“Mommy, I See Ghosts” – Part One – My Story

Today is #BellLetsTalk Day in support of mental health awareness which compelled me to write about the topic of wee one’s experiencing thoughts, feelings and visions of things that do not appear to be “there” by others. THIS topic is SO near and dear to my heart and is one that strikes fear in many people that can’t see, feel, or hear that which appears to be non-existent to an “outsider”.

As a child between the ages of 2 and 4 residing in the sleepy little town of Niagara Falls, Canada, I had many conversations with my 2 visitors whom I nicknamed Bumper Jack and Ginger Ale. Wearing soldier uniforms my friends came to check in on how I was doing. They told me they loved me and they were there to take care of me. They only appeared to me outside and when no one else was present. To me, they were just part of my every day life.  My mother was calm and matter of fact about these presences visiting me and didn’t appear to be outwardly frightened.

I told very few people about my experiences growing up with the exception of a select few of my closest friends and family because of the mental health stigmas associated with these experiences. Little did I know that one day through a chance opportunity presented by another highly intuitive friend that I would have my experiences validated. In that one, single, solitary moment my intuitive friend through a channelled reading (of which I had shared with her minute details about “my soldiers”), repeated back verbatim the messages delivered to me when I was age 2. She described their behaviours, mannerisms and military dress. I wept profusely knowing I had “always been right” and that it wasn’t just an “imaginative child” dreaming up these experiences. For in that precise moment, I knew I had always been telling the truth, my truth and that it didn’t matter what anyone else believed or thought. And as I travel along life’s path, complete strangers have come to me and asked if I’m aware of the 2 soldiers that stand next to me. I simply smile and say, “ I know, they’re my childhood Friends”.

“To B FF or Not To B FF – That is THE Question!”

I am yet again inspired to write this blog post after a private conversation ensued on Facebook about the coveted, childhood “Best Friend” sought after by many school aged children. Here is my 12.5 cents worth (yep inflation) on how to navigate your child through the whole best friend forever situation.

Positive social interactions are a wonderful influence on the growth and development of children. Establishing a core group of childhood friends can help foster self-esteem and connectivity to peers – a place for discussion and dialogue and sense of belonging in later developmental years.  All parents want their child to feel secure and many encourage their child to develop a core group of friends.  Out of this core group of friends, the “the best friend” situation may develop – the person your child can’t live without, the child your kiddo does “everything” with, they live at each others’ homes and they are stuck together like glue, they share each others secrets and desires. What could possibly go wrong …..

Ah yes … what COULD possibly go wrong went wrong in my childhood causing extreme sorrow and loss. What happens when the BFF becomes BFF’s with someone else replacing your child, potentially sharing all those worldly secrets and desires to their new BFF ?? How do we help our child bounce back from the grief, anger and sometimes depressed feeling of losing one’s BFF? Here are a few tips:

  1. Encourage your child to build friendships from many different social circles – neighbourhood kids, school friends and extra-curricular activity buddies so there are many support networks instead of one single solitary BFF.
  2. Let your child make decisions on who they want to be friends with. Unless you suspect that your child has chosen “Jack the Ripper” as their new BFF don’t interfere and allow your children to choose the “right” friendships on their own.
  3. Don’t force your child to become your BFF’s child’s BFF. Your BFF is your BFF based on YOUR criteria of what you want in a BFF.
  4. Modelling appropriate socialization with your circles of friends helps your children with their socialization and friend selection skills as well as know it’s okay to have SEVERAL core groups of friendships.
  5. If a BFF relationship “falls apart” don’t get emotionally involved (i.e. call the other parent and demand to know what’s what, call the children’s teacher and ask them to “fix it”) – children will search for and find new friends on their own ESPECIALLY if they have several social circles. Simply be an amazing listener.  Give them appropriate coping strategies to allow the emotions of loss to flow – journaling, riding a bike, running, whatever it takes to get the feelings out.

“Are You Using “But” Language With Your Kids?”

I was inspired to write this blog post today after receiving an e-mail that set my mind “a-thinkin’”. SO often I hear parents, coaches and teachers praise the children they are connected to and then finish off the praise with “BUT we’d like him to …” or “HOWEVER we’d feel better if she ….”.

Nothing sets my nostrils a flarin’ quite like “but” language. Words have SUCH powerful energies attached to them ESPECIALLY if you have a sensitive Kiddo Kitten at home or in your class.

Now I am not recommending that you need to stop supporting your children with the areas that require attention for improvement, what I am recommending is that you separate the comments and the situations. Children can become confused or tune out if the praise and recommendation for improvement get plopped into statement or situation. 

My tip? Inquire of the child how they thought they did and what areas for improvement they could recommend. Amazingly, kids often know what they need to best support them in that situation and in fact, they are often much more of a critic of their output than the adults. Gently guide them down path of self-reflection while building self-esteem and self-worth. You will be amazed at the results!!


Auntie Laurel

Back To School Transition Advice

By Laurel Crossley

*(originally published on www.togethermoms.ca August 23, 2013)

Change, no matter how insignificant it seems to an adult, can become almost earth-shattering in the eyes of a child. Let’s add an overwhelmed parent to the mix, and you can imagine how intense a household can get during the back-to-school transition time. Here are some tips I have for parents to assist in making the transition a more pleasant experience:

  • Keep your behaviour as parent in check
    Little eyes and ears pick up on everything so be very cognizant of how you handle change. Parents need to ensure that their stress levels and worry are not being modeled to their children. Remember that transition does not have to equate chaos.
  • Arrange play dates
    Something as simple as re-establishing friendships with fellow classmates or daycare buddies can help tremendously with the transition back-to-school.
  • Find other parents to support you
    I found that the older, more “seasoned” parents often have lots of great tips and tricks – understanding school routines, introductions to new teachers and showing new parents the ropes.
  • Remain calm
    For those children who struggle with worry or tend to be anxious, above all, remain calm – the more nervous or anxious you are about their worry and anxiety, the worse the situation will become.
  • Create a chill space
    I recommend that families create an “OM zone” in their home – a place where any member of the family can go to find peace and eliminate any worried or anxious thoughts. Family members can go sit, meditate, think, or write to help them become calm and peaceful.
  • Prioritize sensible sleep and eating
    It is amazing to see the number of families that are not getting enough sleep or having proper sit-down meals. Lack of sleep and lack of nutrition can exacerbate feelings of worry and anxiety in both children and parents, especially at times of transition when sleep or eating may be affected by stress.

This post first appeared in the 2013 back-to-school issue of Together magazine.

10 Tips To Rein In The Holiday Season

10 tips to rein in the holiday season*

By Laurel Crossley

*(originally published on www.togethermoms.ca November 8th, 2013)

The holiday season is filled with messages of love, peace, family time and slowing down to savour the positive. However, when I chat with moms, they are often fraught with stress as they try to get everything done.

In my coaching practice, I see more anxiety and worry in both parents and children during the winter holidays than at any other time of year. After years of talking with crazed moms about the seasonal stress, here are my top 10 suggestions to rein it in:

  1. Break the rules – try something new

    Sometimes breaking the rules of family traditions is a great way to eliminate family stress. Often, we are nervous to stray from our traditions, especially those of us in multicultural families combining more than one type of tradition where it can be overwhelming to keep each one alive. Instead, take your favourite aspect from each side of the family and turn your celebration into something that reflects what’s important to your and your own children.

  2. Redefine what the holidays represent

    Understand what the “heart of holidays” means to you and your children. Perhaps it’s about spending time with family, trying new things, or getting away as a singular family unit. Focus on whatever you decide is the most important to your family and let everything else fall into place.

  3. Build your child into the holiday process

    This idea might throw you into a tizzy but consider how children are some of the most creative people on this planet. Whether you put them in charge of menu development, cleaning and decorating, sending out greeting cards or invitations, children love to be involved. So, take advantage of their ideas and at the same time you’ll be reinforcing that they are an important voice in the household.

  4. Share the planning

    I love the idea of “divide and conquer” – why not share the planning responsibilities with other family members (grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles). This takes the pressure off you and allows others to feel as important in creating those holiday moments and memories.

  5. Stick to your budget

    Nothing can be more stressful than knowing that you have spent more than you intended. Establish a budget early and stick to it! Keep your receipts and a running tally.

  6. Take care of yourself

    Mom, please make sure you are taking good care of your health at this time of year. Eat well, get plenty of rest and take some time just to hang out with people that are important to you without the children. Plan a special date night with your spouse before the craziness of the holidays begins. If you’re a single mom, plan a dinner with friends and make sure you’ve got some amazing childcare so you can take time out to nourish yourself.

  7. Shop online

    Online shopping is a tremendous way to take stress out of the holidays. Sending packages directly to loved ones saves time and money. Reduce those endless shopping trips and forget gift wrapping!

  8. Volunteer

    Use volunteering as a way to connect with family members. It not only teaches your children to appreciate all that they have but also the importance of giving, which for many of us is what the holidays are all about.

  9. Let go of expectations

    Moms put way too much pressure on themselves to produce the perfect holiday. It shouldn’t be about the gifts or gourmet cuisine, it’s about the experience. Children simply want to spend time with their parent(s) and they really care about little else . Let go of the pressure and live in the moments – that’s what creates those beautiful family memories.

  10. Learn About Other Cultures

    If you are new to a country, community or culture, find people to help you understand how their holidays are celebrated. (Community centres offer guidance about their cultural traditions.) Conversely, encourage your children to share their cultural traditions at child care or school or invite friends to your home to participate.

My Child Doesn’t Fit In

“My Child Doesn’t Fit In” by Laurel Crossley

(originally published May 3, 2013 on www.togethermoms.ca)

I am worried that my child does not appear to fit in with other children in his class. How do I know if this is how he really feels or if it’s just me being a worried parent?


Dear Worried Parent:
Navigating children through school is one of the most difficult tasks parents encounter. There are so many variables to consider such as: do they feel safe and secure in their classroom, are they getting along with their peers and teachers, are they learning “enough”, are they playing enough, are they eating enough and are they thriving in school.

While many children are quite vocal about their school experience, there are others who are quite private or shy in talking about what goes on during the day. They might change the subject; answer “fine” when asked how their day went, etc.

Others may give you play-by-plays as to everything that goes on during the day (and may conveniently leave out how they are doing). So, how as a parent can you assess whether your child is “fitting in”?

Talk with your child
When possible, ask your child what is happening in her other world first. Possibly your concerns are unfounded or based on your own childhood experiences. Sometimes we are so intent on “preventing” situations that we get in our own way. Encourage your child to talk about, draw or act out all her favourite things at school.

Watch for signs of stress or anxiety in your child
If a child is hesitant to attend school, most parents know about it. Signs might include simple things like procrastination when getting ready for school but may escalate to other symptoms including headaches, tummy aches, nausea or vomiting, anger, and escalated frustration levels. If you are unsure about the cause of these symptoms speak with your child’s doctor. NEVER discuss your worries in front of your child or within earshot – this could escalate his concerns.

Speak with your child’s teacher
Book a private appointment with your child’s teacher to get the scoop on how he is doing. Ensure that your child is not involved in this appointment.Teachers are there to support and nourish your child’s development – mind, body and spirit – and only want the best for their students.

Volunteer in your child’s classroom
Few know better what’s going on in a classroom than a parent volunteer. Not only does volunteering allow you to do a “temperature check” to assess how things are going with fellow students and the teacher in your child’s classroom, it provides invaluable support to both the teacher and students.

Let go of your childhood experiences
Empowering children through self-expression and allowing them the opportunity to speak freely about their school experiences is one of the best gifts we can provide them. Setting aside our own school experiences to hear what our children are sharing is imperative to a happy school life for them. Our childhood classroom experiences do NOT reflect what our own child is going through. Letting go of our “baggage” will allow us as parents to see how our children are actually fairing in the classroom.

But How Do I Cope?

Our very special Guest Blogger, Jodie Schnurr, an Ontario Teacher was asked to give some tips for Parents during the upcoming Ontario teacher’s strike and here are some GREAT suggestions!!

So there is labour unrest with teachers again.  With the impending threat of rotating walkouts looming, the impact hits a little closer to home.  I’d like to offer a few tips to help parents cope and stay calm.

  1. Keep your dinner table conversation neutral and age appropriate.  Younger kids don’t always understand the big words like “union”, “strike”, “charter of rights”, “democracy”  and others.  These words can be scary.  Especially charged with the emotion that may come with the stress of your feelings toward the issue; on either side.
  2. Make this a teachable moment.  Older children and teens can understand some of what is occurring.  Understanding all of the facts is a good thing for parents and for teens. It might even provoke some research on the facts, which is critical.  Why did the government pass this legislation?  How do unions protect working people?  Why are teachers upset with the government?  What have the teachers (and all working people) lost because of the legislation?  Why is a strike the answer?  How come teachers won’t coach or run the music concert?  Will this last forever?  These are all good questions for dialogue and learning and we want to raise critical thinkers. 
  3. Model and act on your response for your children.  Whether you wish to write your MPP to provide support for their decision, or sign a petition to repeal Bill 115, this is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you have a role to play in the province in which we live.  It shows them that you have a voice and you know how to use it an appropriate manner.
  4. Try not to make it personal.  Teachers and politicians are people, too.  Neither the government or the teachers’ unions want what is happening.   If your children hear your criticism of them as people, they have a tendency to generalize and consider that all teachers are “lazy”, “greedy”, or  “stupid”.  On the flip side, it may not be helpful for them to hear only that the government is “dictatorial”, or “bullying”. Governments are not all bad, and unions are not all bad.   If  kids return to school thinking their teacher is a bad person, it erodes the relationship they have with them and can be confusing if they’ve always liked them.  If they think that the government is bad, it may cause them to wonder what that means for their home, their community.  If a child has a teacher or a politician for a parent, it can hurt them significantly if they hear your harsher words parroted on the playground.
  5. Utilize your networks.  There will be sufficient warning for rotating strikes, and figuring out what to do with your children when they can’t go to school can be frustrating.  You’re not the only parent in this position.  Your circle of friends (through social media or face to face) can be a resource to secure short term child care.  Trade off for each other, use a personal day, call a grandparent; whatever you have to do. If your child were sick, these arrangements would be necessary.   Your children will take their response cues from you and they may feel they are a burden if they hear your frustration over having to get someone to look after them.  Be resilient, be resourceful and move through it calmly. 

Above all, take comfort in the understanding that “this too shall pass”.  Teachers want to be in the classroom with students, and the government wants teachers in schools.  The goal is the same.  During the journey to getting there, be informed, take action and minimize personal bias.  Your children can learn a lot about democracy, human rights and resilience in the process.

Jodie L. Schnurr, O.C.T. B.A. (Hons), B.Ed.

Back to School

Back To School – Surviving or Thriving?

Most of us flip into survival mode when it comes to back to school. Whomever decided that back to school had to be this pressure cooker of must do’s, must haves, and must follows MUST give their heads a shake! We are inclined as parents to overspend, over think and over parent this time of year!

As a Life Coach, my job is to make Life Transitions a little easier for those shifting on their paths – no difference whether it’s kiddos or parents.  Here are just a few things you can do to make this transition easier on you, the kiddos and the transition back to school.

Build the Kiddo into the Process of Back to School: Our Kiddo-Kittens are smart and know a lot more than we give them credit for so use their skills, talents and abilities to aid in the transition. Here are just a few things you can do that can make the world of difference in your back to school.

“Foodies” need to get involved in the menu planning, snack planning and lunch building (they can also assess whether or not you require new supplies insofar as lunch bags, container requirements, ice packs, etc..

“Fashionistas” can help create the back to school wardrobe requirements for each of the kiddos based on the latest styles. Have them look for ideas, work with budgets to create the back to school looks based on the personality of each of the siblings.

“Organizers/Schedulers” can create just that the schedule for the family members – have them fill in P. A. days, holidays, extra-curricular activities and remind the family of upcoming commitments.  Organizers can help the Family purge items no longer required, recycle and reuse school supplies and get the Family homework space ready to rock and roll come September.

Parents oversee this process, assign the household budget for back to school (and YES Mom and Dad we DO need a financial budget for back to school!!). Empowering your children in the back to school transition time allows them to feel part of this process, builds self-esteem, and gives them something to focus on OTHER than the emotional transition back to school.  We have isolated only a few of the roles Kids can participate in. Send us other ideas and let us know how it works out for you; we LOVE hearing from You!

p.s. Don’t forget to include your Toddlers and Preschoolers – they make GREAT Assistants and NEED to feel important too as part of the Family :)

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