So after yesterday’s debacle, where I bared my soul and my chubby sequin-clad thighs by re-telling the horrendous memory that I’ve been tortured by for nearly 30 years… only to find out that something entirely different happened to what my brain told me, I figured maybe we could use it to our advantage and look at how we can mess with support our kid’s brains and get some more factual memories cracking.
My inner nerd is coming out here when I say the whole memory storage and retrieval stuff is pretty fascinating. The brain is this big mushy blob that does some freaky shit. The way it can encode information, chunk it, store it away for eons and then pop it back out when we’re triggered- it’s amazing when you think about it.
For a long time we had this assumption that kids don’t remember much. I mean heck, I’m lucky to remember my name most days, so recalling stuff when I was a little kid? Well that’s like asking me to go 9 months without wine. Oh wait…. I think I’ve repressed the last 9 months. That’s my brain trying to cope with another harrowing memory.
Today’s Wellness Wednesday message is brought to you by ‘take your own freakin’ advice for once you douche’.
So yesterday we had our check-ups; me with my obs for the very last time. I was legitimately sad that I wouldn’t be seeing him again. I love my obs, he’s a sarcastic son of a gun and we’d trade stories from the front line.
I love him, but not enough to have another baby. DONE. SO SO SO DONE.
Mr. OT also had his 6 week check-up, with the amazing paediatrician that we fell in love with when Miss DP was in special care and diagnosed with a ventricle septal defect. He’s amazeballs. We switched to him after having a paed who would give me panic attacks if I saw her in the corridor of the hospital. It was the right move.
I was expecting to be in and out of his office in a jiffy, with him lavishing praise on the gorgeous little creature sitting in the capsule before us.
I forgot that he’s actually a specialist and it’s written into their medical oath to be at least 30 minutes late for each appointment.
So 30 minutes later I expected to be out of there in a jiffy with a clean bill of health for Mr. OT. Which we did. Kind of. The doc checked him over, and I mentioned that the little guy sometimes seems like he’s shivering- his little jaw quivers, even when it’s 31 degrees. So the doc looked at him further.
“Ahhh yes, looks like he has clonus”
Say what? I give him a half puzzled, half panicked look, while trying to remain cool and calm. No one wants to hear their kid has something. Unless it’s a ticket to MENSA.
Doc proceeded to explain in a very patchwork fashion what clonus was (I think hiding all the gory details for my benefit), but was quick to add that he was sure everything would be fine and Mr. OT would grow out of it. He also added “I know you’re going to look this up when you get home, but I’m pretty confident he’ll be fine”. He knows me too well.
I’m madly cramming for a work deadline. So of course, I go and put a blog post together here instead. But while I was reading a bunch of jargon, I came across this:
‘don’t let your entire life hinge on one element’’ (Niven 2000, p. 71).
He asserts: ‘‘Your life is made up of many different facets. Don’t focus on one aspect of your life so much that you can’t experience pleasure if that one area is unsettled. It can become all you think about, and it can deaden your enjoyment of everything else—things you would otherwise love (p. 71).’’
And it stuck in my head. How true is that?! Clever dude.
Sometimes we put all our eggs in one basket. At times inadvertently, other times deliberately. But basically what strikes me about that is if we put everything into one single thing, we’re going to be unbalanced, and other areas are then going to suck.
One prime example comes to mind for me. Now, let’s take this one gently, because it can ruffle some feathers. Parents who live through their kids. They put everything into being a parent, they forsake other areas of their life for their kids, and you know what happens? Their kids grow up, they fly the coop (as they should), and parents are left feeling empty. They cling to their kids, and their kids get fed up and get the f outta dodge. For realz. The number one thing I’d see when I worked in high schools was parents who weren’t ready to take a few eggs out of the kid basket and kids who became resentful. It was a bad cycle.
No one is disputing that kids are a big part of life, but they can’t be the one element we hinge our lives on. Same with work. While work takes up a huge chunk of life, and we like to take a sense of pride and identity with what we do, if that’s our one element, then what the hell are we going to do when it’s gone?
Did you know the highest rate of divorce actually occurs when people retire? Because. Eggs in one basket. People get so caught up putting their eggs into their children, their careers etc (sounds a bit wrong when you put it like that, doesn’t it?), that when the kids are gone and the job is done, they look at each other and think ‘omg who the hell are you?’
Sometimes when we hold things up so closely to our faces, we go cross eyed. We can’t see what’s around us- we can only see this blurred mush in front of us. We need to just pull that thing back a bit so we can see the other great things that are around.
Our lives need to be a bit like a page from Where’s Wally. We need to be able to have the perspective to look at a bunch of things. Sure, sometimes we have to focus on smaller areas, because they need our attention. But if we only look at one section of the page, we’re not going to find Wally.
That clever dude Niven? He’s got a nifty little book out- and I found a naughty little pdf of it right here. Handy little thing to flick through.
Have you ever been caught out with all your eggs in the one basket? Or are you more of a ‘I play the field with my eggs’ kind of person?
Ever had those moments, where someone asks something of you, and while you’re not really feeling it in your heart of hearts, you go along anyway, because you don’t want to disappoint?
Or you see a group of people that you think would be awesome to be accepted into, or hang out with, and so you find yourself doing and saying things to get their approval?
Or you spread yourself so damn thin in an effort to appear useful and helpful to others?
You’ve been bitten by the Purple People Pleaser. He’s a hungry sucker. Big bloated and self-important, he likes to fill you with self-doubt and an over-exuberance for putting others first. Don’t worry, I’m right there with you. I am so, so, so guilty of being a PPP. I teach others not to do it, but then I go and do it myself. Hypocritical psyching since forever.
I’ve had to do a ton of reading this year on brains. On the surface I think all the stuff about the brain is pretty cool- it’s this ugly looking thing that does so much. And we only use like 10% of it. Crazy! And different parts of the brain control different parts of us, our movements, our feelings, our learning. It’s like Atlantis- this whole unknown city.
I can almost hear you snoring at your computer screen upon reading my nerdiness. Soz.
One of the things I’ve had to do some reading up on is this whole thing about Growth Mindset. What the hell is that? Well, you know how they say IQ is fixed? This fancy little number that gets spat out at you when you do a series of ridiculous tasks that you’d never do in real life? Well, according to Carol Dweck, it’s not fixed. And the way we approach things, based on our mindset, will determine how well we actually do. We can literally grow our brains. Huh? I know.
We’re getting to the end of our Monster Series. We’ve seen enough of these suckers to last us a while now I think, yes? This one critter today though is a particularly tough one, and tends to recruit all the other monsters we’ve discussed previously. That’s how sneaky this bastard is. Please meet the Learning Monster.
There are so many monsters lurking around, isn’t there? We’ve looked at the worry monster, we’ve looked at the sad monster and we’ve seen what little bastards they can be. But what about the angry monster? What’s the deal there?
The angry monster is a little different to it’s previously mentioned cousins. The angry monster can pop into any kind of difficulty a child is having. It’s not necessarily a ‘disorder’, but the angry monster is a main player on the kidlet scene. The angry monster can mean bigger things, like anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or it may just be a function of testing boundaries and learning their place. It’s a tricky minx, the old angry monster.
So what does an angry monster look like? Prickly, loud, breathing fire maybe? Possibly. Seething, quiet and contained? Could be. Our angry monsters can look different depending on the situation we’re in, and depending on our personalities.
The angry monster can be hard for parents to negotiate. And even harder for kids to manage. It’s tough. But it’s not impossible! It’s really about helping kids to understand what’s going on for them, what the angry monster is, and why it might be popping up at this time.
The biggest message to share with our kids about the angry monster is that anger is normal! Anger is common and we all feel it. What’s not ok though is when we let our anger get the better of us and it takes over. Normally the angry monster is at the surface, while another monster bubbles below. So when we explain the angry monster to kids we need to be able to let them know they are allowed to feel angry, but letting the angry monster make them aggressive is something else entirely.
How do we explain the angry monster? Try a little something like this:
Let’s have a look at what’s been going on for you lately. Seems like things have been pretty tough. Maybe you’ve had a visit from the angry monster, do you know much about the angry monster? Well, it’s a monster who can get really annoying and LOUD. And when an angry monster gets loud, it can make us loud. Yelling, screaming, stamping and stomping. So much noise! That’s the work of the angry monster. They hit our bodies, our minds and our actions. They do things like make our fists clench, grind our teeth, get all our muscles tight. They can make our cheeks feel hot, our eyebrows frown. The angry monster is tricky like that. And then when our bodies are all tight, they start telling us all sorts of things, like “it’s not fair”, or “I want that toy!” or “they can’t do that to me”. If you think things like that, how do you think you’ll be feeling? Pretty darn angry! Aha- the angry monster is working! So when we think angry, we feel angry. And when we feel angry, sometimes it can come out in not-so-nice behaviours. We can get aggressive- hitting, throwing, yelling, breaking things. Sometimes we can get so aggressive we can hurt others. And that never feels good, for anyone. Before we know it, our angry monster has us all twisted up, and we don’t know how to get out of it! Why does the angry monster visit? Well there can be many reasons. We can find something unfair, we can feel like we’ve been hurt by others, we can actually be scared or sad about something, and it feels so yuck the only way we feel like we can get it out is by letting the angry monster take over. So we need to be detectives, get to the bottom of why the angry monster is visiting us, and learn ways to shrink the monster down so we can shine again.
Sadly with anger, we inadvertently paint it out to be a bad thing, and something we need to hide away and not express. Anger is a valid emotion, and both ourselves and our kids are allowed to feel it. It’s all about how we deal with it that’s the issue though, and what we want to upskill our kids on. With kids, particularly younger ones, anger is the go-to emotion when they’re struggling to understand or express what’s going on for them. So it’s always helpful to try and educate them on anger, and get them to understand what is happening, and why they might be acting in such a way. A lot of the time, once we can see what’s going on, our anger tends to simmer down.
Got concerns your cherub’s anger is over and above what is appropriate for their age? Chat to your GP. More complex issues like Oppositional Defiant Disorder do exist, but the prevalence rates range from 2% to 10% (Maughan et al., 2004; Costello et al., 2003. Source). Some sessions with a psych might help give you some tricks, and enable further support for your child.
One resource that is great for explaining anger is the book “Mad isn’t Bad” . And all the cute series of “When I’m feeling…” are really useful too. You can often pick them up from Kmart. For children with Aspergers, a fantastic book to help them understand is “The Red Beast”. And if you’re stuck on how to deal with misbehaviour (because we’re all about the anger being ok, the aggressive behaviour is not though) here’s some strategies on disciplining kids that we’ve looked at before. But truly it’s about helping your child uncover what is driving the anger. And not having them beat themselves up for it. That’s what we have monsters for!
How’s your anger monster travelling? Are you all over it, or does your angry monster get the better of you sometimes? I tell you, without my wine, my angry monster has a little too much spunk. Must remedy that. In a few months.
Next up in our monster series is the very good friend of our little (or not so little) worry monster, the sad monster.
Sad monsters are pretty common, although while it’s easy to spot in adults, it can be really tricky to spot in kids. And for poor cherubs, an attack of the sad monster can be the absolute worst. It’s a serious issue that we need to address sooner rather than later. In the past we thought that children couldn’t get depressed. I mean, really, what’s there to be sad about when the biggest decision you need to make in a day is whether to eat from the blue plate or the yellow plate, right? Sadly not quite. Although it is less common in younger children than it is in adolescents, there are some studies that propose that 4% of preschool children show symptoms of depression and 10% of children aged 6-12 years deal with persistent feelings of depression, and 2% of those children go on to develop serious depression. Once you hit the age of 12, the stats rise, until you get to 16 and depression is now one of the leading causes of death in young people. Horrific to think, isn’t it? (See info here and here). It can even impact babies if they’re not given enough nurturing contact and develop a positive attachment. Babies can become apathetic, unresponsive, suffer from failure to thrive. All through depression. Not cool.
Hello! It’s that time again, where I come here and waffle some crud on some stuff and hope it makes sense. Sounding really profesh, right? I know. I have no faith in me too after that glowing introduction. Anyways, let’s push ahead, shall we?
Last week we chatted about our monsters, and I wanted to know what your monsters were like. And then my manic monster took over and I haven’t even had a chance to respond to your comments yet. Noice. I promise I’m going to. My ‘sir paranoid a lot’ monster will make sure of it.
We know there’s lots of monsters out there, but the first cab off the rank is one of the biggest monsters, we and our kids often face. The dreaded worry monster. I’m going to talk about anxiety in worry monster format, in the hopes that it might help if you have a cherub who is currently afflicted with said monster. Because sometimes as a parent (or as a teacher or anyone who deals with kids!) it’s hard to put into words what anxiety is, in a way that kids are going to grab a hold of, and most importantly, not blame themselves for.