Category Archives: Parenting

teen suicide

Teen Suicide Rates At All-Time High, Here’s How We Can Help…

Suicide rates among teens and young adults are at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts can’t pinpoint exactly why the number of teens and young adults taking their own lives is continuing to increase, but many blame things such as the use of digital platforms, economic distress, and social isolation.

There is no question this problem is one that needs our attention and care. There are steps we can take as parents, community members, and school administrators to help those who are struggling, to make suicide a more difficult option, and to show this population that suicide is not the answer.

Where do we start?

1.) Restrict Access — Having a gun in the home to protect against an intruder may seem like a good idea but it is also giving your child access to a deadly tool. My advice is to keep guns locked up and in places where even your teen doesn’t know they exist. Same with drugs, keep them out of sight. Lock them up. Reduce access. It is a lot harder to commit the act of suicide if you don’t have the tools readily available.

2.) Talk to Your Teen — If you are worried about your teen or your teen’s friends potentially struggling with emotions, then talk to them. In fact, talk to them regardless. Let them know they have a place to turn. Ask your teen if they are suicidal. Open up the communication gates. Let them know that is not the answer and get them help from a licensed mental health professional. This subject feels taboo to many but it is clear we need to talk about it. Let your child know it is ok to not be ok.

3.) Implement Suicide Prevention Programs in Schools — Training teachers and school administrators to recognize the signs of depression, suicide precursors, and other mental health issues in teens and young adults can have a lasting impact. Teens spend much of their days in an educational environment, our school professionals can play a part in watching for the signs and getting help.

4.) Training for Parents and Other Adults in the Community — Our teens need to feel like they have a safe place to turn, even if it is not a parent, to talk about their mental health. They need a caring adult who is willing to talk about suicide and can act as a support network.

The bottom line is our teens and young adults need to know they are cared for, they matter, and they have places they can go and people they can talk to whenever they need. 

For additional information on these tips, visit https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/7/11/18759712/teen-suicide-depression-anxiety-how-to-help-resources .

after baby

How To Keep Your Marriage Healthy After Baby

Adjusting to parenthood is hard work and it can put a lot of strain on a marriage. We all have ideas of what it will be like to have a child, to add an infant to our lives, but nobody truly knows what they are in for until they experience being new parents themselves. Not to mention every baby is different and every relationship has its strong and weak points. 

In the first few months after having a child, it is important to let go of any expectations. Right now is about survival. It is about keeping your child (and yourself) healthy and adjusting to your new life as parents. Give each other some grace. You are both going through a lot of changes right now, and you are likely dealing with them in different ways. 

Time To Connect

Allow yourself, and your spouse, time for yourself to connect with your new title as a parent and to rest. Breaks are important for both of you. Take turns. 

It is also important that you make time to be together, just the two of you. That is difficult after having a child because that child relies on you for everything but it is also important that you recognize it is important to keep your marriage healthy. And, alone time is key to keeping your relationship strong. Leave baby with a grandparent or a trusted friend, even if only for an hour, and take a walk with your spouse or grab a coffee or a meal. Whatever your heart desires. 

So often I hear new moms making the excuse that they just can’t leave their baby. Not even for an hour but the truth is even a short time alone with your spouse can do wonders for rekindling the spark. 

Talk It Out

Communicate with your family, your friends. Lean on others. This adjustment is going to be hard for everyone in your household. You will have to figure out a new normal. Talk to each other. Figure out what struggles others are having and brainstorm what might work best.

Share the load. You likely have heard the phrase before “it takes a village.” There is a reason that is so popular. It is true. We all have babies and think we can do it all alone. And yes, I am sure you could do it all alone but would you be happy and healthy? Let others step in and help you out. Let your mother clean your house or hold your baby while you take a much-needed shower. Let your husband do the grocery shopping so you can take a nap. Let a friend fold your laundry if he/she/they desire.

The more you and your spouse can work together during this time of adjustment, the stronger you will be in the end. It can be so easy to get angry and frustrated with each other during this time of change. Understandably so, you are both exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed. Allow each of you to make mistakes, to learn, grow, and to adjust as a team. 

It Is All About Perspective

Parenting is one of the hardest things a person can do in a lifetime, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. All will come with time. For now, snuggle that baby (or babies) and do your best to keep things in perspective. 

If you find you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or adjusting, in general, it can help to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. They can help to provide you with healthy coping mechanisms and support during this transition.

Teaching kids independence through chores

Getting children to help around the house can be a great benefit for parents, while also teaching children accountability, responsibility, and independence. Kids who are expected and required to complete chores around the home gain an appreciation for all the work that goes into taking care of the family.

Chores also help to increase self-confidence in children. They gain a sense of accomplishment at getting things done and doing things well. Chores teach self-sufficiency, which is, after all, our primary goal as parents. 

But, even though the benefits are mounting it can be hard as a parent to loosen the reigns and allow our children to take over household tasks. After all, it is much easier most of the time to do the cleaning ourselves. Children have an intrinsic desire to be independent and as a parent it is important we nurture and sustain that. And, once they get the hang of a task they can be super helpful. It just takes some patience and calm instruction. 

Start small. Have your children help with age-appropriate tasks that are safe and easy for them to get done. For example, you can have them put plates in the dishwasher, help to clear the table after meals, water plants, throw dirty clothes into the hamper, pick up toys, get the mail, collect garbage around the home, strip sheets off beds, feed animals, help with meals, etc. As they get older you can add things like cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, and even mowing the lawn.

Make a list and come to an agreement with your child to help avoid nagging. Sticker charts can be helpful and incentives like allowance or activities can also be motivating but they are not necessary. Don’t feel like you have to reward your child with anything more than a “good job” for the chores they have done.  After all, that is not real life. You don’t get $1 every time you do a load of laundry, so they don’t need to either.

Meal Prep

Ways to Get Your Kids Involved in Meal Prep

Mealtime can be hectic, but there is no reason you have to do it all yourself. Getting your kids involved in meal preparation can have a lot of benefits for both you and your children. 

When children feel invested in the meal they tend to be more willing to eat it. They get excited that they were able to help. They feel accomplished and more confident. Children also tend to be more willing to try new things, expand their pallets, and eat healthier when they are involved in the preparation process. Not to mention it is a good bonding moment for parents and children and helps to create healthy habits.

Everyone Can Be Involved

It is also important to note that this task is appropriate for both male and female parents and their male and female children. Everyone can be involved in the cooking and meal prep process. It is important we show our children that time in the kitchen is for the whole family, not just females. 

What are some ways to get the kids into the kitchen without adding to the chaos?

1.) Ask their opinion on what they want to eat for a couple of meals during the week — Get the cookbooks out and let your kids look through them and decide on one or two meals they want to eat during the week. Encourage them to switch it up so they aren’t picking the same meals every week. 

2.)Take them grocery shopping — After your kids pick out the meals they want for the week, take them to the store to get the stuff you will need. Let them help pick out the produce and get the boxes off the shelves.

3.)Allow them to use their hands — When prepping the meal give your kids a couple of tasks, it could be washing fruits or vegetables, putting salad greens on a plate, pouring ingredients into a bowl, measuring, stirring, etc. 

4.)Have them set the table— Not only can your kids help with the meal prep, but they can also help set the table. Allow them to get the drinks out, put the silverware on the table, and arrange things the way they choose. 

5.)Get them cleaning — They can also help to clear the table, load dishes in the dishwasher, and wipe down countertops or eating spaces. 

And, lastly, you can have them choose the music for dinner one or two days a week. It doesn’t take much to make your children feel like they were part of the creating of the all-important family dinner, and the benefits can be huge. 

distressed teen

Ask Mabel: How do I help my distressed teen post-divorce?

Dear Mabel, 

I have been struggling with some issues my children are having and was wondering if you had any ideas. I got divorced 11 years ago after my ex-wife was derailed. After much struggle, I did finally get full custody of our two children, with visitation rights granted to their mother. The children have continued to be with me ever since.

Several years after the divorce, we found out that my ex was selling the property that should belong to my children and thus began a lawsuit. During the legal process, we found out that my ex and her husband had abused the children. The court ruled that she could no longer bring the children back to her house and could only meet outside a few hours a week. Shortly after, their mother decided to forfeit her right to visit.

Since their mother has stopped visiting, my youngest daughter who is now a teenager has become more withdrawn. She doesn’t say much to her sister and me, is very impatient and shows resistance. I don’t understand why. She does play games and laugh with friends and has good grades in school so I don’t put a lot of pressure on her. After all, I feel like personal safety is the most important and she is now safe.

Lately, I have been thinking about how they were in the years after the divorce. There was one time when she was about eight years old that I went to pick her up from her mother’s house. She was very timid at this time, cared a lot for others, but was also afraid and confused and would take my hand anywhere we went. I have tried for a while to understand why she might be like this. I think her character is very delicate, and these family incidences have really hurt her.

Now she is shutting down. She is pretending she no longer cares and refuses to communicate with us about her pain and frustrations. I have talked to her sister about it and she agrees that she is in a lot of pain. I want to help but I don’t know what to do. What do you think — (1) Should I go to their mother and ask for her to resume visits? (2) Is this just part of adolescence?

Thank you for your help.

 Sincerely, 

Mike from Wyoming 

Mabel: 

Hi Mike, This sounds like a tough situation. I am glad you are reaching out for help. Your daughter may or may not be going through pain from her mother’s abandonment. Only by talking to her, then you would know. I’m wondering if you and your daughter have any one-on-one time together to foster a father-daughter relationship. If not, it may be a good time to start. She probably won’t immediately open her heart to you. It takes a few tries. Be consistent. Talk about fun stuff first to build trust and relationship.

I wouldn’t recommend forcing visitation from the mother. The mother is an adult. If she wants to visit, she has her own free will to initiate contact. If a parent doesn’t want visitation, she may treat the children negatively. She might not want to be involved and in turn may resent the child. 

Moreover, because there is a history of abuse, we don’t know whether the children want contact with their mother. The children are older now, they have a mind of their own about how they feel towards each parent. If the mother initiates contact, ask the children first to see what they want to do. Don’t force the process on the kids. Your daughter may have mixed feelings about seeing her mother. Keep the conversation open-ended and avoid saying “it would be better if you see your mom.”

Also, I would consider getting your daughter help from a licensed counselor. She could greatly benefit from having someone outside the family to talk to who might be able to help her sort through things and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Sincerely, 

Mabel

parenting kids image

Are we making things too perfect for our kids?

The other day I read a story about a child who was running on the pool deck at the local swimming area. The lifeguard told the child to walk, as to be expected around a big hole of water. But what happened next was shocking. The dad went up to the lifeguard and told him to not tell his child what to do, he (the dad) would decide what the child was and was not allowed to do. 

Now, I know this is not every parent and I also know that everyone has their own parenting styles. I am not one to judge. The part of this that irked me most was they were in a public area where there was a trained professional, whose sole job it is to keep everyone as safe as possible and minimize risks. That lifeguard was just doing his job, and couldn’t dad see and respect the fact that it is not safe for a child to be running around a pool. Not to mention, if you are at a public pool you need to follow its rules. 

Regardless, I think this situation was an example of a larger problem in parenting these days. We are afraid to step on each other’s toes, to parent each other’s children. I agree that there are right times and wrong times for intervention. But when it comes to the greater good of all the children involved it should be understood. If my child hit another child, and I missed it, I would respect another parent telling my child that was not nice and then coming to tell me the situation so I could take it from there. 

How are we preparing our kids for the real world if they are only supposed to take direction from us? We won’t be around forever, and we definitely are not involved in every single situation as our children are. Don’t we want to teach them to respect authority, within reason (obviously)? We do, of course, want to teach our kids what boundaries are and when an adult might be crossing those boundaries. But, we also want them to understand there are rules in the world that need to be followed. We do not steal. We do not hurt another. And, it might not be a good idea to run at the pool.

What do you think? 

coparenting with ex

How Do You Coparent When You Don’t Get Along?

Divorced parents, who don’t get along, are always asking me how they are supposed to coparent when they are always fighting? The truth is, they can’t. If you can’t get along and are always being harsh or disgruntled with each other, you can’t successfully co-parent. 

You have to make a choice. One parent can take primary custody of the kids and end the co-parenting relationship altogether, or you can decide to make a change. Together the two of you can make the decision to be civil with each other, to be kind, to communicate effectively and calmly because you have to. You have kids that need their parents. Constantly putting them in a toxic environment or bad-mouthing each other in front of your kids, is not helping them. In fact, it is doing the very opposite.

Shift In Dynamics

Someone in the relationship has to start this shift in dynamics. One of you has to make the choice to keep your mouth shut for the sake of your children. Ok, so you don’t agree with your ex’s behaviors, personal choices, or whatever it is that irks you but I am sure you can agree on one all-important thing: You love your kids. You want the best for your kids. 

Your kids need to be in a positive environment. They need to be raised in a place where they feel loved, safe, and comfortable turning to either parent in times of need. As a parent, you need to help guide your children in making the best decisions and you need to set an example. If your children are always seeing you and their father and/or mother arguing, name calling, being verbally abusive, or talking bad about each other behind the others back, you are teaching them that this behavior is ok. And, your child is likely going to experience more feelings of anxiety, depression, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. They will likely withdraw from both of you because they don’t feel safe and secure with you. 

Best for your Child(ren)

You decide. But, the answer is simple. You have to get along with your ex in some capacity in order to raise your children in a healthy environment. To do what is best for them, you need to get past your differences. If you can’t, then it is time to decide who your children should be with. 

Seeking help from a licensed counselor can also help you to determine the best course of action for you and your kids. 

undermining

Ask Mabel: How do I communicate with my husband in front of our kids without undermining him?

Dear Mabel, 

I am reaching out to you again for your guidance and support. I have an issue with my husband and the way he addresses our children when he is angry. He can get to the point where he looks and speaks very terrifyingly at them, and my heart just breaks. They are fearful and he drowns himself in shame afterward. This morning he was yelling at my six-year-old daughter and she was dysregulating in all kinds of ways as a result, which was pushing him even further into his anger. I felt compelled to jump in and protect her, which often results in him feeling betrayed by me and upset that I am making him a “monster” in front of the kids. 

Today we were able to talk afterward and I told him that I feel like I need to protect them and his feelings when I intervene because I am in flight-or-fight mode myself. It is usually very hard. I am stuck. What language can I use in these moments to communicate that he needs to stop without undermining him in front of the kids? This is a heavy day for our family. 

Sincerely, Amy from Florida

Mabel: Hi Amy, I am so sorry to hear of your struggles. There are a few ways you can approach this situation. You can have a family meeting when calm, where you all make an agreement that when things escalate you each are empowered to call a time out and take a break. Make a plan that you can all follow. If you are all following the same plan together that would take the shame out of it. I also suggest you look at the Zones of Regulation curriculum for some help on the language for self-regulation and emotional control. 

Together, you two can come up with a plan, or code word, for timing out and determine how long the timeout should last. Come up with something you can both agree on. Determine what you can do when he is in that state to deescalate the situation. 

This is a quick bandaid. Long term, you need to have a discussion about what he wants to do about this and go from there. Seeking some help from a licensed mental health professional could also help the two of you to work together as a team in these situations.

Ask Mabel: I am torn between an important work training and a request from my child, what do I do?

Dear Mabel, 

I am having a mom/work dilemma and I am so very torn. Tomorrow is my daughter’s last day of kindergarten. We recently moved out of the area to a new school district, but we were able to allow my daughter to finish the year at her old school. She is struggling because tomorrow will be her last day at her current school and she will have to say goodbye to all her friends. Normally it wouldn’t be a problem for me to be there with her for this, but tomorrow I am signed up for a special training. This free training workshop is something I have waited for years to take, it is usually very expensive. 

My daughter is normally a very happy, easy-going kid, but tonight she was a wreck. She was so emotional about her last day tomorrow. I told her that her grandparents will be picking her up from school and taking her out for a celebratory lunch and that I will be home as soon as I can. She just cried and cried and asked if there was some way I could be with her. She is so sad.

I am so torn! If it were anything else, I would move mountains to be there for her. But, this opportunity is truly rare, one I have inquired and waited for years. I am so sad about the timing of everything. What should I do? How do I handle this? 

Sincerely, Jenny from Alabama

Mabel: Thank you for reaching out. I am sorry that you feel torn between your daughter needing you and participating in training you’ve waited years for due to cost. I have a few questions:  1) What’s the most difficult thing about this?   2) Is this training offered every year or regularly?  3) Assuming it is offered every year or regularly, would you be able to put some money away each month to save for it? How much will you need to save per month?  4) Is the answer to question three do-able? 5) If it is not do-able within a year, can you spread it out? How long will you need to save monthly to attend the training? 

I am asking these questions about the training and money because training workshops and money are objects. They don’t have feelings. They don’t care if we move them around or tend to them later. I don’t know your daughter, so I don’t want to assume or say that she will be ok without you being there. But, I am 100% sure that training and money are ok with whatever you decide. 

I hold no judgment over your decision. This is my personal opinion. If I may, I would advocate for your daughter because she asked you to be there. I know her grandparents will be there to give her lots of love but she wants you. This is not her asking for a toy where you are saying “no.” This is her asking for emotional comfort during a very difficult time (in her six-year-old mind). She is young, so her mood may also change when tomorrow rolls around. I would say play it by ear and listen to your gut. 

Help yourself and your kids by managing anxiety

Anxiety is a very real thing that many of us face. It can be so easy to get overcome with emotions, feel overwhelmed by the day’s events, and get frustrated. Next thing you know you are lashing out at your children. Yelling at them for things that aren’t really their fault. We have all done it. But for those with anxiety, these occurrences can get more and more frequent, passing on your anxiety to your children. 

If this sounds like you, first of all — take a breath. You are not alone. There are healthy ways to deal with your anxiety so that you aren’t passing it on to your children.

Healthy Coping

Here are some things to get you started:

1.) Take notice — Before you can make any changes you have to recognize where changes need to be made. Pay attention to the way you are reacting to things. How are you speaking to your kids? What do their faces look like when you talk to them this way? How are you feeling internally? What led up to this instance? Recognize it, so you can alter your behavior. 

2.)Take a break — When you realize you are feeling overwhelmed, stop what you are doing. Take a moment to look around and examine what you are doing, what is making you feel overwhelmed? Remind yourself of your reality. Bring yourself back to earth. If it is an ongoing thing, then take the time for yourself to get done what you need so that you can regain calm. 

3.) Alter Your Schedule — If you are seeing a pattern of anxious feelings, maybe it’s during deadline week at work or maybe it is during a certain time of the day, then make the necessary changes in order to feel relaxed. Get up a few hours early to get things done. Go to bed earlier. Plan ahead of time. Whatever works best for you in order to feel like you are in control of your time. 

4.) Learn Stress Management — Healthy stress management is not always known. Instead, we tend to turn to things like alcohol or eating which can increase our anxious feelings. Instead try breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, reducing your workload, etc. 

A licensed professional can help you to recognize and conquer these anxious feelings so that you are not passing them on to your children. Your children are hyperaware. They turn to you for guidance. Be a good example. Learn healthy coping mechanisms.