Mindful parenting

Raising a child is for many, one of the most responsible and intense tasks of our lives, but one we do with love, pride, and satisfaction. It might be one of ‘the most important’ jobs we will ever have and many aspire to be a good father or mother. At times it can be a difficult and tiring task, other times it will be highly rewarding and fulfilling. In the daily hustle of our lives, parenting can sometimes turn into ‘managing’ children and the family, instead of being with the children and the family in the moment. When this happens, parenting becomes one of the endless things on our to-do lists and we may lose the experience of being ‘in the here and now’ with our children and family. Parenting will then go into auto-pilot mode. 

With child-rearing, stress comes along with it, and not only for reasons that we want to do it so well. The transition in adulthood between taking care of our own lives, to having children and also taking care of their lives, comes with an immense change in how we divide our time, attention, energy, and resources. While taking care of our children and family we might forget to take care of ourselves and get exhausted. This may lead to symptoms like being overly tired, irritable or depressive moods, physical complaints, or even psychiatric problems that stand in the way of child-rearing. 

Psychiatric problems in children or parents pose a challenge or obstacle to parenting. A child that can’t be left alone with siblings because of aggressive behavior, can’t go to bed alone because of fears, shows defiant or stressed behavior when confronted with new situations, engages in risky behaviors, skips school, poses another stressor in parenting. Symptoms of psychopathology within the parent can also complicate parenting or be a source of parental stress. A parent with depressive symptoms might find it difficult to give their child positive attention. 

Another factor that can make parenting stressful is the fact that children are always developing, which means that they are constantly changing. In turn, this means that parents are continuously adjusting to their developing children. Relationship problems between parents and divorce are also sources of parental stress. Lastly, child rearing has become more stressful in our more individualistic western society where child rearing has become a task for one or two parents. While it has been in our evolutionary history to raise children in a community. Remember: ‘It takes a village’. 

So given all of this, how can parents become more ‘mindful’ parents and apply ‘mindful’ parenting? Mindful parenting is defined as: ‘The ongoing process of intentionally bringing moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness as best one can to the unfolding of one’s own lived experience, including parenting. Cultivating mindfulness in parenting starts with self-awareness. It grows to include:

  1. Recognizing and keeping in mind each child’s unique nature, temperament, and needs;
  2. Developing the capacity to listen with full attention when interacting with one’s children;
  3. Holding in awareness with kindness and sensitivity, to whatever degree possible, both one’s child and one’s own feelings, thoughts, intentions, expectations, and desires;
  4. Bringing greater compassion and non-judgmental acceptance to oneself and one’s children;
  5. Recognizing one’s own reactive impulses in relationship to one’s children and their behavior’ 

What it means to be a ‘Mindful Parent’, means parenting in our conscious attention rather than getting overwhelmed by your own emotions and reacting in a way that can be detrimental to the parent-child relationship. It means learning how to train our attention, be more in the here and now, and more often ‘being’ than ‘doing’. Training your conscious attention helps with stress management, within ourselves and within the parenting of our children, in the partner relationship, and in the family. We can then be more aware of both the joy and the difficulties that come with parenting. We become more empathetic towards ourselves and our children. When we parent with attention, we have less reactive/ automatic responses towards our children, partner, or family. Which helps us with attention, organizing, planning, and seeing things from different perspectives.  We become more aware of any negative responses that stem from difficult experiences in our own childhood. And we can choose to react in a more positive or effective way. Being a ‘mindful’ parent can help change and improve the quality of our relationship with our children. 

Written By:
Melissa Monteiro
SACAC Counselling

The Pain (and relief) of grieving

Once more, while I am here trying to write a few words to you, I keep thinking about songs that I like and believe helps to discuss the topic. I guess I like making these connections (songs and human conditions), but that is not the focus now. Chris Martin, from Coldplay, asks in one of his most popular songs: “When you love someone but it goes to waste, could it be worst?”. 

Honestly, I can’t answer his question, as the worst for someone is a very subjective factor. But I have to agree with him that “tears come streaming down on your face when you lose something you cannot replace”. Not only do tears come to the individual’s life, but the whole world turns upside down. There is no hope, there is despair, physical pain, emptiness, a sense that life is not fair, fears, and all different feelings, thoughts, sensations, actions, and emotions that pop up in those who were left behind.

Grieving for someone or something usually takes 5 stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It can last up to one year and despite similarities, it is a very individual process.

Sometimes, when someone comes across all of these things that a loss evokes, they might believe that they are mentally sick, that they have depression. But they are “just” grieving and although this is not a disorder and does not always need intervention/ treatment, the person is not in their normal state, but in a more depressive mood, having his/hers habits and lifestyle changed dramatically.

But being in a depressive mood is a way of coping with the loss. Feeling shocked, denying, digesting the event; revisiting the past, is all expected. Unfortunately, it is part of the process. It hurts and it can be very tough, but it is necessary. Necessary to be able to carry on, not with that pain but with some acceptance and understanding that when the physical presence is not possible, that person is still there in our values, in a bit of what we do, in what we can remember and in what we carry with us. In our memory, in our hearts, and in behaviours.

It is important to go through this painful path to be able to overcome it, and to give a beautiful closure to it (yes, it is possible!). There was a teacher of mine who used to say that those who can’t remember are those who have dementia. To the rest of us, it might seem little, but memory is what might save us. So for those who are grieving: patience. Things will change, and you will change. If you need support, it is ok. We
are here for that. 


From the deep inside of the therapist’s heart and everything she has learned in her academic and professional journey. (Plus her good musical preferences).

Written By:
Andrea Fernandes Thomaz
Counsellor & Psychotherapist

SACAC Counselling

Getting Rid of Bad Habits

We all have the tendency at times to do or think in a certain way that holds us back from the life we want. As we repeat them over time, they become automatic and form unconscious routines that short of benefiting us, make our life issues look manageable.

These unhelpful habits can be physical, mental, or emotional. For instance spending most of the time distracted by technology instead of being productive, shopping online, biting nails, and checking emails in the middle of the night.

If these habits do not benefit us, why are we still repeating them?

When we face life challenges, we tend to seek temporary comfort or satisfaction from these habits. Over time, we resist changing them even when we know that they are not doing us any good.

Dr. Stephanie Collier* explained that when the brain seeks satisfaction or does anything that helps us to survive as species like eating or having sex, it releases dopamine.

Dr. Luana Marques** added that when we try to break a bad habit, we create dissonance at the brain level. The limbic system in the brain feels “threatened” and activates the fight-flight-or-freeze responses, resulting in our sticking with the bad habits as a way to avoid the “threat”.

Changing a bad habit is difficult but absolutely achievable.

In his book “ The Power of Habits”, Charles Duhigg explained that breaking a (bad) habit starts by breaking up the three components of the Habit Loop.

    1.  The Cue: it is the trigger that activates the habit or the routine behaviour. It usually falls into one of the following categories: location, time, current emotional state, people around you, and your last action. For instance, walking by a coffee shop or a dessert shop prompts you to get a cup of coffee or a sweet dessert. In this case, it is the location. When it is mid-morning in the office, you think of having a break, it is the time. When you are bored, you think of surfing the net or watching your social media, it is the state of mind. The action of leaving home cues you to check if you have your wallet in your purse/ pocket.
    2. The Habit: refers to repeated behaviour or routine. For instance, jiggling your leg every time you are nervous creates the habit.
    3. The Reward: it is the temporary relief you get out of the habit. Drinking alcohol or eating chocolate when feeling sad brings a state of relaxation and feeling better. Shopping online brings the feeling of being important/attractive when you purchase items/services you want but don’t need. The reward reinforces the routine and keeps the (bad) habit firmly rooted.

When the bad-habit urge hits, identify your cue. Are you alone, feeling stuck, sad, or not good enough? Also ask yourself when, where, and with whom it happens.

Collier explained that urges follow a cycle of about 20 minutes. They start being intense then wane. What can you do to get through the cycle? The best way is to distract yourself. Eat healthy snacks instead of junk food, and go for a short walk instead of online shopping or scrolling through your social media. Find ways to reduce your stress instead of smoking. Tell yourself that you are much stronger than succumbing to the temptation of a bad habit. Listen to positive affirmations to boost your self-esteem and feel “good enough” about yourself. Change your environment and avoid places where you most likely are tempted to do retail therapy or have that drink before going home.

Also, keep in mind that change does not happen in an all-or-nothing mindset, instead, tackle the change in baby steps. If you tend to eat unhealthy snacks, start by mixing unhealthy with healthy food, then gradually reduce and replace the unhealthy food.

If you feel resistant to distracting yourself, practice the “5 Second Rule” technique initiated by Mel Robbins where you count down “5-4-3-2-1-GO” and then do a task right away. This way, your brain will not have time to feel “threatened” and slam on the emergency brake by sticking with the old habit.

*Dr. Stephanie Collier is the director of education in the division of geriatric psychology at McLean Hospital, and instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
**Dr. Luana Marques is the associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School


Mel Robbins, “The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage“, Savio Republic, Feb 17th, 2019

Duhigg, Charles, “The Power of Habit: “Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business”, Random House, Feb 28th, 2012

Written By:
Sanaa Lundgren
Counsellor & Collaborative Family Practitioner
SACAC Counselling

Loneliness, Health, and Mental Wellness

I had three clients recently who all told me similar things during their intake sessions, “I have a good career, many friends, and a strong relationship with my family, but I feel so lonely and empty inside.’’ Research had shown that loneliness among teenagers, young adults, and seniors has increased over the years.

Loneliness is something every person will experience at some point of time in their life. Loneliness is a state of distress or discomfort that creates a feeling of emptiness. It leads to a disconnect between what we feel and experience. This is especially true when it comes to the social and emotional connections we feel and the real-life experiences we are in. It is why some people who are surrounded by others throughout the day—or who are in a long-term relationship and married—still experience a deep and pervasive loneliness.

Studies had shown that there are physical and mental repercussions to loneliness. These persistent feelings of loneliness can lead to mental health challenges like depression and physical health challenges like chronic pain, and in extreme cases, they may contribute to having suicidal thoughts or behaviors. In order to overcome loneliness, it is important to identify the root cause of the feeling, communicate those feelings with others, and practice self-care.

Loneliness can be overcomed, but it requires a conscious effort. In the long run, making those changes can make you happier, healthier, and enable you to impact others around you in a positive way.

Here are some ways to prevent loneliness:

    • Consider community service or another activity that you enjoy. These situations present great opportunities to meet people and cultivate new friendships and social interactions. It will also give you a sense of value of your own life.
    • Expect the best. Lonely people often perceive the worst of things. They expect rejection, so instead, try focusing on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships.
    • Join a group or start your own. For example, you can consider creating or taking a class at a community center, joining a book club, or taking an exercise class.
    • Strengthen a current relationship. Building new connections are important, but improving your existing relationships can also be a great way to combat loneliness. Try calling a friend or family member you have not spoken to in a while.
    • Talk to someone you trust. Reach out to someone in your life to talk about what you perceive as important to you or your life. This can be someone you know such as a family member, but you might also consider talking to your doctor or a therapist.

Loneliness can leave people feeling isolated and disconnected from others. It is a complex state of the mind that can be caused by life changes, mental health conditions, poor self-esteem, and personality traits. Loneliness can also lead to serious health consequences including decreased mental wellness and physical problems.

At SACAC Counselling, we have a group of professional therapists that can help you cope, and live a fulfilling life. You should seek help for your loneliness:

    • If feelings of loneliness are accompanied by persistent or worsening depressive symptoms, fatigue, and other mood-related symptoms that prevent you from functioning in your everyday life.
    • If you are having negative thoughts about yourself that are self-hating or self-punishing.
    • If at any point you’re having suicidal thoughts or urges.

Written By:
Joyce Ng
Clinical Psychologist
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
SACAC Counselling