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HAPPY NEW YEAR! By Jodie Schnurr

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I know what you’re thinking. “Has she looked at the calendar?’ But January 1st will never feel like the new year. Spending 19 years in school as a student takes its toll; Labour Day is New Year’s Day for me. Having experienced now 26 “New Years Days” as a teacher hasn’t changed that feeling, either. It has cemented it permanently in my psyche.

Let me provide some relevant context as well. I don’t handle transitions all that effectively, although ironically I enjoy change. Moving is hard, “final” things are tough, “endings” are painful and moving forward can be fraught with feelings of paralysis and inertia. My son is no different, and we have learned to articulate our struggle together although learning how best to support each other during critical transitions comes more slowly. We both endeavour to maintain our mental health.

Last year, I struggled with the yearly barrage of sharing through conversation and social media the amazing next steps people’s children were taking on their journey. Academic pursuits featured largely and prominently in the picture. And don’t mistake my intention; these events ARE worthy of celebration. I’m a teacher, for pete’s sake! Why wouldn’t I support new journeys in education?

But that year, I had a child who wasn’t sure of the next step in his journey. I have another child who sets the bar high when it comes to initiative and academic advancement. I’m a teacher and I spend a good deal of time with other people for whom success in an academic setting equals success in life. My son judges his choices based on a pretty rigid culture and I had to acknowledge that I was doing the same. I was trying to figure out how I had failed him, what I could have done differently or how he could have helped himself. His feelings were mirroring what he had always heard in our home and being exacerbated by the implied comparison to his sibling. I had to take a breath and reevaluate my thinking in order to help him reconfigure his own.

Success can be progress; moving forward. And the journey looks different for everyone depending upon their personal circumstances and readiness. For every student with whom I speak about pursuing the next step in their educational journey, I have to acknowledge that sometimes life gets in the way. Both the process and the plan sometimes have to change. But diverging from the expected path doesn’t mean failure and we need to re-culture ourselves to think of it differently. Paying attention to the journey can yield some revelations about where and whom we are meant to be. I acknowledge that that can be difficult in a world where post secondary education is viewed so highly and I don’t mean to imply that it isn’t valuable. It’s valuable if there is readiness and it’s the right pathway for the right person, at the right time. But journeys are about moving forward and making progress and we need to celebrate that with those for whom the path may have been more difficult because life got in their way.

I have learned to breathe and be patient; some things come in their own time. I have learned that it is important to celebrate non-traditional achievements because they are often personally monumental. Recognizing forward movement and personal growth in a cognitive way will go a long way to re-culturing what we view as success. Deep down, I just want to help my son. And I know his progress is important to him and what he will do to make him a happy and productive adult.

And so to all of the people who are brave enough to be moving forward; making progress; taking the next step, I wish you “Happy New Year”. Now go celebrate, dammit. And share it.

 

 

EEK!! It’s School To Summer Transition Time!! By Laurel Crossley

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Not all children find the transition from school to summer holidays a smooth and “delightful” experience. For many children that struggle with excessive worry, fear or anxiety, ANY transition from a known, regular routine can be scary and overwhelming despite the fact summer is supposedly a time for fun, rest, relaxation, calm and peace.

It is super important as parents to recognize when our children are overwhelmed by a change in their schedule. It’s hard for a parent to understand that this type of “good” transition may cause stress in our children. Recognizing the subtle changes in their behaviour becomes one of the keys in figuring out how to support a child that has these feelings. Children may exhibit the following behaviours that could indicate your child may be struggling with school to summer transition.:

  • changes in eating – not eating, eating more
  • headaches or upset stomachs
  • bouts of inexplicable crying
  • tantrums or anger over the littlest things
  • changes in sleep patterns or sleep routines, nightmares
  • disinterest in things that normally interest them
  • becoming quieter when they are typically a bubbly person

When I ask the children I work with why they are worried about this transition, this is what they have shared with me:

  • they are worried about losing friendships over the summer and how sad they feel about not seeing their friends and afraid their school friends will forget them
  • they have expressed that they are worried about the new school year and how their new teacher will be
  • they are worried about their summer schedules and trying new extra curricular activities or camp experiences
  • they have told me that when they worry their parents get more worried and that parent’s worry makes them worry more

Here are some easy tips to help you and your kiddos transition from the school year schedule to the summer schedule:

  1. As parents, keep your worries and fears about this transition under tight wraps – what affects you, affects them and vice versa
  2. Maintain as much of a school routine as possible the first couple of weeks off school – waking and bed time rituals, meal times, organized activities. Be sure you disclose this routine to your children to alleviate the “unknowns” and keep them in the “know”
  3. Keep the school friendships going after school finishes either in the way of setting up pen pals or play dates
  4. Ensure you child has a “posse of peeps” outside of the school yard – neighbourhood friends or friends from your child’s extra curricular activities
  5. Make sure you, as the parent, takes some time off to spend with your children. Summer memories are often the most vivid and most remembered in adulthood.
  6. Include your kids in the summer planning to make them feel included and important – meals, vacation/staycation ideas, creating the summer schedule
  7. And finally, always ask your child if they have ideas on how to make the transition time easier on them. You’d be surprised how many parents don’t ask how they can best support their children when they are exhibiting behaviours indicative of “struggling” with transition. You’d also be surprised at how many kids can articulate what they need prior to outbursts due to stress

Remember to have fun, keep cool, stay hydrated and relish in the moments you get to spend with your Kids. Happy Summer!!!

How To Decide If Tutoring Is Right For Your Child by Cathy Thompson

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As a parent we want the best for our children to help them succeed. Parents often come to me to brainstorm whether hiring a tutor for their child is the right solution. Each child is so unique in their needs and how they learn, so one solution doesn’t fit all.

There are several questions parents can ask themselves when thinking about hiring a tutor:

  • What is my child saying they need – start there. Ask them directly “What do you need right now to support you in school” often children can articulate whether they need extra help overall or with a particular subject
  • Is working with my child on their homework and assignments a positive experience for both us? 81% of parents feel that homework adds to their household stress
  • Are teachers suggesting my child can benefit from a little more repetition of school work or extra help before or after school?
  • Does my child seem to lack confidence overall with school and exhibit anxiety or frustration?

Use these as guiding questions to find out if a tutor is right for your child.

Tutors:

  • Alleviate the stress that come sometimes come from homework battles between children and their well-meaning parents
  • Are fun and passionate about teaching – they can connect with your child to boost their confidence with all school related work
  • Work one on one with children to make sure their individual needs and learning styles are addressed and included into the sessions
  • Are teachers – they know the curriculum, expectations and resources that are grade appropriate

If you would like to explore more about tutoring, do your research. Make sure the offering of the organization (customized learning vs. program/one on one vs. group/in-home vs. centre) fits your child’s and family’s needs. Above all else, we want learning to be a fun and positive experience for kids.

 

Written by: Cathy Thompson, Founder of Beyond the Classroom

No Report Cards, Now What?!?! by Jodie Schnurr

red_apple_310438For elementary and secondary school students, the end of this school year will have one key difference from that of others; the lack of report cards. Up until the normal date for the release of those, students and families have likely noticed very little difference in the day to day functionality of the school year as a result of labour disruption. End of year celebrations have continued, events and activities have taken place, and field trips have gone forward as planned. Student needs have been met.

The expectation of teachers is that grades have been reported for every student. What will happen with those grades varies according to whether or not a student is in an elementary or secondary school, and varies by board. For many elementary students, a letter of promotion will replace the formal report card. For secondary students, grades will be entered by school administration and report cards generated without comments or learning skills. This will be done in time for the process of uploading marks for college and university applicants.

The challenge at this time is in making sense of this change at home and navigating the reporting process with your children. There are a few suggestions that can minimize the stress and focus on productive conversations at home so that moving into the excitement of the summer months is not tainted with a negative feeling about school or school staff. Final grades should not be a mystery, but an affirmation of the communication that has been happening all year.

On an ongoing basis, teachers make use of many forms of relevant and informative feedback to help students learn and make progress. Having your son or daughter reflect on these conversations with their teacher will help them make sense of either a letter of promotion or a letter grade. Students in elementary school are encouraged to take an active role in the parent interview process. They can use this final promotion feedback as an opportunity to continue that reflective process.

Secondary students will have received a midterm report card and are likely to have a good idea of their demonstration of key learnings in the second half of the semester. Exams and summative tasks are worth 30% of the final mark in secondary courses and many students will take the opportunity to attend exam return day which will provide clarity around their achievement. Teachers typically provide a good deal of feedback on summative tasks, much of which would be a good indication of the anecdotal information that would be included in report card comments. There is much to be learned from the exam and summative feedback and students should be encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to speak to their teachers about their results.

In summary, labour disruption is temporary. Family relationships with teachers and perceptions of school are lasting. If being supportive of a collaborative relationship with teachers is the long term goal, then it is important to put this event in a context that makes it as positive as possible. Stick to the facts, use the difference as an opportunity to encourage reflection, and avoid personalizing the issue. Children will take their cues from their parents and guardians, and there are some adult issues of a political nature that they may be too young to understand. Remaining positive during this period will result in a much calmer and less conflicted start to the next school year which is the goal for parents, students, and educators.

 

“Do I Have A Sensitive Child!” – Article 1 of Parenting The Sensitive Child

“Do I Have A Sensitive Child!” – Article 1 of Parenting The Sensitive Child*

Remember that old disco song by Chic – “Aw Freak Out” Chances are, when you hear that song it may make you sigh, weep, wring your hands in despair or cause you to laugh hysterically because you already know you are parenting a sensitive child. These children “freak out” at “everything” leading to parent frustration, exhaustion and makes us question every decision we make as parents. On the flipside, sensitive children are some of the most brilliant minds – poets, musicians, artists, writers, scientists, mathematicians and forward thinkers!! Have patience dear parents of these sensitive children, there are many things we can do to support you and your sensitive children!

 

My Coaching practice is FILLED with sensitive kids and sensitivities manifest themselves in numerous ways. Here are just a few ways to identify that you are living with a sensitive child if you are still unclear:

 

  1. They feel “everything” – it can be SO frustrating to reason with these “feelers”
  2. They worry about the littlest thing – they talk about things that might or could happen – 20 years from now
  3. They have super vivid imaginations – seeing things and talking to things that we can’t see or hear – carrying on conversations with “invisible friends”
  4. They often appear nervous or anxious which causes them to back out of participating in fun activities – no amount of reasoning will encourage these wee ones to participate
  5. They don’t like changes and they need routine – if you don’t follow the routine – all heck breaks loose
  6. They cry easily or often appear to be feeling sad – no matter how much we try to make cheer them up or make them laugh
  7. They want to do everything perfectly or they don’t want to do it all – the simplest of activities can upset them like doing crafts, colouring or printing if not done “perfectly”
  8. Their senses are on overdrive – they appear to have super hearing, super taste buds, or they are sensitive to touch. These kids might not like foods touching, can’t wear clothing with seams, don’t like others to hug or kiss them
  9. They are very bright and know things you haven’t taught them – this has freaked many parents out and in fact the parents of a young girl that I know actually had to look up a word that she used (at the age of 2) because they didn’t know it!
  10. They are shy and maybe a little socially awkward and believe “no one likes them” – no amount of convincing or bribery can get these children to participate.
  11. They don’t sleep or can’t fall asleep easily

 

So, how do we support these wee ones without losing our marbles along the way?

 

First, acknowledge that their sensitivities are just part of who they are – embracing their differences can go along way to support self-esteem and self-worth.

 

Stick to routines whenever possible – including you parents. EVERY child needs routine and for the sensitive child, structure in their routine can help eliminate worry, stress and anxiety.

 

Allow them to make choices that support them – ask them if they know what they need to best support their needs.

 

Provide them with “their” outlets; if they enjoy climbing trees, let them climb trees, if they love to read or look at books, let them. If they like to chat with their invisible buddies, let them. They need space to do what best supports them, mind, body and spirit and kids need their down time too!

 

The most important thing we can do is to offer our children a calm, loving home environment where they are free to speak while their parents listen. We must remember that we are modeling our behaviours to our little ones so, the more calm and relaxed we are around our sensitive children the more calm they are. A solid, supportive foundation at home ensures a child can navigate life with greater confidence despite their sensitivities. *originally published online in 2013

 

Not In My Neighbourhood!

“Not In My Neighbourhood!” Helping Families Deal with Traumatic Events*

Our daily news is often fraught with unspeakable events that appear to be more and more violent and toward those that are the most vulnerable – our children. As these events hit closer and closer to home, the more we are bombarded with images, news footage and discussions on social media. As adults, we are able to process these events from a cognitive standpoint despite their devastating outcomes. When our children witness these images, see the news footage or overhear discussions, without the same cognitive development as adults, it can be quite devastating.

How do we protect our children from these random acts of violence that are so prevalent in our daily lives? How do we not allow our fears to impact our children? I clearly recall a couple of incidents within my community including 9 -11 and the possible release of a sex offender into our school district that absolutely impacted me personally. I was baffled insofar as what to share with my young children. I wanted to protect them and alleviate their fears while keeping my own fears from impacting them. I can’t imagine how recent events that were acts involving very young children have impacted today’s families.

 

What is abundantly clear is that during any time of catastrophic event, parents and their children need the support of their community. One of the things that I strive to do within my Family Coaching Practice is to continually build my support network of experts that can help my families with such events. Here is a list of recommendations that I believe are the foundation of support:

 

  1. Protect yourself as parent first and foremost. You’ve heard the old adage “put your oxygen mask on first” if a plane is going to crash. Parents need to find their support network through their work peers, friends, or other parents. If parents still find the situation unbearable, it might be worth a visit to your family doctor to find a mental health professional to support you through the trauma. Trauma whether direct or indirect can have detrimental affects on certain people and sometimes we just need a little help. It is also important that the parents do not to engage in the hype or sensationalism of the event especially if it has deeply affected them.
  2. Children 0 – 6. Turn off and tune out; turn off the radio/television and tune out from social media. At this age, children are observers of life and are deeply influenced by parents, siblings, and peers. Children of this age don’t need to know all that is going; it is too much for them to grasp from a cognitive standpoint. Limit their access to these events, and encourage family time and play, which fosters development and can be very therapeutic for the entire family! If parents so desire, focus on teaching children of this age safety rules both at school and in the home that are age appropriate and fun.
  3. Children 7+. At this age, it is much harder to control what they are hearing or seeing because they spend a lot more time with their peers. It is important that you be open and honest with them when they make inquiries about the situation. If you believe your child is struggling, seek professional help for them. Your family doctor is a great place to start to get the support your child needs. At this age, you can actually invite people from within the community to visit your child’s classroom or community group such as law enforcement, fire safety professionals or even therapists or professional speakers that have been through similar situations. It is important to follow your child or teenagers lead in dealing with these types of catastrophic events.
  4. Children involved with the trauma. If children have been through the traumatic situation themselves, it is imperative that as parents we take full advantage of any of the support programs that are available to that child, parent or sibling. If a program or support initiative is not provided, you can contact your local School Board, Police Department, Children’s Services, Parenting Support group or local church or community group who can assist in getting the right people to start this type of program. The bottom line is, we all want the same thing – happy and healthy parents and children. * originally published online in 2013

Alleviating Back To School Worries, Fears or Anxiety – For Kids

Just for you Kids!!!
Here is the video for Transitioning Back To School for Kids!! Look for Jasmine, my feline office assistant who made her first cameo appearance.

Alleviating Back To School Anxiety – For Parents!

Okay Parental Units … here’s is the video to support those of you with anxious or worried Kiddo Kittens! p.s. Jasmine is making her second cameo in this video too!!

“When EVERYTHING Happens At Once”

The past two weeks have been especially challenging in our home. Actually things have been a bit crazy since October personally and professionally. You never know what life is going to hurl/chuck/fling at you. I’m a pretty good “go with the flow” kind of person but this week has certainly gotten the better of me. Coincidently, one of my colleagues has been going through a similar situation. As I sat having coffee with my colleague yesterday, I asked her how in the h-e-double hockey sticks she was not losing her poo. She said quite matter of fact, “I stay only in the present and focus on the moment”. “For example”, she went on, “I am completely focused on you and I sitting her chatting over a glass of water”.

Later that day, with her heads resonating in my mind, I was working with a young, brilliant, beautiful client of mine. She and I had previous discussions about living in the moment and staying present (she’s 10). I showed her how to focus on an object and really pay attention to that object allowing her super bright, super busy brain to stop and be present in that moment of our conversation. She was SO excited to try it at school today and I will be getting a full report next week so stay posted!

So, when everything appears to be happening at once and you find yourself losing your mind, here are a few suggestions from my brain to yours.

1. Get lost! I mean get away from the situation – drive, run, walk whatever to get away from that which is happening around you.
2. Do something that best supports you! I went for a walk in the woods to visit one of my favourite places just to breathe.
3. Hang out with happy, supportive people that want to hang out simply because you are you.
4. Play! Play games, climb trees, read, do whatever makes you happy.
5. Stay healthy – exercise and eat right.

Remember that kids get overwhelmed too and it’s important for them to take time out too

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