Your Child’s Mental Health Matters

Growing up Black, children didn’t have permission to have issues. We weren’t allowed to be stressed because how could a child possibly be stressed? We didn’t have to go to a 9-5 everyday, pay bills or support a family. Our “little” struggles in no way compared to what the adults were experiencing.

Growing up, the mental struggles of children were often minimized and dismissed based on the beliefs that they weren’t that serious. The minimizing of my struggles led to my first suicide attempt in 1996. Now, at that time having kids weren’t in the cards for me but once I became parent I vowed to always listen and take into consideration what my children expressed. I vowed to pay attention to the things they said and the things they didn’t say.

As cliche as it sounds, a mother always knows. God gave us a special kind of intuition that allows us to see into the souls of our children. I’ve talked about listening with your heart in a previous blog.

Fact, kids go through things and while they may seem insignificant to you, it’s a big deal to them. In my 40 plus years here on Earth, I’ve learned that we don’t get to tell people how to feel. As adults we’ve developed skills that help us to deal with issues, children are still in the molding stage.

Recently I started doing weekly mental check-ins in our family group chat. I simply text, “Mental health check-in! How y’all doing?” I give them the option of texting me individually in the event that they don’t want to share with everyone.

A few weeks ago my son expressed how school was stressing him out and how life was hard for him in the moment. He felt like he needed a mental health day, which I allowed him. Now, in addition to allowing your children moments to decompress, teaching them how to successfully deal with adversity is even more important. Life ain’t always pretty, and they have to be strong enough to deal with the not so great moments.

I had a conversation with someone recently about today’s generation of children and their inability to deal with hard situations. Can we blame them? I at times feel like we who were raised by “old school” parents have handicapped our children emotionally by trying to NOT be as hard on them as our parents were on us. Well let me speak for myself, I know I’m guilty.

Providing them a safe space that supports their mental health is important. Not making the topic taboo or linking mental health and crazy together is also important. Teaching them to talk about what they’re dealing with while you listen without judgment. The other piece of this is teaching them how to deal with problems and issues. Helping them to understand that life won’t always be favorable.

Here are three easy ways you can help your children with their mental health:

  • Have a conversation about the importance of mental health
  • Weekly check-ins or however often you feel is appropriate.
  • Incorporation of therapy if necessary.

I hope that this helps you to start healthy conversations with your children about their mental health!

Until next time…🦋

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We need more Dwyane Wades | Lesbian & Black

I recently watched Dwyane Wade’s interview on Showtimes All The Smoke podcast where he speaks very candidly about his youngest child coming out.
A quick disclaimer, this blog is NOT for the close minded individual, so if the topic of homosexuality makes you uncomfortable, stop reading here.
Homosexuality, such a controversial topic in several communities, especially the black and Christian communities both of which I can relate to.
When I came across Dwyane Wade’s interview on All The Smoke it made me reflect on my own coming out experience. When it comes to my sexual orientation, it isn’t what defines me, however it is a big part of who I am.
Identifying as Lesbian in the black Christian community has been both uncomfortable and unwelcoming and on the flip side, I’ve honestly never seen a higher population of closeted human beings in my life and the funny thing is, everybody knows and everybody is talking.
I shared my coming out story in a YouTube video, link here https://youtu.be/MwXfLrlwtZQ and I wrote a blog titled, “My Gayness Won’t Make You Less Christian”. Here’s the link to the blog https://talkingallthatjaz.net/2018/04/11/my-gayness-wont-make-you-less-christian/ In that blog I talk about my own unique experiences as it relates to being gay in the Christian community. (Check them out!)
100% of the parents I’ve ever spoken to, who have had children come out always tell the same story. That story, “I could see it when they were young”. We’re not talking 10 or 12 young, were talking 3 or 4 young. I’ll let you guys chew on that for a moment. The story Dwyane Wade shares is no different. He says that when his son was around 3 he noticed that he wasn’t on the boy vibe like his other sons. Now here is where it got interesting for me listening to his observation as a black man because in my opinion black men are by far some of the most homophobic individuals I’ve ever encountered. Black men/fathers absolutely shudder at the tiniest “gay like” tendencies in little boys and other black men. Not all but a big population.
“You ain’t go be no punk”. “Stop acting like a little girl.” “Man up!”. “Stop acting like a sissy”. “I’d be pissed if my kid turned out gay.” I’ve heard them all and I bet a lot of you have too. Sorry to disappoint you, those tactics won’t make the gay disappear. What it will do though, is teach them to be gay in private and suffer in silence. I speak from experience.
Dwyane Wade speaks about struggling at first, but how he chose to love his child through this very difficult process by educating himself. Not demean, not belittle, not shun, not mock, nor tear down. He says his child is stronger than he’ll ever be. Truth is, the bullying often begins at home. Fact is, we fear what we don’t understand and dismiss what doesn’t align with our belief system…but what if?
I’ve lost friends both old and new. I often encounter the what used to be friendly conversations between girls which turn into friendly reminders of their heterosexuality. I choose my comments carefully as not to make certain individuals uncomfortable. “Sis, my sexual orientation doesn’t mean I want you” (insert hard ass eye roll). Im still astounded at the number of absent minded individuals who only associate “gay” with perversion and or sex.
I can only imagine how different my life would have been if I had a Dwyane Wade. How different the countless numbers of other children’s lives would be and would have been if they too had a Dwyane Wade. I can imagine how many children could have avoided debilitating depression and even suicide.
I encourage parents out there, if you have a child that you suspect may be gay or is gay, love them beyond your limited beliefs. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. They need you. They need your love. They need your support. I applaud Dwyane Wade. I admire Zion’s courage! It’s truly inspiring and heartwarming!
I hope this blog helps someone to consider another way. I’m always open to respectful dialogue. Perhaps my story and experiences can help you navigate through your own journey with a child or a loved one. I’m here if you need me.
Here’s a link to the interview. He talks about his son around the 30 minute mark if you want to fast forward.
https://youtu.be/qqwBZqndDUg
Until next time…🦋

Planting Seeds In Children

What’s growing from the seeds you’ve planted in your children?

I’ve said many times on the blog that parenting is one of the most difficult yet rewarding jobs you’ll ever be blessed to have.

When planting seeds in the literal sense, once the seed is planted, it takes root. Once it takes root, it begins to grow. This same process applies to the seeds we plant in our children. How conscious are you of the seeds you’re planting? With your words, your actions and your reactions.

Have you ever said to your child, “I don’t want you to be like me, I want you to be better than me”. While I understand the intent behind this statement, what are you really saying?

Are we planting seeds of doubt by speaking about the things that we feel incapable of doing? Are we planting seeds of fear based on our own fears?

Children arrive here with a blank slates. They don’t think Brussels sprouts are nasty or roller coasters are scary. We teach, program and plant seeds. So much of what they do is learned behavior. Something as simple as food. Parents, have you ever said that something was nasty and your child followed suit? Sometimes without taking a bite. Now, 20 years later they don’t eat that particular item because they believe it’s nasty. That’s how it works, it’s that easy!

So what if we chose to plant seeds like courageousness, Faith, boldness, bravery, adventure and hope instead? Imagine what they could do!

I as a parent have planted some not so good seeds, but I’ve consciously made an effort to point them out and make corrections. That’s the beautiful thing about children, they’re pliable; teachable.

Until next time…🦋

Why I Chose Not to Whoop/Spank My Kids

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When I had I very first child I knew I was going to discipline different. I’ve never been a violent person so I knew whooping them was not something I was interested in. 

Before becoming a parent I knew how I wanted to discipline my future children. I knew I wanted to talk to them, assist and guide. I wanted to respect their opinions. I wanted to teach them in moments of challenging behavior. Notice how I said challenging and not bad? I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as a bad child, never have, and never will. 

My first born, my daughter, she made parenting easy. She was sweet, loving, and funny. She was also opinionated, talkative, honest, outspoken and at times sassy. She loved to challenge, In ways some limited thinking parents would consider disrespectful. I listened to her, and in moments I saw her becoming frustrated, I taught her how to effectively communicate. My daughter is 1 of 4. Each of my children required a different level of discipline. None of which included physical reprimand.

When it comes to correcting behavior, there are several ways to do that without whooping and spanking. Growing up I always heard, “spare the rod, spoil the child”. I didn’t understand what it meant when I was a young but as I got older, it became abundantly clear. Here is how it’s defined on the internet: spare the rod and spoil the child. old-fashioned saying. said to mean that if you do not punish a child when they do something wrong, they will not learn what is right.

In the Black/Christian community this meant whoop that tail. 

As a parent, I didn’t feel like my children did anything that warranted whoopings. In fact, they were more affected by my disappointment. Now, were they perfect? No. Were they children? Yes 

Who remembers hearing, I whoop you because I love you? But how? I never understood how whooping me was a sign of love. 

I can remember very clearly one whooping in particular. My sister was in high school and had a boyfriend. We had recently moved from one city to another. Well she went to prom with her boyfriend and she also went with a boy from her old high school. One day her boyfriend came by and I told him that she went to prom with the another boy. I didn’t just voluntarily blurt it out, but it somehow came up in a conversation. I was about 8. My mama beat my ass! To this day I’m still mad about that whooping. I was angry because I was whooped for telling the truth! I never understood why. 

Growing up I got whooped for several things. 99.999 % of them were for insignificant things. Doing things that kids do. With children, it will happen! Teaching in those moments will be more effective than whooping. 

“Whooping children is lazy parenting” ~ Jaz

Let me tell you what whoopings did for me. They made me feel less than, unloved and disliked. They also made me resentful. They made me sad. Getting whooped didn’t teach me not to do something. What it taught me how NOT to get caught. It taught me to be sneaky. Whoopings made me a liar. All of these things were factors in my decision to not whoop or spank my own children. Some may say, some kids need to be whooped. My opinion, some parents need to be taught different methods of discipline because you’re the teacher; their first example of right and wrong. 

If you’re a parent, what are your thoughts on whoopings/spankings? 

Until next time…🦋

Breastfeeding In The Black Community 

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This blog is dedicated to Black Breastfeeding Week! This Week is intended to recognize, celebrate, encourage and support the community of black women breastfeeding babies. 

What if I told you that Black Women have the lowest success rate when it comes to breastfeeding their babies?

What if I told you that only 20 percent breastfed exclusively for 6 months, and 27.8 percent met the recommended breastfeeding duration of 12 months?

Both of these alarming statistics are true. As a black mom who breastfed all four of her babies, I wanted to understand the why. Let me begin with my own experience. Before I gave birth to my first child I knew that I wanted to exclusively breastfeed so I began my research. I had no clue how to do it or where to begin. I read article after article and solicited the advice of those who had breastfed their children. 

Latching, milk supply, diet, challenges…

I wanted to know it all. I needed to know what I was getting into and what to look for in the event I encountered any issues. October 28, 1999 at 8:35 pm I gave birth to my first child, a bouncing babygirl. 

After she spent some time in the NICU, I was finally able to hold and see her. I can remember telling the nurse that I planned to breastfeed. I also remember that there wasn’t very much information given to me about breastfeeding. Now, I found it odd since I could overhear information being given to other moms that didn’t look like me. I think the assumption, since I was young, black and a first time mom, breastfeeding was probably highly unlikely. 

The nurse actually seemed quite surprised when I told her that I would not be trying a bottle and that I would be exclusively breastfeeding. (They already had enfamil on deck! They went hard for that formula!) Remember all that research I mentioned? I knew what I was signing up for. It was time! They handed her to me for our first try at feeding. She latched on immediately, and her latch game was A1! I was so relieved and excited. Then came the worry of would I produce enough milk to continue exclusively breastfeeding. 

Well guess what, I would learn that I was a over producer. Y’all I was like a cow! I was producing sooooo much milk that milk went to waste, sadly. At six weeks my daughter became very ill and they attempted to bottle feed her. It didn’t work! She would not suck any nipple except mine. My daughter went from breast to cup. 

Then came the question of, how long would I breastfeed? My plan was to breastfeed until she was ready to stop. Six months became one year. One year became two years. 

I also breastfed my three sons. My longest stint being three years. 

I encountered so much negativity from black women during my time breastfeeding. The current black mamas breastfeeding movement wasn’t as popular as it is today. Some of the things I heard..

Girl you are not going to last! I tried it and it was too hard! 

How long are you going to breastfeed that child? If they can ask for it, they don’t need it!

Ooh girl he/she has teeth? Oh you’ll quit once they bite you. 

He’s 3? That is so nasty! 

Didn’t even phase me. Got on my nerves? Absolutely, but it didn’t stop me! 

My philosophy was always, “My Babies, My breasts, My business.” 

I was a very proud breastfeeder. I didn’t cover up and that was my choice. My children were hot little humans. They never fed well with their heads covered. I encouraged every black mother I came in contact with to breastfeed, atleast give it a try. I didn’t share horror stories. I tried my best to educate and inform. 

Why is there so much negativity surrounding breastfeeding in the black community? Could it be generational? Could it be historical? Shame? Embarrassment? Negative personal experiences? Lack of access and knowledge? Surprise, it’s all of that!

Some of our history; Black Wet Nurses: “A wet nurse is a woman who breast feeds and cares for another’s child.”

Imagine, giving birth to your first child six days ago, then being made to abandon the needs of your own child and forced to breastfeed a white child that didn’t belong to you. Imagine having to be available to this child every time they cried and wanted milk. This folks, is not a joke, this really happened. For centuries it happened!

Uniformed; some women don’t breastfeed due to lack of information given before and at the time of birth. Remember how no one gave me any information? Imagine all of those who don’t know. Fortunately for me, I did my own research. 

Headlines: Public Breastfeeding made public in 50 states! 

When did this happen you ask? July 2018. What the what? Breast were intended for that very reason, to feed and nourish! Folks without breast out here creating rules for bodies that don’t belong to them. Whew, let me move on before I get mad mad. Side note, I’ve been publicly breastfeeding since 99. I ain’t new to this…call me a pioneer! 

Let’s talk about the benefits to Baby & Mom!

For Baby

  • Breastfeeding may reduce the risk for certain diseases, like obesity and type 2 diabetes; both are major causes of morbidity and mortality in adults in the United States, particularly for African Americans.
  • Reduces the risk of viruses, urinary tract infections, inflammatory bowel disease, gastroenteritis, ear infections, and respiratory infections.
  • Causes less stomach upset, diarrhea, and constipation than formula.

For Mom

  • Helps you lose pregnancy weight
  • Triggers your uterus to shrink back to prepregnancy size.
  • Lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. 

Yes, I am a believer that breast is best, but I also know that a fed baby is what truly matters. I don’t shame those who choose not to breast feed, because truly, breastfeeding is a commitment. To those of you out there thinking about breastfeeding and are on the fence, find a lactation consultant where you live. Peruse the inter webs for books and articles. Don’t let negativity and naysayers dissuade you from trying. 

Until next time…Your Babies, Your Breasts, Your Business 🦋

Blending Families 

 

Y’all, I have tried making this topic a YouTube video and it just hasn’t worked out. Most recent attempt, my mic wasn’t working and the entire video was muted, so that means, you get a blog!

Let’s talk blended families! 

First, what is a blended family? “A family consisting of a couple and their children from this and all previous relationships.”

In 2019, if you’re dating, you’re most likely dating someone with children or you have children yourself. When I entered the dating world some 14 years ago, I was a single mother of 4. Whom ever I chose to become involved with automatically put me in the Blended Family category. 

When you choose to involve yourself with someone that has children, you not only say yes to them, you say yes to their children. And depending on the relationship between them and their ex and you and yours, that also comes with it. It’s truly s package deal. 

Through my own experience I’ve noted several things you should talk about before blending families. 

  1. How you parent This one is so important. This conversation did not happen prior to my blending family experience and has been the biggest source of contention in my household. This discussion is mandatory. Also, just because they don’t parent like you doesn’t make the way you parent wrong and vice versa. There is a way to come to a happy medium, and if there isn’t, keep it pushing. 
  2. Household rules – equally important as #1. Will there be chores? Will chores be equally distributed? Is there an expectation based on age? Will there be bedtimes? 
  3. Talk to your children separately and as a unit. You owe it to your children to allow them the opportunity to express their point of view, to see how they feel about moving in with other people. Having a conversation as a family. This is to discuss expectations, get out any concerns and address them on day 1, not years down the line. 
  4. Discuss how you manage money. I have seen finances ruin a lot of families! How you manage your finances is huge! Spending habits. Savings goals. Joint accounts. Allowances. Investments. Retirement. Managing finances is a joint effort. Even if the two adults involved decide not to commingle their money, a discussion still needs to be had to ensure that all parties involved meet the expectations set.
  5. Dealing with children who don’t like you. Whew child, I could write a book on this one! My introduction into this one was rough! The key is patience. Understanding that it’s new for everyone. Most times the dislike has nothing to do with you and everything to do with not being able to process you now being with their parent and changing the dynamics of what they’ve known their whole lives. I can assure you that it will get better, my situation is proof!
  6. Communication styles. How you communicate in general. How you communicate during disagreements? Do you speak up or do you remain silent and blow up later? You owe it to yourselves to establish open lines of communication from the very beginning. 
  7. Respecting the new life you chose. Understand that this new life will look different from what you’re accustomed to. The size of the house will change. The noise level may increase. Finances will look different. Bills will increase. Privacy may decrease. Bottom line, things will change and you’ll have to adjust accordingly. Your outlook on these changes will determine your level of happiness. 

These are a few things to start with if you’re thinking about blending families. Don’t be so blinded by love that you forget to build a rock solid foundation with these basics. If this blog helped you, or you feel that it can help someone else, please share! Are you in a blended family? What was your experience? Share it the comments!

Until next time…🦋