The 2 Absolutes Necessary To Be The Best Parent You Can be . . .

What is it that our kids need from us the most? What is the prime factor in any parent-child connection? What paves the way for learning? I used to think that it was respect, patience, knowledge understanding, and your time. I have written in this space about those things and I still believe in their importance. But I have come to understand that these are building blocks for a much more important and complex reality. Parents need to be consistent when providing these , that is true, but they are not primary in and of themselves. They need to be present as component parts but they combine to create one reality. As the title suggests I believe there are only two things that parents need to be aware of if they are striving to be the absolute best parents they can be.

The first one is creating the best relationship they can between themselves and their children. This is first and foremost.  As many of us know this is not as easy to do as it sounds because so many things can get in the way. For instance our own past history and the relationships we had with our own parents. This can be especially problematic if the parent(s) still haven’t worked through their issues before having kids of their own. That ends up like building a house on a sand foundation. Perhaps we were forced to adhere to messages that were not appropriate or healthy. We may have been encouraged or taught how to hate someone for their differences. Our belief systems are easily manipulated when we are young because we desperately want to believe that our parents would never hurt us or lie to us or tell us stuff that isn’t true-would they? Then there are our experiences at the hands of others. That could involve abuse of some kind or what we were told over and over again by people we didn’t know or who didn’t like us. We can make our kids our best friends or worse we can become their best friends. The difference?? Best friends rely on each other for support. We listen to them and they listen to us and then we problem solve together. Our kids should never be asked to solve their parents’ problems. It is not healthy to ask for or expect our kids to provide our emotional support. Friends comfort each other-that’s why their friends. Parents are not supposed to be comforted by their children and supported through a traumatic time. Our kids are not equipped for that and boundaries can become a serious issue. That’s why we have to pay absolute attention to our kids every day and not just check in with them when they are hurting or in trouble of some kind.

They need to know from us, on a daily basis, that they are loved, valued, taken seriously when they are serious, and that we will listen to them without judgement or criticism. Ask them about their day-how did it go?-what did you learn that you didn’t know before? Show that you are interested in their lives and that you care. We need to encourage them and teach them how to think for themselves. Now this is not new news but the point is we cannot teach our children anything of value without them knowing in their hearts that they are in and are a part of a strong relationship with us. It does not matter the lessons we have to teach them or the importance of them sharing our experiences. It does not matter what we feel, as parents, or what we need to show them or demonstrate to them about life itself. As parents we need to understand what a healthy relationship looks like and what it can provide our children.

The primary desired outcome is that there is a genuine trust  that has been established and as long as that trust lasts your kids will want to learn all you have to teach them. They will watch you and learn about healthy relationships. They will learn about how to manage emotions and how to accept success. According to Parent Magazine children who are involved with healthy co-parented families are more likely to experience less mental health issues, less involvement with legal systems, have better and more healthy relationship with partners, and do better in affairs. Whether a parent physically lives at home or not that parent still needs to be involved in their children’s lives. He /she can still make a difference. It’s being involved and showing that you care that is most important.

The point here is that parents need to work much harder at establishing a healthy relationship with their kids first and worry about ‘life’s lessons after that’. It doesn’t work well if you are trying to do it the other way around. Parents need to LIVE the lessons they want their kids to learn. They believe what they see so if there is No trust there will be No learning.

Anyways, that’s how I see it.

All the best, Jim and thanks for stopping by.

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Are We Governed By Nature Or Nurture? Big Pharma Says It Should Be . . .

Smiling Politician

“I don’t trust people who smile all the time and I don’t trust anyone who suggests that I should trust them.”–jc

Years ago when I first became interested with the ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate I was fascinated to see how many folks believed that behaviour and such was completely driven by the nurturing aspect of our lives. The researchers and the scientists said that parents and society were solely responsible where ‘little Billys’ behaviour was concerned. But then numerous studies were undertaken to show how boys played with trucks and girls played with dolls if left to their own devices and that’s the way that nature had planned things. Case closed. Then supervising people such as parents and/or other care givers were asked to switch the toys and reward altered choices, interests and behaviours and so on. This was supposed to prove definitively that behaviour was nurture driven.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon how you look at it, the pharmaceutical industry has really taken over the drive to make some sense of this whole debate. They have the money and the expertise to do it but they have proven themselves to be untrustworthy at the best of times and selfish beyond compare. Have they funded or been responsible for amazing breakthroughs? They sure have. Have they put out huge sums of money? Yes they have. They have also profited in a huge way. I understand wanting to recover the costs of research and development but immediately upon release? One begins to question the presence of an ulterior motive? I doubt that pharmas’ generosity is strictly about benevolence. What of those who can’t afford thousands of dollars a month to stay alive? The rich can pay but the poor can’t so they die? Not a great social business model. But there they are standing out in front of us on TV every day extolling the benefits of the newest drug to hit the market with a list of side effects as long or longer than the symptoms that will be relieved when you take their medication. It is all presented to us by folks with big happy smiles on their faces asking us to trust them and their latest concoction. I find it difficult to trust anyone who smiles all the time now. My first reaction is ‘what are they hiding?’

The pharmaceutical industry has always been involved in the addiction/mental health debate. For years the two camps have managed to stay clear of each other in terms of treatment modalities, theories, approaches and funding but with shrinking budgets in the health care field the need to save money has become the driving force in the type of treatment that clients receive. The debate is now driven by no other reasonable hypothesis. For the last few years the move has been to ‘combine’ the two fields and thus save a great deal of money on duplicate services, office spaces, office staff, less need for ER services–now it’s called ‘urgent care’. You may have an urgent need but that doesn’t translate into receiving urgent care. Good luck with that one.

I will admit that when the debate about whether or not mental health services and addiction services should be amalgamated into one ‘umbrella service’ I was on the side that said that does make some sense certainly from a fiscal point of view. Having worked for a lengthy time in the addiction services field I have changed my mind. There is the chicken and the egg thing going on here that is becoming more difficult to reconcile especially with all the ‘new’ medicinal treatment options available for our mental health clients. Does someone have a mental health disorder and then start to abuse drugs and alcohol because of that disorder or does the disorder ‘develop’ because of the alcohol and drug use? The DSM, which is the ‘bible’ used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental health disorders has grown substantially over the last ten years and now includes an addiction as being classified a mental health disorder. There are pills now to help alleviate some of the symptoms. The point is treatment for an addiction is becoming more of an issue to be treated by taking a medication than a problem that can be treated without the use of medication and have as much success. Do we treat the disorder and then the addiction or the other way around. Some say both at the same time but that troubles me some because that means that a client is trying to get used to a new medication that may of may not work well and at the same time we are expecting that client will be able to remain abstinent. Well if he could remain abstinent he wouldn’t need to be treated with medication for an addiction. If he/she uses alcohol during the time they are taking their medication for the mental health disorder that, in itself, poses a serious health risk. The other question is how much of the ‘mental health’ disorder is created by the stress, anxiety, lack of sleep and trauma caused by the substance use and would it begin to dissipate if/when the use was dealt with successfully?

These are questions that have no clear cut answers as yet. I don’t believe that we need to be making judgements regarding the quality of peoples lives without more substantiated proof beyond the acknowledgement that it makes fiscal sense and therefore we should do it. Pharma should not be the driving force. Obviously their influence in the debate is tainted a bit by their desire to have it become a medication based treatment approach. I would like to see a day when treatment for mental health disorders are treated chemically, if needed, and the addictions component is treated using a CBT-Cognitive Behavioural Treatment approach meaning more Life Skills Training and behaviourally directed approaches with less chemical intervention. But the system has been there and the pharmaceutical/medical field didn’t want to stay there so here we are with neither side of this getting anything close to what they really need to make a difference in the quality of their lives. The focus needs to be on functionality and not just existence and symptom management.

So when management comes to you with a smile, asking you to trust them and they are talking about encouraging transparency (it has become another word for duplicity) in the system, be sure to check your BS meter before jumping in.

Anyways, that’s how I see it–Jim

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