back-to-school

Back to School Anxiety – Tips to Help Kids With School Stress

Back to school can be an exciting and anxious time for our kids. After summer holidays, they are not always eager to get back into the school routine. Even being excited to see friends they haven’t seen since the end of the last school year can add stress. For some, toss a new school into the mix, and, well, you get the idea.

We want our children to have positive experiences at school. We also don’t want them to feel overly anxious and nervous. So, how do we help them ease into the new school year?

Tips to Help Kids With School Stress

  1. Remind them they are not alone: While it may seem to them as though everyone else is comfortable and confident, let your kids know that most kids are actually anxious about the return to school. The nervousness they feel is completely normal.
  2. Sleep, sleep, sleep: Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, not just during the school year, but in the days leading up to the start of school too. Start to get into a regular bed time routine before your kids’ first day. Also, remember that your child may be extra tired and a bit cranky the first days or weeks of school. You may need to exercise more patience with them!
  3.  Give them healthy fuel: Start the day off with a good, healthy breakfast. Going to school with an empty stomach won’t give them the strength they need both physically and mentally. Make sure they have enough for snacks and lunch too.
  4. Listen… A LOT: If your child is experiencing stress and talks to you about it, let them talk. Listen to what they have to say and remember that issues that may not seem important to you may be very important to them.
  5. Talk to them: You can relay your own experience, but remember, you are sharing your experience to help them understand that their fears are normal and not minimize their feelings. Say things like, “I remember what it was like, and yes it is hard” rather than “I remember what it was like, but now I see it’s not a big deal” will go a long way. Make sure your kids know that they can come to you with any problem they may have.
  6. Be Prepared: Make sure you have all the supplies they need ahead of time. A day or two ahead, help your child decide what to wear and make sure those items are clean and ready to go for their first day. Make sure they know the routine for getting to and from school.
  7. Keep a close eye on them: You know your child. If you think they may be experiencing anxiety that is unusual or severe, it may be time to seek professional help for them.

Checking in with your child routinely on how they’re feeling about school can help you identify any issues that are being to boil. School can be challenging, but it should be a fun place to go.

What ways will you help your kids? Tell us in the comments below!

couple-437987__340

Puberty And Sexuality In Adolescents With Disabilities

Sexuality is a part of everyone’s life.

All too often the perception is that people with developmental and/or cognitive disabilities are not interested in or have the ability to be involved in intimate relationships that most of us take for granted. This is not true.

For example, the National Down Syndrome Society indicates that creating an environment conducive to healthy sexual expression must be considered in designing educational, vocational, social, recreational and residential programs. Positive sexual awareness can only develop through personal empowerment, self-esteem, understanding of social relationships and personal interaction/communication skills. All these factors influence how intimacy needs are met.

Teaching Everyone

The emotional ups and downs that are common in adolescence are also present in pre-teens and teens with disabilities. As with all children, they will have questions and wonder about some of the feelings they are experiencing and the changes their bodies are going through. We do a real disservice to them if we ignore these facts.

Without any knowledge or explanations, they may develop fears and anxiety about what is really perfectly normal. It is vital for children to have the facts so that they are not vulnerable to unintended pregnancy, sexual abuse, and sexually transmitted infections.

It is a sad truth that those in our society with disabilities are often targets of sexual predators. Arming them with information and confidence can help lessen their risk. The more you talk openly and honestly with them about sexuality, the safer they will be.

Children with disabilities need the same information and education about puberty and sexuality as other pre-teens and teens. When talking to youth about sex, their ability to understand the material needs to be taken into consideration. However, it is important to cover all the bases and not skip over anything. Many teenagers and adults with disabilities understand more about sexual development, sexual activity and pregnancy than their parents and others would expect. One must be mindful to focus on not just the physical sexual act and reproduction, but also with decision-making, cultural norms, peer pressure, relationships, and social skills. The conversations can take place over a period of time and some of the information may need to be repeated.

Knowing “No”

All children need to be taught the difference between good touch and bad touch. They also need to understand that it is ok to say no to anything that makes them feel uncomfortable – not just with strangers, but with acquaintances and friends too! “No” and “Stop” can be very powerful (and empowering) words and they need to know that they can use them. They also need to know that it is not their fault if someone makes them uncomfortable and that they should also tell a trusted adult if something happens. In addition, they need to learn boundaries for their touching others. Sadly, since many children with disabilities are not taught boundaries, they can get into trouble surrounding inappropriate touch.

Building healthy relationships is key to happiness and satisfaction for so many; it is no different for many kids with disabilities.

It is my thought that we should approach the teaching of issues and information surrounding puberty and sexuality for youth with disabilities much the same way we do for other youth – with honesty, compassion, and understanding. Factual information about their bodies, what is happening (or will be happening) will help them through what is a challenging time.

With an understanding of the changes they are going to encounter, the feelings they may experience, and what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, they will have the tools they need to be healthy and safe both physically and emotionally.

kids7

Teaching Your Children – Honesty

Have you ever caught your children in a lie? Have you ever told a lie?

If you answered no, well, I think you are lying!

I am sure we have all told some little white lies in our time to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. We may have even found ourselves in a situation when a lie seemed like a good idea at the time and told a doozy that we regretted later (or not!).

And you can bet that at some point when you were growing up, you lied to your parents to do something you were not supposed to do or to not get into trouble for something you did. Why would you think your kids would be any different?
Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny

I’m not talking about the “lies” about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy either. Although, some people do classify these as harmful lies we should never tell our children; I don’t believe that.

Compulsive Lying

What I want to talk about is the compulsive liar; the ones who lie about the important things, the ones that lie so much they no longer seem to be able to tell the truth or keep their lies straight or the ones who lie to cover up their other lies. This happens with both children and adults. I think we have a responsibility to our children to be honest with them and teach them the importance of honesty.

Encouraging Your Children to Lie?

I know a parent who had her child lie for her to her husband (also the child’s father) about where they were and who they were with.  If you want to lie, well then as an adult I guess that is your prerogative. But having your child lie to their other parent for you? What is this teaching the child? How must this make the child feel? I think it teaches two things. First, that it is ok to do things you are not supposed to do, and second, that it’s ok to lie about it.

When Would the Lies Stop?

Many say that one of the most important things in our love relationships is honesty. When our kids grow up and are in relationships of their own, how will they know what this looks like if they did not experience it growing up? If we do not teach our kids honesty, are we setting them up for failure in their future relationships?

Teaching About Honesty

I think the best way to teach honesty to our children is by example. If they see us being truthful, that is what they learn; if they see us being deceitful, that is what they learn.

If we are truthful with our children, they will learn to be truthful with us and with others.

Sometimes this is not easy! Kids ask tough questions and sometimes the truth may not be pleasant. Also, sometimes the truth will not shed the best light on us! If we mess up, we should admit it, not lie try to cover it up. I think aside from teaching honesty, seeing that their parents are not perfect and are willing to own up to their shortcomings teaches them a lot too.

Besides, telling the truth makes life much easier. As Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” How do some people keep all the lies straight? Maybe they have told them so often that they actually believe them to be true. I don’t know.

end-friendship

Breaking up with a Friend

Ending a Friendship

I am fortunate to have many great friends in my life. I know that they will be there for me, and that I will be there for them through good times and not so good times. We can laugh and cry together. These are people I enjoy spending time with, and enjoy spending time with me. Sadly, I have also had friendships that were not so great. I’m sure this is true for most of us.

Sometimes we find ourselves in unhealthy relationships – and often we are not sure how we got there or when it happened. Sometimes friendships start out great and then over time things change. Other times, we just don’t see the dysfunction for a long time. Many times we keep up with these friendships because we have invested a lot of ourselves into the relationship. How do you know when to just walk away?

First thing, it’s ok to end a friendship. Just like it is ok to get out of a romantic relationship if things are not working for you, it is ok to end a friendship too. It hurts (a lot!), it doesn’t feel good (that’s an understatement!), but in the end you will be better for it.

Break the Habit

Sometimes we remain friends with someone because we have been friends for so long. Long time friendships can be wonderful and very rewarding. It is natural for any long term relationship to go through ups and downs and periods of closeness and distance. We may have friends that we don’t see often, but when we do see them, it is like no time has passed. There is a closeness and connection!

However, there may be times when you just don’t have any connection to the person anymore and you just see each other out of habit. It’s ok to break the habit if you don’t feel you want to spend time with that person anymore. It’s doesn’t need to be drastic, sometimes these relationships can just gradually fade away.

Feeling Unvalued

Have you ever found yourself remaining friends with someone even though you no longer feel good about spending time in their company or feel that you are not valued? You are not alone by any means. It can be heartbreaking! When you realise this, it’s ok to distance yourself from that person or end the friendship all together.

One sided friendships

Have you ever been in a friendship where you feel as though you are the only one really making an effort to maintain the friendship? Are you the one initiating contact most of the time? Does being this persons friend make you sad, wondering why they don’t make an effort? If so, it’s ok to stop making contact. You may not even need to ‘break up” as often the friendship will just fade away without you making all the effort.

Negativity Bringing You Down

If you find that you are brought down by being with someone because of a negative attitude, or are brought down by listening to them talk negatively about others, it is time to look for more positive people to spend your time with.

Feeling Judged

It’s ok for people to have different viewpoints, beliefs, and values. It is not ok is when someone is judging you for being different from them. You don’t need this person in your life.

How to End it?

Sometimes you can just let a friendship fade away. Other times, you may have to just be blunt and let the person know you do not wish to spend time with them. Be honest with yourself and with them, and try not to blame. Try to not let your emotions run wild; if you can be matter-of-fact and not get into an emotional roller coaster ride with your friend, you will feel better for it in the long run.

Enjoy the Good Friendships

When you stop being friends with people who are not good for you, you will have more time to enjoy the healthy relationships in your life!

kids6

Is it Spying or Just Good Parenting?

Is it spying or just good parenting? Monitoring kids and their cell phone activity.
We have all heard a lot about keeping our kids safe on their cell phones – monitor their activities, check out what they are looking at, and keeping tabs on who they are talking to and texting with on their phones.

The question is: When does it cross the line and become a total invasion of their privacy?

I know if my parents had wanted to read every note I wrote to a friend (yes, I am of the generation before cell phones and texting where we used to pass written notes in class and write letters to distant friends) I would have been furious! If they had followed me around to see what I was up to every minute of the day, I would have gone bonkers! If they had listened in on every (or any for that matter) phone conversation I had, I would have blown a gasket for sure. Was I doing anything wrong? No, but that doesn’t mean I wanted my parents to see or hear everything! I am sure there were things that they would have found not appropriate, but that is all part of the growing process for kids.

Why is it that different for our kids and their means of communication? Reading all their texts? Checking their browsing history?

In most ways, it is not. Kids should have some privacy.

Many have concerns that all the technology today has made it a more dangerous place for our kids. The thought is that it has made it easier for them to fall victim to bullying, abuse, or worse because communication tools are at their fingertips at all times and there is little escape. Perhaps there is some truth to this. However, in a lot of ways, technology had made the world safer for our kids.

I remember receiving prank phone calls that were quite upsetting. I was in grade 7. There was no call display, no *69 to call the last number that called you – nothing! It got so bad that we had to involve the police and put a tracer on our phone. The next time this boy called, we left the phone off the hook and a couple of hours later, the police and the phone company were able to trace the call. I’m sure this boy had no idea his call could even be traced. Kids don’t make these kinds of calls now because they would be caught in an instant due to the current technology. Technology has made it harder for those who would bully or harass to remain anonymous.

Talk to your kids
If you are monitoring your kids phones, make sure they know it. If they know you are checking their interactions and activities, they may be less likely to get into mischief – at least on their own phones where they know they are being watched! Some say that letting our kids know you are checking in them may encourage them to be sneaky and just figure out a way around the snooping. But I think it is still better to be honest with your kids than sneaking around and spying on them. Imagine the trust that would be broken if they found out (and eventually, they will find out!).

I think it is better to have conversations well before your child gets a cell phone, and continuing the conversation over time in order to give them the tools they need to help keep themselves safe.

Your kids also need to know they can always come to you with any concerns or problems (and that you would not punish them or take their phone away from them as punishment).

Does your child even need a cell phone?

Maybe the question to ask if you are really worried about your child’s cell phone use is does your child even need a cell phone? Not want, but need?

Ultimately it really depends on the parent, the child, their age and maturity level, and a host of other factors. If you don’t think they can handle having a phone without constant snooping on your part, maybe they are not ready for the responsibility of a cell phone. Do they really need one?

Hopefully you will ensure that your kids will use their technology responsibly and won’t feel the need to spy on them…. Well, not too much anyways. 😉

assault

Why Victims of Sexual Assault Stay Quiet

Bill Cosby and Jian Gomeshi (and now Donald Trump)… Why did the victims not come forward sooner?

Warning: Contains descriptions of sexual assault.

Bill Cosby and Jian Gomeshi are making the news these days, but not for good reasons. Both are accused of sexual assault and the accusations go back years. This has a lot of people talking, and a lot of people asking the question of why these women didn’t come forward years ago. Some doubt their stories because of this.

I am not going to comment on the guilt (or innocence) of the two accused. What I am going to talk about is why these women may have waited so long to tell their story based on my experience… this is the first time I will tell my story.

My Personal Story

When I was 11 (maybe 12) years old, a work acquaintance of my father’s came over to visit. It was a sunny spring afternoon, and the adults were outside. I was in the living room – I don’t really remember if I was watching TV, reading, or doing homework. What I remember very vividly was this man coming into the room, sitting beside me, talking to me, and then touching me where he had no business touching me. When he went to lift my shirt, I ran and locked myself in the bathroom until I heard him go back outdoors. I never said a word. I was shocked and confused. I didn’t know what to think as I had never heard of anything like this (when I was a kid, no one talked about child molestation). I somehow thought it was my fault or that I would be in trouble. I don’t know.

Fast forward to when I was 18. A cute boy that a lot of girls liked cornered me alone at my house. Several friends were in the other room. He pushed me down, and then got on top of me. He put his hands around my throat and was choking me. I slapped at him, kicked at him, and told him to stop. Thankfully, he did. Again, I never said a word about this to anyone.

There have been more incidents over the years, but I won’t go into them all. I consider myself fortunate that my experiences were not worse. I can’t imagine the horrors that so many have gone through…

Point is, I never ‘went public’ until now. Even at that, I am not naming names. Why? I think the first man is likely long dead. I have had to forgive myself for not telling anyone because I wonder how many little girls didn’t get up and run away. I don’t even remember his name (just a last name) as he was only at our home once.

The second man is married now with two children. I see him around town, we have a friendly rapport (you may think that is very strange, and I suppose it is!)and I wonder if he even remembers that afternoon. Maybe my experience was an isolated incident, but I doubt it. No one has said otherwise though. If they did, I am not even sure I would come forward now. I guess I won’t know unless it happens.

Courage or Cowardice?

Am I a coward for not coming forward? Maybe. I am being very honest with you about my feelings – right or wrong, it is how I feel at this point. Maybe someday my feelings will change. But if I do come forward, will be believed or scorned and ridiculed?

Time to COme forward

Why don’t women (and girls) come forward immediately after an assault?  The reasons are varied. Fear of not being believed. Fear that they were somehow to blame. Self doubt. Fear that people will look at them differently.

So, why do women come forward many years after an assault? Their reasons are as individual as they are. It takes a lot of courage. Sometimes, things happens that makes them want to speak out.  However, I suspect that when one woman bravely comes forward, it gives others the courage to come forward and say it happened to them too.

Talk to Your Kids

Talk to your kids. Let them know that it is OK to tell! Let them know that there is no shame to them for having been mistreated or assaulted. If you have been assaulted in any way, talk to someone – anyone – about it. You are not alone and it is not your fault. This was something that took me a while to learn.

 

money2

The Importance of Teaching Your Kids About Money

We raise or kids the best we can. We teach them what we think they will need to know to be good people and be self-sufficient. One thing we need to be sure they have an understanding of is personal finance, and it’s never too early to start the lesson.

I overheard a conversation recently while standing in line that had me shaking my head. It was between a young university student and her friends.
“I’m essentially fiscally independent from my parents.”
“Wait, who pays for your car?”
“Oh, well, my dad is paying for my car, and my cell phone, but that’s all.”

How is this fiscal independence? Further conversation revealed that this young woman was also not paying her own tuition. If she thinks she is paying her own way, how will she manage when she really has to do it? This young woman was studying to be a doctor. I sure hope she understands medicine better than she understands finance!

Start Early

One way to start teaching your child about finances is by giving them an allowance – even very young children can start to learn about money. Make the amount reasonable for their age and let them decide how to spend the money, but once the allowance is gone, it’s gone until the next time. They will learn they need to save more in order to buy something else. This gives your child actual money to learn about and handle.

You can also teach them the value of money by comparing what different amounts of money can buy. Take your child shopping with you and compare the prices of two similar items and talk about why the cost may be different.

When they are a bit older, show your child how much money comes in each month, and how much goes out through the family expenses. How much is left? What happens to that money? If there isn’t anything left, then what?

The point is, get them to understand basic household finances. This will help equip them for the day when they will be on their own and need to be responsible for their own fiscal situation. These lessons can last a lifetime.

cyber-bullying

Cyber Bullying

Bullying occurs everywhere– in our schools, our workplaces and on the playgrounds. A new place for bullies to torment their victims has come about in the last several years– online. Social media (websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace etc.) have exploded in popularity and given bullies a whole new platform from which to spew their nastiness. Sometimes, the victim has never even met their tormentors in person.

Cyber bullying is every bit as serious as any other type of bullying, and sometimes cyber bullying can also lead to other types of bullying with very serious consequences. It isn’t as simple as stepping away from the computer or cell phone to make it go away.

Help Prevent Your Child from Becoming a Victim
As a parent, what can you do to help prevent your child from becoming a victim? Unfortunately, anytime your child spends online puts them at risk. If they are chatting with strangers, this takes the risks to a whole new level. Talk to your kids and make sure they understand the dangers. Everything they say or do online is out there forever for everyone to see, not just the intended recipient. Some kids don’t realize this, or if they do, they don’t quite get the implications of it. Give them the skills to be safe while online so that they can have positive experiences and interactions.

How to Tell if Your Child is Being Bullied Online
One big way is to observe your child’s attitude towards technology; if they once loved their cellphone, computer, ipod, tablet and now are not using them like they used to, or even avoid them, that could be a big clue that something is going on. Sometimes, their personality changes too, much as it would if they were being bullied in person. They can become withdrawn, sullen, and depressed. If you think something isn’t right, listen to that instinct and resist the urge to chalk it up to them just being cranky or normal teen angst.

How to Stop Cyber Bullying
The best way to help stop any bullying is to speak out, and cyber bullying is no exception. Make sure your kids know they can come to you with anything, anytime. However, lots of kids won’t talk to their parents because that wouldn’t be cool. Make sure they know that you understand this, and if they are not comfortable talking to you about it, they can talk to a teacher, their principal, or a friend’s parents– really any adult they trust– and keep talking to as many of them as possible! Speaking out is the key here, and help is available. As a parent, stand by your kids and talk to others, including the police.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Cyber Bullying
The best way to start the conversation is to just ask! It’s amazing what kids will tell us when we just ask. Something as simple as “What can you tell me about cyber bullying? Is this something that goes on in your school?” can get the conversation started.

How to Make Sure Your Child is Not a Cyber Bully
Talk to your kids about bullying, including cyber bullying, and let them know what behaviours are not ok! Let your kids know that if you ever see them bullying someone, that the consequences will be severe. You know your child best, so you would know what would be the best punishment– from taking their cell phone or computer away from them to taking them to having them volunteer for community service– and be sure you follow through. If you are concerned that it is an ongoing problem, you may want to have them see a counsellor.
To take it one step further, we need to know why a child is a bully. Sometimes it is an isolated incident to “be cool” with other kids, or to boost themselves up by putting someone else down. However, if a kid is a bully in the classroom or online, there’s usually something else behind it, and unfortunately it may be a cry for help. It could be that they are being abused or neglected at home. It’s a big issue and a lot of times, people don’t even think of that. We are often quick to want to punish, when sometimes the bully also needs help.

Talk to Other Parents
Talking to other parents can help you all understand what may be going on with your kids. Communication is the key, and other parents may have ideas and insights that hadn’t occurred to you. Share your ideas in the comments below!

Be part of the solution and help put a stop to cyber-bullying!

bully1

Bullying – When the Teacher is the Bully

There is a lot of talk about bullying these days — and thank goodness there is! I have been heading up our local Pink T-Shirt Day campaign (www.pinktshirtday.ca) for the past several years in an effort to get people talking about bullying and to teach kids skills for helping to deal with things when they encounter bullying. I will be sure to talk about some of these skills in other posts as they are so very important.

One of the things we tell our children is to talk to a teacher when they feel they are being bullied or see someone else being bullied at school. But what do you do when the bully is one of the teachers?

When the Bully is the Teacher

Now, before anyone gets too excited, I do know that the majority of teachers are wonderful and have the best interests of their students at heart. However, a new friend of mine was relaying a story about when she was is school, and I realized as the story progressed that her teacher had bullied her. This really got me thinking! Looking back, I can also remember several times in my school days when kids were bullied by teachers. I really remember one boy in my class who really went through so much one year in school because our teacher really picked on him. I was young, naive, and it never would have occurred to me to tell my parents or another teacher what was happening. I doubt this little boy did either.

I know kids will often complain about their teachers, but there is a big difference between a teacher being firm, expecting the kids to pay attention, and insisting that there work be done and handed in on time, and a teacher who ridicules, taunts, or continually chastises a child. We need to be sure we really understand what is behind the complaints.

Understanding Bullying

As parents, we can help our children by letting them know that it is not ok for anyone to treat them or anyone else in a manner that feels like bullying. Make sure they know that bullying can be a combination of many different things. According to www.bullying.org, bullying is doing, saying or acting in a way that hurts someone else or makes him or her feel bad on purpose. Make sure they understand that it is not ok for a teacher or any adult to call them names, tell them they are stupid, or push them around. Make sure your kids know that they can tell you or another adult they trust if they feel their teacher is a bully.

Dealing with Bullies

So, what do we do if our child comes to us and we realize that the bully is one of their teachers? I would suggest (after you’ve had some time to calm down — I know my initial reaction would be to freak out and want to slap someone up side the head, but this would be neither appropriate or productive) talk to a few of the other parents you know and see if they have heard similar complaints from their child. Call the school and set up a meeting with the principal (and ask other parents to join you if they have the same concern) and possibly the teacher in question. Calmly and objectively tell them what your child has told you. If the principal doesn’t want take any action, or you are not satisfied with their suggested resolution, you may wish to take your concerns to the school board.

That’s my opinion, anyway. What would you do? Let me know