more times, then got up and calmly said, “mommy can I just have my bedtime snack?”

I hugged her and told her how great of a job she did calming herself down and gave her a snack.

Ignoring has it’s time and place. Some people think you are sending the child mixed signals. That ignoring their negative behaviors is showing them you only care when they are being “good”. I used to think that’s what ignoring her would mean. To me though, there’s a difference. If she’s having a panic attack or is uncontrollably upset about something, no I would not leave her alone to figure it out. If she’s angry to the point of losing control, no I would leave her alone to define her inner emotions herself. If she’s having a tantrum or a fit over something like a snack, movie, etc, yes I will. The main argument I have seen, is that the child is trying to get attention and that ignoring will only make it worse or make them feel isolated and

unwanted. I do think this would be the case if that child is ignored daily or if the child is too young to understand. If you aren’t listening to their stories and questions, and then ignoring them AGAIN when they’re having a breakdown, yeah they’re going to feel like they just can’t do anything right. However, there is such a thing as negative attention. I know, *gasp* this is life altering, but in an age of helicopter parenting and children not being capable of ever doing wrong, it bothers me that this is overlooked. I also feel that a one year old having a breakdown and a five year old are two very different things. Look at the age appropriateness of your child’s behavior and don’t ever leave an infant or toddler alone.

The perks and benefits of ignoring:

    1. You won’t lose your sh*t- you shouldn’t yell at a toddler or child having a tantrum. I do think “monkey see, monkey do” is a thing. They see you yelling at them yelling, then they in turn need to yell at you, because they’re yelling, and it’s just so loud. Losing your cool is going to happen but in the case of a mini meltdown, just say “we’ll talk when you’re ready, I’m right over here” and walk away. No yelling, no threats. Related image
    2. End the need for negative attention- once your child realizes ‘hey, mommy isn’t going to sit here and stare at me and give me what I want’, they will stop.
    3. Resist the urge to over explain- if you ignore the tantrum then you are not as tempted to sit there and try to have a reasonable conversation with them while they can’t even comprehend their own feelings. Talking it out only works AFTER the tantrum has subsided.
    4. Teaches appropriate responses- when your child starts to realize that they get nothing when they lash out but conversation and better end results when they communicate, they will try to communicate more effectively. Just keep in mind again the age appropriateness of what you are expecting your child to say/do. “That is not how we behave” is pretty much the staple explanation to tantrums in my house.
    5. Self soothing- again there’s mixed feelings out there but I think self soothing is a HUGE plus for children to learn. I don’t have someone around all the time to hug or hit or yell at or talk to or whatever I may need at that time. You have to learn that sometimes you have to soothe yourself. Children with emotional needs even more so.
    6. It’s not cute or funny- one recommendation that drives me bonkers is to use humor to diffuse the tantrum. I love humor, we use it a lot, but how is that teaching the child to deal with their feelings? “Hey I know you’re angry and sad but let’s just forget that for minute and look at this funny face I’m making ahhhh so great okay let’s go play”. Um, what? That’s not a great life lesson and I don’t want my kid throwing a fit every time they want play and be funny with me. Just you know, say so.Image result for kid laughing then mad gif

AGAIN, you know your child and you know what is a sad cry, angry cry, frustrated cry, and “I just can’t believe you aren’t giving my ice cream for dinner” cry. You can decipher better than anyone else when these tactics should be used. I would use more support and physical contact when the tantrum seems uncontrollable and the child really needs your guidance. I am talking from dealing with emotional disorders but obviously all children can benefit from knowing what to do and when.

The best way to ignore it in my opinion, is to stay close but act like it doesn’t phase you that your child sounds possessed. Start cleaning or straightening up the room next to him/her. Check on them, make sure they aren’t escalating. But don’t give in to the demand. That’s the biggest part of this whole scenario. Make sure they understand that you love them dearly, but reacting that way is harmful and hurtful and most all not effective.

Posted in Education, Family, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Impulse Control, or lack there of

Stop hitting your brother.

Get your hands off your brother.

You can’t make your brother dance if he doesn’t want to.

Put down your brother.

He’s not a puppet, stop trying to make him talk.

No you can’t sit on his lap you’re twice his size.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP TOUCHING YOUR BROTHER!

…impulse control. It’s one of the most difficult symptoms of ADHD that I have encountered. The endless talking, the inability to stop touching things, the constant

movement. More importantly, the lack of control. It’s hard as a parent and someone who grew up in a strict home to understand “can’t”. (Warning: Double negatives ahead) She can’t not touch him. She can’t not move around the couch. She can’t not speak over anyone else who is trying to speak to you. Anyone. Ever. And then of course is the backlash of “that’s just being a kid.” Just to clarify there’s a huge difference between a hyper child and a child with ADHD. A hyper child may have some issues keeping their hands to themselves, but in a child with ADHD you can see the physical discomfort as they try to restrain but can’t. If you haven’t had to see it that’s wonderful but I assure you it’s a problem.

Now that I have a better understanding of my daughter and what she’s going through I know now that no medicine is ever going to be able to help her in this area. Some parents can use the available treatments out there but even so, no amount of medication is going to work without some cognitive intervention.

How to handle impulse control:

    1. It’s okay to get mad/sad/frustrated. Just try to not project that onto your child. Yes, they need to be made aware that their behavior is not okay, and that it is causes conflict; however, making them feel guilty or responsible for your bad feelings is a bit much for a young child. For an older child, like 8 and up, I think they should know that what they are doing is causing you stress. That way you can work together on a plan of action.image
    2. Repeat yourself constantly. Something I loooooathe doing is repeating myself. I repeat; I loathe repeating myself. Did I mention I loathe it? Loathe what? Oh, repeating myself. Sometimes this is how it feels to talk to my daughter but I have to. I have to tell her many times that it’s time to put on pants. Most kids will putter and delay the inevitable but when impulse control is an issue it can take hours. Literally. Just to get dressed. One piece of clothing at a time; “Go put on your shoes”, “Please go get your shoes”, “I know that’s a beautiful a picture you just drew when I thought you were putting on your shoes but now you really need to put on your shoes”, “You know what? You can put them on in the car.” – not the best ending but it happens.
    3. I do believe in praising a child for being able to do something that is difficult for them. I think that it builds esteem, creates a bond, and gives them incentive. I do believe in special treats and awards. However, when my daughter started saying things like “if I’m good all day at school today I can have a snack when I get home right?” and I said, “Why don’t you be good all day at school today because that’s what you’re supposed to do and it will make me happy?” I got “the look” but we did have a good day that day. Awards can be over done but I feel like praise can’t, as long as it’s genuine. Kids are smart, and if you start praising them for every little thing (“Oh my gosh you walked down the hallway and didn’t trip that’s AMAZING”) they will know it’s not sincere. Praising for things that are milestone with impulse (“I’m so proud that you were able to get dressed before breakfast today, thank you.”) I think builds that positive experience.
    4. Routines. I’ve already posted about the importance of routines but consistency is crucial when teaching impulse control. If you do (blank) than (blank) happens and you feel (blank). This statement works for good and bad instances. Consistent punishments and consistent rewards are necessary when trying to change behaviors. We have a schedule for after school: snack, play outside, come in and help set table, eat dinner, play alone, bedtime routine.
    5. Learn the beauty of physical work. Chores. Wonderful chores. Cleaning up her bedroom has little appeal (although sometimes she really gets into it). However, doing things she sees me doing like the dishes, setting the table, feeding the cat, wiping down counters and tables; are all things she likes to do on her own. It occupies her, burns some energy, and keeps her out of trouble. I am starting a chore chart soon so we will see how that goes. Also, running is a godsend. Make up reasons for them to run. I like to pretend that the swing set in the furthest corner of our yard is the safe zone. So, she has to run from there to the house several times per game.
    6. Along the same lines, games are great tools for learning a new skill. Simon Says is one of my favorites. We play inside and out. When inside I like to put down colored paper in the hallway and make her go back and forth. If she steps off the square before I say the next “Simon Says” she loses. This teaches her to wait and listen to instruction before acting.
Posted in Education, Family, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

They’re after me Lucky Charms!

There are three things that I am very passionate about. Three things, that if I were asked five years ago would I care about them, I would have probably answered with “eh not so much”. Simple living used to mean being boring, education used to mean finishing college- didn’t really care about the general education system, and nutrition meant making sure I ate something in between my three daily energy drinks.

Now these things mean so much more to me.

I would like to start with a nutrition post. I know I’ve already lost some of you, but I promise I have good reason!Image result for nutrition meme

Growing up, I knew what healthy was. I still know what healthy food is. Everyone knows what healthy food is. But do you know just how unhealthy the unhealthy food is? And do you know how unhealthy some of the healthy food is? And do you know why we don’t know these things? How are we all not dead yet?

Well, it sounds like we’re speeding up to it. I heard a quote recently that I cannot for the life of me remember where I heard it, but in short it said; our generation of children growing up now, will be the first to not live as long as their parents. THAT’S TERRIFYING.

There are plenty of areas to pick on: fast food, sodas, processed foods, etc, etc. But what I accurate breakfast cereal cocoa puffs box changedam going to focus on is a food that hurt me. It hurt me deep.

I grew up on bags of off-brand sugary cereals. We also had the “healthy” cereals like Cheerios, Corn Flakes, etc, but those usually got topped with a spoon full of sugar. All of these were mixed with skim milk, so you know, totally healthy breakfast.
accurate breakfast cereal froot loops box unchanged

This probably sounds pretty normal to most of us. Without these sugary cereals I probably wouldn’t have made it through college. Most poor college kids ate Ramen noodles, I ate Captain Crunch. My pregnancies were both a blur of doctors appointments, insomnia, getting fat and swollen, and Fruit Loops. Then I discovered Fruit Loops with marshmallows; forget about it! I could go days just eating that.

*Before I start savagely ripping into cereal companies I want to say that I am only picking on them so hard because I felt the most duped. Yes sugar is blatant but the rest…eh…

Cereal companies are some of the biggest villains in the advertising world. Cartoon characters are featured on almost every cereal that is catered to young children. Why? Because kids like cartoons. They also are easily swayed with brand recognition (hello Disney). Those brightly colored familiar faces are all placed strategically towards the lower shelves where little eyes can see them better. Cereal companies also are great with flowery words that hide some of their horrible ingredients. A few years ago (2013), Kellogs had to pay a few million because they were advertising that Frosted Mini-Wheats helped children focus and do better in school. Obviously that’s an unfounded claim but I bet it was totally believable when you saw it on tv. Kellogs also got busted for claiming that Rise Crispies were beneficial to your health. Eh, not so much.

As I have posted about before, my daughter has had emotional problems pretty much since birth, if that’s possible. I have an autoimmune disease that is steadily getting worse it seems like with no plausible cause or cure other than medications that I refuse to take. Both of us seem worse off when we have cereal in the morning. Is that science? Not really, but it did make want to do some research.

Youtube brought me to a gentleman who introduced a chemical to me that I had never heard of. Trisodium Phosphate.

Image result for trisodium phosphateImage result for trisodium phosphate

I checked my own box at home, and sure enough this isn’t propaganda. It was right there in front of me.

“As the cereal maker noted repeatedly, “TSP itself is safe and the amount of TSP in cereals is tiny. It’s a water-soluble salt that helps adjust acidity.”” This was taken from an article defending General Mills. I understand that as a counter argument but I just can’t shake the feeling that I shouldn’t be eating a chemical cleaner. Now, it has been compared to baking soda, which can also be used as a chemical cleaner but is found in many baked goods. Possibly the same? I don’t know, I’m not comfortable with it because I don’t know. And I feel like most people weren’t aware of this either.

They are supposedly removing artificial coloring from their cereals slowly but surely so there’s that. As of now though, a lot of cereals still have these artificial coloring in them. Let’s look at those shall we?

They are known as the Southampton Six by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which have been pushing for the removal of these dyes). The Southampton Six include: Red 40, Ponceau 4R, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Quinoline Yellow, and Carmoisine.

Red 40: comes from petroleum distillates or coal tars. Mmmm yummy. Red 40 can cause allergic reactions in “some people”. No big whoop, a lot of things do. They can also cause hyperactivity in children especially if they have ADHD or ADD. *Collar pull* eh okay, I mean so can sugar and stuff so go on…it also contains “p-Credsidine, which the U.S. Department of health and Human Services says is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen.” Ah…well…shit.Image result for red 40 coal tars

On studies done on poor little lab mice, Red 40 caused immune system tumors, lower reproduction success, decreased brain weight, and lowered the chances for their offspring to even survive. The argument is, as usual, it’s okay in small doses. The problem is, on FDA labels there is no guidelines that makes companies list how much Red 40 is in their products. Ergo, you have no idea how much you are eating. I think just skipping it entirely would be your best bet. Red 40 can also be called Allura Red, Allura Red AC, and Red No. 40. The other problem is some foods that are not red or orange still contain Red 40. Pickles, dressings, BBQ sauce, and some cheese may have it in there.

Yellow #5 or Tartrazine: I remember in high school hearing that guys that drank Mountain Dew had lower sperm counts.

Image result for uh what gif

Apparently, this view was widespread enough that the Wall Street Journal ran an article about it and Dear Abby advised her readers to not use Mountain Dew as birth control. The culprit is tartrazine. Again, tartrazine has been linked to hyperactivity in children. In 2010, the FDA actually released a memo that stated “for certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including but not limited to, artificial food colors”. Of course this is only going to effect a small number of consumers who have ADHD, ADD, or other mental disorders. There have also been studies done on allergic reactions to Yellow 5, particularly with children on medications, and their inability to fully get beneficial treatments because of it. Yellow 5 is already banned in some European countries.

Image result for jacked up on mountain dew meme

But what about the sperm issue? Apparently there was a study done in 2009 in Algeria and another done in 2010 in India that showed reduced sperm count in mice when they were given tartrazine. Just slightly, mind you, so I wouldn’t bank on that for safety.

Blue, dabbodedahboodah: Blue No.1 & Blue No. 2: “Brilliant blue” was originally made from coal tar like red, but now a lot of places are able to make it from an oil base. “Indigotine” is a textile dye. Again, these are both relatively safe when ingested in small amounts but have been linked to hyperactivity. Blue dyes have a unique set of worries because their dangers have been linked more to skin absorption and entering the bloodstream via tongues. A study using pigs and the blue dye showed the dye did indeed enter the bloodstream. This was worrisome because “several studies show that these dyes might inhibit cell respiration”.

In addition to dyes there is the ever present argument of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar is obviously one of the main ingredients in most children breakfast cereals. There is a laundry list of problems associated with excess sugar consumption: liver damage, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, metabolic dysfunction, even things like depression can worsen with too much sugar. It has been proven that sugar is as addictive, or more so, than cocaine. Again, the problem with sugar being on the ingredients list is you are given the grams. So, let’s say Golden Grahams has 14 grams of sugar per serving which is probably a cup, or half a cup. What does that mean to you? Probably not much. Food companies are not required to put a percentage next to sugar to show how much you should consume in a day like they do other ingredients. Like so:

Image result for food labels no sugar percentageImage result for food labels no sugar percentage

I do believe that there are motions to put another label under sugar that says “added sugar”. Again though, it will only give you grams, no percentages. It would seem that if they can give you percentages for fat and sodium, they should for sugar too right?

So what am I saying? Do you have to cook a homemade breakfast every morning or risk feeding your kids and yourself poison? No, that would be ridiculous. My daughter loves Lucky Charms. Loves them. Like if a box of Lucky Charms and I were hanging off a cliff and she could only save one I would be worried about my chances for living. However, I will definitely create a better diet that will restrict Lucky Charms, and all the other unhealthy cereals, to very limited consumption. Everything in moderation. So what do you do the rest of the mornings? Here are some things to limit and/or stay away from if you can manage it, and a list of better options:

 

The Good

Puffins cereal

Cascadian Farms

Kix

Kashi

Oatmeal

The Bad

Lucky Charms- the first ingredient listed is whole grains…that’s about where anything nutritious stops. The following ingredient is marshmallows or sugar. However, there is about 3 grams of fiber but there are also color additives. So, it’s a battle for this one but on rare occasions I think I will still allow Lucky Charms in my cabinet.

Frosted Flakes- Anything that says “frosted” you should probably not consume in high doses. Frosted Flakes is fat free and all that jazz but high is sugar and carbs. I don’t think any dyes to speak of though, so an occasional bowl is probably okay.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch- Surprisingly, this cereal has a little less sugar than it’s siblings. I think maybe the cinnamon flavoring helps? I don’t know but they are made from whole grain with only 28% of it’s calories being from sugar so that’s better than some. Still very high in carbs.

Corn Pops- A little less sugar, a little more fiber, but does contain hydrogenated oils. So not an everyday cereal by any means.

The Ugly

Honey Smacks- Used to be called Sugar Smacks but they wanted to sound a little more healthy. They have one of the highest sugar levels of all the breakfast cereals available. No fiber to speak of and an additive that actually makes you overeat makes this one Image result for crying facecereal I will probably not buy again. And this was one of my favorites.

Apple Jacks/Fruit Loops- Huge amounts of sugar, like no fiber, and tons of color additives. Pass.

Crunch Berries- I love the captain, I really do. And apparently most people that make eye contact with him do too (28% of consumers who made eye contact with the Captain bought Captain Crunch). However, I will have to exclude Crunch Berries from my occasional splurge because of the sugar, and the dyes.

Cocoa Puffs- I’ve never been cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs but even the few times I may crave these sweet chocolate cereals I will have to pass. The second ingredient listed is sugar with no healthy ingredients to combat the amount of sugar per serving.

Reeses Puffs- Although not as high in sugar content as some of the others on my ugly list it is high in color additives.

Posted in Family, health, Mental Health, parenting, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Other than hyper…

When you think of a kid with ADHD or ADD, you may picture a small child swinging from a ceiling fan while making loud monkey sounds. Or maybe they’re on top of the kitchen counter trying to jump rope. They are, more or less, always hyper to the untrained eye.

Image result for child with adhdHowever, having a hyper child doesn’t mean that they have ADHD. Most children, at least a majority of them, have a resource of energy that adults just don’t understand. The phrase “he/she’s been running all day, how is she not tired” could be for any toddler or adolescent.

On the reverse side, not all kids who have ADHD/ADD act out in a hyper manner. Some are very often caught daydreaming or “in the zone” when doing something. Since children with ADHD get distracted very easily, some sufferers need to completely tune into one thing they are doing. If anything else is going on they will lose focus and not be able to complete task. They may not appear hyper but they are struggling nonetheless.

The difference really comes down to, is it negatively affecting your child’s life? A lot of times ADHD/ADD can’t be identified until they are in Kindergarten or older because their limitations of concentration haven’t really been tested. From what I have seen in work and at home, there seems to be three categories that ADHD/ADD symptoms are lumped into most often: Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

Inattention:

  • Difficulty organizing
  • Cannot remember directions and has trouble with completing tasks
  • Seems to not be listening when being spoken to
  • Constantly losing things or putting them where they don’t belong
  • Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork or activity for the amount of time it would take to complete it

Hyperactivity

  • Can’t sit still; fidgets or constantly moves feet when sitting
  • Gets in and out of chair when sitting at table or desk
  • Talks excessively and usually loudly
  • Difficulty playing quietly

Impulsiveness

  • Interrupts, even when you are answering something they asked you
  • Struggles to control physical movements
  • Blurts out answers (if in classroom)

I think it’s important to note (since this is how I realized we may have a problem on our hands) that ADHD/ADD is linked with behavior issues. It’s easy to understand why, once you start to think about how a child with ADHD has to process the world around them. Frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, and low self esteem are all very real feelings for kids suffering through this. Parents may be exhausted and beat down but even when your child is screaming they hate you, they are probably going through more emotional turmoil than you are.

Some other symptoms that are not mentioned as much but still may be a red flag are:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Bold and no fear (meaning they will talk to strangers, climb on anything and not care about the idea of getting hurt)
  • Unable to hop on one foot (up to age 4)
  • Complete loss of control (for parents who experience this, it’s like a tantrum on steroids)

 

I am putting this information out there for parents who may be on the fence about whether or not their child has ADHD/ADD. There is a lot of literature available about how ADHD/ADD does not exist. That it is a made-up disease for pharmaceutical companies and to label overactive children as a way to explain their actions and behaviors. In the past three years, I have learned very clearly that is inaccurate. While medicating a child is a separate topic completely, I think we need to realize that mental illness is completely, 100% real, and that it does affect people of all ages, even children. Until that stigma is gone I feel a lot of children who need help won’t get it.

On the same note, I have said it before, I do think it’s also over-diagnosed as well. Do yourself a favor, if you think your child has a problem, go to a doctor. Not your pediatrician, but a counselor of some kind. They will be able to tell you after a few sessions and talks with you whether your child is just very energetic or if there’s something else going on. There are many natural remedies to some of the behaviors you may be experiencing and with just a little tweaking here and there you may see a huge difference in your child at home and at school.