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22 Feb 2024

Crash Course on Resilience for Kids (Part Two)

As children navigate the ups and downs of growing up, resilience is a necessary tool to guide them throughout their journey into adulthood.

We can’t change that they will face challenges along the way. What we can do is give them resilience-enhancing strategies so these challenges don’t break them.

Implementing the strategies provided in this message, combined with those shared in my previous newsletter, will enable kids to face challenges with courage, learn from setbacks and foster a positive mindset.

1. When they view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, it transforms their way of thinking and gives them hope. This change in mindset helps them handle problems, recover from tough times and learn from the experience.

2. They can be confident and have self-doubt, be brave and feel anxious, be afraid and excited – all at the same time. Teaching children to embrace the complexity and often the discomfort of their emotional experiences enhances their ability to navigate the unpredictable journey of life.

3. Since the brain can only concentrate on one thought at a time, deliberately choosing to focus on gratitude becomes a powerful practice for building resilience. By regularly thinking about what they are thankful for, children realize that they have the ability to choose the thoughts they focus on.

4. Building a support network strengthens resilience. Joining a club, sports team, volunteering, connecting with family members and friends creates connection and belonging.

By providing your kids with these resilience-enhancing strategies, you will see their challenges turn into triumphs, setbacks into stepping stones and problems into opportunities.

Until next time…

8 Feb 2024

Crash Course on Resilience for Kids (Part One)

I’ve been hearing more and more about the lack of resilience skills in our young people particularly noticeable in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In light of this, I’ve created a crash course aimed at strengthening our children’s ‘resilience muscle’ for their overall well-being and future success. Here are the initial four strategies; stay tuned for more ways in the next newsletter.

1. Life is a series of ups and downs. Giving kids the opportunity to find solutions to challenges and mistakes, will enhance their ability to problem solve. It will also give them the confidence to face adversity.

2. Not everyone will like them. Even though that may hurt, it’s essential for children to understand that, even in the face of non-acceptance, they possess the power to love and accept themselves unconditionally.

3. It’s totally normal to experience emotions. Some moments bring happiness and joy, others cause disappointment and frustration. Challenges bring up emotions that can feel overwhelming and vulnerable. Expressing their emotions helps them communicate their needs, seek support and navigate difficulties.

4. Help them reflect on past experiences to identify challenges they have faced and overcome. This process helps them recognize their ability to navigate difficulties, fostering a sense of accomplishment. The realization that they’ve effectively dealt with challenges in the past instills the confidence required to approach similar situations with more calmness.

By arming children with the tools to navigate life’s twists and turns, you empower them to face challenges with courage, learn from setbacks, and cultivate a positive mindset. The efforts you put in today will shape their well-being and success for the future.

Until next time…

11 Jan 2024

Riding the Waves of Life with Determination

Every challenge you have faced and the choices you have chosen to make has created who you are today.

Picture yourself as the captain of a ship. Sometimes the water is calm and the choices are easy. Other times, the calm waters give way to crashing waves, intensifying the difficulty of your choices

Knowing your destination is crucial for guiding your ship in the right direction, and this holds true in life as well. Being clear about the person you want to be, the character traits you want to process, and the goals you want to achieve, gives clarity when navigating through tough challenges. You have a destination and even if the massive waves of your circumstances try to throw you off course, you persevere and continue moving towards your ultimate goal.

When you aren’t clear about what matters to you, it’s easy to allow circumstances and the emotions they trigger, dictate your actions and choices, which leads to a feeling of being out of control. Acting with intention instills confidence.

By respecting your goals, and acting in alignment with them, you will find yourself making small choices every day that help build the person you imagine.

Remember, it’s your choices, not your circumstances, that truly define you. Consider who you want to become, the traits you want to embody, and the goals you wish to fulfill. This now becomes the destination that guides you.

What I know is: All is possible when you choose to be determined, put in the effort and most importantly – BELIEVE in YOU ALWAYS – even when you are in the midst of a fierce storm!

Until next time…

7 Dec 2023

Parenting with Love Through Life’s Boundaries

In our ongoing endeavour to establish healthy boundaries that nurture the mental and emotional well-being of our children, there are three challenges that often come up to test our efforts:

1. Desire to be liked: You may worry your children won’t like you when enforcing boundaries and consequences. While it isn’t pleasant to hear your child yelling, ‘I don’t like you’, it doesn’t mean they don’t. What they are really saying is, ‘I don’t like your boundaries. I don’t like your consequences.’ Understanding this, helps you respond with the intent of encouraging growth rather than reacting solely from the emotions you may be triggered to feel, like anger or guilt.

2. Remembering when you were a kid: You may find yourself thinking, ‘I know what it’s like to feel disappointment and I don’t want that for my child.’ Attempting to protect them from disappointment is not in their best interest. We want kids to grow into adults that know how to manage emotions like disappointment rather than avoiding them.

3. Wanting them to make their own choices: While it’s important to encourage independence and decision-making skills, many parents make the mistake of thinking their child has the logic and reasoning of an adult and will naturally make the responsible choices (I have had those moments). Unfortunately, our children don’t have the life experiences to pull from, nor the maturity to know what might be in their best interest.

1. Clarity on your boundaries: Knowing what boundaries and consequences work best for your child ahead of time will stop you from making a decision in the heat of the moment – one you may later regret. Plus, letting your child know the expectation ahead of time gives them clarity and awareness.

2. Be their parent: Growing up, when I would push back on my mom’s boundaries, she would say, ‘I’m your parent and I have a job to do.’ This mindset allowed her to enforce the structure that I needed, even when I didn’t know that’s what I needed. She didn’t allow my disappointment to become her guilt. Remain sturdy. Remember you are arming your child with important life skills.

3. Stay consistent: Children thrive on consistency, and it helps them understand the boundaries that are in place. Of course, there will be times when you will fall off track, but be honest with your kids by saying, ‘I haven’t followed through with what we talked about and that’s on me. Moving forward my expectations are…(fill in the blank)’. Your kids will appreciate your honesty.

4. Preventing entitlement: Establishing clear boundaries helps prevent a sense of entitlement. When kids understand that there are limits to their wants and behaviours, they learn the valuable lesson that the world doesn’t always cater to their every wish. This realization fosters a more realistic and appreciative perspective, reducing the likelihood of entitlement.

Until next time,

23 Nov 2023

Helping Kids Get Excited about their Unique Beauty

We talk a lot about the issue of ‘bullying others’, even dedicating an entire week to it. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that kids also ‘bully themselves’, creating negative self-talk that can have a lasting impact on their mental and emotional well-being, as well as their confidence.

I’d like to share a personal experience when I found myself going down a self-defeating, self-bullying path.

In grade 8 I represented my school in the running relay at the annual track and field day. After I had competed, a classmate came up to me and blurted, ‘You have big, fat legs.’ I was shocked and hurt.

What my classmate didn’t know was that I was already struggling to like my legs. I used to compare them to my friend’s legs – wishing mine were more like hers. Since my legs were bigger and shorter, I made it mean that mine were not beautiful. Comparing myself to her legs was ridiculous – it wasn’t going to change anything – it certainly wasn’t going to make my legs longer and thinner. Knowing this didn’t stop me from complaining about my legs to my mum.

One day she turned to me and said, ‘Let’s go to the doctor and see if she can cut them off.’ That was a wake-up call for me. Gradually I began to realize that I was wasting so much time and energy bullying myself. I was missing out on the beauty around me, including my own.

If a child you know is struggling with body image challenges, here are a few suggestions on what I did to help me be more appreciative of my body:

1. I found a photo of an Olympic athlete who had big, muscular legs standing proudly on the podium after winning a gold medal. She was happy and proud, not concerned about the size of her legs. That photo, pinned on my wall, inspired me to always remember to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’.

2. I wrote uplifting, encouraging, supportive thoughts and words. I placed them everywhere that I would see them. I repeated them over and over, knowing that the voice I heard the most throughout my day was my own, so I needed my words to be powerful and positive. Two of my favorites: ‘I choose to love and respect myself’ and the word ‘gratitude’.

3. I took the parts of my body that I resented and wrote down all the reasons why I needed to be grateful.  For instance, recognizing that my legs allow me to run and walk, wear my favourite boots and take me wherever I want. This exercise played a pivotal role in helping me appreciate and be thankful for my body.

4. I posted photos of myself as a little girl around my room, choosing photos from ages 3 – 8. In these photos I saw a young girl who loved life, who smiled just because she could. She didn’t worry about how much she weighed or how big her legs were. These photos reminded me to treat myself with kindness and compassion

With consistency and mindful effort, I started to believe, ‘I’m beautiful just the way I am.’

This is what I know: It’s crucial to teach and model to kids the importance of kindness, acceptance and compassion, not only towards others, but also towards themselves.

Until next time…

9 Nov 2023

Empowering Youth in the Digital Age: Important Insights

Since technology is a dominant force in most young people’s lives, it’s important to make sure they learn to navigate this digital environment responsibly because they don’t yet see the impact technology has on their life.

Here’s 4 tips to support your efforts to help kids navigate technology responsibly:

1. Enhanced Emotional Well-being

Reducing exposure to online content, particularly social media, can lessen the negative impact on self-esteem, body image and anxiety. Spending more time interacting face-to-face with peers and adults can foster stronger relationships and help develop essential social skills, such as communication and empathy. Your child will most likely push back and not agree and that’s OK. You can still create and hold your boundary even if they don’t agree. Remember …’their disappointment is not your guilt.’

2. Revealing the Reality

They need to know that what people post online isn’t the whole picture. People often embellish their lives, making their life seem more magnificent than it truly is. It’s crucial to remind kids that nobody’s life is perfect, that everyone experiences challenging circumstances and tough emotions. They also need to understand that their online footprint is permanent, that even deleted content can have lasting consequences. What is cool or funny now, may have negative implications in their future.

3. Keep technology out of the bedroom.

Removing electronic devices from bedrooms, ensures that everyone sleeps better, waking up well rested and ready to focus on the day ahead. Having them in the bedroom, especially phones, is too tempting to check one last message. By ensuring phones are not within reach in the morning, children have the chance to engage with their own thoughts about the day ahead.

4. Set rules for the whole family

Part of good boundary setting is leading by example and being consistent with your own use of technology. Everyone should follow the same rules which include:

  • Amount of use that is acceptable.
  • Times when electronics can and can’t be used.
  • Which programs and apps can be accessed or installed on computers and devices.
  • Safety and security guidelines.
  • Behaviours that are and are not appropriate when interacting with others online.

After a recent presentation a grade 11 student shared that she decided to delete her social media accounts because she realized she was basing her self-worth on the number of likes and comments she received on her posts. After only one week of being offline she said she noticed a major increase in her confidence because she was no longer basing her worth on social media and the opinions of others.

Without rules and regulations for digital and online use it’s too easy for kids to get sucked into the online world. Moderation and boundaries are key! In the end it will help safeguard their self-worth and confidence.

Until next time…

25 Oct 2023

Tired Child: Building a Bridge of Understanding

The other evening, my son was really having a hard time listening. I don’t know about you, but when my child isn’t listening, it can trigger lots of different emotions, such as frustration, annoyance and even anger. In these moments, since it’s easy to interpret his lack of listening as a form of disrespect, I consciously work on being mindful of how I am perceiving his behaviour.

If I view it from the perspective of him being intentionally disrespectful and choosing not to listen to me, it’s very easy to react from my anger. However, if I step back and become an observer, I notice something completely different – I notice that he’s tired.

When kids have a tired brain their ability to listen and respond is significantly diminished. They don’t have the capacity to engage with us the way they would when they’re well-rested.

It’s important to recognize this because children, mine included, won’t say, “I’m really tired, and I can’t listen properly because my brain is exhausted.” If I even suggest he might be tired, he will vehemently deny that his words and actions have anything to do with being exhausted.

Instead of interpreting his lack of listening as disrespect, which would cause me to react, I choose to view it as exhaustion. I know that his tired brain is hindering any possibility of a rational discussion. My focus becomes staying calm and avoid taking his words personally, so I can help him achieve a relaxed state.

If there are issues that need addressing, I save those conversations for the morning. After a good night’s sleep, he wakes up transformed, like a totally different person!

This is what I know: Tired brains can’t rationalize. They are reactive, lack emotional regulation and aren’t open to listening and learning. Remembering this will help you approach their behaviour with empathy and patience, allowing you to support them in the best way possible.

Until next time…

12 Oct 2023

How to Handle Kids’ Disappointments and Strengthen Bonds

Life is a series of ups and downs and it’s natural for children to face disappointment along the way.

When my son confides in me about a disappointment, my natural instinct is to think of solutions and ways to fix it, especially if he is feeling sad and dejected.

Disappointments are valuable life lessons that help develop skills like perseverance, empathy, resilience and problem-solving. If you try to protect them from disappointment, it will stop them from developing these essential skills. Without a healthy approach to disappointments, a young person can feel like a failure, causing them to give up or quit.

Below are four strategies to help you and the child in your life effectively deal with disappointment:

1. Acknowledge Emotions

Let them know that it’s okay to feel disappointed and that it’s an emotion that everyone encounters at various times in their life. Remember to acknowledge your own emotions when you see a child experiencing disappointment. Being able to feel your own discomfort is an important part of teaching them to lean into uncomfortable emotions.

2. Validate Emotions

Refrain from dismissing their emotions. Avoid phrases like “It’s not a big deal” or “You’re overreacting.” Such statements invalidate their emotions and can make them feel unheard or misunderstood. Instead, validate their emotions by saying, ‘I understand you’re feeling really disappointed right now’ or ‘That must have been really tough for you.’

3. Teach Emotional Management Strategies

Help them identify healthy ways to release their emotions that bring them comfort and calmness when they are upset, such as deep breathing, counting to ten, or finding an activity that relaxes them.

4. Encourage a Problem-Solving Mindset

Together brainstorm potential solutions or strategies to improve the situation. This approach gives them a plan to better prepare them for handling future disappointments.

Providing a supportive and understanding environment goes a long way to helping a child not only navigate disappointment, but also develop resilience.

Until next time…

28 Sep 2023

Building Emotional Connection, One ‘Refresh’ at a Time

Emotions run high. Meltdowns occur. Tantrums happen.

You can’t have conflict resolution without first facing conflict.

You can’t have redirection without first creating connection.

When you have moments of despair, they need repair.

One effective strategy for enhancing conflict resolution, fostering connection, and facilitating repair is to incorporate ‘refresh’ into your resource toolbox, much like refreshing a computer when it’s bogged down and not functioning properly.

To illustrate the effectiveness of using ‘refresh’, let me share a recent circumstance involving my 11-year-old son.

The other day he experienced a really tough moment as we were about to leave the house. He wasn’t getting something he wanted within the timeframe he was hoping for. While this wouldn’t typically bother him, on that particular day it triggered an emotional storm! I should also add that he had some late nights that had obviously caught up to him, although suggesting that to him wasn’t an option.

I needed to remain calm and steady in his emotional storm – not an easy task, especially when I was frustrated, realizing we needed to leave and I wasn’t even ready! Nothing I said was helpful or comforting. I took a deep breath and stepped away, giving him the space to feel what he was feeling.

After a few minutes, I bent down to his level, knowing this wasn’t the time to question his behaviour or engage in a conversation about it. Instead, I recognized that he needed to hit the ‘refresh button’.

I looked at him and said, “I understand you’re upset that things aren’t going the way you wanted them to. I’m feeling the same way.” (this validates the emotions felt and adds connection)

I presented two options:

1. Continue with our back-and-forth.

2. Take a deep breath and ‘refresh, starting over.

He chose to ‘refresh’, and we did just that without the need to have a further conversation. We hugged and both felt a weight lifted. (this is our way of creating repair)

Despite a bumpy start, we had a wonderful day.

13 Sep 2023

How to Stay Consistent When Kids Push Your Limits

During a discussion with a parent, she shared that she frequently found herself giving in to her daughter after initially saying no. (I can certainly relate, having faced similar situations with my son.) It was clear that her daughter had learned a powerful lesson about testing boundaries. She learned that her tenacity and unwavering determination often led to successfully getting her own way, often leaving her parent feeling disrespected and even resentful. Giving in had created a pattern that her parent wanted to break.

Kids can experience intense emotions, especially when they don’t get their way, which can easily lead to tantrums, arguments, and power struggles. When this happens, it can be easy for us not to follow through with consistency, especially if we are feeling emotionally drained and want to avoid conflict.

It’s important to establish clear and consistent boundaries. Holding a boundary for your child can be incredibly challenging when you know they are going to be disappointed and push back. Trust me, I’m not always perfect at it myself.

Something that continues to help me is reminding myself that my son can feel upset and angry and that I can still hold my boundary. I repeat in my head, ‘His disappointment is not my guilt.’

Setting reasonable boundaries and maintaining them isn’t about suppressing a child’s desires; it’s about teaching them valuable life skills. It’s about helping them understand limits and that choices have consequences. It allows them to learn how to navigate disappointment and frustration. It’s a crucial part of their emotional growth and development.

This what I know: Staying consistent and helping a child understand the value of boundaries will have everlasting benefits in their relationships, careers, and overall well-being throughout their life.

Until next time…

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