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The ‘Good Enough’ Parent: An Important Reminder on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a celebration of the valuable role mothers play in the lives of their children and is a time to pause and connect with family. It can also be a time to reflect on what it really means to be a mother. It’s no secret that mothers juggle a long list of responsibilities and with this often comes a sense of pressure to be an ‘amazing’ or ‘inspiring’ mother, a ‘superwoman’ of sorts. Knowing how important they are to their children can sometimes bring up feelings of guilt and self-blame for mothers in those inevitable moments when they feel they have fallen short of the ‘Super Mother’ standard. In these times, the most important thing for mothers to remember is this truth:

Being ‘Good Enough’ is Enough

No this is not a cop out, nor is it a lie. Decades of research has shown that children do not need the ‘perfect parent’; all they need are parents who are ‘good enough’. The ‘good enough’ parent is attuned to their children much of the time and can meet their children’s emotional needs much of the time, not all of the time. This means that….get ready for it…..

It is OK to make mistakes!

In fact, your children need you to make mistakes sometimes, to get it wrong sometimes, in order for them to learn to make peace with mistakes, including their own. Taking the pressure of the ‘perfect parent’ off yourself can make a world of difference for your own wellbeing and your family will be better off with a more relaxed and happy mother. The most important thing is that ruptures in the relationship with your children are repaired and that your children can trust that their relationship with you will come back in tune.

Learning how to build a secure relationship with your children can be incredibly helpful and rewarding if you are feeling a little lost. The Circle of Security Parenting program is designed to develop parents’ understanding of their children’s emotional needs and strengthen the security of their relationship with them. It’s about seeing what is so often hidden in plain sight; what your child really needs from you. It doesn’t aim to create ‘perfect parents’ because the ‘good enough’ parent is enough.

Young Minds Health and Development Network is offering the Circle of Security Parenting group program in July 2017 at both our Stafford and Redcliffe clinics. If you would like to enrich your relationship with your child, please enquire about the program by calling 3857 0074 or emailing enquiries@youngmindsnetwork.com

On this Mother’s Day, amongst any heartfelt gifts you receive from family, be sure to give yourself another valuable gift; the permission to make mistakes and simply be ‘good enough’. Your kids will love you for it.

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Autism: Increasing Awareness and Seeing the World through Their Eyes

Autism Awareness month is about increasing awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Although this disorder is widely known, increasing awareness also involves understanding how people with ASD perceive the world and why they behave the way that they do.

ASD is a developmental condition which is characterised by difficulties in communication, social interaction with others and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests. Although children and adults with ASD share common characteristics, it is important to recognise that there are differences between each person with ASD.

Sometimes it can be difficult for people to understand the behaviours that some individuals with ASD display. Children and adults with ASD may engage in behaviours such as hand flapping, rocking and repeating words. These behaviours serve important and beneficial functions including sensory stimulation and reducing anxiety. Like people with ASD, all human beings use strategies to calm themselves down particularly in stressful and anxious situations such as pacing and fiddling with objects. As our anxiety levels increase, so too do our levels of adrenaline. Engaging in physical behaviours such as hand flapping and pacing can help people burn off adrenaline and reduce anxiety.

Similarities can exist between people with and without a diagnosis of ASD. Studies have found that autistic traits are not limited to people with a diagnosis of ASD, such as social difficulties.

A diagnosis of ASD also does not define someone. Each person with or without ASD has their own individual strengths and uniqueness that makes them the person that they are and this is important to recognise and embrace.

The staff at YoungMinds and Minds4Health can provide education to increase understanding and strategies to develop social skills and manage behaviours and emotions for families and individuals that have ASD or know of someone with ASD. For further information, please contact us on (07) 3857 0074.

References:
http://www.autismawareness.com.au/
Constantino, J. N., & Todd, R. D. (2003). Autistic traits in the general population: A twin study. Archives of General Psychiatry60(5), 524-530.
Lipsky, D. (2011). From anxiety to meltdown: How individuals on the autism spectrum deal with anxiety, experience meltdowns, manifest tantrums, and how you can intervene effectively. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Ruzich, E., Allison, C., Smith, P., Watson, P., Auyeung, B., Ring, H., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2015). Measuring autistic traits in the general population: A systematic review of the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) in a nonclinical population sample of 6,900 typical adult males and females. Molecular Autism, 6(1), 2.
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Is your child being bullied?

Bullying is a serious concern. Bullied children and adolescents can suffer negative physical, psychological, academic and social outcomes. The negative effects of bullying can also last into adulthood such as an increased risk of developing poor self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Bullying is not uncommon either. Approximately one quarter of young Australians have reported being bullied every few weeks or more.

Parents may find it hard to tell whether their children are being bullied, particularly if they are not informed. One study found that about 45% told a family member and 30% had not told anyone about being bullied. Children may be reluctant to inform adults for a variety of reasons. They may worry that the bullying may get worse by telling someone, being labelled negatively, not being believed or upsetting their parents.

So how can you tell if someone is being bullied? Bullying does not always result in physical injuries. Bullying can take several forms including physical and verbal aggression, social exclusion and spreading rumours. So sometimes the signs that someone is being bullied are not always obvious.

Some common signs to look out for include:

  • Behavioural changes –e.g. irritability, school refusal, poor concentration, poor grades, social isolation
  • Physical injuries – e.g. damaged belongings/clothing, unexplained cuts, scratches and bruises
  • Psychological – e.g. anxiety, reports of feeling lonely, sad and low
  • Physical complaints – e.g. insomnia, headaches, stomach aches
  • Reports of lack of friends, being excluded or ignored

If you are concerned that someone you know is being bullied or impacted by bullying, please contact the team at YoungMinds and Minds4Health who can offer support for parents, families and individual’s experiencing bullying. Although bullying may not be an issue for your family right now, explaining to your children about bullying and the importance of discussing their concerns can be helpful to prepare them if it does happen.

 

References:
Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian covert bullying prevalence study. Perth, WA: Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University.
Oliver, C., & Candappa, M. (2007). Bullying and the politics of ‘telling’. Oxford Review of Education, 33(1), 71-86.
Smith, P. K., & Shu, S. (2000). What good schools can do about bullying: Findings from a survey in English schools after a decade of research. Childhood, 7(2), 193-212.
Vanderbilt, D., & Augustyn, M. (2010). The effects of bullying. Paediatrics and Child Health, 20(7), 315-320.

 

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Tired Mothers – Is Sleep the Problem or is it Something Else?

Empowering women to talk about their concerns and struggles is an important message that International Women’s Day promotes. One particular problem that women face is experiencing sleep difficulties after childbirth. New mothers often feel like they do not get enough sleep. Given that symptoms of sleep deprivation and postnatal depression can be similar, some mothers find it difficult to determine if what they are feeling is normal sleep deprivation or postnatal depression.

Mothers experiencing chronic sleep deprivation may report sleepiness, fatigue, and mood symptoms such as irritability. However, women with postnatal depression can also experience similar fatigue and mood symptoms in addition to difficulties with sleep, poor sleep quality and insomnia. They may also feel disconnected from their child, sad, unhappy, helpless and low a lot of the time. Although it is common to sometimes feel a bit sad or have the baby blues after giving birth, these feelings usually do not persist.

Women experiencing symptoms of postnatal depression generally notice the onset of symptoms about 1-2 months following childbirth or several months before the birth. It is important to recognise that anyone can develop postnatal depression.

If your symptoms are persisting or you think that you or someone you know may have postnatal depression, the team at YoungMinds can offer support and psychotherapy which studies have shown can help women overcome postnatal depression.

Although it may be tough to find time for yourself with a newborn, it is important to remember to practice self-care techniques. This can include meditation, exercise, resting, speaking to someone about your feelings and what you are going through and doing activities that you enjoy.

 

References
Armstong, K. L., Van Haeringen A. R., Dadds, M. R., & Cash, R. (1998). Sleep deprivation or postnatal depression in later infancy: Separating the chicken from the egg. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 34(3), 260-262.
Dorheim, S. K., Bondevik, G. T., Eberhard-Gran, M., & Bjorvatn, B. (2009). Sleep and depression in postpartum women: A population-based study. Sleep, 32(7), 847-855.
http://cope.org.au/first-year/postnatal-mental-health-conditions/postnatal-depression/
http://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/
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Suicide – Things you can do to help someone at risk

 

It is very upsetting when you think someone close to you may be considering ending their life. What we do know is that most people survive and all those who do end up being happy that they did.

The first indication you have is often that someone is not acting quiet like themselves. Other warning signs may include:

  • Increased irritability or agitation;
  • Avoidance of friends and family;
  • Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed;
  • Moody, sad and withdrawn;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Disengaging from sporting or social group commitments;
  • Talking or making jokes about suicide;
  • A reduction in personal grooming habits;
  • Talking about feeling helpless or worthless;
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol;
  • Engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior.

While you may not want to make things worse by asking about what’s going on for them, it is important to take warning signs seriously and:

  1. Ask if they are thinking about suicide and if they have made any plans. Asking shows that you care and it can save a life.
  2. Encourage the person to talk about their feelings and to seek help. Listen to their story, give them a list of 24/7 emergency numbers and engage others in your support network.
  3. Talk about suicide. This will not increase the risk that they will take action. It will encourage them to talk more about their feelings.
  4. Check that they are safe particularly if they have told you about how they plan to end their life. This may mean removing unsafe items such as medications, sharps, alcohol, drugs or car keys etc.
  5. Talk about what to do next. It may be important to ensure you enlist the help of others to persuade the person to seek professional help. Professional help may include GP’s, psychologists, social workers, Aboriginal health workers, a school counsellor, hospitals or telephone and web-based counselling. You may need to call 000 if things are not going well.
  6. Suicidal thoughts do not just disappear. It may be really important to stay involved and continue to encourage the person to seek help whenever these thoughts return.
  7. Take care of yourself. You may need to talk to someone (friend, family member or professional).

If you feel you need further support for yourself or are worried about someone close to you and would like a personal consultation please contact the team at YoungMinds. Alternatively, the following 24/7 support services may be helpful.

SuicideLine – 1300 65 1251
MensLine – 1300 78 9978
KidsHelpline – 1800 55 1800
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636

Further information can also be found on the following websites.    

http://www.livingisforeveryone.com.au/

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/suicide-prevention/worried-about-suicide/what-are-the-warning-signs

http://forum.mensline.org.au/Default.aspx

https://kidshelpline.com.au/

http://au.reachout.com/

 

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Seven ways to combat back-to-school nerves

It is that time of the year when many parents and students are preparing for the new school year. This usually involves new school books, new uniforms, lunch boxes and the mandatory hair cut to start the school year off just right.

Some kids seem to breeze through this period with a certain amount of excitement while others find the thought of returning to school after the break a bit of worry. These children may have one or more of the following symptoms of anxiety.

– Inability to sleep;
– Emotional outbursts or temper tantrums triggered by small things;
– A general irritability that is unusual;
– Withdrawn;
– Complain of headaches or stomach pains.

To help you and your child get through this time we’ve come up with a few ideas to help parents deal with the back-to-school worries.

  1. Put aside some time to check in with your child and talk about the beginning of school. This is a time to let them know that it is often normal to have some concerns about the first day back at school.
  2. Teach coping skills such as deep breathing techniques so that your child has an opportunity to try them out whenever they start to feel nervous;
  3. Teach meditation – Test out the “smiling minds for kids” meditation app at https://smilingmind.com.au/smiling-mind-app/ – its free and meditation is a great way to calm the mind when our brain just won’t turn off.
  4. Make sure your child is eating plenty of nutritious foods – we need healthy food for a healthy mind;
  5. Exercise daily – Exercise not only makes us feel good it helps to improve our sleep and it teaches us to relax.
  6. Focus on the positives. See if you and your child can come up with three or four positive things about going back to school. This makes for great conversation and helps to refocus negative thinking patterns.
  7. Try to remain calm and relaxed.

If your child’s anxiety symptoms do not improve it may be important to seek professional help. Please contact the team at YoungMinds Health & Development Network if we can be of further assistance.

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Setting SMART New Year’s Resolutions

So today we greet another new year.

For many of us the New Year is a time to consider making positive changes in our life and discarding our most annoying bad habits. You know the bad habits I’m talking about. Those overindulgences that we know are not good for us. The ones we have tried to stop many times but just can’t seem to get past the first day of discomfort.

The trouble is New Year’s resolutions rarely provide enough motivation for change to occur. Hence, there is a lot more involved in behavioural change then just making a mental note to change.

Setting goals is a good start.  Of course, goals should be SMART. They should be:

  • Specific;
  • Measurable;
  • Achievable;
  • Realistic;
  • Time limited.

Goals also need to be supported by a realistic plan that enables incremental change over time. Slow but progressive change is important because we are, after all, trying to break a habit that has generally been going on for quite some time. Here is a great video clip about behavioural change that you may find helpful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1eYrhGeffc

Some habits, such as addictions or weight management, may benefit from additional support. If you require further information about behavioural change or assistance in putting together a plan to facilitate changing your bad habits, the trained psychologists at YoungMinds and Minds4Health would be happy to work with you to help you achieve your goals.

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Single suggestions for Christmas

Spare a thought this Christmas and holiday season for family or friends who live alone.
Whether widowed, divorced, clergy, never married, homeless etc people who are single do not comfortably fit the Christmas mould of ‘family’ as promoted by the media.

Remember also people who are living in a family circumstance, but may be feeling psychologically alone, single, deserted or vulnerable.

Christmas is a time when the contented family unit of mother, father and child/children is proclaimed as the norm. This creates a sense of displacement for many people who live singularly or feel alone. Individuals may be reminded of their own experience of loss – loss of family, spouse, children, parents, intimacy, love, identity or the life they imagined for themselves. Regrets can take the place of Christmas celebration and people may feel out of place (or an add-on) at family gatherings as they watch each family unit within the extended family celebrate their own togetherness.

People who throughout the year embrace and celebrate their single status can suddenly feel uncomfortable and profoundly alone. They may crave, albeit momentarily, the connection and intimacy of family.

Some single people are experiencing their first Christmas alone and others will have expended time and energy creating a Christmas experience to avoid feeling out of place.

Maslow (1943) clearly identified ‘belongingness’ as a fundamental human need. It is this need that can often create a sense of loneliness at Christmas for single persons – whether at family gatherings, amidst the crowds at Christmas shopping forays, or anticipating and experiencing Christmas dinner in an aged care facility.

Any gentle and discreet expressions of inclusiveness, kindness and understanding can make all the difference to someone’s experience at Christmas.

Reprinted with permission from the author: Trish Carroll (www.eldermatters.com.au)
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Positive behaviours that facilitate weight loss

Just think about all the different diets people have tried with minimal success. The evidence is in and dieting for weight loss is rarely successful. So our trained ACFED (Australian Centre for Eating Disorders) practitioners have come up with six simple but positive behaviours that may help facilitate weight loss.

  1. Focus on getting healthy rather than losing weight. This could include adding a 10 minute walk to your daily routine, reducing sugary food intake (including alcohol) and making sure you get sufficient sleep;
  2. Learn to eat mindfully. Avoid eating in front of the TV or while sitting at your computer as you tend to eat more then you realise when you do this.
  3. Eat regularly and consider the nutritional value of the food you are eating.
  4. If you are still hungry after a meal then wait 20 minutes before having seconds.
  5. Stop negative self-talk. Are the things you say about your body helpful? Do they make you feel better about yourself? If the answer to this question is no, then it is time to stop and reconsider what you are telling yourself.
  6. Our bodies are amazing. They do a lot of stuff. They get us from A to B, they dance and, for the most part, they heal when they become ill, so celebrate what your body can do at least once a day.

While these behaviours don’t guarantee weight loss they may help to enhance the way you see yourself. If you or someone you know has a problem with eating or a more serious eating disorder, then it might be a good time to recommend they speak with an ACFED trained practitioner. You can find out more about ACFED on their website at www.acfed.com.au.

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Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week

I once heard someone quote Charles Dickens when referring to parenthood: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. I really resonated with this quote as applied to parenthood. Indeed, for me my “worst of times” seemed to be consolidated in the first year of parenthood! Welcoming a new baby, whether it be the first or the fifth, brings with it massive change and change brings both things to be celebrated and things to be grieved. For many, the transition is smooth, for others there are a few bumps in the road. Some, like myself, find it more challenging, and there are those for whom mental health concerns are very real. About 1 in 7 Mums and 1 in 10 Dads, for example, experience postnatal depression. The figure for parents experiencing postnatal anxiety is thought to be even higher.

This week, the 13th to 19th November, is Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week. PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) established Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week in 2005 in order to raise awareness about mental health during the perinatal period, including what to look out for and where to seek support. While it is normal to experience changes in mood during pregnancy and/or early parenthood, often referred to as the “baby blues”, there are things to look out for that may signal the development of depression or anxiety.

Signs that depression may be developing include:

  • low mood
  • feelings of low self-worth
  • irritability, anger or anxiety
  • increased crying, often for no reason
  • loss of interest in activities which were previously considered enjoyable
  • changes to eating and sleeping patterns
  • loss of motivation and excessive fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating/confusion
  • social isolation
  • thoughts of self-harm

 

Indicators of anxiety include:

  • feeling stressed, or constantly being on edge
  • muscle tension
  • difficulty staying calm
  • sleep disturbances
  • constant, recurrent worry

There are number of things you can do to take care of yourself during the perinatal period. Some ideas include:

  • eating a healthy diet and exercising
  • avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • resting whenever possible (e.g. when baby sleeps)
  • remembering that there is no one right way of parenting
  • asking for help and accepting it when it is offered
  • socialising and taking time for yourself when possible, and
  • avoiding major life changes in late pregnancy and early parenthood.

If you have experienced mental health concerns in the past, can I encourage you to be proactive and seek support early? Similarly, if you do notice the signs listed above developing seek professional advice early. A good first port of call is your local doctor (GP) or Child Health Nurse. They will be able to provide access to further support options. PANDA also have a national helpline (1300 726 306) that will be able to provide a listening ear and suggestions for ongoing support. Further information about Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Week can be accessed at: http://www.panda.org.au/get-involved/panda-events/pnda-awareness-week and https://wayahead.org.au/parenting/perinatal-depression-and-anxiety/

Information about signs to look out for and self-care have been sourced from the booklet ‘Mental Health During Pregnancy and Early Parenthood’ downloadable from https://wayahead.org.au/parenting/perinatal-depression-and-anxiety/

Thank you to psychologist Rebecca Yin Foo for this information