2019/2020 Issue

Note from the Editor

To view the entire magazine click on the above cover.

Whether it’s changing a diaper or a spark plug, dads are an entirely different species today than they were 50 years ago. Welcome to the age where one out of five households with a stay-at-home parent, choose that parent to be dad.  And as dads spend more time with their children, they have greater influence.  For more information on how important a dad’s influence can be, read ‘What Only a Father Can Do’.

And, in case you’re not convinced, check out this statement…children who receive more love from their fathers are less likely to struggle with behavioural or substance abuse problems. Find out more in our article  ‘The Importance of Full-Fledged Fatherhood’.

As parents we all want healthy children. Part of ensuring the health of our children is to set a good example and be healthy ourselves. There are many ways to get some much needed exercise into your family’s routine. Check out the article called ‘Prioritizing Physical Activity as a Family’ for tips on fun ways to keep your family active every day.

Kids don’t always like school. (Okay, I can hear you laughing.) Let’s face it, some kids down right hate school. So how do you prevent this from happening? Read Marie Hartwell-Walker’s article called ‘6 Ways to Keep Your Kids Excited About School’. There’s lots of solid advice you can incorporate to keep your kids on the right track and make those school mornings easier.

Some times the reason for not wanting to go to school is that your child may be harbouring anxieties. To aid your child in conquering their fears read our article called ‘What to do About New School Year Anxieties’.  This article advises you on ways you can set up support systems and how to deal with unforeseen difficulties as they arise.

It’s not every child that wants to play a musical instrument but many do. Discover the do’s and don’ts of music lessons in the article ‘When Your Child’s Music Lessons Become Torture’. You’ll find some good insight to help navigate this tricky subject.

And for some unusual trends that parents have adopted in their attempt to change how parenting is done in the twenty-first century, check out ‘Modern Parenting Trends’.  You’ll discover interesting facts and maybe pick up a new perspective on old challenges.

And finally, what is a Doula? Find out more about how this trained professional can reduce delivery risks for mothers as well as postpartum depression. Maybe you would like to investigate how a Doula can help you. See our article called ‘The Purpose and Value of Labour Support’.

We hope you enjoy reading Okanagan Family Magazine this year. We worked hard to find useful and interesting articles for you in hopes that they will educate, encourage and inspire parents everywhere. It’s a tough job being a parent but such an important one. We wish your family health, happiness and all the comforts of a wonderful home life. Happy reading.


What Only a Father Can Do

by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.   •  Psych Central www.psychcentral.com

If you believe the sitcoms of the 1950’s and 1960’s, all children at that time were raised in a family with a mom and a dad. The reality didn’t match the TV shows, but the dad of ‘Father Knows Best’ was still seen by many as a cultural ideal. The dad’s role was primarily as a provider who would drop in now and then to do yard work, fix a car, go to kids’ sports activities or mete out discipline or wisdom. He certainly didn’t make dinner or do the laundry. He most certainly didn’t have primary responsibility for caring for his children.

Over the last 50 years, fatherhood in North America has changed considerably. More dads are home during the day, part or full-time. Almost two million men* are stay-at-home dads (SAHDs). One-fifth* of single parents today are men who are shouldering the responsibilities traditionally played by both a mom and a dad.

Although the percentage of kids living with both parents (in heterosexual couples) has declined markedly over the last decade, half to two-thirds* of families with kids do include both a mom and a dad. A 2013 survey counted 24.7 million fathers* who were part of married-couple families with children younger than 18. Those dads, too, are more involved in the daily care of their children than their own fathers were. They are as likely to change a diaper as a spark plug.

Fathers today are moving well beyond the ’50s model of the less-involved parent. They now have the responsibility and opportunity to teach children of both genders a new definition of manhood. The active involvement by a man who loves them gives his children a real-life model for how to be a man of the twenty-first century and what to expect of one.

Single moms, grandparents and two-mommy families can and do raise children well. But there are some things that only a dad or a father figure who is regularly involved for many years can do:

Model that men of quality treat women with equality.

Children learn what they live. When a father assumes that the women in his life are intelligent and capable, the children learn to do the same. When a man’s attitude toward women is as respectful as it is toward men he respects, both sons and daughters learn that women are not the lesser of the two genders. When a man criticizes other men (whether on the street or on a screen) who make catcalls, intimidate, mistreat or underestimate women, he models that real men stand up when women are threatened or minimized.

Demonstrate how a man should treat a woman he loves.

When a man treats his kids’ mother with affection and respect, sons learn how a man should treat a woman he loves. Daughters learn to expect that a man who loves them will treat them lovingly. When their father is their mother’s biggest fan, sons and daughters get daily lessons in how a real man behaves in a good relationship.

Teach healthy, respectful male sexuality.

Cultural values and the law are clear that rape is a heinous crime. In surveys, most of the population agrees that fidelity in a relationship is not only good but necessary for relationships to survive and thrive. But video games, the porn industry, and movies often portray, even celebrate, the opposite. There continues to be confusion about what does and does not constitute consensual sex. Rape is still the subject of jokes. Girls are still cautioned that what they wear could invite it. There are pop songs that normalize or excuse it. In fact, only three percent* of rapists ever serve even a day in jail.

The culture seems equally confused about the value of fidelity. Stories of celebrities who cheat show up in tabloids almost weekly.

The antidote to such confusing and frightening ideas about male sexuality is a father who makes it clear to his children that a man should never force a woman to have sex; that a woman has a right to say ‘no’ and that a real man honours a ‘no’ as a ‘no’, not as a ‘maybe’.

Through his behaviour and words, a dad can teach his sons and daughters the value of fidelity in lasting relationships; that mutual trust is something to treasure.

Teach that there are many different equally acceptable ways to be male or female.

Toy manufacturers still insist that girls’ things be pink and fluffy and boys’ things be blue and tough. But little boys are just as likely as girls to enjoy dolls instead of, or in addition to, football; a little girl is just as likely to love athletics instead of, or in addition to, Barbie fashions. A father who is clear that there is a wide, wide range in how to be male or female; who accepts and supports the emerging personality and interests of his kids, helps them be comfortable in who they are.

Model how to be a modern, involved, male parent.

Twenty-first century fathers are more than providers who feel entitled to put their feet up at the end of the day. Whether single or in two-parent families, modern family life requires that dads be responsive to the daily needs of their children, regardless of whether their own fathers or grandfathers would have seen such activities as manly. By modeling that a man’s worth depends on healthy sexual values and active participation in raising the children he fathered, today’s father is helping set in motion a new definition of manhood for generations to come.

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counsellor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central’s Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart. Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem.   * Figures pertain to the USA.


The Importance of Full-Fledged Fatherhood

by Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW   •  Psych Central www.psychcentral.com

Recently there was a Facebook meme showing a picture of a man wearing this T-shirt: ‘Dads don’t babysit. It’s called parenting.’

I smiled in recognition, as this was the case in my own family. I am the oldest of two children. Our mother was a stay-at-home mom until my sister and I were old enough to be latchkey kids.

We also were a two-income family. During that time, my mom worked from home as an Avon representative, a gate guard at our community swimming pool, columnist for our local newspaper and, at one point, she sewed doll clothes. When my sister and I were in our teens, she worked at Sears as a switchboard operator.

My dad was a milkman and then a bus driver. They retired at 65. All throughout, both took equal responsibility for raising us. There was division of labour in terms of housework and cooking. He ran the vacuum cleaner throughout our ranch-style suburban New Jersey home, ‘mowing the carpet’ as he referred to it. She did the laundry and my sister and I had chores.

Both parents mowed the lawn and did gardening. He cleaned the garage, which meant moving the junk from one side to the other. He maintained the cars. She did the bathtime routine, partly because he went to bed early in order to get up before sunrise.

We always had dinner together and then Jan and I would tuck him in bed. There were bedtime stories; sometimes he read them to us, sometimes we read them to him. Usually there was playtime after dinner.

He taught us to ride our bicycles. He would jump rope with us (he had been a Golden Gloves boxer in the Navy). We would garden together. He taught us to change the oil and tires. He wanted us to be able to take care of ourselves. We would go to the pool and synagogue as a family.

They were equally involved with moral guidance, social conscience, intellectual development and emotional support. My dad was touted as a model for fatherhood, since he was both primary provider of financial support as well as shared nurturing on par with my mother.

Other perceptions of this dynamic were expressed by both men and women when I posted the T-shirt bedecked dad image on my own Facebook page:

“I’ve heard many dads say they “babysit” their own kids! This is the problem. They don’t think of their own kids as a responsibility but an inconvenience. I asked one father if he was getting paid to babysit? I think the light bulb finally went on.

Once in a while my chauvinistic son in law will offer to ‘watch the kids’ (four under aged nine!) for my full-time working daughter. Grrrrrr!!!

It’s like the kids aren’t really supposed to be their responsibility too and as if they’re doing their partner a huge favour.

Whenever people ask me how I do what I do (travelling, writing, flight attending), invariably they ask if the kids’ dad babysits. I always answer “no, he dads.”

I was a full-on house husband and brought my daughter and my stepdaughter up when they were very young while my partner worked for several years. I abandoned my career, which involved walking away from a degree course just short of completing it, to commit to our life change, which also involved moving away from my family. I ran the house, as in washing, housework, cooking, bathing and putting children to bed which, alas, resulted in me being emasculated in my partner’s eyes. She eventually started (cheating) and kicked me out.”

The point I’m making is that some men are like children themselves and are used to their partners looking after them. When they break away from the family, they genuinely do believe they warrant a medal for looking after their own kids for a few hours at the weekend — which will often involve the help of a new partner who has been selected to fill the void left by their last mommy-I-mean-partner.

I don’t cringe because I respect and revere a woman who is a stay-at-home mother. And I respect parents being free to be able to frame and have humour as they wish to frame it. Maybe he is helping around the house — maybe she’s a stay-at-home mom and that’s how they frame it. Who is anyone else to tell either parent how they should speak/frame? What’s true for a person is up to them.

Why a Father’s Involvement Matters

Paul Raeburn, author of Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked, says, “The discovery of the father is one of the most important developments in the study of children and families.”

According to the American Psychological Association, men have become more active in parenting as women have taken more powerful roles in the workplace. “Research on the role of fathers suggests that the influence of a father’s love on children’s development is as great as the influence of a mother’s love. Fatherly love helps children develop a sense of their place in the world, which helps their social, emotional and cognitive development and functioning. Moreover, children who receive more love from their fathers are less likely to struggle with behavioural or substance abuse problems.”

In a study published by the Father Involvement Initiative, it was determined that involved fathers raised more highly functioning children. These areas included better cognitive competence, improved academic achievement, lower levels of stress, higher tolerance for challenges, as well as more adept social skills. The benefits for men who actively parent include self-confidence, improved relationship with their co-parent, empathy and understanding of others, as well as increased community involvement.

In a publication called The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children, offered by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a prominent sociologist, Dr. David Popenoe, author of Families Without Fathers: Fathers, Marriage and Children in American Society says, “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”

Even if the ‘fathering parent’ is a surrogate, benefit is detectable. Mark’s father died when he was 11 years old and he was raised by his newly widowed 40-year-old mother. Although conventional wisdom states that single parents need to be both mother and father, she knew that she would not be able to take on the father role.

She reached out to male friends to ask if they would be willing to mentor her son and provide the male support that would assist him in growing into a good man. They all had values that mirrored hers, particularly regarding relationships and psycho-social-sexual matters.

They gladly agreed and over the years, they spent time with her son, engaged in activities that helped him develop life skills and modeling prosocial behaviour. One in particular took on a central role and was present and available to guide him, as well as provide fun and personally enriching activity. Although this now 29-year-old young man has experienced his share of life challenges, his surrogate father has seen him through them and his mother is grateful that he has been part of the village who helped her raise her child.

Rev. Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW is a Renaissance Woman and Bliss Mistress who delights in inviting people to live rich, full, juicy lives. Edie is an internationally recognized, sought after, colourfully creative journalist, interviewer and author, a dynamic and inspiring speaker, licensed social worker, interfaith minister, offering uniquely designed spiritual rituals. In addition, she is a PR Goddess, promoting events and transformational teachers, healers, writers and artists. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV. Her first best-selling book entitled ‘The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into The Extraordinary’ is now available, and she is offering a workshop for people who want to re-create their lives, based on those concepts. Read more at www.beliefnet.com.


Prioritizing Physical Activity as a Family

by Cindy Papa  •  Marketing and Communications Manager at the YMCA  •  Photos provided by YMCA

Most parents struggle to balance their own physical fitness, an active lifestyle for their kids, quality family time, a social life and date nights alongside other family demands. Brandi Isagawa, mother of three, has been able to meet all these important needs, often at the same time.

As a stay at home mom, Brandi finds the physical activity and social interaction that her and her three sons need by using many of the programs and services available through their memberships at the Kelowna Family Y.

“It’s gotten me through a lot and that’s why I’m here seven days a week”, Brandi laughs. “It’s either I need the kids to get away from me for 15 minutes or I really need my exercise and the Y is a great place to leave your kids.”

Brandi’s sons (twins Lincoln and Milo, and younger brother Hiro), enjoy their time at the Y just as much as their mom. Participating in a variety of programs such as child minding, swim lessons, active arts, and more, Brandi has found they are able to get the exercise, socialization and stimulation they need while giving her some time off.

Together, they also participate in Family Play Time, a free drop-in program for families to engage in meaningful play together with educational toys, fun activities and circle time. The program allows families to connect with each other and with trained Early Childhood Educators in a relaxed setting. Children also get to run and play alongside their parents during open gym time.

“I find any kid that’s burned off energy is going to be an easier kid later”, she states. “This is a fantastic outlet for them, they get to see other kids, interact, play and run. I know that when I take them home, they are going to relax.”

As the kids are having fun and making friends while being supervised in child minding, Brandi takes a well-deserved break. She likes to work out and socialize with other members. That connection means a lot to her as she’s a stay at home mom.

“When I’m here I get to chat about my day”, she states. “I get to connect with different groups of people. I’ve made close friends with some of the other moms here and the boys have also made friends. Coming to the Y helps pull you out of a rut or keeps you from getting into a rut in the first place.”

Her husband also enjoys his membership. Some nights he and Brandi come in together, working out and then relaxing together in the steam room for some quality time.

Using the Y for physical activity and social connection, the Isagawa family proves that a balanced and healthy lifestyle is achievable.

Although the Isagawa’s have prioritized physical activity, most families struggle to find time to exercise. Today our society is more inactive than ever and building a healthy foundation during the early years is critical to set children up for success.

For those looking to become more active as a family, the YMCA of Okanagan has the following tips:

1. Make an active bucket list • Develop a list of hikes, activities, beaches, programs and facilities you would like to explore together. Try your best to make a point of crossing out one item a week and invite friends to join. Fun to-do lists will not only encourage activity but create a ton of memories.

2. Include other families • Making active playdates, incorporating park time and adding a pool visit to your movie nights will help sneak in exercise while visiting with friends. Joining swim lessons and other activities with friends may also help push children a little farther out of their comfort zone and encourage them to try something new. This can especially help with shy children, not to mention carpooling.

3. Explore the outdoors • The Okanagan offers an abundance of beaches, hikes, mountains and parks. Exploring these together will build an appreciation for the outdoors and active habits in children. Best of all, the outdoors are free!

4. Create active traditions • Create family or neighbourhood tournaments, scavenger hunts, or join planned races to tie to specific holidays. Yearly traditions can become more challenging and include more people as they grow year after year.

5. Include yard work • Yard work, gardening and shovelling snow are more labour intensive than most people realize. Including children in these larger chores can make them more fun while everyone gets active together. Bonus- they will get done much more quickly, freeing up more time to play.

6. Communicate the importance of activity • Discuss the importance of staying active with children and the benefits for them both now and in the future. Explain the mental health, sleep and school performance benefits associated with exercise. Talk to them about how they feel before and after exercising. Communication about physical health over body image is critical as youth are growing up with increasing pressures from the media and society.

7. Give active gifts • Presents like bikes, snow shoes, paddleboards, swim lessons or seasons passes for ski hills, waterslides or a gym are often the most fun for children. When attending birthday parties, parents will always appreciate a family pool pass or mini golf game over the hoards of toys most children receive.

8. Try out drop-ins • Avoid commitment by trying out gymnastics, skating, basketball and more with a quick drop-in visit before you commit to a program. For kids under six, there are free drop-in programs such as Family Play Time at the Kelowna Family Y and Penticton Community Centre, which provides open gym time for kids to play alongside parents.

9. Join the Y! • A family membership to the Y includes family pool time, swim lessons, fitness classes, and access to the pool, basketball court, cardio and weight equipment and so much more. Child members also have access to heavily discounted active programs like karate, summer camps, basketball, dance and tennis classes. Family memberships also allow parents to workout or relax in the steam room while kids play supervised in childminding (for ages 0-5) or Zoned in (for ages 6-10).

There are many ways to get active together, it’s often a matter of making it a priority like Brandi Isagawa. Staying consistent, developing healthy habits and incorporating the above tips can help families to become more active together.

The YMCA of Okanagan is a charity dedicated to building a healthier community. They aim to promote healthy lifestyles, nurture young minds and strengthen our community. The Y provides a wide range of programs and services with a focus on inclusiveness and accessibility, serving people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities through all stages of life.

Memberships to all three locations provide access to a supportive community, group fitness classes, aquatics and modern equipment for all ability levels. As a charity, they also offer financial assistance on memberships and programs for those who struggle to afford them.

Children’s programs offered by the Y include Swim Lessons, Advanced Aquatic Classes, Active Arts, Music and Movement, Karate, Active Kids, Basketball, Let’s Dance, Junior Tennis, Girls Unite, Boys in Action, Movie Mania, Youth Leadership Development, Babysitting Course, Home Alone and Prepared, Family Play Time, Jr. Lifeguard Club, Pro Day Camps, Child Minding and Zoned In.

Learn more about how the Y can help your family stay healthy and entertained at ymcaokanagan.ca.

The YMCA of Okanagan was established over 35 years ago as a cause-driven charity with a mission dedicated to building healthy individuals and communities. We provide a wide range of programs and services with a focus on inclusiveness and accessibility, serving people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities through all stages of life.

We, promote healthy lifestyles, nurture young minds, and strengthen our community. Why not check out your YMCA today.


6 Ways to Keep Your Kids Excited about School

by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.   •  Psych Central www.psychcentral.com

It’s a fact: Kids who are excited about learning do better in school and in life. One of the best gifts we can give our kids is enthusiasm for all that school has to offer.

Remember: Every child is born to learn. Think about all that a baby learns in the first couple of years: How to get needs met from the big people; How to walk and talk, smile and frown; sleep through the night and play during the day. How to clap and play games, feed themselves, and both give and take with others. By the time a child is four or five, most know their colours and numbers, how to ride a tricycle and how to manipulate complicated toys and equally complicated people. If more than one language is used in the house, kids under ten can learn to speak them all like a native speaker.

For a child, every day is filled with a ton of new stuff to take in and learn from. Unless isolated or abused, every day is filled with learning. Every day is filled with joy at new accomplishments. Watch any small child who is determined to succeed at something and it’s a lesson in not giving up. We parents don’t need to teach kids to love learning. We only need to make sure that love isn’t squashed.

How to keep the love of learning alive:

1. Love it yourself: As with all things, love of learning is something our kids take in with the air they breathe at home. If you love learning new things, if you love to solve problems, if you love to practice a skill until you master it, so will your kids. Your enthusiasm for expanding your knowledge and taking on challenges is contagious. Be enthusiastic about new discoveries. Share stories when you accomplish something that is difficult. Let your kids observe the effort it takes to fix or create something and your feelings of satisfaction that come with achieving it.

2. Spend discovery times with your kids: Kids are naturally curious. Foster that curiosity by being curious yourself. Wonder aloud about how things work. Take the kids’ questions seriously. Answer their questions by pulling up information on the Internet and searching for it in books. Watch nature and science shows together and talk about what you learned from them. Do simple experiments at home. The internet is full of fun and surprising home projects that demonstrate everything from how a volcano works to how to learn chemistry through cooking. An hour or two of creating and exploring together on your weekends keeps the fun of learning alive.

3. Read. Read. Read: Much of academic success depends on interest in and mastery of reading skills. Read aloud to the kids. Encourage them to read alternate pages with you. Find books that have “cliff hanger” chapters that encourage all of you to read the next chapter and the next. Make a weekly trip to the library and encourage each of your kids to take out books as soon as they are old enough to have a library card. Once they can read on their own, both knowledge and entertainment are open to them. Kids who love books and are comfortable with reading are less likely to be overwhelmed by assignments that depend on it.

4. Write. Write. Write. I’ve always found it interesting that there is so much emphasis in articles like this one on reading and so little on writing. Yet writing well is just as central to doing well in school and in life. Many parents celebrate it when a child has learned to write their own name. Don’t let it end there. Just as with reading, start building writing skills when the kids are young. With little ones, ask them to tell you about a drawing so you can write a caption. Ask them to dictate good things that happened during the day so you can enter it in a nightly journal. As they start to learn how to write words, encourage them to help fill that journal as well. You and your children get to review your day while you give those events the importance that comes with writing them down. By the way: Those journals become precious records of your kids’ childhood when they are older.

5. Be interested in what goes on at school: Kids take their cues from us. If we are genuinely interested in what they are learning, they will be too. Spend some time every afternoon or evening talking about what the children learned in school. Be interested, not critical. Look together at the papers that come home.

Be interested in how they are going to approach the homework. Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer.

No, don’t do their homework. But do show interest and provide support. Most schools now have websites where teachers enter the homework assignments for the day or week and where parents can be in communication with concerns and applause. Use it.

6. Set up a homework area: It doesn’t matter if a kid does homework on the kitchen table or at a private desk. What matters is that a time and a place is set up specifically for homework and that needed supplies are readily at hand. Setting up a physical space and identifying a homework time sends the message that schoolwork is taken seriously at your house. Making a rule that phones and TVs are shut off until homework is completed keeps distractions to a minimum and underlines your commitment to their learning. Check in now and then to see how they are doing, to offer support when needed and to celebrate achievements. Our interested and positive involvement is far more impressive than our words.

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counsellor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central’s Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart. Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem. Search for Marie Hartwell-Walker.  http://psychcentral.com


What to do About New School Year Anxieties

by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.   •  Psych Central www.psychcentral.com

Here it comes! School is reopening in a week or two. Are you and your children ready? Transitions are hard for most people but particularly for young people. It’s normal for children and teens to be a bit anxious about starting a new school year. It’s usual for kids to be full of questions. It’s also normal for parents to be anxious about their children’s anxiety. You may have anxieties based on your childhood experiences in school or worries about what’s ahead for your child. You can do much to soothe everyone’s anxieties with some thoughtful preparation.

Master your own anxieties:

Separate your anxieties from your children’s. If your experiences in school weren’t happy and satisfying, you may be very anxious that the same thing will happen to your children. For your own sake, and your child’s, it’s important to acknowledge your worries and to do what you can to calm them. Your kids have enough to worry about without worrying about your worrying. Talk to your partner, your best friends or your therapist about your anxieties, not your children. Work it through so you can be your most encouraging self when supporting your children.

Tell positive stories: Even if school was generally difficult for you, it is highly unlikely that all twelve years of school were a challenge every day in every way. Think about moments when you felt good about a teacher, about overcoming a challenge, about mastering a lesson, or when something fun and funny happened. Talking about those events will make you feel better and will help create a positive tone for your kids’ education.

If you were one of the fortunate people who loved (or at least liked) school and did reasonably or very well there, sharing the good times with your kids can be encouraging to all of you.

Familiarize yourself with staff and rules: If you are anxious about what the new teachers will be like, make an appointment to meet them and to find out how to communicate with them before school starts. Should there be problems, you’ll feel more comfortable talking to a teacher you’ve already at least met.

Knowing the school rules will prevent misunderstandings and unnecessary anxiety. If the school has a handbook, read it. If there isn’t a published set of guidelines, talk to the school guidance counsellors about the standards for behaviour and consequences for violating those standards. Be clear about policies about tardiness and absences. Learn what kind of help the guidance department offers.

Make sure supports are in place: You will feel more relaxed if you are confident your child’s needs will be addressed. If your child has a learning disability and a service plan, make sure the paperwork is in order and that the receiving teacher(s) are aware of it. If your child doesn’t have a documented learning disability but does struggle in school, alert the teachers and talk about what they suggest you can do to be a support. If your child has been going through a difficult transition at home (a divorce or remarriage of parents, a move, a new baby, illness, etc.) do notify the guidance counsellors so they can be alert to whether your child needs a little more support.

Stay up to date: Staying in touch can prevent little problems from morphing into big anxiety-provoking dramas. Many schools now have websites where teachers post assignments and send and receive messages. Check in regularly. If you don’t have a home computer, use the computers at your local library at least once a week. If that’s too difficult, let the teacher know you will be communicating by note.

Calm your child’s anxieties:

Never minimize a child’s fears. Listen. Listen without judgment and with compassion. Your child’s worries may seem not worth the angst or even silly but, to the child, they are very, very real. Work with your child to figure out ways to address the concerns.

Visit the school: If your children are new to the schools they will be attending, arrange for a visit. Children (and, yes, teens) are understandably anxious if they don’t know where to go or what to expect once they walk through those doors.

Meet the teacher: If your child is anxious about what the teacher will be like, it’s often helpful to arrange a short meet and greet. Teachers are busy setting up for the year but most are more than happy to say hello to a child, to show them around the classroom for a few minutes and to talk briefly about what the child will be learning. In the case of teens, it is sometimes possible to not only meet some of the staff but also to pick up copies of textbooks. You and your teen can look over the texts as a way to get oriented.

Encourage communication: Sometimes kids don’t tell their parents about problems because they don’t want to worry them or they have the mistaken idea that they have to solve their problems by themselves. They then have two problems: The original problem and the burden of trying to handle it on their own when they don’t have enough information or skills. Do your best to encourage open communication. Be clear that you are both willing and available to help when help is needed. The two of you may be able to solve academic and social problems as they come up. Do also explore if the school offers more academic and social supports through tutoring or counselling sessions.

Encourage a balanced lifestyle: Kids who are get eight-to-nine hours of sleep, who eat breakfast, who get some regular exercise and who have activities outside of school are generally kids who are mentally healthy and physically strong. Work with your children to develop a family lifestyle that will minimize anxiety and maximize success for everyone.

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counsellor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central’s Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart. Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem. Search for Marie Hartwell-Walker.


When Your Child’s Music Lessons Become Torture

by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.   •  Psych Central www.psychcentral.com

Ted talks bitterly about being made to play the clarinet as a kid. For three years during his teens, his parents required him to spend an hour after dinner every night practicing. It was a daily argument. His parents wanted him to be in the marching band (an idea that gave him the shakes). They fought him when he thought maybe jazz was more his thing. They wanted him to love his instrument. Instead, he learned to hate it.

My friend Angela was forced to take up the violin when she was 12. She quickly figured out that her parents had no idea what a beginning violin student should sound like. During her mandatory hour of “practice”, she would close her bedroom door, lay the violin on her bed and pull the bow back and forth across the strings while reading her favourite novels. The screeching that resulted reassured her parents that she was putting in the time but convinced them that maybe the violin wasn’t for her. Much to her relief, they stopped the lessons.

The parents of both of these people were well-intended. They believed that playing an instrument would give their kid some kind of advantage. They saw it as their responsibility to provide the opportunity to have lessons and to insist on regular practicing.

They weren’t wrong to want music in their kids’ lives. There are, in fact, many good reasons to give kids lessons on an instrument.

• Music can help regulate mood. It can give a child or teen a way to be creative, to de-stress and to feel in control of something when the world feels so out of control.

• Making music and listening to it develops the part of the brain that is involved with language and reasoning. Neuro-research shows that children who make music have a larger growth of neural activity than children who don’t.

• It’s not by accident that so many mathematicians, engineers and architects are also musicians. There is evidence that learning an instrument helps in the development of spatial-temporal skills. These are the skills that are central to visualizing how parts fit together and solving problems that have many steps.

• Making music is a way to make friends and to boost self-esteem. Some kids who have trouble fitting in socially find acceptance and admiration if they play or sing well.

• Musical competence is an especially important alternative for kids who are not natural athletes in schools where sports are the primary out-of-school activities. Like sports, music teaches teamwork, discipline and the value of making progress toward a goal.

• Best of all, playing an instrument is a skill that can be enjoyed and shared over a lifetime.

So why does giving a child music lessons often go so wrong?

Both Ted’s and Angela’s parents’ hearts were in the right place. But they, like many parents, failed to understand that providing lessons would not make their kids into musicians if practicing was a chore instead of a pleasure.

Music educators are clear: Kids’ success in music depends on parental involvement. Ideally, music lessons are something we do with our kids, not to them.

Here are six common mistakes parents make that make kids less likely to stick with an instrument:

1. They don’t make music the soundtrack of family life. Families that produce musicians often make music a regular and important part of every day. The radio goes on with lively music when the family gets up. Family members sing during trips to the store or while carpooling. They boogie together while doing chores. During dinner and homework time, calming classical music is played in the background. Kids who grow up with many kinds of music as a daily accompaniment to their activities absorb its pleasures and its language.

2. In a case of ‘do what I say, not what I do’, they make their kids take lessons without making music themselves. Kids are copycats. When a parent takes lessons and/or spends a half hour or more a day happily working on mastering an instrument, the children see it as simply part of growing up. When making music gives the adults pleasure, kids learn that doing so is pleasurable.

3. Wait too long to start kids on instruments. Little ones can be encouraged to bang on a pot with spoons, to jingle some bells or to hammer on a xylophone. It’s not noise. The child is learning about beat and about cause and effect. As she grows, more complicated ways to make music can be added. Kids as young as three can try out the piano or violin or drums. If you don’t believe it, check out Youtube videos of preschoolers who outplay adults.

4. Practice time happens when the parent thinks of it, not at a regular time. Practicing is a discipline. It’s more likely to happen when it is consistently built into the daily routine. Kids learn to value the activities that parents show them are important enough to structure into their day.

5. They send kids off to practice alone. Unless the child is inherently motivated, being sent off to their bedroom to practice can feel like banishment to Siberia. Kids are more likely to enjoy their instrument when parents play music with them at least part of the practice time.

6. They are too critical. Mastering an instrument takes time. Playing an instrument does not. Children respond to parental interest and encouragement. When parents admire the effort and reward the times that it starts to come together, the kids are more likely to stick with it.

Kids who have the opportunity to learn to play an instrument benefit in many, many important ways. Whether lessons are initiated by parents or by a school program or by the kids themselves, children are much more likely to be enthusiastic about them if those lessons are supported at home by parent participation. When music is a family value, kids learn to value it. Whether they do become musicians or simply appreciators of music, the benefits of a childhood experience of making music will stick with them throughout their lives.

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counsellor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central’s Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart. Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem. Search for Marie Hartwell-Walker.

Modern Parenting Trends

by Amelia Ellsworth  •  Freelance Writer

What does it mean to be a parent in 2019? There are problems with scheduling all the family activities, having to deal with blended families and divorce, giving your kids all the best opportunities, and of course getting them off their devices and outside more. So many challenges. But has parenting really changed over the years? It has. Let’s look at some of the trends for parenting in 2019.

So long coddling parent:

According to Parenting The Modern Family, their number one trend is parents wanting a closer relationship with their children without raising kids who are dependent on them forever. This trend is very interesting because a closer relationship between child and adult can have an unforeseen side effect: the child likes being the child and prefers to stay home and puts off adulthood until later. Or rather, they avoid important development hurtles which would help them develop confidence, independence and the desire to leave the nest. In the past this resulted in a generation of children who didn’t leave home upon graduation but continued to live on in the parental house hold. Generational researcher Jean Twenge calls this generation the iGen kids (born between 1995-2007) and describes them as “a less confident, more uncertain, more anxious generation than Millennials were at the same age. That may at least partially be due to their adolescence spent on their smartphones.” (www.jeantwenge.com).

Not all facts about iGen kids are gloomy. There are some strong points such as they tend to be more inclusive in their communities, they have strong work ethics and are less likely to put themselves at risk.

To counteract this coddling trend, present day parents are focusing on creating self confidence. For tips on how to encourage your child to be independent, check out the Parenting the Modern Family article ‘Four Signs Your Teen Is Avoiding Adulthood’.

Prepared to face the world:

This second trend is directly linked to the previous one. With this trend parents have seen the result of raising unmotivated children and are working to counteract this. All parents want the best for their children including developing a healthy independence so that one day their child will be equipped to leave the home. This is a delicate balance between nurturing and neglect. Currently parents are trying to curb the trend of over protectiveness by creating a safe environment where children can learn how to solve problems and develop the confidence to try new things.

Case in point: I saw two children one day on bicycles, both crying. I stopped to check what was wrong and discovered their parents had sent them out for a bike ride. Seems like a wonderful adventure so why all the tears? The younger boy was crying because he thought his older sister had made a wrong turn and they were lost. The older sister was crying because she was experiencing stress due to the fact that she was responsible for getting them home and also dealing with her brother’s fear. Was this an example of thoughtless, uncaring parents? It was not. The kids were in a safe neighbourhood and not far from home. This was a great opportunity for them to deal with a challenging situation and end up back home where their parents would comfort them and congratulate them on the lessons they learned and their bravery. It was a good first step towards preparing their children for the inevitable exit.

Everyone learns from failure and from success. Success is a better teacher but everyone must learn to deal with failure too. It’s better to learn these important lessons in a loving household where parents can soothe, encourage and give emotional support.

For more on how to raise confident children, check out Dr. Laura Markham’s article ‘12 ways to raise a competent, confident child with grit’. www.psychologytoday.com.

Apps for everything:

Let’s face it, almost every household is a blended household and most have two working parents. This presents so many challenges and the least of those is how to cope with your divorce and keep on top of all the scheduling that is ever present in our busy lives. We tend to want to be super parents and do everything right all the time. The problem is we don’t know everything, we often don’t have time to pick up the skills we need, and we can’t be everywhere at once. So even though we are better now at giving ourselves a break and some much needed me time, we still need to deal with challenges. Fortunately, there’s an app for almost everything you need help with.

Are you finding it hard to keep on top of the many schedules which includes keeping your ex informed? Well, there’s an app for that. Do you need help dealing with your divorce and all the paperwork involved? Well, there’s an app for that too. Here’s some handy apps you can check out to see if any of them will assist in making your life easier.

Check out the article by Claire Gillespie called ‘The 7 Best Co-parenting Apps Out There’. She gives you a run down on the following apps: 2houses, Amicable, Coparently, Our Family Wizard, Cozi, Talking Parents, and Google Calendar. www.sheknows.com.

Men spend more time with their kids:

This is one of my favourite trends although it might be because there’s more single dads. However, I love the idea that fathers are making it a priority to spend more time with their children. I know that fathers were already doing this before. It just seems like a shift in consciousness has taken place and fathers are viewing their roles slightly differently. I feel this is so important to the development of healthy children because kids need a great example to live up to (and yes, a great example from both parents not just dads). Having fathers find more time for their children on a daily basis will enable a generation of well-rounded children who are ready to face the world and be great dads (or moms) and great leaders. At least that’s my hope.

In the past (I’m thinking way back to the 1950’s) it seems like many fathers viewed their roles as bringing home the bacon, mowing the lawn on Saturday then falling asleep on the couch Sunday afternoon. According to Heather Marcoux (www.mother.ly), dads are now spending three times as much time with their children than previous generations of dads. She goes on to say dads want to participate equally in the household, they suffer from dad guilt (they worry they are not doing enough) and dads need support too.  One of their main struggles is the work-life barrier. They want to climb the corporate ladder but also spend time with their family. The corporate world may take some time to fall in line with the new social consciousness that is forming in our families. Until then, let’s cheer on our dads and help them out when we can. Go dads, go!

Who’s staying home with the children:

Okay, I must come clean and admit that maybe this isn’t a trend in the western world right now (and I wish it was) but it’s on the rise and we’re going to see more and more of this in the future. U.S. Census data says  that in one out of five households with a stay at home parent, that parent is dad (www.zillow.com).

I know a woman who is married with two children and she works full time while her husband stays at home with the kids. They agreed early in their relationship to switch roles and they love it. This is very cool in my books. I realize this isn’t possible for many households as often two incomes are needed, but I think there’s a shift starting to happen in this area.

Why not consider other parenting options? In the Netherlands 26.8% of men and 76.6% of women work part time. (www.economist.com). Why am I telling you this? Because this country also consistently ranks as one of the best places in the world to live and Dutch kids are among the happiest in the world, according to Unicef, that’s why. More than half of the population work part time and yet they have a higher quality of life. This stems from their state working closely with employees to ensure that part timers enjoy similar legal status as the full-time employees. This has even been written into their laws.

So why not consider other parenting role options? I know we don’t live in the Netherlands but why not be different and create change?

Living a simpler life:

This trend can be directly linked to earnings but it doesn’t have to be. I’m an avid watcher of Tiny House videos and the overall thing people say when they talk about their new lifestyle is that it’s a simpler life. Because they have downsized so much to fit into a tiny space, they are forced to value their items and live with only what they love. This in turns makes them happier. It’s the reverse attitude of keeping up with the Jones. They don’t need all the toys and gadgets. The interesting spin off is they are outside more, interacting with people more and generally happier. Strange how that worked.

Young couples who are just starting their families are finding it harder and harder to get affordable housing so they are looking for other, creative options. They are also looking for a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle. All of this leads to fewer belongings, a conscientious use of utilities and more connectedness to the earth and where our food comes from.

Check out ‘15 Simple Living Tips for Parents’. These are great regardless of where you live and what lifestyle you have.  (simplelivingdaily.com)

It should be noted that in North America many people are actively searching for ways to earn money from home and scrap the nine-to-five job altogether. This not only gives the parent more freedom but also allows us to change how we parent. In fact, I met a mother who choose to be a stay at home parent because she wanted to home school her two daughters.

Not all of us have circumstances that afford us these options but whether it’s a simpler life with less things, home schooling your child, or having the male role model stay home with the kids, the world is looking on with less criticism and more interest and acceptance. This leads me on to another popular parenting trend, how parents are dealing with over cautious children and kids that spend too much time by themselves on their devices.

Unsupervised play time outside:

I remember running amok in my neighbourhood with my parents only having a vague idea where I was and when I’d be home (usually for dinner). How times have changed. Now, getting kids off the devices and outside is a big challenge. The result of our inactive children manifests in all kinds of social, emotional and health problems. Specifically, unsupervised, unstructured play or ‘Risky’ play is on the rise. Risk seems to be a word we avoid but some risk is necessary for the healthy development of children. Risky play means things done with speed, or sharp objects, or involving height or the potential of getting lost.

Dr. Mark Tremblay, (director of healthy active living and obesity research with the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa) in an article with CBC says, “I prefer to just refer to things as play and let kids go out and explore their limits. That includes possibilities of getting lost, the possibilities of having what we call, ‘learning injuries’, seeing how fast you can go, how high you can go”.  www.cbc.ca.

This sounds scary or like you’re courting disaster but he goes further to explain, “In fact, being indoors is actually more dangerous for children than being outdoors. Smartphones, computers and televisions, while entertaining and an easy way for parents to monitor their children, are doing more harm than good”.


Let’s get over that idea that ‘safe’ is inside and ‘risk’ is bad. It’s time to go outside and play.

Now I see that even our Regional Parks have provided a program called Park Play Days, where there is unstructured play time. Kids can run around free to explore whatever they wish and don’t have to join groups or play on a team. They can lay in the grass and look at the clouds, catch a grasshopper or discover a new view from the top of a tree. Connecting with nature is a great thing for everyone not just children. It’s time to smell the roses… no matter your age.

But it’s more than just connecting with nature. Unsupervised play time is important too. This time is for a child to learn to entertain themselves and use their imagination. Or, if more than one child, develop skills like learning how to share, play together as a group, show empathy and inclusiveness. They have to develop social skills, make mistakes, and apologize. All useful lessons that are better when learned young.

A study was done by University College London about unsupervised play time and they determined that it helps children become more social and active while developing important skills like regulating their emotions, creative thinking and analyzing patterns amongst other things. Katie McPherson goes on to say in her article ‘The Benefits of Unsupervised Play Will Make You Want to Back Off Your Kids’ Activities in A Big Way’ that we can’t deprive our children of free play as it’s the best way for a child to learn. It’s important to their development and later success in life. Katie has a great article you’ll love to read. Check it out on Romper.com.

There are many more parenting trends happening than I’ve covered here, I’ve mentioned only a few. What I love about these trends is that it’s new perspective on an old role. Why not look afresh at our roles as parents and take on a new attitude? I love that men are more involved with their children than they ever were before. I love that people are opting out of the nine-to-five job in favour of other unique options. I love that we have the internet now and you can search for solutions to your problems or use apps to make life easier. I’m not saying that the ways children were raised in the past were wrong. No. In fact, we need to get back to some of those ways such as unstructured and unsupervised play time. Or play involving some risk. Let’s swing that pendulum to the centre and create more balanced households. Maybe that means less things and more outdoor time. The world of parenting is full of challenges and we all want healthy and happy children who are ready to face the world. I hope this article has given you some help, some hope and maybe inspired you to try something new.

Amelia Ellsworth is a freelance writer who has grown up in the Okanagan. In fact she was born right here in Kelowna. Having spent most of her life in the valley she enjoys the usual recreational activities such as hiking, gardening, boating and visiting wineries. She has not yet had the privilege of being a mother, but would describe herself as a child, an adult, sister, aunt, god parent, community member and well rounded human who is part of the world community. Be the change you want to see.


The Purpose and Value of Labour Support

by Shannon-Tara Ames, CD(DONA) Certified Birth Doula

What is a Doula? The word ‘doula’ comes from the ancient Greek meaning ‘a woman who serves’ and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

A birth Doula is a professional trained in childbirth, which provide physical and emotional support throughout the pregnancy, during labour and after birth. Doulas use techniques such as imagery, lite touch, acupressure, hot/cold therapy and patterned breathing to help reduce a woman’s pain during labour. Studies have shown that by hiring a Doula, a mother can reduce her need for pain medication and increase overall satisfaction with the birth experience. Having a trained labour coach can also reduce the risk of a cesarean and reduce the risk of assisted delivery by forceps or vacuum extraction. Studies have also shown a mother can have a reduction in postpartum depression when a Doula gives continual labour support and is present at birth.

The purpose of retaining labour support is primarily to serve the mother and guide her in her birthing decisions. Labour support begins, ideally, prenatally. A Doula can assist the mother/couple in creating a birth plan, helping to get answers to their questions, seek community resources and address any concerns or anxieties that they may have or women who have complex needs during childbirth. Most women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect.  Although a Doula’s role can vary from birth to birth, her primary goal is to mother the mother by providing physical, informational, and emotional support. This can mean walking the halls with a client or standing as a pillar to slow dance with her during a contraction, cradling a scared mother in her arms with confidence and compassion. This can also mean gently preparing a father for a cesarean birth, or calming the new parents while their baby is being coaxed to breath. Doulas do not have medical training, and thus, do not provide any medical services.

The support given by a Doula is valuable in several aspects; supporting the needs of the mother by keeping her as calm and relaxed as possible, offering emotional and physical comfort, helping mom and baby experience their first breastfeeding and help make the birth as memorable as possible. When a woman’s abilities are affirmed, when she is made to feel strong and sage, and when she comes through her birth experience empowered, she starts off motherhood on a positive note. A positive birth experience contributes to a healthy parent-newborn bonding, making for a secure infant, a confident mother and a connected family.

Labour support is also of great value to the birth mother’s partner. The Doula is not there to replace the father/family or the healthcare team; she is there to enhance them. Many labour partners can feel overwhelmed by the whole birth experience and the responsibility to care for the mother: verbal encouragement, physical support, help advocate for the mother’s wishes, reading her emotional signs and just knowing what to suggest as labour progresses. A Doula is educated in all those areas.

The birth of a child can be the most significant experience in a woman’s life. A Doula, functioning within the scope of practice, can significantly improve a mother’s experience and improve maternal and fetal out comes.

For more information please visit www.greatbeginningsdoula.ca.

Shannon-Tara Ames, CD (DONA) Certified Birth Doula. Shannon-Tara was born in Penticton and raised in Kamloops. She has been married for over 27 years and is the proud mother of two wonderful adult boys. She has lived in Westbank for over 17 years and is very active in her community.