Parenting Through Tragedy

This week, a young life in my community died by suicide. The ripples of this tragedy have touched many lives and have left many parents feeling worried and vulnerable. Questions are being asked. “If this happened to him, how do I know that my kid is safe?”. “ My teen is away at school. How do I know he/ she is doing okay?”. “My teen is really upset by this. Could he/she also be feeling suicidal?”. “My young child came home with questions. What do I say?”

FIRST lesson......Don’t  Panic...

Because of our greater exposure to news and media, it can seem like youth suicide is becoming epidemic in Canada. We hear things like “suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in youth” . What we don’t hear is the reason for this shift in statistic.  Suicide ranks higher as a cause of death because other causes, such as accidents, have decreased significantly. From 1974-2009, mortality rates have dramatically decreased in the youth population. Suicide rates have remained fairly consistent. (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-624-x/2012001/article/chart/11696-02-chart6-eng.htm)

SECOND lesson....What can cause it?.....

(these factors may contribute to a persons decision) 

1. A pressure to succeed combined with the developmental inability to understand that difficult times will change

2. An overwhelming sense of hopelessness with a desire for the pain to stop

3.  A lack of connection with family, peers and/or school

4. Often, an history of “toxic socialization” ( instability, abuse, lack of nurturance during childhood) 

5. Cyber world pressures such as cyber bullying. 

6. A family member of close relative has attempted or died by suicide

THIRD lesson...What are some warning signs?...

1. Sudden behaviour or mood changes

2. Apathy, withdrawal

3. Depression or moodiness

4. Changes in sleep or eating habits

The difficulty with this list is that many of these “symptoms” mimic regular teenage angst. 

This brings us to the FOURTH lesson....What can I do?.... 

1. Communicate. Be direct. Talk to your kids about how they’re feeling. Check in with them. Ask them if they’ve ever had thoughts of suicide. Ask them if they’ve ever made a plan

-a suicidal person doesn’t necessarily want to end their life; they just want the pain to end. By opening the conversation, you can create a feeling of safety and relief. You can create space for hope

- try not to have strong reactions or make judgements about what you hear (keep the lines open)

2.  Check in and Lean in....Often. 

- adolescence is a time when our kids are finding themselves and their independence. They need room to do this BUT, it’s important that they know you’re there and that they know you care

3. If there is an immediate risk, call 911. 

4. Answer questions with honesty.  

This is an opportunity to start conversations about resilience and change. Talk to your kids about times that life can feel really sad or overwhelming. Help them explore strategies about what they can do at those times. For example, can they use mindfulness strategies? Would it help to speak with someone? Do they have healthy outlets for stress? What hobbies and habits do they have that give them satisfaction?  Help them feel empowered to do what they need to feel stronger.

5. Be predictive

As adults, we have the life experience to predict how events and stressors may effect people. Our children may not yet have that ability. Be aware. Send extra “love vibes” at times that you can predict that your child may be more vulnerable.  Ours teens won’t always tell us that they need us ( that just isn’t cool). It’s our job to make those connections. Sending a care package; having a lunch date; sending a love text....all of these acts can remind our teens that they have people who care.

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This is now...

I, like a lot of the country, have been avidly following the  Brett Kavanaugh/ Christine Blakey Ford case. ( you know, the Supreme court nominee who as been accused of sexually assaulting a girl at a party 30 years ago).  There have been lots of questions about facts, memories, credibility and timing of the allegation. What I worry is being lost, is the recognition that this is now....all of the behaviours that are being alleged by Ms Ford are happening now. All of the victim blaming and fear of reprisals for coming forward are happening now...

Story a: 

She liked him. There was flirting for weeks before the party. Who knows, in today’s world of teenage flirting, there may have even been nudes sent back and forth.   The day of the party was full of anticipation. Probably even suggestion that tonight would be the night that they’d “hook up”.  He beckons her to come and find him. She goes to him. They start to make out. She rethinks things. “No, tonight isn’t the night, this doesn’t feel right”. He throws her down and forces himself inside of her. She cries and begs him to stop. He laughs and continues. Finally, she gets away. He leaves. She tries to run to her friends, to safety. His friend blocks the way. “I’ll set you free if you give me a blow job first”. She is ashamed. No one believes her. They blame her. “Technically, you did ask for it...you did flirt...you were a little drunk....you’re always flirting with guys, what did you think would happen”.  School becomes a nightmare. Friendships are lost. Confidence is lost. Self worth is lost.

Story b) 

The vibe at the club was awesome. The music was pumping, the drinks were flowing. She felt sexy, powerful, strong. So many guys asking to dance. Offering to buy drinks. Spending time with her group. The night was spectacular. And then, a blank. It’s 1 am. The scene is so much fun. Suddenly, it’s 3:30. She’s  in a cab. With who? My friend, but who are these guys? 5:30 am...blurry snippets fade in and out. A house, a couch, a bedroom. She comes home. Crying, raw, broken. “ I was raped....I don’t know what happened...I don’t remember...”. The next days, weeks, months, a blur of rape kits, invasive internal exams, medications to ward of STI’s. “ Your bloodwork shows drugs in your system”.  “What? I was drugged and raped?” .  And now....a re-finding of self. A grappling with making a police report. “ will I be believed? They’ll just assume that I took the drugs myself. They’ll just assume that I was too drunk and put myself at risk. They’ll believe him”

Story c)

The house party was in full swing. It was small, maybe 10 kids. Teens having fun. Beer pong, Kings cup. Loud music, maybe some dancing. For sure some drinking. She gets really drunk. She’s clearly not feeling well. She should go and lie down. He offers to help her. Her friend. One of the guys. One of “our group”.  He takes her to the bedroom. Nobody thinks anything of it. He’s just helping. In that room, away from others eyes, his ‘nice friend’ facade drops. He is on her. His hands are roaming over her. He tries to lift her clothing. She pushes away. She says “No”. Finally, she is able to get him off. He leaves the room. The next day. She tells her story to girlfriends. Some are appalled. Some just shrug and say “yeah, that happens all of the time, so what.”.

None of these girls have officially come forward with their stories.  The fear of reprisals is too high. The fear of opening wounds, and sharing their raw, painful truth to only be disbelieved or blamed is too scary. All of these boys are “ good boys”. They play sports, they excel in school. They come from nice families who teach them well. Nice families who believe in kindness and compassion and respect. But, these boys also grew up in a world where “ boys will be boys” and where sexual conquests are worn like a badge.  These boys grew up in a world where girls may act like”they want it”. But desire isn’t consent.  It’s time to change the language. It’s time to change these stories. It’s time to teach our boys that sex isn’t about conquest and that anything short of an emphatic and enthusiastic “yes”, mean NO.

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Mediation vs Litigation

In a recent study conducted by CRILF and CFCJ, findings show that low conflict mediation takes and average of 4.8 months to complete and high conflict cases take an average of 13.7 months. Conversely, low conflict litigated cases take and average of 10.8 months to complete and high conflict cases take an average of 27.7 months. One can only imagine the financial and emotional costs for choosing a longer and more adversarial avenue. 

 

follow the the link to the full article

http://www.slaw.ca/2018/03/23/the-cost-of-family-law-disputes/

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#me too

Over the last week, I've been following the various #me too threads on social media.  It's got me thinking; we've got to do a better job. 

As a woman, a wife, a mother, I'm ashamed of our world. I'm ashamed to hear that the culture that I lived in as a young woman years ago, is still happening now. I'm ashamed to hear stories from my daughters of men following them down the road, shouting obscenities. Possibly the sons of the men that followed me or my friends and yelled obscenities years ago. I'm ashamed to hear stories of times when their friends had felt like "yes" but then, decided "no" only to have their words and protests ignored. Like so many of the women who have answered #me too.  I'm ashamed to hear of boys, silently pleading to have a too drunk girl pried off of them as they sit helplessly not wanting to look "unmasculine" for saying no. Just as my husbands friends may have been mocked for being " pussies" if they seemed too caring or sensitive.  I'm ashamed to hear of  my daughters, or their friends,  "just wanting to let it go" because addressing it or acknowledging it would just make it worse or would lead to social suicide. Just like the many stories of Hollywood women that have recently come to light.

We've created this mess for our kids. We've created a world where sexuality equals popularity. Where causal hook ups and "kills" ( the new name for number of sexual conquests) are counted as a type of badge. 

In our world, kids see a lot about sex. But we're failing them. We're forgetting to guide them to see the effects of their actions. We're continuing to perpetuate the concept of sexuality equals popularity without helping them to see the lifelong baggage that it can create.

I don't know the answers. And, more often than not, I feel the heart wrenching knot in the pit of my stomach that makes me feel like I'm failing my girls in some way. I fear for them, and I'm completely at a loss about how to empower them.  

I don't know the answers; but I do know that We've Got To Do A Better Job. Our kids deserve it. 

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Vultures

One of ours has stumbled. Not quite fallen. But the cracks in the "accomplished" facade have opened up.  One of us has shown her human-ness; in all of its unbuffered, unedited rawness.  Seeing it makes us feel vulnerable. We feel fear. We realize that, maybe, were all closer to this rawness than we'd like to admit.  This uncertainty, this vulnerability, this is where the vultures live...

I see you. You hide in the shadows. You circle above. Watching. Waiting. Ready to come to the kill.

I know you. You see, you once waited for me. At one of my weakest moments, you were there. You grabbed on to my raw, wounded self. You picked. You prodded. You took my raw, wounded self and tried your damnedest to pick me dry. Left me exposed, dried out, beaten down. Like jackals chattering in the shadows, you tried to leave a legacy of rumours, lies, pain.

It worked, for a bit. I believed you. I believed that I deserved to be picked dry. I believed that I was all of those stories shared by the snickering jackals in the darkness. I believed the venom spread by your fear.  And then, one day, I stopped believing you.

Stopping took time. Easier to believe stories of weakness. Easier to believe others than believe in myself. But slowly, carefully,  I banished you. Slowly, the sun began to shine through the cloud of circling darkness. Slowly, my cracks started to close. With time, the scars began to heal. The flock of vultures thinned. Or maybe, they just realized that their power was gone. Either way, I became strong. I remembered me; and all of the parts that deserved-- deserved love, deserved friendship, deserved sunlight. I embraced my Human-ness. I remembered that I'm a package. There's strength, wisdom, feisty resolve, anger, sadness, awkwardness. I love it all. I embrace it all.

And now, it's my turn to help another in my tribe believe. I need her to know that even at a weakest moment, she can keep the jackals and vultures at bay. I need her to know that she is stronger and more powerful than them. I need her to remember the amazing parts of her that let the sun shine through. 

I'm  lucky to live in a place with many incredible, strong, women.  Last week, when gathering to celebrate "us" , we saw one of or own own fall. We saw weak. We saw vulnerable. My hope is that we can be the incredible, strong women that we are. We can take one of our own into our embrace and let her know that we understand Human. We understand that being human is not the same as being always perfect.  We can let her know that, even at her weak moments, we value her. My hope is that we can encircle her in our embrace and help her keep the vultures and the jackals at bay. My hope is that we can smother the voices of our own inner vultures and let our kinder, gentler selves shine through.

 

 Vultures laying in wait... 

Vultures laying in wait... 

Opportunity and Acceptance....the road to "un-f#cked-upness"

We had another great Women and Wisdom night.  It was an evening of sharing and insight.  We talked a lot about the importance of framing our experiences in empowering ways. If we define ourselves as seekers of opportunity,  we can give ourselves the gift of self acceptance. We can see ourselves as a person with boundless possibilities rather than a person who lives in a place of "f#cked up" .

I'm so looking forward to continuing this Woman and Wisdom journey! I'm inspired every time!

 

 

 

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Women and Wisdom... Loving ourselves and Creating "un-fucked-upedness"

WOW! I head the greatest experience hosting a group of women for my Women and Wisdom group last night! The topic was "taking care of ourselves.....and why do we suck at it".  These women had some spectacular ideas and insights! So much discussion about our world, the damage of "shoulds" , the importance of believing in ourselves and the self challenge of returning to a place of "un-fucked-upedness" (a group created word).  I'm inspired and fired up !!

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Women and Wisdom...Talking Finances

It was so amazing to have April McClung, financial advisor, co-host the most recent Women and Wisdom night!  We had a great group of women with married friends, single friends, mom's of wee ones and mom's of grown ones and others of varied backgrounds and life stories. There were lots of great questions and sharing of tips. Here's an overview of some of the "nuggets" that we talked about: 

At what age should I start teaching my children about money / allowance? 

What is critical illness insurance and why is it important? 

Should I pay down debt before I start saving? 

What are some tips for managing my home finances so that I can make sure that everything is covered?

What  about RRSP's? 

What are some tricks for paying down debt? 

It was clear that everyone at the table had questions, and everyone at the table had different ways of managing life. It always amazes me to see the energy and wisdom in the room when a group of women get together to share! 

Our next Women and Wisdom night will be in April. We'll be talking about "taking care of me" and the ways that we let things get in the way of our success.  I'm so looking forward to seeing everyone again! 

 

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