My twin daughters are in a kickboxing class at the local community college and this video was assigned to them as homework. It struck me as so simple that it is well worth the couple of minutes to review information we likely are already aware of but need continual reminders about. Moms, this is what we do -- we are the reminders, the repeaters, the consistent, kind, and friendly reviewers and encouragers!
From the YouTube Description:
Wellness means overall well-being. It includes the emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life. Incorporating aspects of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, such as choosing healthy foods, forming strong relationships, and exercising often, into everyday habits can help people live longer and improve quality of life. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness may also help people better manage their condition and experience recovery. This short animated video explores the Eight Dimensions of Wellness and helps people understand the practical strategies and ways they can begin developing healthy habits that can have a positive impact on their physical and mental health. To learn more about SAMHSA’s Wellness Initiative, click here.
By Kandis Lake, RN, BSN, guest blog post contributer
Parenting can be challenging for everyone, but parenting with a chronic or life altering illness brings a unique set of difficulties. It is important for you to accept outside support and take it easy on yourself. Realize there are many simple ways you can be an amazing parent, even if you're not feeling up to doing many activities.
Use Outside Support
Don't hesitate to seek and accept outside help. Get help with childcare, housework, meals, or whatever you feel in need of.
It has been found that new mothers with outside support are more optimistic about parenting. That finding could apply to any stage or situation in parenting, and it makes sense that if you're more optimistic about something you will feel happier doing it. If you’re happier parenting, you will show up in more positive ways for your child. Because of this, accepting help will benefit not only you, but your child as well.
It could be beneficial to talk to a trusted person about your feelings surrounding your difficult circumstance. If you're struggling to cope, you may benefit from seeing a counselor who can help you work through your emotions.
Take it Easy on Yourself
Taking care of a child is a lot of hard work. It is more consuming physically, emotionally, and mentally than any other job. Add illness on top of it, and there is no doubt a need for as much rest as possible. Let yourself rest whenever you can without feeling guilty about it.
Focus On The Ways You Can Parent Well
You may feel disappointed or feel a loss if you are unable to do active physical activities with your child. It's okay to feel that way, but it is important to remember that your value as a parent isn't dependent on how much or what things you do. You can love your kid and bond with them in many simple yet profound ways.
Find ways to make deep and meaningful connections with your child through spending time together. Some ways bonding can occur without expending a lot of physical energy can include
snuggling on the couch, talking, reading, or drawing together.
You could take turns telling stories. Try pulling up a list of questions for your child to answer, and as a bonus, audio record them giving their answers on your phone as a form of journaling. Listen to audiobooks together (you can check them out online from the library) or a podcast with children's stories. Color, draw, or watch movies together.
Having a secure relationship with your child will bring many benefits for both of you. Your child will have an increased feeling of stability and confidence, have resilience in difficult times, and a better ability to navigate difficult emotions. Connecting with your child will bring you joy and fulfillment amidst the difficulties of your illness.
Hugging and cuddling your child even has benefits for both of you. Hugging and cuddling causes the brain to release a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin contributes to bonding with others and has many other health benefits as well. Oxytocin has been known to decrease stress, bring blood pressure down, increase pain tolerance, and help with anxiety.
As a parent with a chronic or life altering illness, you deserve to go easy on yourself. Don't hesitate to seek and accept the outside support you need, as this will benefit you and your child. Focus on all the ways you can parent well, and do those things to create meaningful connections with your child.
Crnic, K. A., Greenburg, M. T., Ragozin, A. S., Robinson, N. M., & Basham, R. B. (1983, Feb.). Effects of Stress and Social Support on Mothers and Premature and Full-Term Infants. Child Development, 54(1), 209-217. 10.2307/1129878
Uvnas-Moberg, K., & Petersson, M. (2005). Oxytocin, ein Vermittler von Antistress, Wohlbefinden, sozialer Interaktion, Wachstum und Heilung [Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing]. Z Psychosom Med Psychother, 51(1), 57-80. 10.13109/zptm.2005.51.1.57
Kandis Lake, the author, is a professional health writer and can be found at www.healthwriterkandis.com
By Kandis Lake, RN, BSN, guest blog post contributer.
Learning your child has cancer or another life-changing illness is probably every parent’s worst nightmare. While the medical advances to treat these life-changing diagnoses have never been better, it is still a very taxing experience for any family. Ways to navigate such a trying and difficult situation can include learning all you can about your child’s sickness, leaning on outside support, and knowing ways you can help your child and family cope.
Learning About Your Child’s Sickness
Any good healthcare provider will provide you with ample education surrounding your child’s sickness, and what the sickness will mean for your child and your family. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, ask doctors to clarify meanings, and repeat what you hear to ensure you understand the information being given you.
If you are not in a good headspace to understand what you’re being told, it’s a good idea to ask if you can be given the information at a better time. It is also a good idea to have another family member or support person receive the education with you, so you can both learn together and help each other remember and understand in times ahead. If you get home and think about something you need clarified, you can always reach out to your child’s healthcare provider to ask questions or get more information.
Study any materials your child’s healthcare providers have given you or resources they have suggested. Seek out reputable sources for further information. The American Cancer Society has a lot of information online about all types of cancers. Advocate for yourself and your family to ensure you understand what you need to, and can feel empowered moving forward.
Take Care of Yourself and Get Outside Help
Be sure to take care of yourself so that you can handle your difficult situation in the best way possible. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your child. If your child is staying in the hospital, take advantage of working with a social worker and case manager to ensure you and your child are provided with everything you will need when you go home. Many hospitals have a chaplain whose job is to help patients and families care for their spiritual needs. If your child is being cared for at home, take regular breaks by setting up respite care (when a healthcare professional, such as a nurse, temporarily cares for a patient at the patient’s home).
Accept your feelings about the situation you are in without judgement. Talk to a friend, family member, or counselor about the difficulties you are facing, or write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Talking and writing can help you process your experiences and help you better cope. There are online support groups for a wide variety of situations and illnesses. An online group could connect you to other parents or caregivers who are going through something similar.
If you have other children, seek a balance of personally caring for them and asking for help to care for them as well. This could be a very difficult time for them and they will need help and support through it. You will likely need help caring for them while your child is sick.
Utilize any church or community support available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help during such a difficult time for your family. It can be hard to ask for and accept help, but doing so is in your child’s best interest, as well as your own. The less stress you feel in regard to all aspects of your life, the more energy and focus you can put into supporting and bonding with your child when he needs you.
Cheryl Harris’s son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when he was two and a half years old. Cheryl said, “Almost more than the sleepless nights and endless tears during that time, I remember the amazing, wonderful good people who showed up for us.” She describes friends, family, and hospital staff giving immense support.
Her own parents drove across the country to help, and her mother stayed with them for six whole months. They had friends that brought gifts for her child, and others offered to watch her one-year-old since Cheryl was so frequently at the hospital and at appointments. Friends and family who didn’t live near them sent the family frequent words of comfort and love.
Many people also find strength and support in spirituality or religion. Faith or spirituality can be very helpful in coping for some. Cheryl remarked about her faith, “I am so grateful for the gospel and the knowledge of God's plan during that time. I knew no matter what may happen, everything would be okay.”
Helping and supporting your child
The most important thing you can be doing at this time is helping your child. You will best accomplish this by taking breaks and accepting help yourself, as discussed above. Take time to address your child’s concerns and answer his questions. Speak to him about what is happening in a way that is appropriate for his age and level of understanding. The American Cancer Society has some great advice for communicating in age-appropriate ways here.
When asked how she helped her young son, Cheryl said, “I prayed for and tried to have an abundance of patience and stamina. That was absolutely necessary. I cleared my schedule and dedicated my life to comforting him in any way I could.”
Your child will likely feel a range of emotions as he lives with his illness, as well as because many aspects of normal life are altered because of it. Be a safe space for your child to express thoughts and feelings, free from any judgement or shame. Resist the urge to try to change those feelings. Every time your child has difficult feelings, it gives you the opportunity to strengthen your relationship through supporting him. Having a strong and secure relationship with your child will in turn help him build resilience and confidence, and also give him the tools to navigate difficult feelings in the future.
Cheryl kept a blog during her son’s battle with cancer. One story illustrates the need children have for their parents: “He woke up once while they were taking his vitals and was in pain. His little body tensed up and I could tell it hurt when I moved him. He asked to ‘give Mommy hugs,’ which means to hold him chest to chest, bear-hug style, but when I picked him up he was so rigid and stiff and couldn't relax. I called for more pain meds. I asked him where it hurt and all he said was, ‘Mommy kiss it better.’ He's said that a lot the past few days. That has been the hardest part for me.”
Helping your child cope with stress, navigate difficult emotions, and express himself could prove to be extremely difficult, especially if you haven’t had a lot of experience with healthy coping and emotional expression yourself. A child life specialist (often employed at pediatric hospitals) or a counselor can help you and your child with this.
Recognize things that comfort your child. It may be a pacifier, blanket, special toy, or favorite book or movie. Whatever comfort object there might be, allow your child to have it readily available. Be sure hospital staff and any other caregivers know ways your child likes to be comforted. Like Cheryl with her son, be there to comfort him yourself as much as possible.
It can also be important to try to incorporate some routine and normalcy into your child’s life. This can include doing schoolwork, socializing with family and friends, playing and being silly, and having some routine to his care. Let your child take opportunities to enjoy being a kid. Find ways for your child to maintain sibling and family relationships.
The ways you can help your child with illness as his mother is monumental. You and your family will be empowered through learning and understanding as much about the illness as you can. As you take care of yourself and to seek and accept help from others, you will better be able to care for your child and be there for them. You can play an important, unmatched role of providing support and comfort to your child during this very difficult time.
Cheryl’s advice to other moms who experience something similar is “Let people help you. Take care of yourself. Let things go that don't matter. Count your blessings along the way and recognize and appreciate the beauty of all those who are trying to help. It will lift you.” Cheryl’s son received cancer treatments for five years. He is now a healthy, thriving eleven-year-old.
For more information see:
Kandis Lake, the author, is a professional health writer and can be found at www.healthwriterkandis.com
Regan Barnes, Momivate's ChairMom of the MotherBoard, shares her insights on hugs and random thoughts about hugs that she's gathered over the years.
As I was growing up, hugging didn't happen much in my family. My mom had been molested by her step-father, so her subconscious reaction was to respect her children's personal space, to the point where we just didn't hug. Then my older sister learned in a college class about the importance of hugging and how this physical act has many benefits—even psychologically! So she started hugging. She put up a "Free Hugs" sign in her dormitory. And when she came home for the holidays, she would hug us, somewhat awkwardly, convinced that she could change our family's ways so we could all gain the promised blessings of embracing. Of course, hugging is best when it's a two-way thing, so most of us hugged her back, playing along. If she patted us on the back during the hug, we would emit a burp as though we were babies who had swallowed air while feeding. I'm glad she got us started hugging because I married into a hugging family (though they don't appreciate the fake burps).
Hugging still isn't second nature to me, I admit. "Hug the kids more" has been a New Year’s resolution for me more than once. Gradually I've learned to hug more freely and commonly, and recognize the power hugging has in making a relationship whole. Since I've experienced both the hugging and the non-hugging life, I feel authorized to declare that it is definitely better to hug than not to hug.
Over twenty years ago, I received an email that listed some facts about hugs. I don't have a source to give credit to, and for that, I apologize. It was back in the days of chain letters that claimed a curse would come upon you if you didn't pass it along to all the contacts in your address book. This particular email assured the recipient: "You are under NO obligation to forward this electronic hug. For once, NO bad luck will befall you if you don’t want to or don’t have time to keep this moving . . ."
Then came this list of reasons that hugs are so great!
NEVER WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW TO HUG SOMEONE TODAY!
You could copy and paste this onto your Facebook feed or send it through Instagram to all your followers. E-hugs just might be more necessary now than before coronavirus demanded all of us to socially distance. But please, please, also put down your device, and use your hands to close the physical and emotional distance in your home and give real hugs to your husband and children! There can never be too much hugging in the world, and the world is made up of our homes.
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