Tag Archives: school

Damned if We Do, Damned if We Don’t…

Parent Trap

Parent Trap

As a freelance writer, I regularly receive articles, books, gadgets and expert opinions pertaining to parenting and health.

Usually I’m happy to discover new philosophies and content but, sometimes, it can be too much.

For instance, this Huffington Post article Anxiety in Children: Are We to Blame was shared by friends on Facebook yesterday.

The article is certainly valid, focused on the increase in “helicopter parenting” and our apparent inability to lay off kids and give them the independence they require. “…Seligman also identifies learning independence as a major source of growth. Kids need the opportunity to learn for themselves, the chance to make their own decisions and to see how the consequences work out.”

It’s a tough call. After hearing about an eight-year-old girl who was almost snatched on her way to school this week, parents have every right to be concerned about children’s safety.

Is it possible to encourage independence and learning while still maintaining a safe vigil? Where is that illusive line between hovering and respect, loving and awareness?

What’s your take?

Maybe It’s the Music

Take the edge off with some tunes.

Take the edge off with some tunes.

Mornings can be rough in our home. Nine times out of ten someone’s had a crappy sleep or is having a grouchy morning. If we get out to school/work on time, it’s a very good day.

My personal issue is that no matter how many times I tell myself, “Be patient” (through closed eyes and clenched teeth), I often end up yelling, cajoling, or making threats — No video games after school! No dessert after dinner! — in order to get the crew moving. That’s not fun for any of us.

However, the other day, I put a few videos on YouTube while the kids were doing last minute school prep. Before everyone got too stressed out, the mood lightened as we listed to Trouble by Taylor Swift and Dynamite by Taio Cruz. Heads bobbed, lyrics were sung… it was a very relaxing and fun way to head out the door.

Anything I can do to avoid the crazy half-dressed-where-are-my-socks-I-can’t-open-the-toothpaste-cap type of morning is absolutely worth it. And, if music is added to the mix? Even better.

Expert Guest Post on Math Anxiety

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Math for Grownups

I’m thrilled to have Laura Laing guest post on my blog today. Laura encompasses an almost unheard of quality – a professional writer who’s also good with math. In this post Laura expertly walks us math-phobes (parents and kids) through the dark, mysterious world of numbers.

If you’re interested in reading about my history with math anxiety, check out my guest post on Math for Grownups X to the Power of Huh? Or, How Math Anxiety Almost Ruined My Life.

Raise your hand, if any of these statements describe you:

“I was no good at math in school.”

“The thought of doing any kind of math makes my hands sweat and my heart beat faster.”

“I’m worried that my child will feel nervous and not confident in math class.”

Anyone identify? Heck, I do, and I’ve got a degree in math education and make a living writing about math—for parents, schools and average, everyday folks. Fact is: math makes lots of people squirm.

And I’m guessing that most of you know this is not a good thing. Math is an important and absolutely necessary tool. But what are we supposed to do about our lack of confidence or anxiety? And how should we help our kids avoid these awful feelings—or worse become truly math anxious? Read on.

Watch Your Language

Ever find yourself saying, “I’m no good at math”? If so, stop it.

Our kids really do listen to what we say. And as much as we might think otherwise, they aspire to be like us. So when they hear us say we don’t like math or aren’t able to do simple calculations, guess what? They take on those characteristics themselves.

But that doesn’t mean you have to fall in love with math or lie to your kids about what you understand. Try these responses on for size: “Math isn’t my favourite subject, but it’s really useful” or “I don’t know the answer; let’s find out” or “I have trouble doing math in my head, but I’m trying to get better at it.”

Consider this: Would you ever say, “I’m no good at reading”? Probably not. And most likely, you’d cringe if you heard your child saying the same.

Insert Math Here

All of us parents know how to raise young ‘uns who love to read, right? We start by filling their nurseries with books and reading to them, faithfully, every single day. But math is a little tougher.

Or is it? Fact is, it’s pretty darned simple to sneak in some math that builds numeracy (the math form of literacy) and helps fend off math anxiety.

With little kids, count everything, point out geometric figures and ask which things are bigger or smaller. With older kids, put a pile of change on the table and ask what the total is. Encourage your child to read a digital and analog clock. Do projects that require math: build a birdhouse, plant a garden or sew a pillow. (And check out Bedtime Math for a daily age-appropriate math question that you can ask your kids.)

In other words, demonstrate the math in everyday life and let your kids see you doing math. Make math ordinary and necessary.

Be a Parent, Not a Teacher

It’s tempting to purchase workbooks and flashcards. But the real truth is this: everyday math is a much more powerful tool. And hopefully that bit of news is a big relief.

Unless you are your child’s teacher, you really don’t need to take on that role. For once in your life, you can do the fun stuff that really builds confidence and ability. For example, if your child is confused about a concept, ask her to explain what she understands to you. Having her teach you is a great way for both of you to learn.

During homework time, there are some really important questions you can ask your child, like “How did you get that answer?” In this way, you’re instilling a critical truth: math is more than the outcome; it’s the process. And you’re demonstrating that you care about what’s going on in her head.

Talk It Out

Just like with other childhood anxieties, it’s important to listen to your child talk about his feelings. They may seem overwrought or irrational, but research shows that simply letting those emotions out can greatly reduce math anxiety.

It’s also critical to speak with your child’s teacher. You’re not necessarily looking for any special accommodations here, but you do want the teacher to be alert to any problems in the classroom. And if you worry that she is sending the wrong messages, let school administrators know. Unfortunately, research shows that girls can learn math anxiety from their female elementary school teachers.

The more matter of fact you can be about math—whether it’s homework or everyday math—the better off you and your child will be. So make an effort to deal with your own math fears, as well as your child’s. It’s an investment that will pay off for both of you.

Author of //rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?ref=qf_sp_asin_til&t=kidsmentalhea-20&m=amazon&o=15&p=8&l=as1&IS1=1&asins=B0057RIVYS&linkId=db05138c9b36b50a8b6e945ca0eef38f&bc1=ffffff&lt1=_top&fc1=333333&lc1=0066c0&bg1=ffffff&f=ifr” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Math for Grownups, Laura Laing blogs at www.mathforgrownups.com and is the math expert at MSN.com’s Mom’s Homeroom. A self-proclaimed math evangelist, she asserts that math doesn’t have to be your BFF, but you can get along in public!

Note: The above Math for Grownups link contains an affiliate link meaning that if you purchase the book using the link above, I may receive a commission.

New School Year, New Outlook

Bound for new horizons

Bound for new horizons

Like many children in Canada, today is the first day of school for my children.

Despite the hot, dry conditions much of Ontario endured this summer, it boomed with thunder, cracked with lightening and flooded with rain this morning.

Perfect way to start the school year, no? No.

Exhausted from lack of sleep (my older child must have gotten up about 18 times last night) and wet with rain, we scooted over to the local school and gathered in the gym. My son, whom I thought would be most nervous,  seemed happy with both his teacher and classmates. My daughter however was nervous, quiet and not pleased that one of her best buddies is in a different class this year.

As a parent I aim to present a positive, cheerful outlook without glossing over real anxieties. Honestly, I remember being pretty nervous about going back to school and seeing friends and teachers each year so why pretend it’s not a little nerve-wracking?

How will the first day of school pan out for my kids? Will there be cheers? Tears? Tales of gossip, friends who’ve moved, new teachers hired? I will discover all of this in about three short hours from now. Clock’s ticking…

4 Reasons Why Every Kid Needs an Outlet for Self-Expression

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Creativity Alive

Hello, Readers. I was approached by my guest poster, Lauren. She inquired about writing an article for KidsAndMentalHealth.ca. I admit being both flattered and skeptical but, I was pleased with Lauren’s submission and post it here. I hope you enjoy it!

Everyone needs to have something in their life that they love to do and are good at. Far too often we see parents trying to figure out what their child loves to do, or, even worse, demanding that they partake in some sort of after-school activity in order to “do” something. However, when left to their own devices, all children will gravitate toward the things that they love to do.

And, more often than not, the things they love will develop into a special talent. Not only is this an important part of childhood development, it’s an important aspect of life for people of all ages. So, whether you child loves art, music, writing, science, sports, or fashion, the importance of unique self-expression cannot be stated enough. Read on for the top reasons why your child should be allowed to find his own way to do what he loves.

1. Builds Confidence

When a child discovers an activity that he or she loves, they will want to practice that activity as much as possible. This will lead to mastery and a huge boost of confidence for the child. Learning how to work hard toward something that they cares about, and seeing the positive results of that hard work, will bestow your child with the confidence to pursue all types of new things.

2. Reminder That Everyone is Different

During the childhood years, there can be so much pressure to do and like the same things as everyone else. But, as adults, we now know that just because the coolest girl in school loves gymnastics, it doesn’t mean that everyone else needs to like or be good at gymnastics, too. When your child has the chance to explore his own likes and dislikes, discover activities that he excels at, and become confident in those gifts, the world begins to become a broader and more accepting place in his own mind.

3. Creates Unique Personal Goals

How many times have we come across a grown adult who has only just begun to consider doing something with his life that he actually cares about? When a child has the opportunity to express and explore the things that come most naturally, he will have a head start on discovering his hidden talents and sources for future success.

4.  Reinforces Well-Rounded Development

The school system as we know it does not place much emphasis on development of creative outlets for students, and if a student does not fit in to excelling at either academics or sports, he or she runs the risk of feeling very left out.  And, even if your child loves something that is practiced in the school system, like sports, for example, he or she may not make the team. Unfortunately, these educational models do not do enough to foster the development of a well-rounded individual. Children, whether at home or in the classroom, need the opportunity to explore and develop in all areas, and finding a unique form of self-expression will allow them to do so.

By-line:

This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at: blauren99 @gmail.com. 

The Play Date Conumdrum

Play with me?

Today is a slow day. I’m trying desperately to get ready for a full-time gig that’s coming up in the next few weeks.

My husband has a cold today and has plopped himself on the couch, yet the kids are bored and chores need to be done. My son has a play date scheduled for later today, and my daughter desperately wants to play with someone. We’ve tried two different neighbours but they’re both busy.

I have a tendency to take things too personally; whether that’s someone who doesn’t want to “play” with me or a kid that doesn’t want to play with my child. It’s not like there was  a date scheduled in advance – we just showed up at the neighbours’ doors but, I still think children should be pleasant and polite even if they can’t play. One child just said, “No” as soon as my daughter cheerfully asked if he wanted to play. However, the other child was much kinder with the father explaining that they’re putting on a party for relatives today. Completely understandable but my poor daughter is disappointed.

What do you think? How do you handle bored and distracted children? Do you tell other children to be polite and respectful or just bite your tongue? Do you just slough off no-go play dates?

Reaching Out: Q + A with Kids Help Phone Volunteer

Suzanne Shillington - Volunteer with Kids Help Phone

I’ve long been a fan of the work done by Kids Help Phone (KHP) as have the  225,622 Canadian youth who contacted the organization in 2010.

Kids Help Phone’s is Canada’s only bilingual, 24-hour, toll-free, confidential and anonymous phone and online counselling, referral and information for children and youth.
Here’s a Q & A with Suzanne Shillington, an Ottawa-based parent who has also been a dedicated volunteer with KHP for the last 2.5 years.

Q: Why volunteer with this organization?

A: I had been wanting to volunteer but felt it had to be something that had meaning for me. I found my calling when the 15 year old nephew of friends’ of mine, committed suicide. In their despair, his parents came forward to talk about their son’s mental health and asked that if people were considering making donations in his name, that they consider donating to Kids Help Phone.  I went online to research and when I saw what they were about, I contacted them right away to offer my help.

Q: What do you do as a volunteer?

A: I do many things to help, including:

  • I am on the Walk For Kids Help Phone Walk Committee here in Ottawa.
  •  Find Corporate Sponsors for the walk. We were thrilled to secure the Ottawa Senators Foundation as a sponsor. I also look for support from local businesses who may be able to help by providing raffle prizes for the Walk.
  • Raise awareness, speak to my many contacts, help to think of creative ways to fund raise, and attend workshops where kids participate to spread the word about Kids Help Phone.

Q: What’s made the biggest impact on you and why do kids call or reach out most to KHP?

A: I think what really hits me is, that, according to KHP’s research, “100% of young people will experience sadness, frustration, grief, stress…”. The top 3 reasons that kids contact KHP are: Mental Health (about 30% of calls and online posts relate to mental health, including eating disorders, self-harm and self-esteem); Peer concerns are the second most common reason followed by family concerns.

Q: Is there any particular story that stands out?

A: One story that really sticks with me: We had a speaker at this year’s Walk who said that KHP saved his life. He said that if KHP had not been there for him when he was younger he would have committed suicide. A counsellor talked him out of committing suicide and provided him with the help he needed. The young man was very inspirational and motivating.

Currently, Kids Help Phone uses these tools and initiatives to reach and respond to children:

1. Phone counselling (including three-way call)

2. Ask Us Online (a tool for kids and parents, and the place to access tip sheets)

3. Info Booth (age-appropriate information on more than 50 topics)

4. Virtual support community created by kids viewing kids’ posts and counsellor response

5. Interactive tools

6. Community referral database of more than 37,000 local agencies in 2,750+ communities across Canada

7. IM/Chat professional counselling pilot (coming in Fall 2011)

Thank you, Suzie, for your time and generosity.

Guest Post: With a Little Help From Their Friends

I’m pleased to include a guest post by Eileen Kennedy-Moore. Eileen is an author, psychologist and speaker whom I’ve gotten to know through a professional writers’ forum. After some back and forth, Eileen and I decided to focus on  friendship and its impact on mental health. Here’s her take on the merits of friendship for children.

Children Thrive With A Little Help From Their Friends

When I was a child, my sister and I used to get together with the neighbour kids and create shows. There would be numerous and varied acts, multiple costume changes, and a shifting cast. We created tickets and offered refreshments for our parent audience members. Preparing the show involved inspiration, arguments, and the occasional tears, and the performance invariably had calamities like falling curtains and wandering toddlers, but somehow the show went on, and we all enjoyed the final bows.

For most adults, some of our fondest memories of childhood involve the times we spent playing with friends. In some sense, friendship is what childhood is all about. Friendships are not only a source of fun; they also help children grow in meaningful ways.

Here are some of the things that children can gain through friendships:

1) Identity: Friends help children begin to discover who they are outside the family. Friendships are based on common interests, so by selecting friends, children declare something about who they are: “My friends and I play baseball” or “We all like the new Harry Potter movie!” When children have a friend who likes them, it can also help them to see themselves as likeable.

2) Coping: A friend is an ally. Having a friend means it’s easier to cope with disappointments.A recent study also found that children who have at least one friend are less likely to become depressed.

3) Problem solving: Friendships give children lots of opportunities to work out disagreements. This gives kids a chance to practice skills of persuasion, negotiation, compromise, acceptance, and forgiveness.

4) Empathy: Probably the most important benefit of friendship is that it encourages children to move beyond self-interest. Caring about a friend, or even just wanting to play with that friend can help children reign in selfish impulses and encourage caring responses.

Friendships are fun and painful, exciting and frustrating, challenging, enjoyable, and unpredictable—kind of like life. Whether children are putting on a show, negotiating where base is during a game of tag, or deciding which video game to play together, they are developing the skills they will use through out their lives.

Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD is a Princeton, NJ psychologist (lic. #4254) who works with adults, children, and families. She is co-author of two books for parents: Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential (NEW! Jossey-Bass/Wiley) and The Unwritten Rules of Friendships: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends (Little, Brown).

She is also the author of a children’s book, What About Me? 12 Ways to Get Your Parents’ Attention Without Hitting Your Sister (Parenting Press). Her website is http://www.EileenKennedyMoore.com

Quick Guide: Children’s Mental Health Resources in Canada

Here’s a short list of some of the fantastic (online and offline) resources I’ve found during my research this year:

Walking Towards the Light

Children’s Mental Health Ontario – a general portal consisting of facts, information, and listings of children’s mental health centres and programs.

LD Experience – Kathryn Burke is a speaker, author and advocate based in Alberta. Her site offers information about learning disabilities and ADHD.

Hincks-Dellcrest is a kids’ mental health centre located in Toronto. The centre offers a variety of in and out-patient programs.

CHEO Mental Health (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario – in Ottawa) offers a useful advocacy page with reports and stats on the subject. They also offer in-patient counselling and programs within the hospital system.

The Province of British Columbia’s “Teen Depression Tool” page is useful for those living in the area (and elsewhere).

Halton Region has a very attractive and user-friendly web site with blogs, tools, resources, and specific information for both parents and youth dealing with mental health questions and concerns.

Finally, if you’re interested in the association between nutrition and mental health, check out my article, “The Right Stuff” which explores the possible connection between dietary choices and ADHD in May’s issue of Kiwi magazine. The article is not available online and it can be tricky to find Kiwi in Canada. However, the magazine is said to be available at Loblaws and Chapters/Indigo.

Guest Post: How Good Deeds Help Kids’ Mental Health

We're only human

Today, I’m featuring my first guest post. Lisa Bendall is a friend and colleague whom I’ve known for many years. We often swap notes on writing, editing, and the magazine industry. Enjoy her post on how good deeding leads to good mental health for kids and adults alike.

–I’ve been writing about kids for years. And I also spout off regularly, to almost anyone who’ll listen, on the subject of good deeds and random kindnesses. So when Lisa Tabachnick Hotta asked me to drop by her blog, it was a no-brainer to merge the two topics together.

Five years ago, I set myself the challenge of doing one good deed a day for 50 days straight. Like any working Canadian parent, my life at the time was non-stop hectic. But part of me suspected it didn’t actually take so much time, energy and money to make a difference in the world. I wanted to give it a try and see what followed.

So for 50 days, a lot of the talk around the supper table each evening centered on what good deed I’d done that day, and what kind of results I’d observed. (Did I get strange looks when I collected up garbage at the park? What did the administrator at the local nursing home say when I carried in fresh flowers from my garden?)

But the reaction that left the deepest impression on me was that of my daughter. Seven years old at the time, she seemed enthralled by my various daily good-deed adventures. She offered up endearing suggestions for new good deed possibilities. And then she started going out of her way to do good deeds of her own.

Emily had always been a rather considerate kid, at least I thought so. But even more so now, after 50 days of good deed discussions around the dinner table, she began to accept random kindness as a normal part of the family culture: It’s what we do.

I love this, because of course we all want our kids to be good citizens. Kindness, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, these are character traits we feel right about instilling in our children. But what I didn’t consider then was the impact this could have on my child’s mental health. And now, thanks to five years of exploring the topic of good deeds, I know it’s one of the healthiest practices any of us can have.

Research consistently demonstrates that doing good deeds is good for us. Counting up the deeds we do actually raises our level of happiness. Helping others increases our sense of connection with our community. Doing volunteer work reduces stress and symptoms of depression. Volunteering even makes old people live longer, for Pete’s sake!

I don’t know about you, but when I’m mapping out my kid’s future, that all sounds like pretty spectacular stuff to me.

So the word is: Teach your children the value of good-deed-doing, and you’ll be increasing their odds of lifelong mental health. It’s not hard: Have conversations about kindness. Be a role model by performing simple acts of helpfulness, even if it’s just holding the door for a stranger. Let them choose the foster child you support in Africa.

You’ll raise caring, compassionate kids, but you’ll also be doing so very much more for them.

–Bio: Lisa Bendall is a freelance writer and author of two books, including Raising a Kid with Special Needs: The Complete Canadian Guide. Her award-winning blog on acts of kindness and other ways to make a difference can be found at www.50gooddeeds.com.