Becoming an adult is a challenge these days. It’s even more challenging if you have chronic physical or mental illness, pain and/or disability. And it is equally challenging when parenting one of those kiddos. Here are some suggestions about what tends to work, and what tends not to work – although, of course, every child is different, and every parent-child relationship is different – so, take these as suggestions only and use what works for you.
By separation anxiety, I mean yours! It is normal for young adults to become more and more autonomous as they separate from their family of upbringing and learn to stand on their own feet. This can be very anxiety-provoking when you are acutely aware of their struggles. Maybe you know that they have extreme anxiety around dealing with paperwork or making telephone calls. You may wonder, “how are they going to manage in their own place?” But hovering and fussing around isn’t helping them or you. Take a breath, do a guided meditation, and learn to be more patient than you ever thought possible.
If you have a young adult who sometimes goes ‘quiet’ and you have concerns about self-harm, it can be a good idea to have the name and number of a partner, friend or coworker who you can contact to check on how they’re doing. However, this must only be on rare occasions. Don’t use them as a way to deal with your anxieties.
They’re Still Here!
If your young adult is still living at home because of their health, and you are both happy about that, then there is no problem. If either of you are less than enthusiastic about it, then it’s time to give them their own space as much as possible, set boundaries and ground rules that work for everyone, and negotiate for shared time rather than assuming that they want to be around you 24/7. It may also be time for them to assume some of the household duties (to the extent that their health allows) so that they are building transferrable skills, and learning that being an adult comes with responsibilities.
Mind Your Own Business!
Privacy is something which everyone deserves. Our children get less privacy when they are young because that is tempered by the need to have some level of control over their lives to ensure that they are healthy and safe. However, adults have the right to privacy, period. Your kid’s computer, cellphone, finances, diary … all off-limits. If you have concerns, talk to them – it’s the grown-up thing to do and they should be able to expect you to model what being an adult means. They don’t need your permission to go out, but they may need your help with transportation. If you’re willing to do that, you’ll meet their friends and be part of their life way more than if they get grilled every time they leave the house.
What They Need versus What You Want to Do
Often we think we really know our kids and their needs – and we probably do, more than anyone in the world … except them. If we insist on helping the way we want instead of what they need, then we prevent them from growing. For example, if they tell you that they can handle taking the bus to work this week, and don’t need a lift – you may not be sure they can do it. But what’s the worst that can happen? They try it once and then need assistance. But what’s the best that can happen? Maybe they make progress and conquer a new skill! Don’t second guess them. Yes, it’s hard watching them struggle a bit. But that, as the kids say, is a you problem. Don’t make it theirs.
Work together with your kids to make contingency plans that help keep their lives on-track. If they take prescriptions, and you know they have difficulty filling them – keep a few days’ supply so that they won’t ever run out completely. If they’re travelling, and you worry that their ADHD will cause them to lose their passport – take a scanned copy backed up to the Cloud and make sure you both have a photo of it on your phones. There are creative solutions to most problems. Oh, and the occasional home-made mac and cheese never hurts, either!
Parenting Without Judgement!
Make parenting a no-judgement zone. If they get into trouble, they won’t ask for help if they know they are going to hear ‘I told you so’. Minimize issues and let them know that adult life is hard, but manageable, and most things can be fixed. Be ready to help when it’s needed, and be prepared to feel a touch neglected when they’re having a good spell and don’t really need you as much! And quit judging yourself, too. You’re navigating one of the most difficult tightrope walks of all – being there for a child who wants to be independent but who can’t quite manage it yet. You aren’t always going to get it right, and neither are they. Don’t beat yourself up about it. The best thing you can do for your kid is be there for them when they need you to be, and love them, always.
If you find that you are struggling with parenting, don’t be afraid to seek help. It can be a relief to realize that many other people struggle with the same issues. I know it’s hard, but try to let other people in. It can be easy to assume that you are the only one who can help your kid. But even if that’s so, maybe other people can help YOU. Maybe your partner can do the laundry or the supermarket run this week. Don’t get so blinkered that you exhaust yourself completely, because then you won’t be able to help your kid. I am not suggesting that you always put yourself first – no parent of a chronically-ill child I have ever met is able to do that. But I am suggesting that you don’t put yourself last.
Look How Far They’ve Come
It can be hard, when you have a kiddo with chronic health issues, to get bogged down in doctor visits, prescriptions, rough nights, trips to the ER, sensory overloads, etc, etc. But looking back a couple of years usually lets us see the progress which has been made. Maybe things don’t look like you expected them to. But maybe your journey, and your young adult’s, will end up being more meaningful than you ever expected. Celebrate the wins!
We’d love to hear what works for you and your young adult. And if you could use support in your parenting journey, contact us to see how we can help.
We’ve all seen articles telling us how to ‘indulge’ in self-care in a curated, Instagrammable, Pinterest-worthy way. You know, bubble baths and pedicures, mojitos with your friends and charcuterie boards. And that’s… nice for those who can manage it. But if you read those articles, and the very thought of all that is exhausting and makes you want to cry, read on… we’ve got you covered.
What is Self-Care?
Here’s the thing: Self-care means anything that you do for your own good. And, just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we can classify self-care in a pyramid.The bottom of the pyramid? Things like: taking your meds, brushing your teeth, getting out of bed (with or without getting dressed), making yourself eat. And if those are too much, try and think of the smallest thing that you could manage to do in your day, and prioritize. It’s probably more important that you eat something and take your meds than get dressed or brush your teeth. Of course, those things are important, too, but when you’re in crisis, you need to choose the absolute essentials.
Once you have the basics covered, the next most important thing is to add in some joyful things which will fill your cup. Are you rewatching all of Star Trek in order? (That’s mine!) Do you like to knit, crochet, paint or draw? Do you have ‘$20 in your pocket’ and enough energy to make it to the thrift store? Can you make it out for a Starbucks with a friend?
Self-Care is Necessary
If you find yourself struggling with self-care, try gently asking yourself why. Are you exhausted and in chronic pain and it’s just physically difficult to do tasks? Are you in the bottom of a depression and shame spiral and you don’t feel like you’re worthy of love and care? Do you feel like any time, effort or money spent on yourself is ‘bad’? Maybe some of these things are issues to take up with your doctor and/or counsellor. If you are struggling with everything, including eating and taking meds consistently, it may be time to make a decision to ask for help.
Make Self-Care a Judgement Free Zone
Things that tend not to be helpful: Beating yourself up about what you ‘should’ be able to do, or listening to helpful relatives suggest that ‘if you just got to bed at a decent time’ you’d be able to do everything with ease. In order to work on making changes in our lives, we first need to accept where we are – without judgement, shame, blame or self-hatred.
It can help to find someone whom you admire who has also struggled with similar issues. For example, one of my favourite authors, John Green, struggles with intrusive thought spirals due to OCD, like I do – and it makes me feel just a little bit better.
If you struggle with certain self-care tasks, look for alternatives. Please know that many, many people have specific struggles with tasks like showering, brushing their teeth, visiting the dentist or doctor, taking their medications, etc. Instead of looking at those Instagram-perfect lives, use social media to your advantage, and find YouTubers and TikTokkers who understand what you’re going through and can give you some ideas:
If you struggle to take your meds, think about whether it’s a problem remembering (and put them somewhere you will be sure to see them every day), or a mental struggle (you may have to bribe yourself with a treat, or get a loved one to check in with you to help you to be consistent).
Dentists and doctors: if you have fears or specific issues, it can seem overwhelming to tackle medical appointments. Here’s the time to take your loved ones up on their offer to advocate for you, and let them take care of scheduling, transport, being with you and checking in on you during the appointment if they recognize that you are overwhelmed.
It can be hard to work on decorating your space when you don’t have a lot of energy or motivation, but if you spend a lot of time in your room, it’s important. There are resources which can help you. Try this YouTube video for some good ideas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABof7aqVSoQ
The Best and Bravest Decision
Deciding to work on self-care is a very brave decision. And one of the best ways to do that is to ask for help. This is often really hard! But you probably know some people who would be happy to help if they just knew what you needed. This might involve swallowing your pride a little bit. It takes courage to let even a trusted person into your space when it’s messy or dirty. I 100% promise you that they are not judging you like you are judging yourself. I also promise you that if they were living your life right now, they’d be struggling, too. This isn’t about your sickness, disability or lack of motivation. It’s about figuring out what you need to in order to create a life worth living.
So, self-care can be hard. And yes, that sucks. But it’s the foundation which will allow you to build towards all the good things that are waiting for you. Remember that every tiny act of self-care you can manage will build up into a forward momentum towards feeling better.
First things first, it is normal and expected for children to have some worries with regards to going back to school! School anxiety may include worries like:
Who will be my new teacher?
Will my friends be in my class this year?
How will I do in math/language/etc. this year?
Will this year be harder than last year?
These are social and academic concerns that all children can experience from time to time. In these cases, it is important for parents to recognize these concerns and talk openly with their child about them. At the same time, it is critical that parents listen and empathize, never dismissing or minimizing the child’s feelings. Children need to be heard, like all people.
Parents’ Reactions to School Anxiety:
On the other hand, if parents react with anxiety to their child’s worries, the child will pick up on this and it will only heighten their worries. The calmer a parent can be, the more likely they will be able to really listen to their child and offer support, rather than react based on their own worries. As a parent, I know it can be incredibly tempting to jump in and fix it, to make it all better for our children. When we do this however, we are not really helping our children. We are not allowing them to learn and grow from these experiences. Ultimately, our goal as parents should be to help foster resilience in our children, rather than to promote dependency. Life will always present us with challenges and struggles, among other things. As parents, we play an important role in helping our children build resilience during times of hardship, walking alongside them and supporting them.
One of the questions I am often asked by parents with regards to back-to-school anxiety is, “How do I know if it’s normal worrying or anxiety?” There are signs for which parents can be on the lookout including:
shutting down in school and/or refusing to participate
changes in sleep and/or nightmares
changes in appetite
low frustration tolerance with behaviours like anger outbursts or crying.
How to Help Your Child
When parents see these signs in their child, it is important for them to step in and help their child. The key steps to helping our kid in these situations are:
Acknowledge what the child is experiencing.
Let them (if they are old enough) describe what they are feeling.
Most importantly parents: listen to, and acknowledge what your child says, so that they feel seen, and heard.
Once you understand what your child is feeling and experiencing, the next step can be a conversation with your child about coping strategies. My experience has shown me that children often come up with the best strategies for themselves!
There are times, however, in which parents see that their child is overwhelmed and really struggling and they themselves feel they do not know how to handle the situation. At times like this, professional assistance may be warranted and helpful. I know I’ve been there, and I’d love to be there for you too!
The pandemic has been tough on everyone, and according to both UNICEF and Statistics Canada, it’s been exceptionally tough on our children and teenagers. It’s impacted their social lives, their schooling, and their personal development. The challenges of social distancing, feelings of isolation from being away from friends and family, and the abrupt switch to remote learning have all contributed to the toll on their mental health. Now, more than ever, our young ones need new skills to adjust and flourish in this new normal.
Art and Healing
But here’s the silver lining – we’ve all seen the healing power of the arts during these difficult times. Remember the boom in virtual art sessions? The touching signs made for healthcare workers? The painted rocks scattered about? The spontaneous musical performances on streets and in hospitals? All these were clear signs of how art was used as a powerful tool to create meaningful connections, express our sense of community, and build resilience. And guess what? Our teens can harness the same power of art as they navigate their path towards adulthood.
Arts proved their worth in our toughest times, and they’re just as crucial for our kids today!
Our ‘Name it to Tame it’ art class is the ideal space for your teen to start reconnecting with the world. With its small group setting and nurturing, safe environment, it’s designed to help them develop healthy ways to cope through fun, creativity, and self-expression. So, your teen won’t just learn to create art in this class, they’ll also learn to create resilience and thrive in life.
Our Name It To Tame It group for anxious teens isn’t run by an art therapist, it is run by a teaching artist, Meg Neufeld. What’s the difference you might be wondering?
Art therapists are professionally trained clinical counsellors with specific training in art therapy, who use creative expression and art-making as way to help clients explore their emotions and experiences in specific ways and with clinical support; teaching artists are practicing professional artists that place an importance on teaching people how to engage in art in a meaningful, helpful way that can have a positive impact on mental health and resilience.
Teaching Art for Teen Anxiety
Art therapy and teaching art can be game-changers in your teen’s wellbeing. Imagine them enjoying fun art activities that not only keeps them engaged but also makes a real difference in their lives. These creative sessions can help them let go of stress, motivate them to take care of themselves, and promote their personal growth. It’s about more than just painting or drawing, it’s about growing their confidence, boosting their self-esteem, and helping them build resilience. Art provides your teens with a fresh, creative outlet to explore and express their thoughts and emotions, and along the way, they’ll be acquiring crucial life skills. It’s a win-win situation, and what more could we as parents ask for?
As a professional and teaching artist, Meg Neufeld is in a unique position to draw from her own experience as a practicing artist and as an educator in the community. Meg has over two decades of experience as a professional artist, along with training in education and in mindfulness-based art techniques that can be passed on to teens struggling with anxiety. She also has personal lived experience about what it is like to make art for one’s physical, social, mental, emotional wellbeing as a result of her own journey with chronic pain.
Anxiety: Name it to Tame it!
If your teen is struggling with anxiety, we’d love to bring them into the world of art, and help them find a safe place to land, and explore how art can help them in their journey with their anxiety, and have some fun!
If your teen’s anxiety would prevent them from coming to a group, we’re also able to provide this service 1:1 and in pairs with parents – let us know if your teen would benefit from individual sessions!
They both are excellent tools to manage anxiety! In recent years, mindfulness has emerged as an effective strategy for children and adolescents dealing with conditions like ADHD, anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, depression, and stress. Coupled with the health benefits of art-making, mindfulness skills can be instrumental in managing anxious or negative thoughts for children and youth.
Mindful Art Making
A recent study from the University of Waterloo shows that just 10 minutes of mindfulness-based activity a day can reduce anxiety and prevent your mind from wandering. Mindful art making activities, especially those that require repetitive tasks (like knitting), with sensory elements (like clay), and reflective components (like journaling) work to calm the nervous system, and soothe symptoms of stress and irritability.
Focusing on the process rather than the product, and approaching the art-making experience with compassion and a non-judgmental attitude can be instrumental in managing anxious or negative thoughts. Supporting child and youth mental health using mindfulness-based art activities is a no brainer (pun fully intended).