Winnipeg Mental Health Centre KIDTHINK On Track To Hit Their $150,000 Goal With Their Second Annual Radio-thon

WINNIPEG, Canada - KIDTHINK, a mental health centre based in Winnipeg, Canada, is delighted to announce that its second annual Radio-thon has been an overwhelming success. The company set itself an ambitious and challenging target to raise $150,000 from the event, which took place on the 6th of May. With donations still coming in, the registered charity is only a few thousand dollars from hitting that goal thanks to the generosity and spirit of their clients and the local community. All of the money raised will be used to deliver mental health services to children. 

The date of the Radio-thon was chosen to coincide with Mental Health Week in Canada. May 7 was proclaimed National Child and Youth Mental Health Day in Manitoba. The Honourable Audrey Gordon, Minister of Mental Health, Wellness, and Recovery, proclaimed the day in Manitoba, for the second consecutive year, as part of Mental Health Week in Canada, May 3 – 9. 

"Children's mental health is extremely important to everyone at KIDTHINK; it is why we do what we do and why we are driven to do everything in our power to improve the mental health of our young people," said Carmyn Aleshka, Founder of KIDTHINK. "This is our second year of doing the Radio-thon, and although it is extremely hard work and very challenging to organize and deliver, we love every second of it. Although we haven't quite hit our initial target, we are getting closer every day, and we are confident that as the donations continue to arrive, we will get there. I just wanted to say thank you to all of the team that worked so hard before, during, and after the event and to the many people who donated. We couldn't have done it without you." 

Kidthink Children's Mental Health Centre Inc. (KIDTHINK) is a mental health treatment centre and outreach program that focuses on child therapy and well-being for kids aged 12 and under in Manitoba. The company helps children with anxiety as well as ADHD, depression, behaviour problems, self-esteem issues, and learning challenges. If a child is struggling, KIDTHINK mental health professionals can help. KIDTHINK provides child therapists, parenting and family support, child psychologists, and treatment from a multidisciplinary team that includes psychology, psychiatry, social work, occupational therapy, and play therapy who all work together to give the children and their families the highest standard of care. For more information about the company and the services they provide, visit its website at https://www.kidthink.ca.

 

Understanding Sensory Processing Issues

People may comment that an individual seems to have “sensory issues” but what does this mean?

“Sensory” refers to the senses: hearing, sight, smell, touch, taste, body awareness, movement, and balance. Sensations are brain-based functions, in other words, the brain controls what and how we perceive sensations.

How does the brain process the senses?

The healthy brain takes in sensory information from the environment (‘sensory input’) through our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin. This information is then processed rapidly in the brain and connected to previously learned experiences. The individual then responds or reacts to the sensory input in a manner that keeps the individual safe, healthy, and alive; this is called an “adaptive response.”

Individuals with neurodevelopmental or mental health diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder, or Tourette’s Syndrome have differences in brain wiring when compared to typical individuals. This means that the way in which the brain receives, processes, and responds to sensory input may be different than expected. For example, an individual with sensory hypersensitivities may become agitated and upset in a loud, busy shopping mall or complain of a shirt with a sewn-in logo feeling ‘scratchy’ or uncomfortable.

Sensory Preferences

We can all have sensory preferences without having a sensory processing disorder.

This means that some of us enjoy jumping out of bed in the morning, opening the blinds to feel the sunshine, playing loud music, or going for a jog.  Others prefer to start the morning out slowly, with minimal noise until their brain feels ‘awake’ enough to tolerate more stimulation. Some individuals love spicy food, scented lotions, or wild rides at the Red River Ex and others prefer to stay at home quietly reading a book.

Sensory preferences can change from day-to-day or hour-to-hour. We may enjoy a hot cup of coffee one day and prefer a cold iced latte the next. Our preferences change depending on many factors including amount of sleep we have had, whether we are stressed about something, if we are ill, if we have body pain, or if we feel calm and ready to engage in our day.

Sensory Processing Continuum

The goal is to support the child’s ability to remain in the middle of the continuum so that the child’s brain is at a “just right” level of physiological arousal and is, therefore, in a state that is most conducive to learning.

Individuals with altered sensory processing also have preferences and these too can change from moment to moment. This means that certain strategies that are effective one day may not be as effective the next. Supporting individuals with sensory issues means paying close attention to cues to over- and under- stimulation.

Becoming a Detective

Adults supporting individuals with altered sensory processing are encouraged to be “detectives” by paying close attention to the individual’s cues to under- and over-stimulation.

Many children are not aware of their own needs for sensory-regulating activities. It requires the assistance of supporting adults to prompt a child to access tools for self-regulation. Each child will display their own unique mannerisms or cues that can indicate either a need for increased sensory stimulation or that sensory overload is fast-approaching. Some examples of cues to look for are humming, tapping surfaces, spinning in circles, vocalizing repetitive sounds, pacing, rocking, appearing withdrawn or “shutting down” or becoming self-injurious. Tracking a child’s individual behaviors (cues) is useful information. These cues can then be shared with the adults in the child’s support network (at home, school, daycare and in the community) so that everyone is aware of what to watch for and how to respond to specific cues consistently across environments.

Examples of Difficulties in Daily Functioning Related to Sensory Processing

If you suspect that someone has a sensory processing disorder, please ask an occupational therapist to conduct a sensory processing assessment. Formal testing can be done to determine an individual’s sensory needs and improve that individual’s ability to cope with the demands of daily living at home, school, or in the community.

Thank you,

Tamara Rogers, MSc., BMR (OT), OT Reg. (MB)

Outreach Clinician

MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK

There Is Hope The good news is that mental illness can be treated effectively. There are things that can be done to prevent mental illness and its impact and help improve the lives of children experiencing mental health concerns. Early intervention is best.

How KIDTHINK Can Help 

To make a referral contact us 

For additional resources 

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How to Talk to Children About Mental Health

Mental health awareness is being increasingly recognized across Canada, especially with the added stress of the global pandemic. There has been resounding support for the promotion of children’s mental health throughout this pandemic, as researchers at SickKids in Toronto found that the majority of children and youth in their study reported deteriorations in their mental health following the first wave of the pandemic (SickKids, 2021). While we are facing a new school year in the context of this pandemic, we are receiving the message loud and clear that we need to promote mental health among our children. However, many of us are left wondering how to approach such a broad and complex topic with our children. To help parents navigate this big question, we suggest using these 5 strategies at home to help talk to your children about mental health.

1) Normalize Feelings

One of the most helpful strategies for our children is to normalize their feelings. Just like adults, children experience a wide range of feelings; however, they don’t always have the knowledge to understand what they are feeling or why.  As adults, helping children name their feelings can help them understand their experiences and make sense of their feelings. It also helps them feel seen and validated in their experience.

Example: “Wow, I can see that you’re feeling really mad right now.”

When children learn to name their feelings, this helps them learn the skills they need to better communicate their feelings in the future. Going one step further, you can help your children understand why they’re experiencing that feeling by helping them connect their feelings to what has happened.

Example: When your friend wasn’t ready to share their toy, that made you feel really upset. You were mad you couldn’t have a turn; maybe even sad they didn’t want to share”.

Let them know that all feelings are OK – there are no wrong feelings. Anger, sadness, frustration, happiness, excitement, jealously, worry – these are normal feelings that everyone experiences sometimes. However, just because all feelings are OK, that doesn’t mean that everything we do with our feelings are OK. Hitting someone when we are angry, for example, is not OK – but feeling angry is OK. What we can do as adults is help make that distinction clear to children and then help them learn to better understand and express their feelings in an appropriate way.

2) Focus on the Function

Helping children understanding that their feelings have purpose will give them more control over their feelings and a sense of agency. They can start viewing their feelings as important messengers as opposed to something that is just happening to them. When we understand why those messages are being communicated, we can help give our bodies what they need.

For example, anger can show up when we feel someone is treating us in a way we don’t want to be treated, when we don’t feel like we’re being heard or valued, or when our feelings are hurt. Sadness can show up when we feel we have lost something – a person, a pet, an opportunity, an experience. Stress can show up when we have too much going on for us at one time, we feel responsible for more than we feel we can manage. Worry can show up when we’re starting something new and unknown or when something unexpected happens. The list could go on, but the point is, our feelings are our bodies’ way of trying to help us make sense of the world around us, by communicating how we’re understanding our experiences and what we need to do in different situations. If we’re feeling mad, maybe we need to make our boundaries clear about how other people can treat us. If we’re feeling sad, maybe we need comfort from a hug or a talking to a friend. Knowing that our feelings are our bodies communicating with us can help children understand why their feelings happen and can be an important step to helping them learn ways to identify and control their feelings so they don’t get too big and take over a situation.

Depending on the age and development of your child, this conversation can lead to a greater understanding of mental health in general. When we have a lot of difficult experiences and stressors pile up, we can have lots of feelings in our bodies that are telling us we are having a hard time processing and understanding what we’re feeling. If children are having more hard feelings than easy feelings, it’s their body telling them they need a grown-up help to deal with the hard things and make sure they are getting what they need for their mental wellness.

3) Get Curious and Play it Out

Parents often ask: "how do we get at what’s underneath the feelings that children are showing to us? We can tell they are angry or sad, but they can’t tell us why – what do I do now?”. One thing you can try is getting curious with your child about their feelings. Instead of relying on your child to explain themselves, which can be difficult for children to do, treat the feelings as something happening to the child, and something you need to figure out or solve together. Instead of asking “Why do you feel like this?” or “What happened?”, try using “I wonder…” language. When you use “I wonder…” language, this helps teach your child that their feelings are a way that their body communicates and that listening to their feelings helps them figure out what they need in that moment.

Example: “Hmm, I see that anxiety is showing up for you today. You can feel it in your tummy. I wonder what that feeling is trying to tell us.”

Talking for children can be hard as it involves a lot of complex parts of the brain that aren’t fully developed until they’re adults. One thing you can do when you’re getting curious about your child’s feelings is to play to their strengths – literally! Not only do children learn the best through play, engaging in play helps children regulate. Not only can using play help engage your child in the situation and make it easier for them to learn about their feelings, playing will help keep children’s brains in a regulated state where they are ready to learn, communicate, and express themselves.  Pretend the anxiety is a little creature you need to catch to understand why it’s there or that the anger is a tiger that needs to be tamed. Play out a situation with LEGO or puppets. You can take a playful approach while still taking the situation seriously.

4) Lead by Example

While talking, explaining, and playing with our children are great strategies, above all else, our actions have a much bigger impact than our words. One of the best ways to teach your child about mental health is to model it for them. If you’re having a day with difficult feelings, name them, just like you would for your children. Then let them see you engage in a calming strategy.

Example: “I am feeling very stressed today, I’m going to take a few deep breaths to calm my body.”

Letting them see you name your hard feelings and engage in strategies that help promote your own mental health gives them permission to do the same. It sends the message that it is OK to have hard feelings sometimes. When hard feelings happen, it’s important to take care of them, just like how you would put a Band-Aid on a scraped knee.

While this all sounds great, I know most parents are probably thinking – well this is not realistically going to happen a lot of the time. And guess what, that is also OK! When the inevitable happens and your own feelings get too big, there is also an opportunity to model growth and repair.

Example: “I got really frustrated before and yelled. That wasn’t the best way to deal with my feelings and it wasn’t fair to you that I yelled.”

This teaches your child that it’s OK to make mistakes. That each time we make mistakes, it provides us with an opportunity to learn and grow throughout our lives; even when we’re grown-ups, because after all - nobody is perfect.

5) Connection, not Perfection

While nobody is perfect, parents often feel the pressure to get it right all of the time. But despite what we might think, our kids do not need us to always have the perfect response nor explanation. Our kids don’t need a perfect parent, they need a connected parent. Creating moments in the day of uninterrupted connection with your children where you follow their lead is one of the best resources you can give them for their mental health. Whether it’s a game they want to play, a topic they want to talk about, or time to cuddle – tuning into their needs gives them the message that their needs are valid, their ideas are important, and they are worthy of your time and love. Spending this time with your children can also create natural opportunities for them to bring up topics that have been bothering them or questions they might have. In our jam-packed schedules, adding another thing to the list may seem daunting, but even small amounts of time can make a big impact – like 10 minutes each day. And remember, it’s about quality, not quantity – small moments of meaningful connection can go a long way to promote your child’s mental wellness.

Written by: Gillian Klassen, Mental Health Clinician, KIDTHINK

References

SickKids. (2021, July). SickKids releases new research on how COVID-19 pandemic has impacted child and youth mental, physical health. Retrieved from SIckKids: https://www.sickkids.ca/en/news/archive/2021/research-covid-19-pandemic-impact-child-youth-mental-physical-health/

MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK

There Is Hope The good news is that mental illness can be treated effectively. There are things that can be done to prevent mental illness and its impact and help improve the lives of children experiencing mental health concerns. Early intervention is best.

How KIDTHINK Can Help 

To make a referral contact us 

For additional resources 

To subscribe to our newsletter, click the 'subscribe' button.

Internet Safety: Information for Caregivers

Warning: The information reviewed in this article may be disturbing to some viewers.

As parents and caregivers of young children, when the world has been enduring life through a pandemic, life is hectic, and multiple demands are placed on families to get through each day. Shuffling work priorities and parenting children through virtual learning is effortful, to say the least. Technology can become a crutch that caregivers rely on to obtain some semblance of normalcy and reprieve in a time of upheaval and multiple daily stressors. This article aims to provide caregivers with important knowledge on the impact and safety of technology use (internet and gaming).

Why is it important for caregivers to monitor technology use?

In terms of the impact of online gaming on children, there is mixed evidence. Some studies show that gaming can be beneficial in improving a child’s level of intelligence, critical thinking skills, problem-solving, learning and sense of accomplishment (Rawal, 2020; Pawar, 2021). However, many studies indicate that gaming can have detrimental effects on a child’s psychological well-being such as increased stress and anxiety, internet addiction, dramatic reduction in social contacts, increased in violence, reduced sleep, health problems and influences on personality such as attributing to more aggressive and oppositional attitudes (Rawal, 2020; Pawar, 2021). Much depends on variables such as the content observed online, the context in which it is observed (such as privately in one’s bedroom versus out in the open in the presence of caregivers) and the interactions with strangers which can be dangerous.

Cybertip.ca reported some disturbing and shocking statistics in 2016 (Cybertip.ca Analysis) regarding the sexually explicit and abusive online images and videos of children under the age of 12 whereby “78% depict children under 12 with the majority (63%) being under 8 years of age and 80% were girls.” This is every parent’s worst nightmare.

10 tips to promote internet safety

  1. Teach your child about online safety including:
  1. Be present, involved and available when your child is online
  1. Monitor web search history to be fully aware of what online sites your child is visiting
  2. Notice any behavioural changes in your child after being online as children tend to communicate their distress behaviourally rather than verbally explaining it
  3. Restrict the amount of online time your child uses so that you can be available to supervise
  4. Encourage your child to do other activities that strengthen their unique gifts and talents or set up a reward schedule that enables your child to earn online time through participation in chores
  5. Set up parental controls on your child’s devices… but don’t be fooled. This doesn’t always work to reduce predators.
  6. Set up parental Wifi passwords that your child will not figure out.
  7. Take control of your child’s technological devices at the end of each day. Avoid letting your child keep his/her/their devices in his/her/their bedroom at night.
  8. Turn off the internet during specific hours by using a Wifi parental control system. Check with your internet provider for details.
Want to learn more?

To address internet use, The Centre for Child Protection has a wealth of information on its website to assist in appreciating the severity of risks associated with unsupervised internet use in children including useful resources to keep parents informed (https://protectkidsonline.ca/app/en/) and children safe (http://zoeandmolly.ca/app/en/).

You can also check out MediaSmarts, Canada’s Centre for Media and Digital Literacy, at https://mediasmarts.ca/parents for internet safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a website called Healthychildren.org  in which numerous articles are written to support children’s safety such as how to protect children from cyberbullying and how to create a media plan.

The bottom line is children need mindful supervision and clear boundaries of time and age-appropriate content when using the Internet in order to maintain safety and mental health.

How can KIDTHINK help?

KIDTHINK is a multi-disciplinary child mental health centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba who supports the mental health of children under the age of 12 years and their families. If you are struggling to set limits or boundaries with your child around internet or technology use, KIDTHINK has mental health clinicians that can support you.

Caregivers are invited to contact KIDTHINK’s Information Line at (431) 388-5373 to speak with an Intake Coordinator and to schedule an assessment with a mental health professional. For more information, please visit our webpage at /

Written by: Tamara Rogers, MSc., BMR (OT), OT Reg. (MB), Outreach Clinician, KIDTHINK

References

Canadian Centre for Child Protection https://protectchildren.ca/en/resources-research/online-safety/

Pawar, Y. (2021). Impact of digitalization on mental wellness of students. International Journal of Social Science and Economic Research, 6(6):1807-1816

Rawal, S. (2020). Pros and cons of internet usage among children research papers. The Pharma Innovation Journal; 9(10):482-484

MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK

There Is Hope The good news is that mental illness can be treated effectively. There are things that can be done to prevent mental illness and its impact and help improve the lives of children experiencing mental health concerns. Early intervention is best.

How KIDTHINK Can Help 

To make a referral contact us 

For additional resources 

To subscribe to our newsletter, click the 'subscribe' button.

The Covid-19 Pandemic and the Impacts on Children’s Learning

The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted our lives over the past year and a half. This unprecedented time has caused many changes, such as our ability to socialize and how we go about our daily routine. Children are no exception. They have also had to endure and cope with the many unpredictable changes that came with the pandemic. Children have not been able to see their friends, their activities have been cancelled, and there have been many ongoing changes to their learning environments.

Varied learning environments have been the result of school authorities and caregivers having to balance the health risks of in-person learning with the educational needs of children. Since March 2019, many measures and strategies have been put in place to help battle against Covid-19 while trying to minimize the discontinuity of children’s learning. Children’s educational settings have varied depending on many factors (e.g., school outbreaks, board decisions, parental decisions), but generally they included school closures with suspended face-to-face instruction, online virtual learning, and face-to-face learning with safety precautions in place (e.g., smaller class sizes, physical distancing, mandatory masks). Not only have children’s educational settings varied, but learning opportunities and experiences within these settings have varied as well. For example, research has shown that some children had unreliable internet access, inappropriate conditions for learning at home and/or limited adult support resulting in reduced learning opportunities in virtual settings (National Center for Education Statistics, 2021; Pier et al., 2021).

Although the goal of the measures was to maximize children’s health and safety while minimizing the negative effects on their learning, children’s learning environments were undoubtedly affected, and there is still much to learn about how these changes impacted student achievement.

What Do We Know About the Impacts of Covid-19 on Children’s Learning?

Although much is still unknown, there has been some preliminary research focusing on the impacts of Covid-19 on children’s learning. In a recent study, Pier and colleagues (2021) studied the academic loss during the pandemic in English Language Arts and Mathematics in grade 4-10 students. Results indicated significant learning loss in both English Language Arts and Mathematics, especially in earlier grades. Furthermore, they found that learning loss was also greater in students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds and English language learners. Another study focused on the learning loss of students’ oral reading fluency. Dominque and colleagues (2021) examined oral reading fluency in grade 2 and 3 students and found that students were achieving 30% behind expectations. Similar to Pier and colleagues, they also found that disadvantaged students experience greater learning loss. Overall, preliminary research suggests the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted some children’s learning, and there also seems to be an inequity depending on the children’s background.

What Can I Do to Help My Child?

Given that preliminary research suggests some children will experience a learning lag from the pandemic, it is possible your child might not be performing at grade level when school begins in the fall. In this case, it will be important to focus on the rate of growth once your child is back in a typical learning environment rather than focusing on potential loss or how your child is performing in comparison to same-grade peers. If you suspect that your child has experienced a learning lag, ask your child’s teacher if your child is improving at the expected rate given the amount of supports provided. If your child is failing to achieve adequately for his or her grade and is failing to show a response to intervention or a slow rate of improvement, then your child may benefit from further assessment and supports to help with learning.

How Can KIDTHINK Help?

KIDTHINK has clinical psychologists on staff who complete psychological assessment services to examine children’s strengths and weaknesses of cognitive and achievement profiles to determine how to best support their learning in the classroom and whether they have any underlying learning disorders that may be affecting their rate of learning growth. Once a psychological assessment is complete, results are commonly shared with school staff to help implement appropriate intervention supports and help them achieve to the best of their abilities.

Written by Megan Hebert, Ph.D., C. Psych.
Clinical Psychologist

References

Chartier, M., Brownell, M., MacWilliam, L., Valdivia, J., Nie, Y., et al. (2016). The mental health of Manitoba’s children. Winnipeg, MB. Manitoba for Health Policy.

Domingue, B. W., Hough H. J., Lang, D., & Yeatman, J. D. (2021, March). Changing patterns of growth in oral reading fluency during the COVID-19 pandemic. Policy Analysis for California Education. https://edpolicyinca.org/publications/changing-patterns-growth-oral-reading-fluency-during-covid-19-pandemic

Government of Canada. (2006). The human face of mental health and mental illness in Canada. Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada. Retrieved from https://cpa.ca/docs/File/Practice/human_face_e.pdf

Isquith, P. K., & Miron, T. (2021, June). Learning evaluations during and after a pandemic {Online Presentation}. PAR TALKS Mental Health Amid a Pandemic.

National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). ACS-ED maps. Retrieved July 20, 2021, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/maped/ACSMaps/

Pier, L., Hough H. J., Christian, M., Bookman, N., Wilkenfeld, B., & Miller, R. (2021, January 25). COVID-19 and the educational equity crisis: Evidence on learning loss from the CORE Data Collaborative.Policy Analysis for California Education. https://edpolicyinca.org/newsroom/covid-19-and-educational-equity-crisis

MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK

There Is Hope The good news is that mental illness can be treated effectively. There are things that can be done to prevent mental illness and its impact and help improve the lives of children experiencing mental health concerns. Early intervention is best.

How KIDTHINK Can Help 

To make a referral contact us 

For additional resources 

To subscribe to our newsletter, click the 'subscribe' button.

Managing Parental Stress During Summer

“Our children are our garden.
They absorb our stress, just as they absorb our peace.
They absorb our negativity, just as they absorb our joy.
We have the power to control what they absorb,
but first, we must tend to ourselves.”

– Rachel Macy Stafford

After nearly a year and a half of restrictions, social distancing, back-and-forth remote learning, recreation cancellations, and virtual birthdays and holidays, parents are now faced with another summer of uncertainty. “What will be opened/closed?” “Is there a point in planning, or am I potentially setting up my child for disappointment?” These are some of the many questions going through many parents’ minds in anticipation of summer. There is also a pressure – and sometimes expectation – to ensure that our children have a fun summer; a pressure that has been omnipresent long before the summer of 2019. The pressure of providing our children with a fun summer is stressful to think about even without the barriers of restrictions and closures.

We all have an idea of how a summer should be and, especially after enduring a cumbersome year, most families are desperately seeking respite and are looking to hit the pause button to recharge. However, to continue to care for and support our children, we must take care of ourselves first (i.e., “put your oxygen mask on first”). Self-care is essential as it is one of the first things to erode when times get tough, and we subsequently become less equipped to help those around us.

What is - and isn't - self-care

Self-care is not all about relaxing and escaping (i.e. the quintessential spa day). And although it is investing in our well-being in the long run, in the present, self-care can be a very difficult thing to do. Taking care of ourselves may look like sticking to a morning routine, eating healthier food, going regularly for therapy, and similar activities. It is also being proactive by facing problems head-on, rather than being reactive by avoiding them, and then trying to soothe or distract ourselves later.

Another way of looking at it is the regular maintenance of a car: putting in the time and resources regularly so that the car – our bodies – will function better and last longer. Not putting in the consistent time and resources into the car (ourselves) is followed by an inevitable course of deterioration and breakdown. This may result consequently result in taking extra time off or falling behind in work, time away from duties. In other words, when we do not invest proactively, we often pay more in the end, with interest.

“If you don’t make time for your wellness,
you will be forced to make time for your illness.”

– Joyce Sunada

Although self-care has often been synonymous with treating ourselves, it is less about indulging and is more about taking actions for our personal growth and development; aiming to choose what is better for our well-being in the long run. Self-care is something that refuels and nourishes us rather than depleting us. And while many parents struggle with putting themselves first, as they may feel guilty about it, self-care is not a selfish act. Not only is self-care about considering our needs, but it is also about knowing what we need to do to take care of ourselves, and subsequently being able to take care of others in turn. For if we do not take sufficient care of ourselves, we will not be in a place to give to our loved ones either.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Take care of yourself first.”

– Norm Kelly

Given that the quality of our self-care is at high risk when under stress, how can we be proactive about it, especially when our children will be home from school with fewer summer activities to choose from?

3 Pillars of Health


The pillars of health refer to three elements that we require to maintain a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle: emotional, physical, and mental. They include sleep, nutrition, and exercise. These three components affect one another. Our quality of sleep affects our mood, thinking, motivation, appetite, etc. Exercise – or lack thereof – can affect our sleep quality, energy, mood, concentration, and so forth. When one of these three pillars is derailed, we can easily see how quickly the rest fall away as they are all inextricably linked to one another.

Proper Nutrition

Good nutrition is an essential cornerstone for optimizing health and wellness. The challenge is to find a satisfying balance between foods we enjoy eating and what nourish our bodies best. Designing our diet wisely not only enhances health and the enjoyment of eating, but also can relieve feelings of guilt or worry that we are not eating well. While all of us appreciate the occasional meal of burger and fries, it is the overall eating pattern that we choose daily that matters the most in the long run.  Choosing an array of healthy food most often enables us to have less nutritious foods infrequently without harm to our overall health with less guilt.

A few reasons why eating nutritious food is a pillar of wellness:

Regular Exercise

While daily food choices can powerfully affect our health, the combination of nutrition and physical activity is a dynamic duo that paves the path for wellness. Our body is meant to move. With more people working from home and experiencing restricted activity, this has become more of a challenge. Being sedentary makes us vulnerable to a myriad of health problems. Regular exercise has been shown to improve mood, sleep, memory, learning, as well as attention, among many other benefits. Exercise is also a very effective way to self-regulate; it helps us be more adept at controlling our behaviour, emotions, thoughts, and impulses and to feel more balanced. Although gyms and recreation centres have been closed, one could easily reap the above benefits by choosing other activities to enjoy, such as walking, hiking, jogging, bicycling, jumping rope, or any other activity that keeps you moving. It is important to choose something you enjoy so that you are more likely to do it.

Below are some of the numerous benefits from regular exercise:

Sufficient Sleep

Often dismissed or overlooked, getting adequate sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health and is essential for life. The effects of chronic inadequate sleep are incredibly pervasive whereby it is difficult to think of one life aspect that it would not affect negatively. Although both too little sleep (i.e., less than 8 hours) and too much sleep (i.e., more than 12 hours) have been associated with higher depressive symptoms and lower well-being, sleep quality has been shown to outrank sleep quantity in predicting mental health and well-being. This finding may be surprising for some as sleep recommendations predominantly focus on quantity rather than quality of sleep.

Sleep affects everything from energy and appetite to performance, mood, attention, memory, and decision making. During sleep, our body is actively working to support healthy brain function by removing toxins and metabolic “trash” while the body repairs itself getting ready for another day. Chronic sleep loss is associated with obesity, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Below are some of the numerous benefits of achieving adequate sleep:

For many individuals, trying to implement all of these strategies can be overwhelming. However, it is not an all-or-nothing concept. We can start with small changes and work our way up toward healthier sleep habits, also known as “sleep hygiene.” A few helpful tips to getting more restful sleep are as follows:

An easy acronym to remember is SLEEP:

Set a regular bedtime;

Limit the use of the bedroom;

Exit the bedroom if you are not asleep in 15-20 minutes;

Eliminate naps;

Put your feet on the floor at the same time every morning.

Take home message

If one or more of these 3 pillars of health are compromised, we are not giving ourselves a fighting chance to cope effectively with the environment and impending demands, let alone be present with our children with the love, affection, and attention that they need and deserve.

Achieving optimal wellness and supporting our health is a lifelong gift that keeps on giving. When we consistently practice fitting the pieces of the puzzle together – good nutrition, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep – we are well on our way to achieving this goal. When we feel well, nourished, and restored – there is more of us to give and to take care of others.

– Lida Worobec

References

Carron, A. V., Hausenblas, H. A., & Estabrooks, P. A. (2003). The psychology of physical activity. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Guest, C., Guest, D. D., & Smith-Coggins, R. (2020). How to care for the basics: Sleep, nutrition, Exercise, and health. In: Roberts L. (eds) Roberts Academic Medicine Handbook. Springer, Cham. (pp. 572-580).

Rath, T. (2014). Eat, move, sleep: How small choices lead to big changes. Missionday Publishing.

MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK

There Is Hope The good news is that mental illness can be treated effectively. There are things that can be done to prevent mental illness and its impact and help improve the lives of children experiencing mental health concerns. Early intervention is best.

How KIDTHINK Can Help 

To make a referral contact us 

For additional resources 

National Indigenous Peoples Day: Talking to our Children

Dr. Jo Ann Unger receives teaching from Grandmother Pahan Pte San Win, May 17th, 2021

June is National Indigenous History Month, and June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada.  This day was first declared in 1996 by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, as National Aboriginal Day, later changed to National Indigenous Peoples Day in 2017 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  The purpose of the day is for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.  The purpose of National Indigenous History Month is for all Canadians to learn about, appreciate and acknowledge the contributions First Nations, Inuit and Métis people have made in shaping Canada. However, to truly understand and appreciate these contributions, Canadians need to also learn about and acknowledge the harms that were committed against Indigenous peoples in this country.  And as we have recently seen by the terrible discoveries in Kamloops, British Columbia, more and more is coming to light about the harms that were committed.

Call to Action number 62 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada calls on all levels of government, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students.  There can be no truth and reconciliation without really hearing, learning about and uncovering the truth.  Part of our road to reconciliation is to hear the stories and learn the full history of how our country was created. This history is dark and involves violence, abuse, oppression and colonization towards adults and children who were native to this land.  Parents and caregivers of young children may have questions about how to honestly share this information with their children in an age-appropriate way.

To support this important work, we passed tobacco to Grandmother Pahan Pte San Win to share her wisdom and advice on this topic. Grandmother Pahan currently works with children in various school divisions in Winnipeg and is the Grandmother for a number of organizations such as Full Circle for Indigenous Education and Louis Riel School Division.  She is also a registered social worker and has provided counselling support to residential school survivors and traumatized women and spiritual care to incarcerated youth and men.  With over 27 years of experience as a therapist to residential school survivors and having survivors within her family, Grandmother Pahan has an intimate connection to the history of residential schools in this country.  Grandmother Pahan is Lakota, Cree and Métis with roots that reach back to Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan and Yellowknife Northwest Territories.

In response to our question of how to talk to young children about Canada’s history, Grandmother Pahan told this story:

“Every year, September 30th is Orange Shirt Day, and this year my granddaughter Natalie is in Grade 1.  For the last couple of years, when I bought myself an orange shirt for Orange Shirt Day, I thought, ‘I should get one for Natalie.’  Natalie has a little brother, who is just tiny. You can’t get a shirt for one of your grandchildren unless you get one for the other. And then I had to get one for their mother, and it turned into getting one for everybody.  It was really fun and exciting.  Each year, I made sure I got the shirts to them before September 30th even though, last year, she was only in Kindergarten and probably didn’t know much about it.

In 2019, my husband says to me, like he does, ‘They asked us to come over there.  I think they are going to feed us breakfast.’ 

And I say, ‘Well, where is over there?’ 

And he says, ‘Oh, you know, over there at NCTR.’ 

‘Oh, okay,” I think, ‘They are going to feed us breakfast at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.  My husband sits on the NCTR Survivor Council, so that kind of made sense, but I did not know what it was about.  We drive over there and I notice there are people in the parking lot.  I go into the centre and look around.  I see that it is not like my husband said.  It is a press conference.  Yes, there was going to be some food after, probably, but people were gathered, dressed nicely, for a press conference. 

I think, ‘Okay, something is happening, but I’m not sure what it is.’ I go and look around and visit with some people.  Then I go and sit in the front row because I’m a tiny person and I can’t see unless I sit there.  I love sitting in the front row.  I’m sitting in the front row and this nice lady comes and sits down beside me.  She is wearing an orange shirt.  I hadn’t seen that kind of shirt before.  There are different versions of the orange shirt.  I say to her, ‘I really like your orange shirt.’  She tells me where she got it and I find out she’s from B.C.  Then the conversation ends and I was quiet for a few minutes.  Then I turn to her and say, ‘Are you speaking here today?’ 

And she said, ‘Yes.’

I start to figure it out and say, ‘That woman who went to residential school with an orange shirt and had it taken from her, are you one of her relatives?’ 

She says, ‘No, it was me.”  Her name is Phyllis Jack Webstad and they were launching Orange Shirt day from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.  And I thought about that and thought about Phyllis’ grandmother and Phyllis.  The woman sitting beside me is my age and, in my mind, I thought Phyllis was older and had maybe passed away already.  I thought the woman sitting beside me would have been her daughter or granddaughter.  But no, it was Phyllis.  Then I thought about her grandmother.  She also went to residential school and when she bought that orange shirt for Phyllis, she must have known what would happen when she got there.  Then Phyllis got up, talked and said some wonderful things. I learned a lot that day. 

This was just before September 30th, so I had new shirts for my little Natalie, her brother and the family. I made my delivery before September 30th.  On the morning of the 30th, I got up and put on my orange shirt.  I started thinking about Natalie because I was going to a school to do a presentation about Orange Shirt Day.  I was part of what they were learning about that day.  As I looked in the mirror, at this wonderful orange shirt, I thought, ‘Oh, now it’s my turn. I’m the grandmother and I’m the one who bought the shirt for my granddaughter.”  In that moment, it just hit me really hard and I thought how completely I adore Natalie.  She is like the sunshine in the family.  I had a moment where I thought, ‘This must be what it would feel like to be giving that orange shirt when you know that they are going to residential school.’  That was a powerful moment for me to connect to Orange Shirt Day; and to connect to Phyllis, her grandmother, and to all parents and grandparents who treasure their children. 

We all want to protect our children from anything that could ever hurt or disrupt anything with them.  We all want that.  And yet we know that for many parents and grandparents, that is not what happened.  Orange Shirt Day is a fun way to get to buy an orange shirt for my granddaughter.  But it is also the introduction to her about something that happened before that was not good.  And for Grade1, Natalie just knows that we wear these orange shirts because a little girl like her, when she went to school for the first time, had her orange shirt taken from her and didn’t like that.  Natalie can relate to that.  Next year, when she is in Grade 2, she will learn a little bit more about that story.  Each year, as they get older, we will tell a little bit more of the story. 

In our communities, residential school is like the Holocaust.  It decimated families. It robbed us of our parenting skills and it destroyed the fabric; the way that our families and communities were knitted together through kinship.  It tore all of those things away.  And that’s what we’re rebuilding. 

I appreciate what you are doing in wanting to educate and wanting to support parents to educate their children because we want you to know what our experience has been.  If you don’t know what our experience has been, you won’t be able to find the depth of compassion that we require when you see all of the different ways that our families and communities have responded to that.

But everyone can relate to the loss of a child, how devastating that is and also how precious children are.  When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made their 94 recommendations, some of the recommendations were about education in the school because we know that’s where it starts.  Children naturally have compassion.  They have a sense of justice and what’s not just.  We don’t even have to teach them that.  They feel it.  It’s inside their heart.  Our job is helping them to know, gently, a little bit at a time, that things happened that weren’t just, that people were wronged and harmed, and still hurt today because of it.  All of that starts with children.

Not that we are giving up on adults.  Adults have to do their work too.  But in a generation, we won’t have adults who need to do work because they will have been educated about things that happened that were wrong and that it isn’t over.  Residential schools are closed but people continue to be affected by it.  And systemic racism is still something our people face. We hope that adults will do their work; to see how they contribute to holding the status quo so that the wrongs cannot be righted.  And then to ask how they can raise their children so that they will already know that things happened that were wrong. Maybe they can come to say, ‘Let’s make sure we get it right now and do things differently.’  And then asking, ‘What else do I need to do to dismantle the systemic racism that is still in place and holding people back from what would be equitable and fair so that communities can thrive?’  That’s what we want.  We want to be able to thrive just like you want your children to thrive like you want all the children in schools to thrive.  We want our children to thrive as well.  That’s what we’re working on.” 

As parents, our instinct may be to protect our children from experiencing the difficult emotions that come from learning about residential schools and systemic racism.  And because of this, we may be hesitant to teach our children about these issues. We asked Grandmother Pahan her thoughts about this as well.

“I think it would be wise to protect them from them learning from somebody else that wouldn’t teach them in the way that you would want them to learn.  Get there first and make sure that it is age-appropriate.  We do that with everything; how much we tell them about sex, how much we tell them about illness and death.  We still need to talk about it, but we tell them different information based on how old they are.  And if you are not sure about that, it is good to reach out to someone who feels more clear about it.  Be careful you are not protecting yourself by not talking about it because it is not comfortable or having your own reasons about why it is hard for you to talk about it.

Protect them by telling them in a way that you think is the best for your child rather than how they are going to hear about it from other kids or someone who isn’t so careful.”

To support you in having these conversations with your child, as we learn more about the atrocities that took place in residential schools and as we approach June 21st, National Indigenous Peoples Day, we have provided you with some additional resources, which include materials for various age groups.

Additional Resources for Families

Full Circle for Indigenous Educationhttps://fullcircleindigenous.ca/

“It is our intention to support learning in regard to Jahistory, culture, language, Indigenous pedagogy and Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Being. Through that learning, the growth of the whole person is supported, and the full story of our shared history is acknowledged. Within that growth, we move closer to reclaiming lost aspects of self, family, community and healthy relationships with ourselves and all that surrounds.”

Among many resources, this organization provides a list of recommended books for early readers.  https://fullcircleindigenous.ca/early-years-books/

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation:  https://nctr.ca/

A part of our mandate at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is to raise awareness of the history and creation of the residential school system, its ongoing legacy, and how it has shaped the country we live in today. The teaching resources and educational programming we offer make it easier for the public to learn the truth about this tragic history.”

A wide variety of resources, including books, activities and videos, for various age groups are listed on the NCTR Education page.

Government of Canada Resources:

https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1100100013248/1534872397533

More information on National Indigenous Peoples Day

https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1559222623218/1559222644174

More information on National Indigenous History Month

https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1496255894592/1557840487211

#IndigenousReads recommended reading list for various age groups.

https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1528210353182/1580759773150

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples in Canada: Learning and activity guide

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action

http://trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf

Interview by Dr. Jo Ann Unger

MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK

There Is Hope The good news is that mental illness can be treated effectively. There are things that can be done to prevent mental illness and its impact and help improve the lives of children experiencing mental health concerns. Early intervention is best.

How KIDTHINK Can Help 

To make a referral contact us 

For additional resources 

To subscribe to our newsletter click here

Tips on Co-Parenting to Support Children’s Mental Health

 

The old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” holds true for many families in our society. But what happens when that village breaks up or divides? Research shows us that children of parents who separate or divorce are at greater risk of having emotional, adjustment, mental health, relational and life satisfaction issues well into adulthood (Radetzki et al., 2020). How does this happen?

Children’s brains continue to develop new connections on a daily basis. In fact, the human brain does not reach its full maturity until well into our third decade of life (Sowell et al., 1999) and some researchers have challenged whether the brain ever stops maturing (Somerville, 2016). This means that every situation, event, or experience impacts the developing brain connections in any child at any moment in time.

Statistics of separation or divorce are approximately 50% for any relationship. When parents decide to separate or divorce, this event can impact the child’s brain development in unintended ways. Since the child’s brain is continuously growing new connections, exposure to high conflict can result in a child who has a poorer relationship with their parent(s), which results in poorer emotional resilience during stressful life events and increased difficulties nurturing healthy bonds with others (Huppert, 2009).

Children who experience a typical parental divorce are more prone to unhappiness, anxiety, depression, and overall poorer life satisfaction (Radetzki et al., 2020). Children who experience a highly conflicted parental divorce are at risk of behavioural problems, poorer performance at school, lower emotional well-being and security, and increased vulnerability to future depression and substance abuse. Some ways to buffer against these outcomes and disruptions to attachment security, common in divorce and separation, include parents providing space for children to express their feelings openly and allowing children to have their own feelings separate of those of their parents.

When parents are openly angry and resentful towards each other during the separation or divorce, children become secretly injured by the shrapnel. In other words, children who witness such animosity between parents are more likely to experience their own adjustment issues such as problems with anger, resentment, anxiety and guilt (Wiidanen, 2020).

How Can Co-Parents Reduce the Risk of Negative Outcomes in Children of Separation or Divorce? (Nunes et al, 2020)

  1. Focus on the child’s needs:
    Children who maintain healthy relationships with each parent are less likely to develop long-term mental health issues related to attachment problems.
  2. Become more self-aware (e.g., body cues, tone of voice, language):
    Notice how you communicate in front of your child about the other parent. The child’s emotional well-being gets chipped away by a parent’s negative commentary regarding the other parent. Pay attention to your visible emotional reactions when feeling ‘triggered’ by the other parent. These outward emotional explosions negatively impact the child, even if it doesn’t appear as such.
  3. Learn specific coping skills to deal with emotions of separation/divorce: Find a counsellor or a therapist who can help you process your emotions related to the separation or divorce. Learn cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to challenge irrational thoughts. Practice mindfulness meditation to bring your attention to the present moment. Get proper sleep, eat healthy foods and get some exercise three to five times per week.
  4. Learn how to communicate more effectively together with the co-parent: When parents are angry and resentful with each other, the style of communication can become destructive. Remember that the goal of co-parenting is to focus on the needs of the child. Communicating in constructive ways will not only reduce the emotional negativity between the parents, but it will reduce the negative long-term consequences to the child’s mental well-being.
  5. Create a Co-Parenting Plan:
    Understanding each other’s clear expectations in shared parenting roles, responsibilities and tasks is achieved by communicating clearly and constructively. When a well-defined co-parenting plan is developed, it can greatly reduce future misunderstandings and conflict.

It can “take a village to raise a child,” which is why having both parents involved in a child’s life, where possible, is ideal. If separating/divorcing parents are noticing concerns about their child’s behaviours, emotional regulation or mood, please contact KIDTHINK to learn how you can access supports during a difficult time to maximize the mental health of the child for the long haul.

Written by Tamara Rogers, MSc., BMR (OT), OT Reg. (MB),
Outreach Clinician

More Common Than You Think:  

There Is Hope 

The good news is that mental illness can be treated effectively. There are things that can be done to prevent mental illness and its impact and help improve the lives of children experiencing mental health concerns. Early intervention is best.  

How KIDTHINK Can Help:   

To make a referral contact us   

For additional resources   

 Subscribe to our newsletter

References

Huppert, F. (2009). Psychological well-being: evidence regarding its causes and consequences. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 1(2), 137-164. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2009.01008.x

Nunes, C., de Roten, Y., Ghaziri, N. (2020). Co-parenting programs: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Family Relations Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Science, https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12438

Somerville, L. (2016). Searching for signatures of brain maturity: what are we searching for? Neuron: Neuroview; 92(6),1164-1167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2016.10.059

Sowell ER, Thompson PM, Holmes CJ, et al. In vivo evidence for post-adolescent brain maturation in frontal and striatal regions. Nature Neurosci. 1999; 2:859–61.

Radetzki, P., Deleurme, K. and Rogers, S. (2020). The implications of high-conflict divorce on adult-children: five factors related to well-being. Journal of Family Studies. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13229400.2020.1754277

Wiidanen, K. “Centering Children in Co-Parenting” (2020). University Honors Theses. Paper 870. https://doi.org/10.15760/honors.891