Scott.Anderson@burnabyschools.ca

Counsellor Taylor Park Elementary and Gilpin Elementary

Sleep Routines

Hello Everyone,

This morning it took me 20 minutes to wake up my kids. Like most of you my family is adjusting from a more relaxed summer schedule back to a school schedule, including earlier mornings and thus earlier bed times. For us this has not always been easy as my youngest is entering Kindergarten and this morning routine and length of day is new to her. We are noticing that her emotions are bigger during the week and she is more sensitive to frustrations by the end of each day. This may sound familiar to some of you.

Today, I thought it may be helpful to speak about sleep. So, if you are interested in thoughts on   sleep and tips for promoting healthy sleep patterns in your family, I invite you to explore the post I wrote last year on the importance of sleep. It can be found at:

http://sd41blogs.ca/andersons/2021/01/20/sleep/

 

Welcome Back to School!

Happy September Everyone and Welcome (back) to School! 

The first days of the school year are exciting ones. However, it can also include some other feelings too, like anxiousness, anger, or even sadness. Many kids can’t wait to get back to school to see their friends, teachers and to continue their learning. For some, it may be their first year in school.  Many children also have some feelings of nervousness to go along with the excitement of a new school year. Who will be my teacher? Will I have my friends in my class? Will this next grade be hard? All of these are common and valid questions. In some cases the nervous feelings drown out the exciting thoughts and feelings, even to the extent of causing a child to feel reluctant to go to school.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of School Anxiety?

Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between run-of-the-mill worries about the first day of school and stronger anxiety that might need some extra help to overcome. Many times your child will tell you about their feelings. However, kids can sometimes not be as vocal about their anxiety, and their symptoms may be more body-based. Here are a few clues to look out for if you think your child might be struggling with school anxiety:

  • Headaches, upset stomach, or complaints of other physical problems on school mornings

  • Inconsistent or difficulties sleeping
  • Frequent physical complaints at school, without a clear illness

  • Repeated worries about bad things that could happen while at school, such as getting sick

  • Tantrums, anger, or outright refusal to go to school

  • Large emotions to situations they traditionally are able to handle (anger, panic attacks etc.)

  • Anxiety that seems to be more intense or long-lasting than what is usual for the child’s age

One or more of these symptoms might indicate that your child’s worries about school are stronger than they need to be, and they could use some help to move past them.

Tips for Supporting your Child Back to School 

The Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre has a recent article that might be helpful. Here are some tips that they have identified that might help you support your child as they return to school, or attend for the first time.

  1. Expect some pandemic fatigue – Transitions can be challenging for kids at the best of times. When you throw in a pandemic that has ushered in uncertainty at every turn, as well as caused disruption for kids’ social, academic, and extracurricular lives for many, many months, it makes sense that kids and parents alike would be feeling burnt out and out of sorts. Model having compassion for yourselves and your kids and know that if things feel hard, it’s likely because things ARE hard!
  2. Identify what is still in your control and your child’s control – Focus on what’s in your control, rather than on the unknowns. While we all would prefer certainty, pandemic times are challenging our ‘flexibility’ muscles in addition to our ‘perseverance’ muscles. Practice what you can do in the short term (e.g., the coming days or weeks) and try not to look too far ahead. Focus on practical things that help to keep us all safe – like regular handwashing and staying home when sick – rather than on the ‘what ifs.’
  3. Confidence is key – As a parent, your confidence is an essential part of helping your child transition back to school successfully. Children pick up on our fear! If you find yourself doubting your decision, you might want to try writing down the reasons why you want your child to return to school and review them regularly. And most importantly, remember to communicate this confidence to your child – this will help both you and them keep anxiety in check.
  4. Help your child prepare for school return – There’s actually a lot you can do to help your child prepare for return to school. Practice your routines (for now) and stay flexible. This could include things like going over the home morning routine, practicing the route you’ll take the school, and even doing a practice ‘drop off’ so your child knows what to expect. Have your child meet up with a friend at a park – allow them an opportunity to connect socially again before seeing a friend back at school. Going through these steps a few times before school actually starts will help your child get ‘back in the swing of things.’ It probably isn’t a bad idea for you either! Starting to get your child’s sleep schedule back on a ‘school schedule’ and eating well with regular meals and snacks are also ways you can start to get your child ready for return to school.
  5. Expect some anxiety – Most families are likely experiencing some level of anxiety or stress as they prepare for the return to school. However, if you’re ready for it, your own and your child’s anxiety won’t throw you off as much. Try some mindfulness activities as a family, and get outside together for some family fun when you can. It can also be helpful to practice scenarios with your child to help them know how to manage anxious feelings that may arise (e.g. deep breathing, running around on the playground at recess), and how to tackle challenging situations that may come up once they start school (e.g., if they are wearing a mask outside on the playground at school and their friends are not, practice how they can respond to questions about this).
  6. Reach out for help if you need it – It’s not a sign of failure or weakness to need some help ever – and especially now. So many families are nervous about back to school, and understandably so. Connect with the BC Children’s Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre to talk to a parent peer support worker, or talk to your family doctor or the administration or counsellors at your child’s school. Also have support networks in place for you as a parent or caregiver. Find a friend who will listen, keep you positive, and lift you up – and you can do the same for them! Social connection is essential for this hard work and we are stronger together. If your child is struggling and needs additional support, contact your local Child & Youth Mental Health team about mental health services available to them.

Additional Thoughts

7. Relationships are critical – Students with strong and trusting relationships with their teachers, as well as friendships with peers, are more likely to want to be at school and view it as a safe place to be. Your child’s teacher will be working hard on developing their relationship with your child. As a parent, you can help your child by facilitating opportunities for your child to make friendships with peers in their class (eg play dates, extra-curriculars etc.)

8. True learning happens in moments of manageable stress – Stress that is not overwhelming (ie mild stress vs Panic attacks) presents people with opportunities to grow and learn beyond their present capabilities. Most students will have some nervous feelings when going through changes like at the beginning of a school year. These are opportunities for growth if these nervous feelings are not overwhelming. If they are larger emotions please let your teacher and/or myself know so that we can come up with additional supports to assist your child.

As always I am here to support your family, as well as your child here at school.  Challenges transitioning back to school is one area that I assist with but I work with many children supporting a diversity of mental health needs.  If you feel like your child would benefit from some extra support please be in contact with me and we can discuss how we can help your child be successful at school. You can reach me by emailing me at scott.anderson@burnabyschools.ca to arrange a time to speak on the phone, online, or in person.

I look forward to a fun and exciting year filled with learning and growth.

National Child and Youth Mental Health Day

Hello Everyone,

May 7th, is recognized in Canada as Child and Youth Mental Health Day and though we should be reflecting on mental health everyday, it is important to use recognized days such as this as a reminder to reflect on our families mental health. How are we doing? How do we know? What do we need? What is going particularly well?  This past year has provided us with so many challenges, for our children too. So, it seems like an appropriate time to continue our reflection on our families mental health.

“Every child has the right to mental-health care when and where they need it. And it is our responsibility, as the adults in their lives, to ensure they get it. …Child and Youth Mental Health Day – a day for parents, educators, caretakers and the community as a whole to come together to talk about child and youth mental health and to connect with young people about their mental health.” Joint statement from members of our BC government (May 2020).

I often have conversations with parents about their child’s mental health. Frequently, I hear descriptions about a child’s behaviors accompanied by the questions – Should I be worried about this or is this typical for their age?  How do I talk to my child about my concerns? What should I do?  How do I connect with my child? Who can help us?

We often wait until our family is under particular stress or even crisis before examining these questions deeply. However, I would contend that these are all important questions to consider and conversations to have at any time.

On May 7th, Family Smart will be holding a free online conversation to members of our community. Family Smart has valuable programs led by well trained facilitators. I would encourage you to take part in this conversation if you think it may be helpful.

Conversations about Mental Health:
What it Sounds like at Different Ages.
It’s never too early to start … and never too late to
keep trying. Join us for a conversation about how
to connect with our kids between the ages of 0 to
18 years.

Led by Karen Peters, RCC ThriveLife
Counselling and Victoria Keddis, Parent &
Manager, Family Smart

For: Families & Caregivers
Date: Friday, May 7th
Time: 12pm – 1pm (PST)
Cost: Free of Charge

To register & receive an event reminder: http://www.familysmart.ca/events

 

Free Parenting Resources

Hello Everyone,

Welcome back to school! I hope that you all had an amazing Spring Break, that you found it restful and full of opportunities to connect with family.

Today, I wanted to highlight some free parenting workshops and support groups available to our community that will be starting in April. Parenting workshops are excellent ways to learn new approaches to parenting that may be helpful in your household. Support groups are equally useful ways to expand your emotional support and share best practices.

Let’s be real. Parenting can be invigorating, rewarding, and inspiring. Sometimes however, it can also feel exhausting and seemingly impossible to do well. Burnaby Family Life programs can help and they come highly recommended. I have heard from numerous parents that their workshops have been truly worth the time and have transformed the way they approach parenting. During Covid all of their current workshops will continue to be offered online. 

Registration for any of the following workshops or groups can be completed by clicking HERE

Systematic Training for Effective Parenting

Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (“STEP”) is a program for parents of children older than 4 years old. Learn about different parenting styles and approaches to better understand:

  • Why children misbehave and how to respond, when to intervene in sibling rivalry and when to ignore misbehaviour,

  • How to use effective discipline to establish and maintain boundaries,

  • How to use communication to build respect and cooperation to encourage the development of your child as a positive, contributing member of your family.

TUESDAYS, 6-8 P.M. | APR 13 – MAY 25 (7 SESSIONS)

or

SATURDAYS, 1:30-3:30 P.M. | APRIL 10 – MAY 22 (7 SESSIONS)

Nobody’s Perfect

An educational and support program for parents with children up to 5 years. Do you feel you don’t have enough time for yourself and sometimes you are just too exhausted to be patient with your child? Do you wish you could understand your child better and be a more effective parent? Remember, no one is perfect. Join other parents and explore parenting ideas in a group setting. This program helps you to get to know your child and provides you the skills to build your confidence as a parent.

TUESDAYS, 12:30-2:30 P.M. | APRIL 13 – JUNE 1 (8 SESSIONS)

or

FRIDAYS, 12:30-2:30 P.M. | APRIL 16 – JUNE 4 (8 SESSIONS)

Calm and Confident Parenting

Raising children in a new country without your support networks can be a difficult and stressful task. Join other parents in these weekly sessions to share strategies and ideas that will help create calm and joyful moments. Learn how to build life-long skills and habits for your preschool and elementary school aged children. Topics are kept flexible in order to meet the specific needs of the attending parents/caregivers but might include: mealtimes, bedtime, and screen time.

WEDNESDAYS, 12:30-2:30 P.M. | APR 14 – JUNE 2 (8 SESSIONS)

Fatherhood, a Journey

Come and meet other fathers to learn about raising children in today’s world. Topics include modern parenting techniques, how to notice and provide encouragement, modeling affection through communication, and age-appropriate expectations. We will also look at some effective strategies for positive discipline and communication. Other topics may be included to meet the specific needs of the attending fathers.

WEDNESDAYS, 6-8 P.M. | APR 14 – JUNE 2 (8 SESSIONS)

Copy of Rainbow Stripes Gay Rights Social Media Graphic (1).png

Are you a parent who identifies as LGBTQ2SIA+ and who is looking for a safe space to discuss parenting?

You are invited to join in meaningful dialogue with other parents, discover helpful resources and share the joys and trials of parenting unique for people who identify with the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.

Participants will explore parenting ideas and build a respectful community of support and compassion. With the guidance of a facilitator, the group will determine weekly discussion topics relating to parenting–these may include meal times, screen time, challenging behaviours and personal struggles. Together, participants will explore issues, and share experiences and resources.

WEDNESDAYS, 7-9 P.M. | APR 14 – JUNE 2 (8 SESSIONS)

Parenting for Immigrants

Raising children in a new country is a difficult task. Come and learn useful information on child development, the Canadian school system, child-care options, positive discipline, healthy nutrition and much more while meeting other parents and sharing your experiences.

THURSDAYS, 12:30-2:30 P.M. | APR 15 – JUNE 3 (8 SESSIONS)

Have questions? Feel free to reach out and speak with me or contact Burnaby Family Life at the contacts below.

Transitions and New Beginnings

Hello Everyone,

This week I attended a workshop on transitions and new beginnings that I wanted to share with you. The presenter was adapting the content from a mental health initiative put on by the Burnaby School District. I am going to try to summarize some of the content here.

The presentation reminded me of the many conversations I have had recently with friends and colleagues. We were reflecting on the one year anniversary of the Covid-19 restrictions here in BC, what has happened this year, where we currently are, and where we may be going. Many of these conversations included discussions of fear, frustration and loss, as well as thoughts about hope, opportunity, and renewal.

Transitions 

Transitions are different than change. Where change is something that happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it. Transition on the other hand, is internal.  it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through change. Change can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly.  As well, change is situational, transition on the other hand is psychological; it’s a three-phase process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Click image to enlarge.

As you can see from the image above, the three stages to any transition start with an Ending, the transition away from previous ways, a letting go. You will also notice a couple of time markers for our collective Covid-19 experience.

The Neutral Zone

The Neutral Zone is an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational.  This can often feel uncomfortable but it is also filled with opportunities.  Here people might experience:

1.Resentment towards the change initiative; low morale and low productivity.

2.Anxiety about their role, status or identity; skepticism about the change plan.

3.Despite these, this stage can also be one of great creativity, innovation, and renewal. This is a great time to encourage people to try new ways of thinking or working.

Any of this sound familiar?

New Beginnings

The New Beginnings stage is when people develop their new identity, experience the new energy, and discover the new sense of purpose that makes the change begin to work. We can anticipate that New Beginnings sometimes reactivate some of the old anxieties that were originally triggered by the ending.  New Beginnings establish once and for all that the ending was real.

Where are You and Where are Your Children? 

Take a moment and reflect back on the image above. In what stage would you place yourself today? Yesterday? Last week?  Equally important, is to be mindful of where your kids, partners, other family members are. Each member of your family may be at a different place. Being mindful of this can be very helpful as we support one another or seek out help for ourselves from the people close to us. Moreover, our children are experiencing the same emotions of loss, fear, and even hope and excitement for the future. Our children, however, have not fully developed their ability to manage uncomfortable emotions like fear and loss. They need our help and speaking to them about these feelings or, in some cases, connecting them with mental health professionals may be helpful.

Values as a Guide during Transitions

A quote that was highlighted during my workshop really resonated with me. It highlights the difficulty of transitions and the neutral zone. Maybe you will connect with it too.

It’s not so much that we are afraid of change or so in love with the old days, but it’s the place in  between that we fear… it’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.

Marilyn Ferguson, American Futurist

So, what can we hold on to during this time? To help yourself with this process, connect to your values. When you feel uncertain and confused, your personal values will provide direction. Family is an important value for me and reflecting on the transition we are currently engaged in reminds me to be grateful for my family and to spend time connecting to them. Doing so helps me feel hopeful and excited for the future. What personal values are centering you right now?

I wish you all an amazing spring break connecting to the things you value.

Screens, Social Media, and Mental Health

Hello Everyone,

Two weekends ago I was meeting up with a friend of mine at the dog park during the latest snow fall. Our dogs were obliviously and happily wrestling in the snow and it was truly amazing to see what was going on in the park. One child was sledding down the small hill in our local park in a laundry hamper, which has to be a truly unique Vancouver experience, and an epic parent vs kids snowball fight was going on on the other end of the field. Not to mention the craziness that was happening among the dogs who rarely see snow. As we were talking we noticed that all the other dog owners, about 8 in all, were glued to their cell phones. My friend remarked that they were all missing out on the amazing things going on in the park.

Screen time is increasing among all segments of our population, not just dog owners at dog parks. In part, this makes sense as during a pandemic there can often appear to be not much else to do than get on screens. In some cases, it is our only way to connect socially to others or have relaxing time. Screens can also be a strategy for managing our children. However, here are a few statistics related to kids and screen time that I found surprising and jarring.

Some statistics that stood out for me here are that only 8% of students in our community are meeting the recommended screen time limits, under 2 hours a day. Second, is the average recreational screen time among youth in our community is a whopping 5.6 hours/day.  The question that came up for me is what are the effects of this screen use on our children.

Positive Effects

First, and often less talked about, are the positive effects of screen use. During the pandemic we have become more reliant on screens for not only our jobs but kids are using them for school more frequently or to connect with friends. The positive effects of screens are significant and crucially important, especially to our children.

Missed Opportunities

Viewing screens (tv/movies) in a group, social/online gaming, and social media activities present us, and our children, with many positive experiences. However, while viewing screens we are also missing out on other opportunities such as physical activities. face to face interactions including connecting to family, reading, outdoor time, art activities such as drawing, or even managing boredom (an overlooked skill).

It is sometimes helpful to think of screen time and social media use like our diet. What are we consuming? Just like with food our digital diet can be nutritious or junk food. Having a treat is fine on occasion but we need to have a balance of experiences (food). If all we do is eat junk food we are going to start feeling terrible and our bodies are not going to be at their best. The same goes for screens. If we have a lot of screen time in a day we are can feel equally bad and our bodies will certainly not be at their best.

Social Media and its affects on your Mental Health

Positive Effects of Social Media

As humans, social interaction is vital to our psychological well-being. When we cannot see the people we love in person, social media gives us the tools to stay connected. For youth, social media plays a significant and important part in their social lives. While these platforms cannot fully replace face-to-face interaction, social media can provide a number of positive benefits.

Screen time can:

  • Provide emotional support during difficult situations
  • Raise awareness of important issues and advocate for social change
  • Create social connections when you can’t access them in person
  • Engage in creative self-expression
  • Network with people who have similar interests to you
  • Find new friends and communities to connect with

Problematic effects of Social Media

While social media platforms do provide some benefits, they can also have draw backs. Current trends and research suggest that there may be a strong connection between social media and mental health conditions. Some of these include:

Negative Self-Perception

When people post on social media, they typically share the highlights of their lives. However, when all we see on our feeds are positive experiences and achievements, we can feel worse about ourselves. These highly-edited highlights of other peoples’ lives can directly impact our self-esteem, resulting in a negative self-perception.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

While FOMO is a common phenomenon that we experience on and offline, social media can exacerbate these feelings of exclusion and envy. On social media we often may see people at parties and events, hanging out with friends, or taking exotic trips — leading us to believe that others lead better or more fun lives. FOMO can be very harmful to our mental health, resulting in lower self-esteem and higher anxiety levels.

Loneliness and Isolation

Although social media platforms are full of people, social media platforms may make you feel more alone than ever. High social media usage increases feelings of isolation and loneliness, and reducing social media use can decrease them. Focusing on face-to-face interaction with the people around you may improve your overall well-being.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are common mood disorders that affect millions of people.  Research suggests that there may be a correlation between time spent using social media and depression and anxiety symptoms.

Some Signs Social Media Is Affecting Your Mental Health

Everyone uses social media and screens differently, however, using these platforms should not make you feel unhappy or anxious. If you log off  feeling worse about yourself than before you started scrolling, your feeds may be impacting your mental health — and you may want to reduce your screen time. Some signs of social media affecting your mental health are:

  • You Feel Sad, Drained, or Stressed after use
  • You Constantly Compare Yourself to Others
  • You Find It Difficult to Stay Off Social Media
  • ‘Likes’ Directly Impact Your Self-Esteem

Tips for Improving Your Relationship with Social Media

  • Refine your feeds (What are you consuming? Does it enrich your life?)
  • Limit daily usage
  • Create no-phone zones or times in your house (this should apply to ALL family members)
  • Take a break from social media

How do you know when your child’s digital diet is not healthy? 

  • Is your child staying up later and later to stay on the computer/device?
  • Is your child fidgety, anxious and/or angry if they don’t have their device?
  • Is their tech usage negatively impacting their schoolwork, family life or other activities or interests?
  • Is your child dreaming of virtual imagery?
  • Is your child hiding their screen usage or hiding their devices from you?
  • Does your child seem to be having a more difficult time regulating their emotions?
  • Does your child seem more apathetic and bored more easily?
  • Is your child aggressive when the device is removed?
  • Is your child participating in unsafe behaviors online?

Every child is different and each have unique needs and tolerances, including tolerances for screen time. But if you are finding the answers to the above questions are ‘yes’, it may be worth reviewing your family screen time policy. In the end the goal may be to restore a healthy balance of activities in your family.  Consult with a mental health expert if you feel like you need some help refining your families digital diet.

Resources

Looking for tips for limiting gaming in your household? Click HERE

 

 

But I Don’t Want to go to School! – School Refusal or Avoidance

Hello Everyone,

School avoidance/refusal is difficult to support as a parent. It frequently leads to big emotions on both sides, parent and child. It is also often misunderstood. Some see it as a motivation issue, a choice in some way, or being defiant….They would just rather stay home. While that very well may be true, school avoidance is often a symptom of a deeper issue, a challenge that the child feels like they just can’t overcome. This could be social, academic, or a sign of a mental health challenge the child is struggling with such as anxiety or depression.

Students want to do well, but at times things get in the way. It can often build to the point of school avoidance. Teachers or peers may not see it as kids often behave differently at school then they do at home. They will work extremely hard to conceal their inner pain and anxieties in front of their peers and teachers. When they get home, that is where they feel safe to unload and reveal their true feelings. I came across a video this week that I wanted to share. It does a really nice job trying to look at school avoidance/refusal from the perspective of the student and their feelings.

So, what can parents do to help stop the cycle of school refusal?

  • Step in quickly  – Missed schoolwork and social experiences accumulate.  Thus, school avoidance is a problem that grows larger and more difficult to control. Be on the lookout for any difficulties your child might have around attending school on time and staying for the full day. If the problem lasts more than a day or two, step in. Common signs are complaints of illness, frequent requests to call home, difficulty getting out of bed, refusal to engage with peers, and/or willingness to complete work at home.
  • What are the underlying causes? Try to find out why your child is avoiding school. Gently ask, “What is making school feel hard?” Is your child struggling socially or being bullied? Afraid of having a panic attack in the classroom? Worried about his academic performance or public speaking? Fearful of being separated from her parents for a full day?
  • Communicate and collaborate. Your child’s school is a key partner in helping your child overcome school avoidance. Contact the school counsellor or classroom teacher to share what you know about why your child is struggling to attend school. The more information the school has about why school avoidance is occurring, the better they will be able to help you. Problem-solving with your child and the school by identifying small steps that can help your child gradually face what he is avoiding at school. For example, let’s say fear about speaking in front of the class is a problem. A child might be permitted to give speeches one-on-one to a teacher, then to his teacher and a few peers, and gradually work up to speaking in front of the class.
  • Be firm about school. Be empathetic and normalize their emotions but don’t save them from these emotions. Escape  from a perceived fear only reinforces that it is a danger and their anxiety may increase next time they are asked to face this fear.  Tell them you are confident they can face their fears, and you are there to help them along with school staff. When they face this fear in a supported way, they will often find a reduction in anxiety the next time they face that fear.  Let your child know that while physical symptoms of anxiety, such as stomachaches, headaches, and fatigue are certainly unpleasant, they are not dangerous.  It’s important for anxious children to learn that they can persevere and do what they need to do even when experiencing physical anxiety, just as adults must in their own jobs.  Learning this firsthand can empower a child.
  • Make staying home boring. Is there anything about the out-of-school environment that makes it extra tempting to stay home? Do they get lots of fun adult attention? Make home as school-like as possible. No unfettered access to screens of any kind and no sleeping or lounging in bed unless genuinely sick. Be clear that if your child does not attend school, you will be collecting all screens and/or turning off data and home WIFI. Then follow through! Ask the school to send work for your child to complete during the day at home.

Other strategies for supporting anxious children are: Coping Strategies – Anxiety

School avoidance can be a serious problem that can worsen rapidly. However, when addressed collaboratively, children can learn to overcome these uncomfortable feelings. Work closely with the school and your child. In some cases, it is also a good idea to consult with a licensed mental health professional who specializes in child anxiety and can support you in helping your child re-engage in school.

Letting go of Uncomfortable Thoughts and Feelings

Hello Everyone,

When negative thoughts and feelings seem to take over, they can be really hard to let go. It seems like those negative thoughts are the only thing you can think about and as a result you are living in uncomfortable feelings throughout the day. Recently, a psychologist I follow wrote a description of negative feelings and the inner battle we have with them. I thought the analogy they used was a great way to put it, so I wanted to share it with you all.

If you are struggling with a feeling you don’t want to have, It’s like being in a constant tug of war. On the other end of that rope is a monster. The monster is all the thoughts and feelings you don’t want to have and between you and the monster is a big pit. You think that if you just fight hard enough that monster will fall into the pit and disappear forever. But you can’t win. You are exhausted but he’s going nowhere. If anything, the monster is edging you closer to the pit. The more you try to control them, the more they pull back. 

But what if there was another way? What if you let go of the rope and allow the monster (those negative feelings) to be there so that you can turn and focus on the things that matter most to you. Of course, the monster is still over there on the other side of the pit. However, you’re not so exhausted from trying to control him all the time and, as a result, the monster can’t control you either. 

So, how do we let go of the rope? It’s easy to say and hard to do. Some tips are:

  1. Talk it out. Talking about the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that are bothering us is a great way of starting to let go of them. Talking about our feelings with a trusted person, or being that trusted person for our children, is a great way of processing and letting go.
  2. Write it down – Journal writing is a great way of processing and letting go of uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. The placing of these thoughts in paper is a symbolic way of allowing these thoughts and feelings to leave our body and live elsewhere.
  3. Emotional Agility through Mindfulness – Here is a great article on this subject. I recommend taking the time to explore some of the great ideas the author brings up. https://www.mindful.org/feel-stuck-negative-emotions/

4. The Noting Technique – Though this video describes this as a way to deal with distraction while mediating, it also applies to negative feelings. It aligns us with the feeling accepting its existence, as opposed to in conflict with that feeling.

Life is filled of moments that don’t go how we hope. The negative thoughts and feelings that come with these moments are tough to manage. However, when we allow negative thoughts and feelings to exist and not struggle against them we take away some of their power. We can teach our children these techniques and allow them to consider that life brings uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.  More importantly that when they show up things can be okay, that they have the power to manage those thoughts and feelings, that they will be okay.

One great book for talking about this subject with our children is Trudy’s Rock Story by Trudy Spiller

 

Children’s Books I Love

Hello Everyone,

Earlier this year I was in a class room at story time. They were reading a book called Ruby Finds a Worry (see below). What I noticed was one particular student in the class was mesmerized by the story. As the teacher read the story she was asking thoughtful reflection questions of the students and the moment the teacher asked the question this student’s hand shot up into the air. She was so engaged by the story. What was obvious was that she looked physically similar to the main character and her reflections and comments were insightful and clearly made connections to the themes of the book. What was less obvious at first, but soon became clear, was how similar she felt to the main character.

Afterwards in private, the teacher exclaimed, that she was amazed because the student rarely was engaged in class and was very hesitant to offer her thoughts and feelings on any class activities. What struck me were two things. First, representation, being able to easily see aspects of ourselves represented in media, matters. Second, I was excited by how happy both the teacher and the student appeared to be. It was remarkable to me how this example clearly showed how “reading and discussing children’s books is an excellent way to invite children to identify the characters’ emotions and relate the characters’ experiences to their own (Roberts & Crawford 2008). Kids connect to story.

Daily reading with our children is an incredibly fun, important, and impactful activity. Reading is such a great way to build a bond between parent and child, improve literacy, and as a helpful part of a going to bed routine (see last weeks post). It is also a great way to build social emotional skills when the reading is paired with thoughtful questions and discussions (eg. How does the character feel right now? Have you ever felt like that? When? What did they do to make themselves feel better etc.)

So, today I thought I would share some of my favorite books. Though these are not the only ones, these are the books I find I pull off my shelf most often when I am working with kids.

The Bad Seed

The Bad Seed by Jory John is a picture book that promotes self-management, self-awareness and social awareness. It is a great book that all kids find fun and brings up themes that they can easily connect to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Oops 

 

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg is great for talking about growth mindset. That mistakes are how we grow and learn. It reframes mistakes or accidents not as things to be avoided but as opportunities.

 

 

 

The Invisible Boy

 

 

The Invisible Boy by Patrice Barton is great for having conversations about kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. It is beautiful illustrated and kids can really connect to these themes.

 

 

Sam’s Pet Temper

Sam’s Pet Temper by Sangeeta Bhadra and Marion Arbona is a great book for anyone who struggles with self-regulation and anger. It highlights that anger does not define who we are and can be managed. It is a great conversation starter for coping strategies for when there their Pet Temper shows up.

 

 

The Memory Tree

The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup is a wonderful book on a tough subject, death and grief. It is a wonderful story about fox who has recently died but still lives on in the lives and hearts of those who cared about him. Fox’s friends begin to gather in the clearing. One by one, they tell stories of the special moments that they shared with Fox. And so, as they share their memories, a tree begins to grow, becoming bigger and stronger with each memory, sheltering and protecting all the animals in the forest, just as Fox did when he was alive.

Ruby Finds a Worry

 

Ruby finds a Worry by Tom Percival is a great story about Ruby who is is an amazing young girl with one problem, she has found something to worry about. This book is the perfect springboard for talking to children about emotional intelligence and sharing hidden anxieties.

 

 

 

 

The Color Monster

The Color Monster by Anna Llenas is a really fun book that introduces young children to different feelings, how they feel in our bodies, and the topic of self-regulation.

 

 

 

 

 

Jabari Jumps

 

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall is an amazing book that is great for talking about anxieties, people who can support nervous feelings as well as perseverance and resilience.

 

 

 

 

 

Ping

 

Ping by Ani Castillo is an interesting book on a really important, if complicated, theme. Using the metaphor of the game of table tennis it introduces readers to the question of how we want to be around others. What do we want to put out into the world (kindness etc.) and what others may, or may not, give back to us.

 

 

 

When you are Brave

 

When you are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller is one of my favorite books. It is beautifully illustrated and explores the themes of fear, worry and bravery.

 

 

 

Mr Flux

 

Mr. Flux by Kyo Maclear and Matte Stephens is a really interesting book that introduces the idea of flexible thinking in a unique way. It is great conversation starter for the idea that change can come in all kinds of different sizes and doesn’t have to be scary.

 

 

 

 

 

What do you do with a Problem?

 

What do you do with a Problem? by Kobi Yamada is a beautifully illustrated book to explore problems and the opportunities that they sometimes hide with your child.

 

 

 

 

 

Not Quite Narwhal 

 

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima is a story of a unicorn who is raised by a family of Narwhals. It is a fun and unique way to introduce the topic of diversity and difference.

 

 

 

 

 

Guts 

 

Guts by Raina Telgemeier is a popular graphic novel with slightly older themes. It is a book that late primary and intermediate students love. The author has written a funny and  true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.

 

 

 

 

The Book with no Pictures

The Book with no Pictures by BJ Novak is a silly book. I find it helpful for reluctant readers or just to have fun during your daily reading routine. Don’t let the title fool you, it is a book kids of all ages (and adults) will love.

 

 

 

 

Happy reading everyone, most all these books are available at your local library or most bookstores. As well, if you are looking for a book on a particular theme that isn’t highlighted here feel free to be in touch. I would be happy to help.

The Importance of Sleep

Hello Everyone,

We have all been there. Our kids woke up repeatedly during the night, we had a hard time going to sleep worrying about work the next day, or we decided that we wanted to watch just one more show on TV. There can be many reasons why we don’t get a good night sleep. You may have also experienced that the next day can certainly be more challenging. You may be slow to get the day started and are running behind and your mind might not be as quick as it usually is. All of which can be stressful and motivation and energy seems to be low. Moreover, you may feel yourself getting irritated easily. You are certainly not at your best.

The same is true for our kids. Without a good nights sleep school can be a real challenge. Research into sleep shows that over time, insufficient sleep impacts how a child feels, behaves and interacts with others and their world. Insufficient sleep can lead to challenges regulating their emotions and bodies, including increased hyperactivity and stress. Moreover, research has shown that an inability to regularly get the recommended sleep can lead to a decrease in one’s overall mental health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know?

  • 1 in 4 children do not get the recommended sleep at night.
  • 1 in 3 children have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep
  • 1 in 5 children have difficulty staying awake during waking hours

So, how much sleep should our children be getting? Well, it depends on their age. For school aged children the recommended sleep time is 9-11 hours for children aged 5-13 years old and 8-10 hours for adolescents aged 14-17 years of age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips to help your child increase the quality and quantity of their sleep:

Establish a regular bedtime routine…..even on weekends

A child’s internal clock helps them to get sleepy and feel awake at specific times during the day.  If you allow your child to sleep in on the weekends, that will make it more difficult for your child to wake up at the regular time during the school week.  Similarly, if you allow your child to stay up late at night on weekends, they will have a harder time falling asleep at the regular bed time on school night.

Don’t do Anything Energizing Close to Bed

You want the child to relax, not get energized right before bed. So, wrestling, watching movies, and other high stimulation activities close to bedtime may make falling asleep more difficult.

Screen time 

Research has shown that screen time immediately before bed can result in sleep difficulties. Too much screen use (i.e. television, computer, mobile phone, video gaming device) in children has consistently been shown to delay bedtime and result in a shorter total sleep time. Exposure to bright light from television or computer screens close to bedtime may interfere with the body’s normal sleep-wake cycle by suppressing the production of the hormone melatonin. Using screens near bedtime (1 hour before) is also associated with poor sleep quality and daytime sleepiness.

Teach your Child how to Self-Soothe and fall Asleep Independently

Many parents  have different sleep goals here. So, this tip is applicable if your family sleep goal is independent sleep. If your goal is to have your child sleep in his/her own bed, then you need to help your child learn how to fall asleep without you present. If you are always present when your child falls asleep at night, your child will begin to depend on your presence to help him/her to fall asleep. Instead, put your child to bed when he/she is sleepy but has not yet fallen asleep and leave your child’s room before he/she falls asleep. This allows your child to associate sleepiness with their bed and also allows your child to learn to self-soothe.

Daily Physical Exercise 

Regular physical activity has a positive effect on sleep quality, including improving the time spent asleep versus awake in bed, decreasing the number of times children wake up each night, and increasing how rested they feel the next day.

Healthy Food and Beverages

Drinking caffeinated beverages can negatively affect children and adolescents’ sleep by increasing the time it takes them to fall asleep and decreasing the amount and quality of sleep they do get. Caffeine-containing drinks commonly consumed by children include pop, iced tea, and energy drinks.

Sleep challenges can be quite complicated. If you and your child are having difficulties meeting your sleep goals, reaching out to a family physician or counsellor who can assist you in your specific challenges might be an appropriate next step. If you would like help connecting to a therapist who specializes in sleep hygiene (high quality sleep) I would be happy to have a conversation with you and connect you to a trained sleep therapist. If you are curious the degree to which you have a sleep challenge, as well as what might be contributing to these challenges, a sleep diary may also be helpful. Logging the quantity and quality of your sleep over a 1-2 week period, as well as some other common contributing factors, can be very helpful in highlighting patterns and potential challenges to high quality sleep (eg. My child doesn’t get as much sleep on Mondays – may lead you to look at sleep habits on the previous weekend etc.)

Sleep Diary – Click here

There are LOTS of tips and tools for helping with sleep. Consulting a trained sleep expert is often a good step if healthy sleep habits are challenging to achieve. Some other sleep resources are:

 

My daughter and I made Good Night Yoga part of her sleep routine! She loved it and it was a great bonding experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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