Tag Archives: Parenting

Mothering Others…

Posted by: Gloria Pynn BA, BEd, MEd, CCC, RPsych on May 31, 2019 4:07 pm

Recently, I have been reflecting a lot on May as Mental Health Month and also on Mother’s Day. This is typically a day of celebration, but for some individuals Mother’s Day is a day of mourning, and triggers much grief, loss and trauma – most definitely a very complex and multifaceted day to say the least. There can be huge love associated with being or having a mother but also much trauma associated with having, being or trying to become a mother. An awareness of these unique experiences is necessary for therapists in helping clients cope with these “special occasions”. I wanted to highlight just a few interesting mental health initiatives or ideas related to maternal and caregiver mental health.

The Lloydminster Region Health Foundation  and My Why are partnered to highlight many mental health concerns but in particular, and more recently, maternal mental health and women facing postpartum depression. The effect of PPD on women and their families is far reaching and the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation  and My Why are jointly sharing these women’s stories to raise awareness, validate their lived experiences and reduce stigma. The following is a link to this project and wonderful work:


Locally on the east coast, we see new mental health initiatives that are to be commended and aim to bring mothers out of the shadows and stigma, such as Newfoundland’s own Stella’s Circle. One of their innovative support programs has targeted incarcerated mothers and their separation from their children. The staff at Just Us Women’s Centre (at Stella’s Circle) works with mothers and the NL Correctional Facility for Women to record a storybook. The book is then delivered to the child, offering them something all children like – to have a story read to them by their mother: https://www.instagram.com/p/BxXQUsvhVaR/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Even in daily living, we can find important reflection about parenting and mothering insights. On my most recent trip to Costco, I found a wonderful new read and finished the book ironically on Mother’s Day: Jann Arden’s Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as a Daughter lives with her Mom’s Memory Loss.  It is an intimate look into the artist’s not perfect but very authentic relationship with her parents, and especially her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s. In my mind, it really captures one lived experience of becoming your “mother’s mother” that I’m sure hits home with many caregivers:

Arden, J. (2019). Feeding My Mother Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as a Daughter lives with her Mom’s Memory Loss. Toronto, Ontario: Vintage Canada Penguin Random House Canada.

So, wandering back to my own thoughts… I have always loved words (hence my dual BA degree Psychology and English). The older I get, the more I think of “mother” as a verb, not a noun. It’s the act of mothering that’s key and the connection this act creates is magical and humanly vital to teach empathy and love in our world.

Looking at “Mothers” in this way, allows us to appreciate every person that has ever mothered and truly loved children – biological, adoptive, stepmothers, teachers, aunts, neighbors, godmothers, angel mothers (I love this phrase a friend of mine uses), foster-moms, two Mom families, single dads who have double duty as Mom and Dad, and everyone who choose to not have, or could not have or lost children but have selflessly been mother to countless others with hugs and acts of love daily to those who need it. Happy Mother’s Day every day and love to all who have ever “mothered others”.

Think, talk and always take care,

B.A. B.Ed. Dip. Behavior Therapy M. Ed C.C.C. R. Psych

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Pushing Through Anxiety

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on January 26, 2016 2:47 pm

We know there seems to be a higher rate of anxiety and panic disorders then there was just a decade ago. Whether that is true, or whether it is just being diagnosed more is uncertain to me. Either way, anxiety seems to the driving force for student absenteeism. I currently have a few students who leave class and wander the hallways looking for places to hide, hopinAnxietyg the teacher forgets they are gone so they do not have to go back to class. Often times those students end up at my door. Sometime they are crying, shaking, trying to get out of the school, making excuses to leave, etc. I have built a habit of being very kind at first when a new student comes in who seems to be anxious. I let them talk, pace, draw or whatever they need to do to calm down for the time being. I have light hearted questions about family, friends, activities, favorite anything, whatever will keep them in my office and not wandering the halls again. I am usually pretty successful in this area and students start to come back to see me willingly.

For me, when students come to me because they want to, the real work begins. I must now do the careful dance of keeping up with the students’ feels, fears, ideas and thoughts without stepping on their toes. I want them to believe that I truly get it because I do. I live around anxiety everyday, at home with my husband and son and at work with staff and students. Working with my own loved ones’ anxiety disorder has helped me to see how it affects people and as a result I think it has made me a “you have to be cruel to be kind” kind of person. I go through a process where students are given tools to make it through and they need to learn them because I will not always be there for them, and sometimes I send them back to class after reminding them of all the resources they have at their disposable (just not me). I request that parents take their kids to school even on the hardest days. I ask teachers to not let my students out of class unless necessary and I send students back to class as soon as possible, whenever possible. I get strange looks from parents and staff but I tell them, “If you want this to get better sometimes they need to do the things that cause anxiety”. A person who is afraid of spiders will not be able to avoid them for the rest of their lives and those with school anxiety cannot avoid school either. They need to be in that moment and experience the uncomfortable, heart pounding moments when anxiety sets in. Feeling and surviving those emotions is part of the battle. Soon those feelings start to diminish and the more you face it and think and talk about it, the easier it gets. It may not ever go away in its entirety but you can learn how to deal with it day by day, minute by minute, hour by hour.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Lack of Self-Esteem

Posted by: Hailing Huang on April 17, 2015 12:27 pm

In January 15 2015, I wrote an article: Emotional Health, reflecting on two Chinese international students who committed suicide during their second year of school.  The two students were Yuan Yuan, and Guo Yanjun. Yuan, a young woman in her early 20’s from Nangjing China, was in her second year of an economics degree at Amsterdam University. Guo, a 28 year old, who immigrated to America in 2001, graduated with an Honors BSc in 2006, worked in investment banking in New York, then registered at MIT, majoring in management – a journey much admired by many Chinese families.

Unfortunately, on January 27, 2015, another 20 year old Chinese international student named Wang Lu Chang a math major at Yale University, was successful in her suicide attempt.  These young students all exhibited excellent academic performance records, hard work, and were achievement driven; in the eyes of an outsider, they all would have a bright future. While we are sadly mourning these young lives, it also causes us to question:  What kind of pain was so heavy that it caused them to choose to end their own life?beautiful-316287_640

My previous article looked at this issue from an emotional health perspective; I thought it was the taboo of depression, suicidal thoughts and loneliness that blocked them from seeking help. It was the negative emotions that confounded their thoughts and their mobility, blocked their view to finding a way out; since most people see vulnerability as shame. Neither failure nor misfortunes are supposed to be disclosed or shared with others, even with family members.   Lacking the knowledge and skills to deal with negative emotions becomes an obstacle to reaching out and asking for help.

Then, recently, I have come to realize that there could be a deeper reason for their taking their own lives:  lack of Self – Esteem. In order to learn new knowledge and skills, they first have to believe in themselves and trust that there is a way out, and are willing to try. Without confidence and beliefs, they would not reach out. Even if the resources are there, they won’t be able to recognize and seize it.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

The Power of Parental Acceptance

Posted by: Anna Coutts on March 18, 2015 12:00 pm

I recently re-read the award-winning book The Help. While the book carries many important messages, there is one message in particular that really stood out for me. It was the message about the importance of acceptance. I was struck by just how determined the main character Aibileen is to make sure the child she nannies grows up feeling good about herself. In order to make sure this happened, she tells the child daily she is kind, smart and important. Aibileen reflects on how she’s learned over the years the value of giving children messages of love and acceptance, as she has seen how too many pushes for change can devastate a child’s sense of self. It made me realize how powerful feeling accepted by a parent can be for a child.dualism-597093_640

Every parent wants the best for their child. They want them to be happy, healthy and successful. Most parents will bend over backwards trying to give a good life to their child. Unfortunately, sometimes in an effort to make things better, we inadvertently make things more difficult. I see it all the time – parents pushing their kids to excel at school or sports, convinced that pushing them will give them a prosperous life. They will fight tooth and nail with teachers to get their kids out of difficult situations and to protect their kids from perceived harm. They fear the emotional devastation that will be caused if their child doesn’t go to the best school or have the best friends or make the best team. They push for change because they believe it is what will give their child everything they want.

No one can fault them for their good intentions. They are trying to do something wonderful for someone they love. The problem is this constant push for the best often causes us to forget the power of accepting someone as they are now. Unintentionally, the message that is often sent along with the strive for change is that who you are at the moment isn’t good enough. This is of course not at all what parents intend. But unfortunately, it is often the impact.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Report Cards – To Praise or Not to Praise?

Posted by: Hailing Huang on July 9, 2013 4:05 pm

The end of June has arrived, and with it is the end of another school year; kids bring home their report cards with joy or with sorrow. Chinese parents, whether they are in China or in Canada, always seem attentive to their children’s report card.

A few days ago, I spoke with a friend in Fuzhou China, she said: “This is the last year of my son’s elementary school, even though he performed well during the whole school year, the last exam will determine which school he will go to for junior high.” The last exam means a lot for students and their parents in China. Yesterday, a local Chinese parent, asked me: “Do you mind if your daughter get Bs?”  It seems Chinese parents are always on the alert when it comes to their children’s grades.

This phenomenon reminds me of Amy Chua, the author of ‘Tiger Mom’, when she said, that she demands excellence from her daughters; she assumes the strength rather than fragility. We may not agree with Amy Chua’s harsh discipline, but the reason behind her action may ring a bell for most Chinese mothers: the common desire of having high academic expectations for their children.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Spirited Child and Tiger Mother

Posted by: Hailing Huang on May 23, 2013 4:34 pm

Two years ago, Amy Chua author of” Battle Hymn of Tiger mother” stirred up a heated debate about the Eastern parenting vs the Western parenting

For immigrant parents this raises an important question that requires conscious reflection and deliberation: how do we parent? Some argue that we should not judge the different approaches, only the outcome counts. Yet as responsible parents, we do want to assess the potential outcomes of each approach. Parenting is not only an art , it is also a science.

‘Spirited Child’ is a label that Mary Kurcinka gives to the ‘difficult child’. Naming is the way we view our child, when we name them as difficult, they become a problem; while when we name them as ‘Spirited Child’, we see them as gifted. This is a strength based approach.

In her book, ‘Raising your Spirited Child’ Mary Kurchina illustrates the nine types of temperaments of a ‘spirited child’.  Through vivid examples and a refreshingly positive viewpoint, Mary Kurcinka offers parents strategies for handling their spirited child.  The description of spirited child reminded me of Amy Chua’s portrayal of her second daughter Lulu in ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’. Lulu exhibited many of the characteristics of a spirited child. For instance, she displays high levels of persistency, intensity, and perceptiveness… I wonder, if Amy Chua had understood her daughter’s temperaments from this viewpoint, would she have treated her second daughter differently, with less harshness.

As Mary said “identifying your child’s temperamental traits is like taking an X ray. It helps you to understand what is going on inside of your child so you can understand how he is reacting to the world around him and why. Once you understand the reasons behind his response, you can learn to work with them.”

Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom”, is a mother of two daughters and a professor from Yale University. Although Amy Chua was born and raised in America, she insisted that she would apply a traditional Chinese parenting approach, a style which is rigid and strict.  She demanded excellence from her daughters. For instance; they could not attend a sleepover, have a play date, watch TV or play computer games, be in a school play or get any grade less than an A.

Many people have criticized Ms Chua’s dictatorship style of parenting. But Amy Chua says that was the way her parents raised her and her three sisters. And all of them felt grateful for what their parents had given them.  Her diligent and rigid approach only backfired with her second daughter Lulu. At the age of 13 Lulu’ rebelled against her mother’s demands. This took the form of shouting at her mother in public “I hate my life! I hate you!”  It was at this point that Ms Chua says she decided to retreat.

On the one hand we do  admire Amy Chua’s courageous  candor with disclosing her shadow  side of parenting,  and it is through her disclosure of ‘ dirty laundry” ,  that we are able to know and learn  about her approach and reflect on  our approach. On the other hand, from Amy Chua’s experience, we also learn that there is no universal way of parenting. One approach may work out well in one generation or with one child; it may not work out well for another child. As much as we want our children to be adaptable to the new environment, we, as parents need to be open minded and adjust our approach accordingly.

During the last thirty years, many valuable parenting books are available for today’s parents, such as John Gottman’s ‘ Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child,’ Dr Thomas Gordon, P.E.T (Parents Effective Training), John Gray’s Children Are From Heaven, Michael Popkin’s Active Parenting Today, and Mary Kurcinka ‘s Spirited Child, and many more.   We have gained more knowledge about the various behaviors, cognitive functioning, or their emotional needs of our children. Updated knowledge has helped us to better understand our children’s needs at each stage of development, and their temperaments. As today’s parents, no matter where we are from and where we are stay, we are able to be better equipped and   do not have to rigidly follow what our parents have handed down.

Rachel Remen has a wonderful saying about gardening, and  it can also apply to parenting:  ‘No master gardener every made a rose. When its needs are met a rose bush will make roses. Gardeners collaborate and provide conditions which favor this outcome. And as anyone who has ever pruned a rosebush knows, life flows through every rosebush in a slightly different way.’

Hailing Huang , MA


*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Tiger Mother and Chinese Parenting Values

Posted by: Hailing Huang on June 15, 2012 1:33 pm

In 2011, Amy Chua, a Yale University professor published “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, a memoir that describes her parenting journey.  Her claim that her Chinese parenting is superior to Western ways stirred up disputes in Mainland China, America, Australia, England and Canada. Many news channel such as TODAY, Channel4News, ABCNews, CNN, 60 Mintues and The Agenda with Steve Paikin all discussed Amy Chua’s parenting approach. She pointed out that childhood is not merely for the experience of happiness, it is a process of training to prepare for the future marketing demands.  After the book was published, the reactions from the audiences were mixed. However, most of the response  from Americans  were negative, they regarded Amy Chua’s parenting style is overly rigid,  lacking respect for  children’s human rights  and neglecting children’s emotional needs.

While when I finished Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” for the first time, I was furious. My initial reaction was this is typical emotional abuse, isn’t it? Her rigid approach violates basic human rights: in a democratic society everyone, including children, has the right to express their opinions; parents should be considering child’s nature, capacity when assigning appropriate tasks. However, Amy Chua’s demanding that her daughter spend three hours practicing her piano per day, no play dates, no sleep over, and A grades in all subjects, these extremely rigid rules certainly categorizes her approach as an autocratic parenting style: THE DICTATOR. According to Michael Popkin’s definition, the dictator exerts absolute control, all powerful in dictating the lives of her children. There is little or no room for children to question, challenge or disagree.

However, my furious feelings towards her subsided gradually after I read her book for the second and third time.  Since, being a Chinese mother myself,  deep down on many perspectives, my thoughts are in line with Amy Chua’s approach, such as prioritizing the learning, valuing discipline, following routine, respect for the elderly etc.  In order to further understand Amy Chua’s parenting approach, and the traditional Chinese way of child rearing, I would like find out what the core values are behind all of those actions. Since her approach does represent the parenting style for the majority of people of Chinese descent.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Blog #6? Perhaps I’ve lost track

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on June 22, 2011 2:05 pm

I seem to have lost track of my ongoing writing.  My last entry illustrated the use of re-framing in helping a client set goals.  There is a science, or perhaps an art to taking undesirable events and reframing them into something useable.  It is more than just looking on the bright side – but actually changing the content/tone/perceived intent of the event into terms that are workable for the client and, perhaps, the therapist.

 I once had a client tell me – in reference to his over-zealous parenting approach – that parenting is just like “breaking a horse.”  Even though I am an Alberta boy, I knew nothing about breaking a horse and proceeded to tell this parent so.  I told him that he might as well be talking about training a dolphin as I don’t know very much about that either.  What I did know was that when training dolphins, the trainers don’t beat, scold, timeout, or withdraw any form of affection for not performing.  In fact, according to my rudimentary knowledge, the trainer simply rewards the dolphin with a treat for performing and step toward the desired outcome.  For example, if the dolphin were to touch it’s nose on a hoop – paired with a signal, it would get a treat.  Once that was successful, the signal would be given and the hoop raised and so on until the dolphin is jumping out of the water through the hoop to the signal.  In this case, the reward is a fish. 

 When dealing with troublesome behaviour of youth, it is rather unproductive to focus all of your energy on pointing out what the youth is doing wrong – believe me when I say they already know.  In fact, primarily all it does is set up a division between parent and youth.  Set a goal – decide the painfully smallest steps in reaching that goal and focus your efforts on rewarding the completion of the small steps.  If you’re having trouble getting your youth to attend school, go for a drive or a walk by the school, and if they happen to look at the school while you are going past, throw them a fish (figuratively speaking).  When they take a step toward the school, throw them a fish.  However, I wouldn’t recommend using a fish all the time.  A “good job” and a pat on the back go a long way – especially if most of your previous interactions have been fighting over the task.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

How To Take The High Road With Your Kids When The Low Road Is All You Can See

Posted by: Guest on April 1, 2011 9:14 am

Do you ever feel like pulling your hair out when you are trying to get your child to take Tylenol for a high fever and they are refusing adamantly? Or you are trying to have a short phone conversation and you are interrupted 2000 times by a tiny human that “needs to find his Darth Vader action figure NOW”? Or the weather-appropriate clothes that you were summoned to advise upon, and mother nature would agree should be worn on this 10 below day, are being cast aside for a tank top, capri’s and a shiny pair of flats have become the insanity inducing attire? And through it all, getting to your 9:15am meeting that you begged to have pushed back so you can gently and lovingly drop your kids off at school, as opposed to ejecting them from the car, is now history!

You know this scene. All parents do. We start out with the best intentions (we always do); we are on the high road or as Daniel Siegel (physician and author of Parenting From the Inside Out) calls it, the “High mode.” This type of functioning or “processing” as Siegel refers to, gets the name due to the part of the brain that is in the top front, called the prefrontal cortex. When we are processing in the high mode, we are engaging our rational mind, we are able to be reflective, flexible, and have a sense of self-awareness of how we are being received. In this mode, we can moderate the tone and volume of our voice, speak with love and kindness to our children, use open body language and offer mutually respectful and dignified choices for our children to respond to as well as relevant and related consequences can be used should they become needed. In this mode, we are the parent we want to be. So what happens?

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA