Archives for November 2015

Sick Days/Thanksgiving

“I owe my soul to each fork in the road, each misleading sign…”

-Poi Dog Pondering, Thanksgiving

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I always think that it’s my job as a father to never get sick. And it happens seldom enough to reinforce that illusion. Colds and flus can sweep through the house, bouncing around among the children, and I often manage to emerge unscathed; all the better to be up all night to do what needs to be done, all the holding of the hair while a toddler is throwing up, changing the sheets by the light of my phone, administering medicine that is not a girl’s favorite flavor.

When it does hit me, it usually comes from somewhere else. I was out of work for six days in a row due to a devious combination of head cold, triggered asthma, and pinkeye. Now, as a parent, you know that there is no such thing as a “sick day.” Nothing about an illness gives us a license to cease any function of parenting. But to have to do all those things badly, slowly, and in my case, half-blind, is not good for the old self-confidence.

Of course, as in most things we are given that humble us, that make us slow down and live in the moment, it was a blessing. I got to be home with my children for a whole week, and I got to experience the wonder of the homeschool day. While I was out of commission—and let me once again emphasize the value of an excellent work sick leave policy—I was able to be right in the middle of a living, functioning family. There was much reading of books, and much snuggling, and much consumption of chicken soup and hot chocolate with marshmallows (this, along with antibiotic ointment and a good cough suppressant, really is the best medicine).

The turnaround came on Saturday, where we went for a hike—in my case, a very slow one—at McDowell Creek Park. The striking transition from the fiery show of autumn leaves to the crisp air and swollen water of the coming winter was just what I needed to start the walk back to recovery.

I was able to go back to work today, and I did certainly appreciate that. And tomorrow we are heading for the coast to spend Thanksgiving with family. I used to struggle to come up with the customary things to be thankful for (my grandmother was shocked when, at ten, I came up with “counterterrorism,” and I’m not sure I explained it to her satisfaction). Now it’s difficult for a different reason: what could I possibly leave out?

What I am thankful for: all of it. All of the things.

Enjoy your holiday.

Holiday Resources 2015

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This week I want to call attention to some of the many resources available to families over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday. We all have ideas about what the holidays should (or should not) mean for our families; these resources can enable us to make them all that we want them to be.

Our own Parenting Success Network has an excellent and comprehensive list for Linn, Benton and Lincoln Counties, and it can’t be circulated enough, so here you go.

Here is another list that covers the state of Oregon, published by 211 Info Community Resources.

I also want to give my periodic plug for Community Services Consortium, which provides assistance with housing, jobs, utilities and education as well as operating the Linn-Benton Food Share, who reminds us that “Every $1 donated to Linn Benton Food Share allows us to distribute up to 15 lbs. of food to emergency food pantries and shelters to give out in food boxes or to meal sites, and ultimately to thousands of low-income families and children across our communities.”

We hope that you or someone you know can use these resources to help make the holidays everything they can be.

Mood Disorders and Parenting: It’s Terrible. It’s Awesome!!

This week’s guest post is by Jeni Jorgens. We hope that you find it useful and look forward to future posts by Jeni.

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For as long as I can remember, I have gone back and forth between extreme elation and extreme misery. Most of the time I felt flat, worthless, and confused as to why I had to feel that way. I felt selfish that I couldn’t get out of my head and appreciate all of the great things in my life. When I was happy, I was ecstatic. I would always think my depression was finally gone for good. I felt like I could do anything and be friends with everyone. I was excited for everything, and sometimes felt so overwhelmed with joy that I would cry. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered I had been misdiagnosed with depression for all of my teenage and adult life. I have a mood disorder and was being given the wrong treatment.

Also, for as long as I can remember, I have loved being around and taking care of children. Their creative minds, curiosity and the somehow sweet contradiction of needing to be nurtured yet needing to be independent.

Having an untreated mood disorder has always been a struggle for me in my experiences as a nanny, preschool teacher, and a much older big sister. Sometimes I would feel so deflated it felt like I couldn’t do anything. I mustered the energy to be there with the children and make sure routines were taken care of, but I knew that my lack of emotional presence had an effect. When I was on, boy, was I on! I would take the children on amazing adventures, do elaborate art projects, and use every moment to teach them something. I always wondered if the ‘on’ times made up for the ‘off’ times, or if the vacillation between the two confused them and created some kind of emotional chaos inside of them.

The day I was correctly diagnosed and treated, something in me changed. I felt hope for the first time. That I wasn’t just a broken anomaly that would never make it. That, maybe, this experience had some benefit. Maybe I hadn’t ruined every child I had ever been around. Maybe it taught them acceptance and flexibility. Maybe there was some good in children seeing that adults are not perfect and struggle, too. Maybe it was possible that there was a sense of comradery in a child and adult both have to wade through thoughts and feelings that are constantly evolving and fluctuating.

A lot of us have to deal with mental illness and child-rearing. Sometimes this makes us feel like failures, like you want to give up because you worry that you’re doing more damage than good. But, just the fact that you worry about this shows a tremendous love that should not be discredited. You are trying. There are times that even getting out of bed is a success. Celebrate all the little things, even if it’s just the fact that you ate that day, or that you talked to your child. Be kind to yourself. Reach out for help, even though I know that can seem impossible. Keep pushing through, you got this.

If you need to talk to someone, please call the Mental Health Crisis Line (it’s not scary, I promise): 1.800.927.0197

Jeni Jorgens is the Infant Specialist at Family Tree Relief Nursery.

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings…

This week’s guest post is by featured contributor Esther Schiedel. We hope that you find it useful and look forward to future posts by Esther. 

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Many parenting education programs talk about feelings—why the emphasis? Are they advocating that we let our feelings dictate everything we do? Or that we encourage our children to let their feelings be their only guide?

No.

Actually, by identifying feelings we help children learn to control their actions, and to behave in responsible and socially acceptable ways.

Here’s why it works: When we aren’t consciously aware of our feelings, or when we ignore them, feelings are more likely to influence our actions than when we identify them. We may act without thinking. Identifying feelings helps us calm down and think about how to act.

One useful way of looking at feelings comes from Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication.

He writes, “Feelings are like indicator lights on a car’s dashboard.” Unfortunately, feelings are not usually as specific as the light that signals the gas tank is almost empty. That’s why most of us need guidance and practice in identifying our feelings. And that’s why most parenting education programs spend time on identifying feelings.

It may help to think of our brain as having two parts: our emotional brain and our problem-solving brain. We need both parts of our brains. Feelings are in our emotional brain—our basic survival brain. They turn on like a warning light when something is important to our survival. When we let ourselves be aware of a warning light, we can use the problem-solving parts of our brains to figure out why it’s on, what we need, and what we want to do to meet that need.

Wait a minute—survival? My child is throwing a fit because her brother knocked down the tower she was building. That’s hardly a threat to her survival. Actually, from the emotional brain’s point of view, it may be. We all have needs: oxygen, food, safety, and many others. In order to get those needs met we have to have some control over ourselves and our environment. Children are born with a drive to gain control because that’s something they’ll need in order to get their other needs met. Not having control over that tower is a threat to her need for control. Because she is a child, her emotions and reactions are more primitive (that’s why she needs parents). According to Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, co-authors of No-Drama Discipline and The Whole Brain Child, at certain stages of development, the emotional part of the brain is more dominant, thus children are more likely to get upset.

Other threats to survival (hunger, fatigue, fear) contribute to an emotional reaction. And some people are more intense than others. (I confess to having similar reactions to trivial issues at times as an adult.)

Identifying feelings helps us (and our children) in several ways:

  • It requires us to focus attention on the child (or ourselves). We can’t assume we know exactly what’s going on, and our response needs to be tentative, “sounds like you are really frustrated.” Just being attentive, without directing or demanding, helps us figure out what’s really going on and helps a child to calm down.
  • Giving the feeling a name conveys that we understand what the child is experiencing and that we and others have experienced that same sensation. Learning that also helps the child calm down.
  • Giving a name to an emotional sensation engages our child’s thinking brain. That helps the child calm down and be better able to think and choose how to act.

By acknowledging the emotion, by giving the feeling a name, you can help a child to learn to control his or her actions and behavior. According to research by Siegel and Bryson, when we help a child in identify feelings, we help that child’s brain develop.

Yes, sometimes we have to intervene immediately to protect children from hurting themselves or others—but, once everyone is safe, we can help identify feelings. We can calm down. We can use our problem-solving brains to figure out what needs to happen next.

Esther Schiedel is parent to three adults, grandparent to three boys, and a Certified Family Life Educator. She provides parenting education through classes and workshops through LBCC and through her business, Sharing Strengths. She became interested in parenting education when she became a parent and had a need for more information and support.