Chelsea Moon is a 30-year-old recent university grad and mother of two, who is joining the Ride Don’t Hide movement for the first time this year. She’s riding for herself, her daughter, and all Canadian families who live with mental illness.
Chelsea’s oldest child, 9-year-old Ali, is an active kid who loves to dance, spend time with her friends, and help her family in the garden. Ali also lives with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which means that she can have trouble focusing, and become overstimulated from activities like going to the grocery store or out for dinner.
ADHD is a mental illness that affects the way a child behaves or acts, and occurs in about 5% of school-age children. Although it’s normal for all kids to sometimes have trouble paying attention, children with ADHD often have particular, recurring challenges sitting still and concentrating, which can cause problems both at school and at home.
Although Chelsea has her own experience with a similar mental illness—she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at age 12—she felt that her family needed some extra help in navigating her daughter’s condition. After consulting with a pediatrician, Chelsea was referred to CMHA BC’s licensed parenting program, Confident Parents: Thriving Kids.
“I thought ‘You know what? If something can help, I’m all for it,’” Chelsea said.
Confident Parents: Thriving Kids is a telephone-based coaching service designed to reduce mild to moderate behavioural problems in kids aged 3-12. Parents learn practical skills to encourage positive behaviours, set healthy limits, and solve problems with their children. They are supported by Confident Parents coaches, who guide parents step-by-step through the process and answer questions along the way.
Through this program, Chelsea and her husband have learned to handle Ali’s behavioural problems in a more positive way, with an emphasis on reinforcing good behaviour rather than punishing negative behaviour. In a short time, she has noticed a big improvement in her family’s day to day lives: whereas she and her husband used to turn down opportunities to go out to eat, they now have strategies to help Ali navigate restaurants and other challenging public environments.
“The program helped us with things like taking Ali to the grocery store or taking her out for supper, just being in public [and] being around other groups of people,” she said.
“I have recommended it to literally every parent I have met that has a child who struggles with any sort of behavioural challenges.”
The program has also helped Chelsea and her family deal with the stigma that can often come with having a mental illness.
“It definitely made us stronger as a family, and it helped Stewart and I – that’s my other half – realize that we’re not the only parents that deal with this, and that there are other people going through similar struggles,” she said.
Outside of the Confident Parents program, Chelsea has found that physical activity helps improve her daughter’s mental health and attitude—particularly around bedtime. Ali dances four days a week, and the whole family enjoys playing outside and riding their bikes. This year, they will also cycle as a family in the Greater Vancouver Ride Don’t Hide.
Aside from promoting the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, Chelsea believes that Ride Don’t Hide plays an important role in creating a public conversation around mental illness.
“I think there’s a big dark cloud that weighs over the heads of everyone that struggles with a mental illness or any sort of behavioural disorder. People walk around ashamed of it, and feel like it’s taboo to talk about it,” she said.
“I want to be able to say ‘I’m a mom with ADD, and my daughter has ADHD, and we’re awesome!’ I don’t want my daughter growing up in a world where people judge her and put a negative connotation on her struggles. If I learned nothing else from this program, it’s that positivity really does make a change.”