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Showing posts from 2018

Panic Attacks! What they are and what to do.

What's the deal with Panic Attacks? Panic attacks suck. They are one of the most overwhelming emotional experiences within our emotional rolodex. As someone who has had a number of panic attacks over the years, I can attest that they are some of the most uncomfortable moments in my life- worse even than hearing about a coworker's cat, awkwardly avoiding commenting as a friend tells you how good Nickelback is, or speaking in front of a large group of people. Overall, about one in  four people will experience at least one panic attack in the course of their lives and I would argue those stats are a little low as many don't actually realize that what they are experiencing is a panic attack. Those experiencing panic attacks may believe they are “going crazy”, “dying”, or having a heart attack. In fact, men frequently present to the hospital complaining of symptoms of heart problems that are later diagnosed as panic symptoms. Panic attack's include feelings of dread, a

Read This With Your Kids!: Scaredy Squirrel at Night

Scaredy Squirrel at Night is just one of the many books in the Scaredy Squirrel series. While I'd recommend any of the books, this one stands out for it's emphasis on the importance of sleep. Sleep etiquette is so often overlooked and undervalued in it's importance in mental health and overall wellbeing. Scaredy Squirrel at Night tackles that head on. Those side effects are so simply, yet beautifully laid out. Plus, those side effects are not restricted to children, they even happen to us parents. But don't worry (spoiler, sort of), there is a section on the side effects of getting enough sleep. When you read this book, here are some talking points: What helps you feel calm and relaxed? Do you see how Scaredy is trying to stay up, what keeps you up at night? When you feel tired, where do you feel it in your body? How can you tell you are tired? Have you had bad dreams? What made you feel better? After you have had a conversation about sleep, you

Books you should read!: “The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive.”

Parents frequently ask me for books they could read to help them in supporting their child or their relationship  with their child. One of the books that I suggest most frequently is Daniel Siegel’s: “The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive.” If you are having frequent moments where your child’s behaviour baffles or infuriates you then this book might have something to offer to you. Understanding how children's brains function in moments of calm and stress can dramatically enrich the parenting experiences. This book is one of the few books available that insightfully integrates the growing body of research  on children’s developing brains with practical parenting strategies. The over arching premise of this book is that parent’s can influence and better understand their children’s actions through understanding their brains. From minor annoyances to major frea

How to teach a child to breathe and why we should all do it!

The world can easily be overwhelming for a child. Teaching them to breathe thoughtfully is one of the most helpful things we can do to help them manage powerful emotional experiences. I think a lot of us know this- or at least have heard it mentioned. However, the way breathing has historically been taught or used in crises tends to not work. Here is why we should teach our kids to breathe and how to do it in a way that does work! When is the last time you can remember being told to breathe in the midst of an intense moment and feeling as though the advice was well received and helpful? For most of us the answer is never. The problem here isn’t the breathing- it is the timing and the way that we are using the skill. The more distressed we get, the less likely we are to be able to use strategies that are novel, or new, to us. Think about it. On days where you feel run down and exhausted what are the things you turn to? Likely the same blanket, TV show and brand of chips you

Smartphones don’t calm kids down!: Why digital media use may not be doing what you think it does for your kids

I regularly hear from parents that smartphones or other digital media devices can help their children calm. Using these devices can do a lot of things for a child- but calming is not one of them! Digital media is designed with the specific intent of holding attention and creating reward. They are exciting. This is a big part of why kids enjoy them so much and why they seem to be so addictive. Use of digital media like smartphone apps or console video games will influence a child’s behaviour and in some ways make behaviour more difficult to manage once following use. Emotion and arousal are two key factors influencing children's behaviours- especially the challenging ones. Emotion refers to a series of responses in our bodies and brains that help us move towards things that are good or away from things that are bad for us or our species. The late Jaak Panksepp, who was a brilliant neuroscientist, identified the primary emotional states expressed by humans as rage, fea

You are becoming like your parents and here's what you can do about it

“You’re acting like your mother!”   How do you feel when you say that to yourself? For some of us, despite early and frequent admonitions it would never happen, that might not be such a bad thing. However, regardless of how positive or negative we have evaluated our experience of being parented; there will be places where we want to do things a little differently. And yet- there we stand- same corny joke, same lecture on making better eating choices, same blurted response as you watch your children fight like little Mixed Martial Arts raccoons re-enacting every violent scene from BBC Planet Earth. Whether we are aware of it or not, how we were cared for dramatically influences how we will care for our children and manage relationships in our lives. Early relationships shape our emotional forms and often do so below the surface. Many of these influences remain dormant, or less visible, until we are in a caregiving role. Children have a wonderful capacity for stripping our emo

How to help kids when they freak out!

Kids freak out. These can be some of the most stressful moments for parents. If you keep reading I'm going to talk about why kids freak out and the most important things we can do to support them when they do. I appreciate that this is a little longer than a typical blog post- but you are on a page with “nerdy” in the title… so it’s kind-of your fault really… Part 1: "I HATE YOU!" It’s 9:00 a.m. and I'm staring out of my office window mesmerized by the power of the water as it whirls and churns as it collides with the pillars of the bridge spanning the Columbia River. The water on the surface looks relatively calm- masking a chaotic torrent of press and stored energy below. The silence in my office is displaced by the ringing of my phone. At the other end of the phone is the mother of an 8-year-old boy. As she recounts the words spoken by her son the night before, they are broken by deep gulps as if the air around her suddenly became too heavy to breath fluidly

Play this with your kids!: Emojito!

Learning to recognize others feelings and expressing your own feelings accurately is difficult. You need to navigate the body language, facial expression, words used, tone of voice, and context to try to decipher the emotion. This is where learning emotions through play is super helpful. Enter,  EMOJITO!: Express the Feeling! This is a two to seven player game where players can work cooperatively or against each other. Players draw a card that will have a picture of an animal or object expressing an emotion. Depending where a players token is, they will need to recreate the facial expression with sound, just the face, or just the sound. After a player has recreated the emotion, they draw six more cards and lay them around the game board. Then the other players need to guess using their dials which card the active player was trying to express. The artwork helps create a fun environment, and makes expressing the emotions that much more interesting. Discussion Cues

How to save a life

There is nothing in this world more important that the people around us and the relationships we have with them. However, life often has a way of distracting us from the things that matter most. My job is an interesting one as I am paid to be a relationship in young peoples lives; some who heartbreakingly don’t have many, if any, other safe relationships. I remember one morning getting a phone call for one such young woman whom I had worked with years before.   “Hi Sean, I’m not sure if you remember me...”- of course I remembered her. I remembered a 15-year-old girl who reluctantly slinked into a chair in the corner of my office with a fixed and unflinching gaze at the ground in front of her. The rhythm of my breath shuddered slightly as she described disappointment in still being alive. A few nights prior to being ushered into my office she had attempted to end her life in moment of intense internal pain and loneliness. “Sean- I know your busy but I was wondering if you have

Tips for helping kids transition back to school

                                                                                                                                               For many children and parents the transition from summer routines back to school is a difficult one. Any time of transition can be hard for children, but transitioning back to school is especially challenging given the level of anxiety most children feel towards social situations, performance and separation from parents. Here are some of our tips for helping anxious children cope with returning to school: Sean’s Tips 1)        Take care of the basics Sleep schedules often change between summer vacation and the school year. Remaining as consistent as possible with sleep schedules can make a huge difference for children that experience anxiety. Sleep routines are set by an internal clock in our brains, referred to as a circadian rhythms by nerds like us, and this patterned firing of neurons takes time to catch up to the