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Here we go again…first day of school and all the feelings.

Verklempt. One word that sums up my last two days perfectly.

So much beauty and gratitude far outweighs the pensiveness of these transitional days.

I’ve watched them both like a hawk in the passing weeks of summer. I’ve seen them grow and blossom into more confident, strong, capable little beings; eager to tackle the excitement of all that the first days of school brings.

I’ve seen the apprehension in the littlest ones eyes as she looks to me for reassurance when we talk about school, making new friends and all the new uncertainties in her growing world.

I’ve seen the smile on the biggest ones face as he lists off all the things he gets to do this year with all the friends he’s missed over the summer and I’m feeling all the feels. All of them. I hope and pray we’ve done a good job to prepare them for yet another year of growth and change.

To combat my own anxiety, I’ve kept my mind and body busy. Busy baking, busy writing, busy thinking, busy remembering; how their little fingers used to wrap so tightly around mine, how they relied solely on us, as their world to keep them safe and nourish their zest for knowledge through endless games of hide and seek and answering the 1000’s of questions to the best of our ability.

Every year I think it would be easier, but every year it’s just the same.

A glutton for emotional punishment, I throw on all the songs that have an important meaning in my kids life-like an 80’s montage as I flip through baby pictures and reminisce in the days gone by and day dream of where they’ll be in the future, trying so very hard to breathe in the sweetness of the present and relish in all the time we spend together. My heart is full of pride and so much love, a my brain is working on overdrive checking off the mental to-do list and my gratitude is extended to all the teachers and educators and support staff for everything that you do for our children.

Happy first day and first week!

May you always be strong and kind with a brave spirit and a fierce mind. Always remember, you can do anything.

And never forget to hug your parents and brush your teeth!

-Love, Your Mama Bear

To our Superheroes….

🗣 Shout out to the support systems, to the members of each of our villages, to the friends and family and friends who are family. To the doctors and therapists, Educators and mentors.

🗣Shout out to every one of you who has shown up, been there, sat through it, given a hug, given advice, sat in silence, rubbed a back, wiped tears, comforted and consoled.

🗣Shout out for perhaps not knowing the exact words to say but saying something, or nothing. For building us back up when we broke utterly and completely…sometimes for the third time that month, week or day.

🗣Shout out for your kindness and love, even more so when we don’t love ourselves.

Thank you for being superheroes. For wanting to be in our circle, even at points where we may push you away.

Thank you for silently and gently, or obviously and loudly being on our side or telling us that we’re off base and to check-in and regroup.

Thank you for at times, having no bloody clue how to handle us as we melt into a ball of anxiety and emotions but for not turning your back out of frustration or fear.

Thank you for being selfless but not forgetting about your own self; your wants and needs. Thank you for making us accountable for our thoughts, words and actions.

Thank you for reminding us that mental illness doesn’t define who we are, that are lovable and desired.

Thank you for walking this path and being part of our journey.

Thank you for reminding us that the uncomfortableness is temporary and that we will be ok, especially when we can’t see past the tears in the palms of our hands.

To our Superhero villages:we are forever grateful to you. Thank you for being true examples of what unconditional love and acceptance is. You are the fibers of this world, our world; interwoven between the chaos and contentment securely fastened with the belief and confidence that everyone deserves to be loved.

We thank you. 💚

*To each of you who’s struggling, coping or managing, you’re not alone. You are loved. You are worth it.

{📸 credit to Pinterest, what did we ever do without Pinterest! If you know of the correct artist/photographer please tag them.}

It’s the most wonderful time of the year….or is it?

🎶” It’s the most wonderful time of the year”🎶….

We’ve all seen that commercial, the one that boasts happy parents who high five each other as they frolic down the aisles of the store as if to say, “yes, we’ve made it to the home stretch of summer” all the while eagerly filling their shopping carts with school supplies…noting the bummed out kids dragging their feet behind them. Summer is almost over. Sound familiar to anyone? 🙋🏻‍♀️🙋🏾‍♂️

Truth is, for some children (adults too) this time of year can be a huge trigger for anxiety.

I know for us, the last two weeks of summer are usually filled with all the last minute summer bucket list items and getting our minds and selves organized for the back to school chaos that will ensue in just a short time. It also brings transitions and the not so subtle thrust back into routines, changes in temperatures outside that bring forth shorter days and crisper nights and the excitement and uncertainty of the school year ahead mixed with the growing pains and maturity that accompanies the expectations of being one grade older. All of this can be, a recipe for what I call the emotional anxiety tornado. 🌪

In the past, this tornado has scooped us all up, spun us around like the tilt-a-whirl ride at the fair and spit us back out again; dizzier and more anxious than before.

But, having weathered this storm for several years now, I have come to recognize some of the warning signs in our children (and truthfully myself) to help ease us all into the new beginnings-before the alarm bells 🔔 start ringing.

One thing I’ve found helpful is getting us all back into a normal sleep routine. Starting this during the last 2 weeks of summer by dialing back our bedtimes and reigning in the routine helps to ease everyone back into proper sleep hygiene without it being a total shock to the system. Being over tired and not getting enough sleep tends to be a huge anxiety trigger in our household. So catch those 💤

While speaking on bedtime routines, which can often become mundane and boring for our kiddos-afterall, have you ever met a child who’s excited for bedtime? 💁🏻‍♀️🙅🏻‍♀️

Be creative with it…perhaps some Epsom salts in their bath water, or some lavender essential oil in their lotion🧴, or a new bedtime story…(I heard Sweet Honey Kisses for an Anxious Bear is a good one 😉) or a delicious smelling fizzy bath bomb🛁 or soothing music🎵 would help. We also invested in a weighted stuffed lizard🦎 for our oldest and a small weighted stuffed elephant 🐘 for our youngest, and our oldest also sleeps with an eye mask, which I’m told helps allow his brain to settle quicker. So perhaps one or two of these would work to help make those earlier bedtimes more fun. Don’t forget those gratitude journals too, or at least discuss some things that you/they are grateful for. This alone does wonders to help shift the brain from anxious thoughts to pleasant ones as they doze off to dreamland. 😴

Practice makes progress! This age old cliche rings true for re-establishing routines and introducing new ones. What we’ve found helpful, especially for young ages, is eating lunches out of lunch bags; opening containers and packages and asking for help-encouraging those self advocacy skills. This can ease the “what-if” anxiety that often partners with something new.

Toileting and dressing are two other self-help skills that could be practiced to help boost confidence in abilities and comfort. Setting aside the time to practice these skills has been a huge anxiety reducer for us. Sending them to school, knowing they can take care of and advocate for themselves was a big breath of relief!

Play! This is a big one. Children learn and explore through play. We found it helpful to role play. We let our children be the teacher 👩🏻‍🏫👨🏽‍🏫 and we were the students. We discussed through our roles, the rules of the classroom and the expectations of being a student and teacher. We talked about some of the sensory stimulants that they might experience when at school-which also transferred into new environments in general.

Our oldest was sensory sensitive at a young age, so I felt it would be helpful to explain the new noises, sights and sounds so it wouldn’t be as much of an overwhelming surprise.

We practiced walking to and from the bus stop 🚌 together and sang songs like The wheels on the bus, on our walk.

We also took our play to the school yard! Playing on all the new and exciting equipment and showing the boundaries of the school yard before school started was a great help. Our children were excited to play there everyday and slowly, we started to see their anxiety make a small shift into excitement…we were making progress!

The night before is always buzzing. Shoot for an early bedtime 🕗, maybe lead into it with a short (2-5min) kids meditation 🧘🏾‍♀️🧘🏻‍♂️ (YouTube, google and Spotify all have great ones!) for some soothing and grounding breathing exercises-yes, even those 3 year olds can do this with practice. 😉

On the day of, if there are tears and sore tummies, rest assured that it’s completely normal (even for us parents!) Patience, love and encouragement makes a huge difference for comforting exhausted and anxious Little Bears . Feel free to check out this blog post below to see what else we did in our house to combat separation anxiety.

https://christinefishman.com/2019/04/06/separation-anxiety/

From our house to yours, I’m wishing you all a wonderful first day of school. Make the most of the last couple weeks of summer and always remember, you can do anything! Good get ‘em Little Bears. 🐻🤝

Why?…peace and love.

“Why did you decide to write this book” has been a question that I have been asked at least a 100 times on this wild-ride-of-a-journey over the past 10 months.

My answer though has always, in a round about way, been the same. I want to help others; children and adults with anxiety who may be struggling too. I want to make a difference, even if it’s just a sliver of one, for a blip in time. I want to be a voice for childhood anxiety, but not take the child’s voice away. *Disclaimer though…surprise! I’m not a mental health therapist or a doctor. I’m *just* a Mom, an anxious Mom to boot, who’s worried about this next generation and I wanted to do something to help.

Since publishing this story in November, I have received incredibly kind, positive and supportive feedback about this book and it’s message. But, I’ve also received some push-back. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting some whispered comments or off the cuff remarks about my own mental illness and how it affects my ability to help.

Well, I believe, even after justifying my own anxiety, that having anxiety is kind of like my own superpower. For me, it can be very helpful-like a driving force to keep going, but every superpower also has its kryptonite and that for me, is self doubt-“what am I doing?” is a constant question in my brain.

You see, this story is personal. It’s actually felt like a third child for me. My heart and soul are woven into each page and if you read between the lines of the unspoken words, my childlike heart is there too. Which is why, I felt compelled to write this story. Having a child who also shares “big worries” or childhood anxiety-however you’d like to phrase it, I wanted to be a voice big enough that the people in the back could hear when I said “sometimes it’s ok not to be ok” and “sometimes it’s ok to reach out for help” to my own child and anyone else that needed to hear it.

I’ve been cautious-self doubt again, to want to share my child’s story as part of the inspiration behind this book for fear that my child would be scrutinized, alienated, or discriminated against even later in life. But then I realized that I was looking at it all wrong. My whole message and intent is to break down those barriers, be loud about mental health and not be afraid to talk about a subject that until recently, has been taboo or embarrassing.

You see, mental illness isn’t a contagious disease. You don’t “catch it” like a flu you don’t “get one when you’re older” like laugh lines or age spots and it isn’t a right of passage into adulthood. In fact, statistics show that 70% of adult mental illness start in childhood! Our mental well being is part of us, but it most certainly doesn’t define us; and it sure as hell doesn’t make us weak. It’s not an “excuse” or a cop out and to anyone who states “well I just don’t get it” that’s ok, just know that it makes us who we are-like freckles or a birthmark. We’re all unique, even mental illness and there’s no one size fits all tool that works for everyone-except for patience and understanding.

So, to answer the question of why I wanted to write this story, it is my hope to breakdown these myths that for generations have been “truth”. It is my hope that this book gives inspiration to children and adults to have these important conversations at a young age and as each page is turned, I hope you feel the love that went each word, know that you’re not alone and always remember that you can do anything. Even with self-doubt, misinformed comments and criticism.

Mental illness is ok. Putting others down isn’t. Did you hear me back there?

Peace and love. ✌🏼

-C.

Breakfast Television Montreal

I’ve sat here for the past 20 minutes, staring at this blank screen with the blinking cursor that’s begging me to flood the page with words from an event a week ago, that launched me out of my comfort zone. Here’s what real life with anxiety looks like when you toss in an incredible opportunity and a leap of faith…

You see, there was a time not too long ago, where anxiety controlled my every (almost) waking moment. If someone told me years ago, that future me would be on Breakfast Television Montreal to talk about this sweet little story, which back then was nothing more than an idea- I would have laughed; then silently cried with paralyzing fear and all the “what-if” scenarios my anxious brain could muster, eaten a lot of sugar and carbs and come up with any excuse to not step outside this comfort zone nest that I had created for myself.

Last week, I did just this. My goodness, it really happened and yours truly lived to tell the tale! For me, anxiety has always been such a quiet and internal journey. At times, it crippled me, held me back from major decisions, forced me to “sit still and look pretty” (thanks for those words Daya) while I was screaming and disheveled on the inside. Rising above this fear, finding my inner strength and the words to articulate just how important this topic is to me, my family and anyone else (young or old) who is fighting this good fight was a responsibility I didn’t take lightly.

That morning came, I woke super early and you know what?-That fear had changed into an excitement that fueled my soul and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Gratitude filled my heart and this odd sense of confidence (odd because this is something I struggle with truthfully) washed over me.

At 7:30am last Thursday, I put one foot in front of the other and walked through the towering doors from the street and into the Breakfast Television studio, so ready to share a snippet of this very personal journey of how this book came to life. It is my hope that maybe this segment, the spoken words and this topic will resonate with just one person and spark important conversations about mental illness and children’s mental health.

As my mic was clipped and the 10 second countdown begun until we went live, I took a deep breath and smiled; but not a fake one that I had come so accustomed to using when I was uncomfortable, it was a genuine one that came right from my heart. For in that moment and the next 5 minutes that flew by, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Always remember little bears, your anxiety doesn’t define you and you can do anything!

#ThisMadeMyTopFiveCoolestThingsOfMyLife

You can watch the segment here:

Helping kids with their anxiety

 

Have you seen Secret Life of Pets 2?…

Have you and your Little Bears seen Secret Life of Pets 2?…

There’s one scene, one particular quote from that movie that has stuck with me for over two weeks now, and without giving away too much I wanted to share it..

Rooster: The first step of not being afraid, is acting like you’re not afraid. So, are you scared?

[Max cowering down shaking with fear]

Max: No.

Rooster: Are you scared?

[Max brings himself to full height with confidence]

Max: No! No, I’m not!

Rooster: Now you’re talking.

As a Mom, I find it tricky to walk the fine line between acknowledging and honoring my children’s fears and anxiety without feeding into it. Offering a source comfort and support, with gentle guidance and appreciation for individuality. I want my children to know that it’s ok to be afraid, it’s ok to feel insecure and unsure about newness, change and challenges, but that inside (sometimes deep down) is the root of confidence, tenacity and determination.

So while it’s normal and completely ok (more than ok actually) to be worried, anxious, angry or upset I want them to know that it’s always ok to reach out and talk. I want them to know that even though life at times will be hard, messy, complicated, sad or nerve wracking that confidence and the power of the mind and thought can help them through.

To me, there’s a huge difference in honoring anxiety and anxious thoughts but not letting them become overpowering vs stifling and denying the emotions.

To me, these differences seed themselves at a young age, starting with conversations about mental health, love, support acceptance and kindness and the gentle reminder that it’s ok not to be ok.

So, to all the parents out there who are the “Roosters”…you’re doing a great job encouraging the Little Bears of the next generation that fears are real but you’re stronger than you think; and to all the “Max’s” out there, honor your fears and talk about them but don’t (try not to) set up camp within them.

Love yourself and don’t be anybody but yourself.

🍯😘🐻

#sweethoneykissesforananxiousbear

#supportandadvocacy #childrensbooks #childrensbook #kidsbooks #kidsbook

#childrensmentalhealth #paediatricanxiety #anxiety #mentalhealth

#teachers #classicchildrensbooks #parents #earlychildhoodeducators #resourceteachers #educationalassistants

#endthestigma #bethechange #letsgetloud

#strongertogether

#anxietywarriors

#nevergiveup

#youcandoanything

#peaceandlove

#confidence

#mentalhealthconversations

#secretlifeofpetstwo

The Fire (literally & figuratively)

A couple of weeks ago, we were driving on the highway and came up to a vehicle that was on fire.

We were one of the first to pass by, emergency crews weren’t there yet but there were civilians up on a rock cut on their phones-assumingely with a 9-1-1 dispatcher.

Traffic slowed just before the flames so we could all merge into the other lane.

My two Little Bears were in the backseat, talking a mile-a-minute about the smoke and how high the fire was-“Mommy it’s as big as the CN tower” (not even close). As we passed the vehicle, the entire front end was engulfed. I looked in my rear-view mirror to my biggest Little Bear, his eyes as wide as saucers, his mouth open in shock, the other one had taken a quick glance and went back to looking at her My Little Pony book. We were all silent….for a short period of time.

About a minute down the road, my son began to talk, his words shot from his mouth so fast and furious about what he just saw. Trying to process every detail and ask every question in his mind that was now super anxious and racing (I Know that feeling all too well). His questions started with fire in general, then about vehicle fires, then about house fires and safety and our safety and all the “what if’s” that his brain could possibly muster.

I *think* I did my best to answer his questions, my husband jumped in to help once we were home and he had discussed it again. I thought we had put it to bed with reassurance that we are prepared in the event of an emergency and that we’d be ok.

Fast forward a week and he began having a hard time sleeping-he was still processing. I spoke with his counselor and together we agreed that a visit to our local fire station may be a good idea. I connected with our local Fire Safety/fire prevention officer and away we went.

We’ve been to the fire station many times before, but this time-for our biggest Little Bear, was different. At his age and stage of development he’s beginning to realize that we are all mortal beings, that life is precious and that accidents and emergencies can happen and sometimes the outcomes are sad and death can occur to people he loves.

This was the perfect opportunity for him to speak with a professional, one who empowers people to be brave and have courage, to be vigilant and practice safety and most of all-answer the 102 questions that our son had. The whole time we were there, he didn’t stop talking. He played out all of (I think?) the “what if” scenarios in his brain and got the answers he needed to put his heart at ease.

When we left, I looked back in my rear-view mirror again and this time I saw his smiling face and the sparkle in his eyes. He caught my glance and said “I love you Mom, thanks for taking me, I feel so much better!”….in that moment, I felt like I had won parenting (at least for that moment.)

That night over dinner, our family agreed to do up a fire escape safety plan and buy a couple more fire extinguishers and practice fire safety prevention in our home and vehicle. We gave our son the important job of helping us test the smoke detectors, empty the dryer lint traps and help to draw a blue print for the evacuation plan.

I’ve learned that with our anxious Bear, if he has a leadership type role when his mind is anxious, it helps him to focus on the goal instead of all the scenarios.

Overall, this experience has reminded me, that the world can be incredibly overwhelming for children. They’re often exposed to so much information and have difficulty processing it all that it becomes overwhelming; even as an adult this still happens to me.

Be patient, do your best to help your Little Bears work through these overwhelming times. If you need additional help or resources, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional. Knowledge is empowering and takes the guessing game away from anxious brains. 💗