Notes from the Editor
This year began as a lesson in loneliness for us all as self isolation brought many challenges. But what if your life was like that all of the time? What if you knew nothing else and it was your normal? Thus the pandemic has taught a mother how her child feels as he tries to navigate the world around him. It’s good to learn what its like for others as they struggle to adapt… and so I invite you to read A Lesson in Loneliness.
Do you have a child who has problems sleeping? Are you struggling to get the bedtime routine down pat? We have something that might help. Read Pam Nease’s article Dialing Back Bedtime.
Ever wonder about the benefits of dance, music, art, acting? The Arts play a huge role in our community and in the development of our children. Check out the articles The Importance of an Arts Education and Kelowna Community Music School Turns 45! to learn more.
Science is equally important in human development. I love the article called Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead: 5 Steps to Help Build the Next Generation of Female Scientists by Dr. Jennifer Jakobi. It’s exciting to learn of all the possibilities girls have today when it comes to venturing into the vast field of science. Check out the S.T.E.A.M. program. It might be perfect for your daughter.
Interested in homeschooling but don’t know where to start? Blogger Marissa Dutoff has some tips and advice as she dives into the realm of homeschooling her son. Read Make Learning a Game.
Are you a parent of a teenager? Looking for some tips? Marie Hartwell- Walker has some excellent advice. She also has an article on New Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression. Everyone needs help at one time in their life and being a mother is no exception. Our bodies don’t always bounce back quickly after giving birth and our moods will swing wildly. We wonder if this is normal, especially if you’re a first time mother. Marie offers some great advice.
Ever move into a community and feel unsettled? That’s just what happened to Teresa Pavlin when she moved to the Okanagan. But she found a high note in the most unlikely place… on the snowy trails of Telemark. You’ll enjoy reading her journey in 3 Things I Learned Moving to the Okanagan.
This past year we’ve been cooped up and our routines have flown out the window but as things start to get back to normal you may want to include a new exercise routine for your family. Read Returning to Active Habits as a Family by Isaac Schock. The YMCA can help you live a healthier lifestyle.
Or maybe you want to start volunteering as a family? KCR has a great opportunity: become settlement mentors. Why not try something new and volunteer? Read the article Volunteering is a Family Thing.
Our local library may be more accessible than you realize. The Okanagan Regional Library has a vast array of online resources. Stay up-to-date and read The Sound of Story.
Lindsay Krieg is Creating Calm in the Chaos by teaching us about sensory overload and how to cope.
And last but not least, homelessness in Kelowna is a difficult situation for all. The City of Kelowna has a variety of interesting programs. Learn more by reading Leave Your Baggage Behind. Helping others in our community is a win, win for everyone. Enjoy.
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A Lesson in Loneliness
by Melanie Williams, Freelance Writer • Originally published in Maclean’s and Chatelaine
My son’s journey with loneliness started years before the Covid-19 pandemic. If there’s a silver lining to this pandemic and the restrictions imposed on our personal liberties, it’s that I am learning what involuntary loneliness feels like. Loneliness and the effects of isolation and social distancing are experiences that my son faces in his everyday life. The pandemic has given me the opportunity to better understand my son and appreciate his incredible capacity for resiliency. His strength and willingness to show up and keep trying every day is the most impressive thing I have ever seen.
Born in the middle of the night after just two hours of labour, my son’s arrival is a blur of sporadic memories; my husband speeding through the city, talking on the phone with 911 in case I liberated our child in the front seat of the car. We made it to the hospital and I remember being taken by wheelchair, careening through the hospital corridors, racing to labour and delivery. Moments later I looked down into the face of my son dangling freely between my thighs. A doctor swooped in and whisked my baby boy away. It was fast, exhilarating and it changed my life forever.
Hours later I was sitting in the NICU next to my son sleeping soundly in his oxygen bubble. The day shift arrived and a doctor ascended into the room. Without thought or hesitation, he loudly pronounced this definitely is a ‘Downs baby’. The intensity of this news stunned me but, even after the doctor effectively rattled off the list of deficiencies to me, it never crossed my mind that my son was anything less than a perfect new human being.
Now fourteen years old, my son is bright and energetic. He excels at flipping forward and backwards on the trampoline. He swims three times a week with a club in the city and Butterfly is his best stroke. His spirit is composed of music. Whether he is singing in the backyard for all the neighbours to hear or jamming on his saxophone, printing out the lyrics of his favourite songs or listening to his extensive playlist on his cell phone, music is essential in his life. He’s a pretty typical teenager.
When my son began attending our community school in regular education classes, we started down a road that was anything but typical. The path was fraught with gaping potholes and inadequacies I never knew existed. The school system is not set up for difference, not prepared to handle diversity and not eager to adapt. Yet here in 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic this archaic system has been forced to instantly change and accommodate educating everyone at home experiencing a very different world.
My friends on Facebook post all the time now about the difficulties of being isolated and their exhaustive if not futile efforts to continue schooling at home. Their children who once intentionally locked themselves in their rooms, now cry at the reality of being forcibly sequestered at home. Parents worry about their children being lonely and unable to connect naturally with their friends. Worried about mental health and the very real possibility of depression settling in. School has become a daily chore riddled with problems for parents, students and teachers alike. Instruction has become dependent on an inanimate internet connection. Communication breaks down as screens freeze and instructions are garbled. Students are left frustrated, unable to fully understand expectations.
These types of systemic challenges are old hat for us, however. Your child’s new struggle to fit the current model for education is familiar territory to us. My son has always struggled to fit the ‘one-size-fits-all’ learning environment. Incredulously, our children’s first experience with systemic failure appears to happen in elementary schools when professionals test IQ, slap on labels or deem a child ‘best suited’ to a segregated learning environment. Assumptions about a child’s ability are made and attitudes are formed.
Consequently, I have fought my way into every school year to have my son included, but I have learned that being included isn’t the same as being accepted or valued as an equal. My son has been labeled that ‘Downs kid’ and more often than not, is defined by his disability. School administrations hyper focus on his deficiencies instead of identifying his skills and interests. The idea of putting all the kids with the same coding into the same classroom, makes sense in the ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. This certainly appears to be the most convenient set up for the adults involved regardless of the fact that it may not be a conducive learning environment for the students involved. Similar to what is happening now; students are segregated, struggling with deficiencies in communication and discovering that instruction does not always accommodate the full spectrum of learning modalities.
Evidence of a failing system and continuing isolation fuel frustration and resentment grows not only amongst students but with adults as well. Many people feel our fundamental human rights are being infringed upon. Our ability to move freely in our community has become limited. How we talk and interact with each other has become constrained. Our choice and ability to work or go to school is being dictated to us. How illuminating it is to realize that this is the everyday life (pandemic or not) of people living with special needs. Their ability to move freely, easily interact and connect with others in their community, work and go to school, is commonly inhibited by a lack of accessibility, resources or people’s antiquated attitudes. Are their basic human rights less important than your own? Instead of society being resentful and entitled we need to utilize this new-found empathy the pandemic has uniquely provided us by acknowledging the needs of our most vulnerable and acting in ways that fully supports and truly values all citizens as equal.
The pandemic restrictions have me thinking a lot about the new home school – work environment and in particular the difficulties surrounding communication people are experiencing. My son’s ability to communicate is modest despite a lifetime of speech therapy. His efforts to communicate often go misunderstood. It breaks my heart when others are not able to understand him. He tries and tries again until it’s clear his audience has given up. I see him throw his hands up in the air and drop his head shaking it in disappointment and frustration. He works hard to understand too but often messages get mixed up, the connection is lost, he is left to his own devices and involuntary loneliness creeps in.
My son has a big personality and he has equally big emotions. He is silly and loud, empathetic and compassionate. His concern for others is almost palpable when someone is hurt. He will be the first to slug his arm across your shoulders and ask you if you’re okay. He cares so deeply and longs for connection and needs real friendship, as does any child. But far too often he sits alone in the school hallway eating his lunch and being ignored. Unaware of social nuisances and age appropriateness, my son disregards personal space and talks in people’s faces. Sadly, but not surprisingly, teenagers regularly practise social distancing and my son regularly experiences isolation from his peers. I too, worry about his mental health and the possibility of him slipping into depression.
As kids go back to school and adults return to work, we crave interaction with people again. Observing a crowd and feeling their energy. Reading another’s body language and seeing if their smile truly reaches their eyes. The freedom of not depending solely on the internet to have a class, a meeting or a conversation. Communication that is clear and we feel confident we have been understood. Having lunch with the gang, catching up on each other’s lives and sharing our experiences. We all eagerly look forward to these days ahead when our version of normalcy will resume.
I hope however, for my son’s sake, that his normal will be different. I hope that his peers and teachers, who now have a profound new understanding of loneliness and what my son feels and experiences living with social and communicative challenges, will endeavour to build real connection with him. I hope they try a little harder to talk to him and listen to him more. I hope they sing with him. I hope they think creatively to find ways to understand. I hope they ask him to show them what he needs and that charades erupt in the classroom. I hope they don’t shame him for a lack of social boundaries and instead teach him and model for him what the expectations are. I hope someone regularly eats lunch with him. I hope he is not only included but knows that he truly belongs. I hope all his abilities and gifts will be appreciated and that true friendship will develop through a mutual love of music and backflips.
I am grateful for the unexpected gift of understanding and empathy the pandemic has given me. I am able to see my son with greater clarity. I have infinite respect for him and his ability to be resilient in the face of adversity and loneliness. He endures others’ misconceptions and systemic unwillingness to evolve. He shows up and tries his best even though it’s hard. Striving to communicate despite frustration he continues to look for real connections and to live his best life.
Post pandemic I hope things get easier for everyone. And I hope life is a little less lonely for my son and others like him because when we know better there’s a responsibility to do better and we all certainly know a lot better now.
Melanie Williams is a freelance writer whose work has been published in Maclean’s, Todays Parent and Chatelaine magazines. Her passion for writing allows her to work out the ups and downs of life and to be an effective inclusion advocate. Melanie was born and raised in Lake Country, BC and still refers to this place as home. Currently she resides in Calgary, Alberta with her husband, two children and a small, were-wolf-like dog.
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Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead:
5 Steps to Help Build the Next
Generation of Female Scientists
by Dr. Jennifer Jakobi and Allyssa Costerton-Grant • UBC Okanagan
The maxim ‘For every problem, there is a solution’ has echoed through generation after generation. Yet, there is no time like the present to contemplate our role in finding solutions. The impact of global change is at our door step and it is a good reminder of why we need to prepare the next generation to find those solutions. Whether it be COVID-19, climate change, big data gathering or use, or social media, the influence of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is woven into the fabric of our family homes – especially those with smart refrigerators, Siri or Prime. Despite this integration, many children do not have access to the essential community allying and programming to build the foundation needed to find STEM solutions. This is becoming increasingly important as women now account for the majority of university graduates, yet research shows that women are less likely to hold a degree in a STEM field and comprise only 23% of science and technology workers. With more and more businesses and organizations looking to research and innovate, the demand for STEM roles will only increase. Not to mention, STEM roles are typically associated with higher pay. That means that the role that families, community and education play is even more important in building STEM interests for girls.
That’s why we’ve compiled five ways that you can promote STEM education in your household with the aim to empower the next generation of female scientists.
Activating, Nurturing and Extending Community •
Girls who report that both a teacher and parent encouraged a passion in STEM are three times more likely to study computer science in college. A nurturing network of people can have a huge impact on whether girls see STEM as a field that they can thrive in. Your words and the community your child interacts with carry messages. Consistently encouraging girls to explore STEM will foster a girl’s interest and likelihood of pursuing STEM.
Showcase Examples •
The pattern is clear: As girls grow their interest in STEM declines. A role model can make all the difference in whether girls see themselves in STEM careers. The first step as a parent might be asking what does a typical scientist, mathematician, technologist or computer programmer look like to you? Finding and celebrating role models as well as undertaking activities with the whole family can drastically influence whether girls see themselves in these positions.
Add the ‘A’ to STEM •
Creativity is a critical piece of STEM. The role the arts play in developing and inspiring girls to think beyond historical stereotypes requires the humanities, language arts, music, visual arts and design to be at the heart of STEM with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Future-ready girls will need to be problem-solvers and that means integrating intentionally diverse ways of creating and mobilizing knowledge. Curiosity and imagination can serve as the foundation for whatever your girl’s passions are.
Provide Hands on Experience Outside of the Classroom •
When girls are exposed to STEM in the community through clubs or camps, interest and success in science classes and careers increases. Girls feel powerful doing STEM activities. They become aware of how STEM is relevant and the jobs that are possible with STEM. They also learn how to pursue careers in STEM. Thankfully, the Okanagan is rich with opportunities to engage with STEM. Take your girl’s learning into the local community to explore STEM firsthand through one of the amazing camps, workshops or after school programs that connect girls with the love of STEM.
Encourage Failure •
An experiment likely won’t succeed the first time. Just like one’s first steps, you must learn to fall and get up again and again. A willingness to try and fail is key to a ‘growth mindset’. A supportive environment that encourages learning and improvement through trial and error can build the confidence in asking questions and being comfortable being wrong. Trying to figure something out, tinkering, making, testing, building and creating starts with one important step: the confidence to try. A family environment that creates a safe and encouraging space for girls to invent their own path can make all the difference.
Our families play an important role in making sure that our girls are full STEAM ahead.
Exploring and supporting a budding young scientist doesn’t come without obstacles. Many of which are financial or exacerbated in rural areas – and not just for girls. Even in our community, there are members who will have limited access and capacity to pursue the type of extra-curricular activities that can help pave the way to STEM.
Everyone should have access to the conditions and context that builds confidence to pursue the career they desire. That’s why partners from government to industry are working together to ensure opportunity for every child. Here in the Okanagan we have various programs and supports for families to support STEM exploration.
There is no straight line to creating a vibrant diverse workforce, but one thing is clear: the future should be everyone’s to experience and explore.
Dr. Jennifer Jakobi is the Director of the integrative STEM Team Advancing Networks of Diversity (iSTAND) and Professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at UBC Okanagan. Allyssa Costerton-Grant is a higher education professional who is dedicated to advancing reciprocal community partnerships. Learn more at: stem.ok.ubc.ca
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Volunteering is a Family Thing
by Dorothee Birker • KCR Community Resources
You care about making an impact and giving back to the community you are raising your family in. However, life is super busy with work, family and home demands. Adding volunteering may seem like too much. But there is a growing trend to start volunteering as a family unit that offers many benefits to your family and to the organization you choose to volunteer with.
Maybe you are especially passionate about a specific cause that you want to stay engaged with and want to encourage your children to learn about? Yay for experiential, real-life learning outside the classroom.
Maybe you want to instill a sense of volunteerism to your kids and share with them the importance of community-building? Way to show them you are living your values.
Or maybe you want to spend meaningful time together as a family? Volunteerism builds connections and friendships and deepens those that are already connected.
There are so many reasons to volunteer and doing it as a family expands the impact both quantifiably and qualitatively.
The Friesen family, including parents Randal and Carla and kids Greta and Oliver, learned first-hand what a boon volunteering as a family is. They volunteered to be Settlement Mentors with KCR Community Resources, helping a family of newcomers get settled in Kelowna. They themselves had recently returned to the Okanagan from living overseas and the volunteer opportunity help them to re-adjust to being back here.
“My husband’s family had sponsored quite a few ESL students and we had lived overseas,” explains Carla. “As we adjusted to being back here, we missed being with people from other cultures and we wanted to connect and it just seemed like a natural way for us to give back to the community.”
For both Randal and Carla, they didn’t want their volunteer efforts to pull them away from their own children, they wanted to experience something together. They signed up to volunteer as a family team to connect with the Al Johmane family in 2018. Although the original volunteer commitment has long ended, they still keep in touch and when the pandemic and time allows, they get together as friends.
“I thought the experience would build empathy for the kids and give them an idea of what people are dealing with when they are hanging out with people who didn’t speak the same language,” explains Carla. They had experienced this themselves when they were overseas, but it was a good opportunity for them to support others in that situation.
When the families were first matched, teenagers Greta (then 15) and Oliver (then 13) were a perfect age for being older mentors to the younger newcomers: a girl, Imara (then six) and two boys Silmar (then four) and baby Mayar. The Al Johmane family, with parents Omran and Rajaa, has now expanded to also include new sibling Mira.
While Carla and her family had initially envisioned a casual relationship of outings and meals together, they learned that the mentorship guidelines were more formal but that was actually a benefit to begin the relationship.
“It gave us a better idea about how to support them,” explains Carla. “As time went on, it became more informal and a kind of friendship. We had them over one time when my whole extended family was also over. It was wonderful as it allowed them to meet even more people and it got my extended family to help as well.”
The opportunity to give back as a family was very enjoyable and eye-opening for the Friesens.
“It was easy because it was a family helping a family,” says Carla enthusiastically. “The kids would play together and the adults could talk more. It was fun for our kids to have younger kids to connect with as all of their cousins were a bit older. They learned about different foods, etiquette and cultures.”
“I think it is good to see our culture reflected through the lens of someone else,” continues Carla. “It allows us to examine how we take things for granted and to question how and why we do things the way we do.”
Carla notes that one thing that stood out for her was how what seems like easy, day-to-day things can be very confusing. Getting mail and newsletters from the school can be dealt with quickly and easily if you are familiar with the system, but it is more difficult when the system is completely new.
“We gained an appreciation for how easy some things in Canada are and how we have different government programs that we can all access when life is hard,” says Carla. “We know how to navigate that. Newcomers are educated and intelligent but it is difficult to navigate systems that are so different, especially when you speak a different language.”
As busy parents, Randal and Carla found volunteering as a family unit not only doable but desirable as it connected them more.
“I think it is more sustainable – if the whole family is interested, then you want to spend more time together,” says Carla. “There are so many things that pull us in different directions that it’s nice to have a common thing that pulls us in the same direction.”
“This is real education. They can learn about social studies without being in a classroom. If you can’t travel, this is one great way to gain insight into another culture,” she continues enthusiastically, wanting to encourage other families to volunteer as well. “You don’t need to really prepare or to worry about what you are going to talk about. Just using English and talking to them about basic conversation seems to come pretty naturally. The families that come here are so thankful for any contact. It seems like meaningful time spent with people.”
Talking with Carla, it is easy to see that the mentorship gave so much to both families. Volunteerism really is a mutually beneficial relationship. So when you think about giving back, think holistically and get everyone in the family involved. If you are interested in volunteering as Settlement Mentors or other volunteer opportunities, contact KCR Community Resources. We operate the Volunteer Centre of the Central Okanagan and can connect you to your best volunteer match through the Volunteer Connector platform. Give us a call at 250-763-8008 or check out the website at www.kcr.ca.
Dorothee Birker is the Communications and Development Coordinator at KCR Community Resources, a multi-service agency that fosters diversity, collaboration and resourcefulness by tailoring services to meet community, family and individual needs. They do this in four overarching areas: Family and Adoption Services, Employment Services, Immigrant Services and Community Services, which houses the Volunteer Centre of the Central Okanagan.
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New Baby Blues or
by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. • Psych Central www.psychcentral.com
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m supposed to feel a surge of maternal instinct, right? I’m supposed to love my baby. Why am I so overwhelmed and uninterested?”
I’m just getting to know Michelle. She had her first baby three weeks ago and has been sad and irritable ever since. Her pediatrician was worried about her at the well-baby visit this week and sent her to me. She’d had a tough pregnancy (morning sickness that wouldn’t quit for what felt to her like forever), made tougher by the financial stress that came from her husband being out of work for several months. The doctor is worried that she and her baby aren’t getting off to a good start.
Sadly, moms like Michelle often feel alone and guilty. Not feeling what they think they are supposed to feel, they are embarrassed to admit to themselves and others that things aren’t going well. Just when they need help the most, many don’t reach out. Some start to resent their babies and begrudge them time and attention. They force themselves to do what needs to be done but don’t provide their newborns with the nurturing they need.
Still others give up on nursing or holding their babies when bottle feeding depriving themselves and their babies with the closeness that comes with the quiet feeding times. Propping a bottle is the best they can do. Overtired, irritable and sinking into depression, life after birth isn’t at all what they expected.
As hormones shift and settle, it’s absolutely normal to feel what is commonly known as the baby blues in the weeks following birth. One of my clients described the first couple of weeks after her first child was born as PMS times ten. Others feel more emotionally fragile than usual and maybe a little weepy. Still others are surprised that they are on an emotional roller coaster, feeling great one minute and set off into tears by something that normally wouldn’t bother them the next. It’s all because the endorphins from delivery are leaving the new mother’s system and the body is resetting itself.
Different women react differently but normal baby blues are usually accompanied by moments of joy and wonder and happiness about the baby and motherhood. The emotions settle down after a couple of weeks and the routines and rhythms of new parenting get established.
But when those up and downs last more than a few weeks and especially if they get worse, it may indicate that the new mom is developing postpartum depression (PPD). This happens to between 11 and 18 percent of new mothers, according to a 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Surprisingly, it can last anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression •
Postpartum depression looks like any major depression. Things that once gave the mother pleasure are no longer fun or interesting. She has trouble concentrating and making decisions. There are disturbances in sleep, appetite and sexual interest. In some cases, there are thoughts of suicide. Many report feeling disconnected from their baby and some worry that they will hurt their baby. Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness immobilize them. Many feel guilty that they can’t love their child, which makes them feel even more inadequate.
In some cases, women develop psychotic delusions, thinking their baby is possessed or has special and frightening powers. Sadly, in some cases, the psychosis includes command hallucinations to kill the child.
Who Develops Postpartum Depression? •
There are a number of issues that contribute to a woman’s risk of developing PPD:
• A prior diagnosis of major depression. Up to 30 percent of women who have had an episode of major depression also develop PPD.
• Having a relative who has ever had major depression or PDD seems to be a contributing factor.
• Lack of education about what to realistically expect of herself or the baby. Teen mothers who idealized what it would mean to have a baby to love with little appreciation for the work involved are especially vulnerable.
• Lack of an adequate support system. Unable to turn to someone for practical help or emotional support, a vulnerable new mom can become easily overwhelmed.
• A pregnancy or birth that had complications, especially if mother and baby had to be separated after the birth in order for one or the other to recover. This can get in the way of normal mother-child bonding.
• Being under unusual stress already. New mothers who are also dealing with financial stress, a shaky relationship with the baby’s dad, family problems or isolation are more vulnerable.
• Multiple births. The demands of multiple babies are overwhelming even with substantial support.
• Having a miscarriage or stillbirth. The normal grieving of loss is made worse by the shifting hormones.
What to Do •
In cases of the normal ‘baby blues’, often all a new mom needs is reassurance and some more practical help. Engaging the dad to be more helpful, joining a support group for new parents or finding other sources of support so the mom can get some rest and develop more confidence in her mothering instincts and skills can put things back on track. As with any other stressful or demanding situation, new parenthood goes better when the parents are eating right, getting enough sleep and getting some exercise. Friends and family can help by bringing some dinners, offering to take over with the baby for an hour so that the parents can get a nap or by babysitting siblings to give the parents time to focus on the infant without feeling guilty or pulled in multiple directions.
Postpartum depression, however, is a serious condition that requires more than naps and caring attention. If the problem has persisted beyond a few weeks and has been unresponsive to support and help, the mother should first be evaluated for a medical condition. Sometimes a vitamin deficiency or another undiagnosed problem is a contributing factor.
If she is medically okay, those who care about her and her baby need to encourage her to get some counseling, both for the emotional support counseling offers and for some practical advice. Cognitive-behavioural treatment seems to be especially helpful. Since women who have experienced postpartum depression are vulnerable to having another episode of depression in their lives, it is wise to establish a relationship with a mental health counselor to make it easier to seek help if it is needed in the future. If the mom has had thoughts of suicide or infanticide, the therapist can help the family learn how to protect them both. If the birthing center or hospital offers a PPD support group, the new mom and dad should be encouraged to try it. Finally, sometimes psychotropic medications are indicated to alleviate the depression.
The baby blues are uncomfortable. Postpartum depression is serious. In either case, a new mom deserves to get practical help from family and friends. When that alone doesn’t help a new mom adjust, it’s time to seek out professional help as well.
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. 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.
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Make Learning a Game
by Marissa Dutoff • The Minimalist Homeschooler
Are you interested in homeschooling your children or just adding to your child’s education? So how do you go about that? Where do you start? What resources do you need? Well, Mark Twain said “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”. That quote was my second ever Instagram post on The Minimalist Homeschool page and I find it remarkably true in every aspect of my life. It’s hard to start a big project and it’s hard to start a little one and homeschool is kind of a combination of both.
It’s a big project because you’re taking on the responsibility of teaching your children whatever they need to know. It means looking ahead at the coming year and figuring out what the goals and objectives are. It comes with finding and planning curriculum and lessons, creating ways of teaching your children, actually teaching them and then finding ways of making sure they’re learning what you’re teaching.
But it’s also a small project because you take it one day at a time and each day is it’s own new beginning. Some days are easier than others of course. It’s always a good sign if your child wakes up wanting to work on something specific. Other days the cartoons are on and we all know what it’s like to compete with the TV. Either way there will be a point when you have to sit down and decide ‘we’re starting now’.
Getting Started •
Around the time my son was three and my daughter was just a baby I started working on letter identification with my son. We got him some workbooks including a big Preschool workbook that had colouring and pre-writing practice. I thought it was great! My thought was that we could work our way through it while baby napped because it would be nice and quiet and it was easy to carry around with us.
Needless to say he had absolutely zero interest in it. To be fair we hadn’t spent a lot of time colouring or anything like that so the workbook probably seemed pretty weird to his little brain. I was frustrated because I wasn’t sure how else to get him interested in the alphabet and learning to identify letters. So I watched him, trying to figure out how to connect with my curious little boy in a meaningful way.
I have to say I felt pretty foolish when I figured it out. One of the reasons I wanted to homeschool was because I knew that sitting down and doing worksheets wasn’t the ideal way of learning anything. In my enthusiasm to get him started I had forgot my why! I watched the way he loved running around and taking a million pictures of the most mundane things and finally I had an idea.
Learning Letters Through Fun and Games •
Instead of sitting and trying to learn the letters out of a book I asked him if he wanted to do a letter scavenger hunt! He was beyond excited! At the time that we did this we were traveling with work and I found myself on University Campuses most days, so the hunt was extra fun. I showed him what the letter A was, armed him with the camera app on my phone and we wandered all over campus looking for them.
In the beginning it was mostly just me finding letters and pointing them out to him. We’d get up to a sign or a poster or a building name and I would go “Look! Is that the letter A?” And he’d excitedly line up my phone and take a picture of it. Usually a shaky, blurry, filtered picture with the colours inverted and the letter barely readable, but he was happy. The next day I handed him the camera and asked “Should we find Bs today?” and off we’d go, looking for the letter B.
We focused on upper case letters first, he was more familiar with them from his alphabet books and they’re easier to find since most signage is in all capitals. We found the B in biology and book store and basement and he filled up my phone with his colourful pictures.
Some days he had no interest and that was fine. Some days I’d ask and he would just refuse to participate. On those days we just let it go and tried again the next day. Some letters are obviously harder to find, but luckily on Universities you’re likely to find the whole alphabet somewhere. Often I’d set him a challenge and ask him to find ten of the day’s letter. This was great for letters that are easy to find, but not in absolutely everything, like P and F. By the time we got to the middle letters he was finding a few himself. Once he spotted a big J on the door of the Journalism department and was so proud of himself!
Learn in Your Community •
So say you want to do a letter hunt but you don’t have access to an entire University to explore. We used Universities because that’s where we were, but you could just as easily do this at the mall, a grocery store or the library. Now, if you’re currently completely locked down and can’t leave your house there is a way to make this work, here’s a plan for a home based scavenger hunt! Get yourself a tub of letters and set them up around the house like an Easter Egg hunt! Or let them look for letters on food boxes, out of books and magazines or anywhere else you find letters. Depending on how old your child is and their familiarity with the alphabet you may have to help them out a little more, especially if they’re looking for letters that appear as part of a word. I found that it was a great way to make learning into a game and build in him the idea that learning was fun. That has carried over to now when he wants to do workbooks (including making his own) and actually asks to do school work!
Mostly this was a huge expression of learning how kids connect to learning in different ways. If I had allowed workbooks to be the be-all and end-all then it could have derailed me before we even began. Instead I saw him as a unique person and allowed him to give me ideas on how he might enjoy the process of learning. Most importantly I didn’t pressure him when he wasn’t interested and kill the enjoyment.
On off days we utilized apps or just enjoyed being together, either way I helped foster his desire to know more and learn more. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself and connecting with your child.
Hi! I’m Marissa. Wife, mom and homeschooler. Here I hope to share what it looks like teaching a precocious kindergartener in a small apartment. Feel free to reach out to me here in the comments or check us out on Instagram @Minimalist.Homeschool or visit me at my website: theminimalisthomeschooler.wordpress.com.
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3 Things I Learned
Moving to the Okanagan
by Teresa Pavlin • Telemark Nordic Club
We were ready for a change. Both of us have lived in Toronto, Ontario for most of our lives but we had a taste of the west as visitors for I had worked in Squamish as a student and my husband had visited friends in Vancouver. This time, things were different. We had a family, responsibilities and our little snow globe of a life looked like it needed a shake up. We decided to immerse ourselves and our family in all that living near the mountains had to offer. Little did we know what great many changes we would encounter and how the world would change around us.
Lesson #1 Change is constant.
My husband Jamie was recruited by Marc Anthony Group to lead marketing at the Okanagan wineries, based in Kelowna at Mission Hill. Our twins were ten and on the cusp of their tweens. I was ready to move on from my corporate communications role for a large pharmaceutical company. It was basically now or never. Jamie started his drive out west very early one morning but not before an unfortunate encounter with a skunk who ran across our backyard path to the driveway. Should this have been taken as a bad omen? Not sure.
Lesson #2 Go with it, be resilient.
I somewhat frantically arranged our family home for rental, organized our things and planned many farewells with our family and friends. Part of the deal with our girls was, if we moved out west, they would finally get the dog they had asked for since they could speak. Five days after my 50th birthday, we bid adieu to our city life and took off to meet Jamie in Kelowna.
We landed on a Sunday morning in the rain. Now, for anyone familiar with the Valley, this was unusual. For me, leaving a perfectly blue sky with leaves starting to turn and autumn colours at their finest, I was a bit worried, ‘How would we survive a dreary winter, with no friends or family in a new town?’ So, one of the first things we discussed over a glass of fine Okanagan wine was how to best enjoy the coming winter and keep ourselves healthy. We cross-country skied as a family in Ontario, so naturally we investigated local options. Low and behold, Telemark Nordic Club, a short twenty-kilometer drive away from downtown Kelowna offered us everything we wanted. With a variety of Jack Rabbit programs for kids and youth, along with spectacularly groomed trails and a family friendly feel. With our affordable season pass, we enjoyed a winter of lessons for the girls and ski adventures for us. I even volunteered with the Ski S’ Kool program teaching school-age kids all about Nordic skiing (i.e., how to get up after you fall with sticks attached to your feet) and guiding them through the trails.
We met so many like-minded, adventure-loving, cross-country fans just like us. Between night skiing on the lit trails and perfecting our skate and classic technique on some unforgiving hills, we grew to love the club and made the most of every visit. Then, at one of the last events of 2020, we heard about a virus that seemed to be making its way across the globe. Just before the world recognized the pandemic for what it was, the girls participated in the BC Midget Race in Kamloops’ Overlander Nordic Club and BC Champs at Telemark. After a season spent skiing, frankly, more than we ever had in a winter before, these events were a fantastic way to showcase new skills and amazing development. It was a great way to also bond with their new friends and end the season on a high note.
The global pandemic happened just as we were getting our bearings and adjusting to our new life minus family and close friends. While Jamie worked from home, I explored the Okanagan with the girls – now 11 and out of school. We skied until the snow disappeared, we hiked, played at the beach and made the most of our isolated life. We bought a house close to the girls’ school and made the most of the weather, the location and the outdoors. And as COVID slowly took more and more away from us and everyone else, Jamie lost his job along with others at the company, leaving us wondering what we had done. We were forced to decide: do we stay and continue to forge a life in the Okanagan with so many unknowns, or do we go back to Toronto and what we knew?
Lesson #3 Take risks, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Our decision to stay was rewarded with a renewed commitment to getting to know our new town, hiking, backpacking and mountain biking with our new Telemark friends and making the most of a difficult situation. Did it make it easier knowing that everyone was going through something and we were not alone? Maybe. And over the course of another year (who imagined we would still be dealing with this situation) we pivoted, starting a new business, finding a new job and encouraging the girls to continue skiing and getting to know new friends. Oh, and we got a puppy. I made the most of the K-9 trails at Telemark after Pepper joined our family.
If someone had told me what changes we would face with a move away from everything we knew, I would have laughed and thought they were crazy. It’s hard to say if we would have grown to value Telemark as much as we do now, without a global pandemic to force decisions and solidify commitments embracing the Okanagan lifestyle, but we do and we will forever be grateful to our new cross-country ski family for helping us feel welcome and helping our family thrive in our chosen home away from home.
Teresa is the social media manager for Telemark and leads communications for Pack4U, a personalized medication delivery and digital health company with offices in Kelowna. She is the mother of two girls and a Labradoodle named Pepper. Together with her husband and girls she skis, bikes, hikes and likes to tell people she completed an Ironman triathlon many years ago.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
The Importance of
an Arts Education
by Heather Crown • Studio9 Independent School of the Arts
I have a question for you and I want an honest answer: what was your favourite memory from school? I’m going to guess that it wasn’t the end of year math exam that you had to take or the big English essay that you had to write. Now, if I was actually going to guess your favourite school memory it had to do with friends, field trips or a fun class, perhaps art, drama or band.
I get the impression that people think art is easy and therefore an arts education is easy too – there can’t be anything further from the truth. What is easy, relatively speaking, is sitting in a classroom, reading from a textbook and writing a test. That is easy. Traditional education demands that students memorize information and keeps the teacher in charge of knowledge and learning.
What traditional education doesn’t do is demand that students take control of their learning. An arts education demands a lot from students. An arts education demands critical and creative thinking; it demands communication and collaboration; and it demands respect and responsibility for self, others and the environment. An arts education requires students to find and understand their strengths and apply them in many different activities and situations. It is also a safe space to learn and explore vulnerabilities and skills that are not yet developed. Growth and development are driven by self-reflection and the student’s desire to improve.
In my mind, mounting a theatre show is one way to demonstrate each and every one of the skills above. At Studio9 everyone and I mean everyone, is involved in a theatre show. While the director is in charge of the show itself, they need all of the departments: actors/actresses, sets, props, costumes and crew to get the show onto the stage. This kind of project demands everyone to think critically and creatively. For example, the set designers need to make backgrounds that work for the stage, be environmentally conscious and meet the director’s vision. If an idea is not communicated properly or the right questions are not asked, whole set pieces could be done incorrectly and then have to be redone to meet the director’s specifications. I think collaboration is self-evident, but a theatre show requires a lot of people to get it to the stage and if one department/person does not meet a deadline, it affects everyone else on the team.
A theatre show is a situation where students understand their strengths and refine their skills. Whether it’s acting or crew, students can find their role. Actors/actresses can have lead roles and memorize lots of lines, they can have a supporting role and have less lines or they can be in the ensemble with a group of other students. Ensembles are a great way to introduce the concept of acting or a great place to be if a student is just starting out and still has a bit of stage fright. Supporting the people on stage is also very important so crew members learn and develop a niche set of skills as well. Students who are crew members design and make props and costumes, move sets on stage and can learn the leaderships skills needed to become assistant stage manager (ASM) or stage manager (SM). For all students the question becomes where do I fit right now?
The final lesson that an arts education teaches actors and crew alike is failure and flexibility. I think it’s safe to say that no director has ever had the first rehearsal and then thought ‘perfect, we are ready for opening night’. To bring a big collaborative work to the stage there are going to be failed scenes, failed costumes, props that don’t work and growth in character development. There are going to be lights that pale out the actors/actresses on stage and sound cues that are just not 100% right. In these situations, the actor/actress or crew doesn’t give up and walk away. They reflect on what isn’t working, use critical and creative thinking skills and morph their piece into something that will work. They have to be ready for failure, to take what they currently have and refine it to put on the best show possible. Everyone works together for the collective goal of putting on the show. That takes teamwork.
Once the show is over, it is important to reflect and talk about what worked well and how next time can be better. This happens at the personal level, the student collective level, the staff level and finally the production team level. We all ask ourselves where can I/we grow? This reflection/growth time is where a lot of vulnerabilities can be explored.
Now, take all of those skills and learning opportunities from a theatre production and imagine them in a classroom setting. Whether it be an art class or a social studies class, the classroom is the place where students control their learning. Students have the common goal of learning concepts within their grade level but they have multiple paths to get there. Students get the choice of how to complete their work and they also reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. They take charge of their learning and the teacher becomes the guide. The teacher becomes a mentor and helps students decide when to stay with their strengths and when to explore something new, all within the context of BC curriculum.
If you’re still wondering why this is important, all you have to do is think back to last year. If there is anything 2020 has taught us, it is that people need to be prepared to navigate new and unknown situations. This was especially true for students as an entire semester’s worth of education was delivered online. In March, students didn’t know what Zoom was and by April they were receiving and handing in assignments virtually. For teachers and students alike, being prepared for new situations helped us deal with a global pandemic.
So back to that favourite memory. If you ask students at Studio9, most of them will reply with some kind of arts project they have completed, our annual trip to Camp Owaissi or being at the Rotary Centre of the Arts (RCA) putting on a theatre show. It is in these situations that the older students become mentors for the younger ones and everyone gets to be themselves. The distinction between teacher/student becomes less pronounced and we become more like a family. This is because every person has strengths to share with the rest of the group and we use our skills to work towards common goals.
Since you can’t go back and do your education again, what if you could send your child(ren) to a school where they came home with a favourite memory every day and an education where arts are focused on in every class? That school exists right here in Kelowna, BC.
Heather Crown has been teaching middle and high school at Studio9 for ten years. She specializes in the humanities as well as creative writing and technical theatre. She also produces their yearly shows. When not at school you can find her doing yoga, meditation, reading and gardening.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Returning to Active
Habits as a Family
by Isaac Schock • YMCA of Okanagan
Over the past year and a half, we have all settled into different routines and created new behaviours. The Pandemic has affected each family very differently and many of us are less active than we would like to be. With limited access to resources like gyms, playgrounds or sports programs, it can be very easy to slip into a less active lifestyle.
Fortunately, we live in one of the best places to get active as a family. The Okanagan is home to endless hiking and biking trails, sport climbing areas, lakes, mountains and parks to explore. Whether you are interested in signing up for programs and classes or looking for activities that won’t cost a thing, the Okanagan has activities for the entire family.
Here are some great tips to engage the whole family and get back to building a healthy lifestyle together.
• Make an active bucket list.
The Okanagan is an amazingly diverse place to create a list of new things to experience. Try to think of beaches you want to visit, hikes you want to try or new areas you want to explore. An Okanagan bucket list will allow you to explore all this valley has to offer and create a ton of memories.
• Include other families.
Kids love playing outside! More than that, they love playing with other kids outside. Think about incorporating more activity into play dates, take them to the park or lake and incorporate pool visits into movie nights. Joining swim lessons and other activities with friends may help push children a little farther out of their comfort zone and encourage them to try something new.
• Communicate the importance of activity.
Children are products of their environment. Starting kids off on the right foot with active habits will set them up for a healthier future. Discuss how exercise helps with their mental health, sleeping habits and performance at school. Talk with them about how exercising makes them feel and what affects they notice when they aren’t as active. Communication about physical health over body image is critical as youth are growing up with increasing pressures from the media and society.
• Explore the outdoors.
Even if you have lived in the Okanagan for years there are probably countless outdoor spaces you’ve yet to explore. Spending time in nature will not only get kids active but will also give them a greater appreciation for the outdoors and inspire them to think more about the environment.
• Create active traditions.
With your friends and family think about creating an annual tradition that everyone can participate in. This could include a scavenger hunt or an annual softball game. Group events are a great way to get together with friends who you wouldn’t see regularly. Annual traditions have potential to grow and include more people year after year.
• Include yard work.
The saying rings true here; many hands make light work. Get the whole family involved. There are always small tasks that kids can help with like watering the garden or shoveling snow. It’s great exercise and the faster it gets done the more time for play there will be.
• Give active gifts.
Whether it is an item or an experience; give them a gift that encourages movement. Bikes, skateboards, lawn games, paddleboards and ski passes are all great gifts that could inspire a new passion. For birthday parties, parents will always appreciate punch passes for the swimming pool or other day passes for new activities.
• Try out a variety of drop-ins.
Parents often enroll kids in sports such as hockey and soccer which require large time commitments. Let them explore their natural talents first and take advantage of drop-in programs. Check out places that offer different sports that aren’t top of mind such as rock climbing, tennis, skateboarding or gymnastics. For kids under six, there are free drop-in programs such as Family Play Time at the Kelowna Family Y, which provides open gym time for kids to play alongside parents.
• Join the Y!
A family membership includes family swim 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 programs like karate, summer camps, basketball, dance and tennis. Family memberships 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).
As we transition out of the pandemic, there has never been a better time to build active habits as a family in our own backyard.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Dialing Back Bedtime
It was pick up time at the Elementary School. The First Grade teacher quietly approached a mother and asked, “Are you doing anything differently at home?” The woman braced herself and then replied nervously, “Yes, why do you ask?” Moments later, the mom collapsed on the floor of her daughter’s classroom in tears and in shock.
The couple had struggled since the day their precious bundle of joy arrived. For more than six years they travelled around the province of British Columbia consulting various specialists to help resolve her digestive and behavioural challenges in addition to searching online and asking questions in various Facebook Groups.
As a baby, their daughter was described as high needs, spirited, stubborn and colicky. They were told that this was normal and they simply had to get through the period of purple crying and eventually, things would get better. Mom was breastfeeding and restricted her diet by cutting out all gas inducing foods like dairy and caffeine.
They also tried every over-the-counter remedy to try and help relieve her digestive distress but nothing worked. The only thing that would make her feel better and stop the crying was being held upright on their shoulders with hours of rocking or bouncing on a yoga ball.
Out of desperation and frustration Dad would often take his baby for a drive in the car to help her sleep at night when he was too tired from a long day at work. Mom felt guilty and anxious by day because, although not recommended for safety reasons, they relied on a swing in order for her daughter to nap. As much as she loved holding her sleeping baby it was starting to take a toll on her.
A few months later when she was still fussy and inconsolable, based on recommendations from a pediatrician, the couple switched to a special formula. She was diagnosed with reflux and a cow’s milk protein allergy. Mom’s guilt increased; she felt like a failure not being able to produce the right kind of milk for her baby. Unknowingly, she took out her fears and frustrations on her husband by constantly criticizing him in all areas of parenting and their relationship.
They purchased a special wedge to help their baby sleep on an incline in her crib but every night felt like handling a ticking time bomb. The formula and the antacid medications help relieve some of her symptoms but anytime they placed her in the crib she would immediately wake up and they would have to start the process all over again. The rocking, bouncing, driving and swing use continued.
At the six month mark they started solids in hopes that their daughter would catch up on the growth percentile charts and sleep longer stretches. No amount of effort would help get her to eat. The only food that she seemed to enjoy was rice cereal but only in small amounts. They described her as a ‘snacker’ and by the time she was two years old she was declared a ‘picky eater’. She also suffered from constipation and toilet training was extremely difficult.
By day she was often moody, temperamental and prone to outbursts. Mom decided not to return to work as she feared a daycare would not be able to give her the attention that she needed.
The couple reluctantly agreed to have another baby as they wanted her to have a sibling but they changed their original family plan of four children to two. They worried constantly about having another high needs baby.
Every few months the couple would try a version of sleep training but the eldest daughter, in particular, would cry for hours on end refusing to sleep. One fateful night she vomited in her crib and Dad pulled the plug and said, “Never again”.
As she grew into a toddler and preschooler mom started to dread preschool, play dates and visits with family. She knew that her daughter needed to be socialized but there was always something. Her daughter hit, would pull someone’s hair, was impulsive, unable to share and did not listen.
At preschool, when asked to sit ‘crisscross applesauce’, she fidgeted and would constantly interrupt. She preferred to be on the move and did not enjoy any of the simple tasks that were asked of her.
When it came to bedtime, as the years went by she became more anxious. Every night when her mom would tuck her in she would cry begging her to stay until she fell asleep. If they tried leaving her alone she would come out over and over again saying that she was hungry, thirsty, needing to go to the washroom, or scared. The couple gave into her requests. Any time they tried saying calmly and quietly, “No honey… it is time for sleep” she would quickly escalate into what appeared to be a panic attack and it would take two to three times longer to calm her down and get her to sleep.
In order to simply survive and reduce the battles, the parents played divide and conquer at bedtime and musical beds throughout the night by sleeping with the kids rather than one another. The couple invested in various beds, mattresses, pillows, comforters and weighted blankets in hopes that their daughters would be more comfortable and stop crawling into their king size bed throughout the night. Dad would often escape to another room to avoid being kicked in the stomach yet again.
On really bad nights they resorted to Melatonin, Gravol, Tylenol and/or Neocitran, ashamed but desperate to get some relief. These sleep aids would help get their kids to sleep faster but nothing helped them sleep until morning.
Six years after their first child was born the couple still had never spent a night away without their children or even a date night. To friends, family and the public they said they preferred it that way, that they wanted to be with their girls. The reality? They were afraid to admit the truth, that they were too scared to try. Both mom and dad were now overweight, depressed and they were going to couple’s therapy. They dared not confess it to one another but they both regretted becoming parents and longed for the era when they were not.
“Why do you ask?” the mother replied nervously. The teacher responded, “Well, your daughter was an absolute delight today. She was so pleasant, cooperative and could stay at her desk able to focus on all her tasks. There were zero issues and I saw her having fun at recess with some of the other girls, happily participating and taking turns on the swing. At lunch and snack times she devoured all the healthy items you packed for her without asking, prodding and coaching”.
What was the miracle cure? A little over ten hours of uninterrupted rest in her own bed. Just one night of quality sleep.
How? Fortunately the couple taught their strong-willed girl (and her younger sibling) the beautiful gift and vital life skill of independent sleep at 6.5 years old, with the guidance and support of Pam Nease Sleep.
You can do this too Mama and Dada! This story is just one case study of the 2,700+ families Pam Nease Sleep has helped with my proven loving, simple, practical and fun sleep training solutions. I invite you to get sleep, to get your lives back and live your best life rested.
It is never too early nor is it ever too late to develop healthy sleep habits. It all starts with my proven Sleep SMARTS formula. For many parents it is simply a matter of dialing back bedtime and creating some structure.
• Make sleep a priority and model the behaviour
• Acknowledge that sleep is a skill
• Routine: bath-book-bed
• Technology off
• Success: better grades, health, behaviour.
Pam Nease, Sleep Consultant, Founder and CEO Pam Nease Sleep est 2009. Postpartum Depression Survivor/Warrior. In 2006 I was ready to jump off the bridge and take the baby with me due to the plight of sleep deprivation. Like the couple described above, I searched for reasons on WHY my baby was not sleeping but he simply needed to learn how. Thankfully, my path led me to a Sleep Consultant and it made such a profound impact on my life I decided to dedicate my life to helping others. Curious to learn more? Visit pamneasesleep.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Tips For Parents of Teens
When I decided to hitchhike one day during my high school years, my grandfather was already waiting on the porch when I got home. Radiating disapproval and disappointment, he merely said, “Heard you were needing a ride.” My ‘driver’ had called him as soon as he had let me off. As a girl, I was humiliated and angry (and no, I didn’t try that stunt again). But as a mother of three teens, I have come to appreciate the extra safety that comes from being in a community where people watch out for each other’s kids. As a daring teen, I was lucky to be picked up by a family friend. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, I was also lucky to have adults around me who cared.
The story comes back to me these days as I work to keep my own teenagers safe. Thirty-plus years after my own experiment with ‘living dangerously,’ my community is much bigger and much more anonymous. Although I know literally hundreds of people in my town, it’s also true that I don’t know thousands more. My friends and I certainly do watch out for each other’s kids, but our kids don’t always hang out within our social circle. They explore. They meet new kids. They experiment with new behaviours. Needless to say, this is fine if the kids they look up to are on the honour roll and playing basketball. It’s not at all fine if admission to the group means taking drugs, shoplifting, or violating family rules.
Can parents continue to guide and influence their children through the teen years? Of course. But it takes attention and effort. Parenting well in today’s social climate requires even more patience, vigilance and involvement than when your children were toddlers. Little kids generally have little challenges and problems in a fairly little world defined by you as parent. Big kids have what are sometimes monumental challenges and problems in a very large and exceedingly complex universe.
Parenting teens well requires that we understand that our job is not about controlling them. It’s about providing them with ‘training wheels’ for life – guidelines that give them protection and experience so that they can develop self-control.
Tips for Parenting Teens in Today’s World
• Get to know the parents of your children’s friends.
This is absolutely the most important thing you can do if you want to have access to your children’s world. When your teen begins to ‘hang’ with a new kid, get the phone number, call the parents and introduce yourself. Make a point of giving the child a ride home so you can walk up to the door and shake the parent’s hand. As soon as the kids start making plans to get together, touch base with the other parent to exchange information about rules regarding curfew, acceptable activities and supervision. Responses will range from relief that you are as concerned as they are to resentment that you expect parental support and involvement. Parents who are like-minded are going to become part of the support system that keeps your children safe. Parents who either don’t care where their kids are or who think it’s absolutely fine for them to be unsupervised and doing drugs aren’t going to respond well to being asked to be responsible. You may be dismayed but at least you will know where you stand.
• Communicate regularly with those parents.
When teens make plans that involve staying at another teen’s house or getting rides to events with other parents, make sure that you have a parent-to-parent communication at some point in the planning process. Make sure that it is really okay with the other parent that your child is sleeping over. They may not even know of the plan! Conversely, make sure that the other parent knows if you are driving their children or dropping them at an event. Again, check for agreement about the level of supervision.
• Establish the ‘Three W’ rule.
Teens need to tell you where they are going, who they will be with and when they will be back. This is not an invasion of privacy; it’s common courtesy. Adult roommates generally do the same for each other. You don’t need minute details just the broad strokes of what is being planned for the evening. If something comes up, your child can be located. People engaged in ‘legitimate’ activities don’t need to hide their whereabouts.
• Respect privacy, but refuse to accept secretive behaviour.
It’s important to your teen’s developing sense of independence to have some privacy, but he or she must learn the difference between privacy and secrecy. Your kids do have a right to talk with friends privately, to keep a diary and to have uninterrupted time alone. But if your teen starts being evasive, get busy. Calmly, firmly, steadily insist that you have a right to know who their friends are and what they are doing together. Talk to teachers about who your kid’s friends are as well and start to build alliances with their parents.
• Talk regularly with your kids about their choice of friends.
Kids often don’t realize that they’ve fallen in with bad company. They like to think that they see something positive in a kid that everyone knows is bad news. They may be drawn to the exotic, the different, the risky. They are teens, after all! And part of the job of adolescence is learning how to judge character. Keep lines of communication with your child open so that you can talk about their relationships.
• Support your child’s positive involvement in a sport, art or activity.
Generally, kids who come through the teen years unscathed are those who have a passion about something and who develop a friendship circle around it. This could be the football team, the dance studio, the skateboarding club or a martial art dojo. It really doesn’t matter what it is, but what does matter is that you get involved. Provide rides. Watch practices, games and performances. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time or a lot of money to let your teen and his or her friends know that you care. Bring the whole team popsicles on a hot day or hot chocolate on a cold one. Let your child and his or her group know that you are willing to put your time, money and energy into supporting healthy activity.
• Help your child get a job.
If your child spends too much time at loose ends and doesn’t have a sport or an activity, at least get him or her working. A job teaches life skills, eats up idle time and helps kids feel good about themselves.
• Act swiftly and certainly when something unacceptable happens.
Your son isn’t where he said he would be? Go find him. Your daughter’s friend invited a boy into the house when she thought you had gone to sleep? Get dressed and take everybody home. Your kid comes home drunk? Put him or her to bed for the rest of the night, but deal with it first thing in the morning. Be consistently clear, kind and definite in response to unacceptable behaviour and kids will see that you really won’t tolerate it.
• Model adult behaviour when you are in conflict with your teen.
Whatever you do, don’t yell, threaten, preach or ‘lose it’ if you don’t like a behaviour, a friendship or how your child interacts with you. You will render yourself totally ineffective with your teen. Your child will take you far more seriously if you insist that the two of you focus on managing the problem instead of yelling at each other.
Remember that your influence depends on your relationship with your child, not your power. You can’t make your child do anything at this stage in life. It won’t help to make threats, to lose your temper, or to try to ‘ground’ or punish a teen. In fact, these tactics tend to spur kids on to greater rebellion as they try to assert their independence.
My grandfather was a proper New Englander: quiet, somewhat stern and unfailingly kind. I knew that he loved me. Even more important I knew he trusted me to do the right thing.
The reason I didn’t hitchhike again during my teen years was not because I was caught or because I was punished (I wasn’t). I didn’t push my rebellion further because I wanted the respect of my grandfather much more than I needed to demonstrate that I could do what I pleased.
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. 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.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Creating Calm in the Chaos
Our senses play a vital role in how we experience our daily life and the world around us. They can affect our mood, behaviour, actions, our responses to people and things. One way we can support a happy and healthy experience is to create and manipulate our environments. We can do this by using tools to create pleasant experiences using lighting, music, textures, scents and other sensory-stimulating or calming tools.
Let’s begin by discussing the term ‘sensory design’. You’ve heard the term ‘sensory’ as in your ‘senses’ and you’ve heard the term ‘design’ but have you heard the terms put together as sensory design? Well, it’s just exactly that, we are designing for the senses! Sensory design focuses on using specific elements to create spaces for individuals, specifically to satisfy their senses and their ‘sensory diet’ is another term I would like to explain. Just like any other diet, each individual’s body and brain, has a different set of needs to operate at an optimal level. We term this sensory diet to explain these differences in needs. Your personal sensory diet is unique to you and your partner’s or child’s, is unique to them. By understanding our own sensory diet, we can educate and arm ourselves with knowledge and tools to cultivate calm during chaotic or stressful times.
Let me share a little bit about how the brain works in terms of receiving sensory inputs. Your brain is taking in information all of the time. It is receiving sensations from sensory inputs and making decisions about how to react to them. So, the brain takes in this information through your basic senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch), body movement and your spatial orientation. Your brain then attempts to organize this new information. As I outlined before, everyone is very different with what their brain tolerates; their likes and dislikes. One individual may be able to tolerate loud noises (sensory seeking in their auditory sense) and another individual may not be able to tolerate the same noise or sound level (sensory avoiding in their auditory sense). No two people are exactly the same in their sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviours. By understanding our own sensory diet, we can best align ourselves with environments and spaces that keep us calm.
Let’s talk sensory tools and toys. There are a ton of new devices, tools and toys to assist in sensory regulation and they’re not just for kids. There’s this idea that only children deal with sensory issues, but that’s just not the case. We all deal with it and there’s no shame in preparing yourself to better deal with adverse situations. In fact, we can use these pieces of information and tools to have a calmer existence overall. I personally use these tools on a daily basis to help with many different situations, such as being stuck in traffic, stressful trips to the grocery store, waiting in lineups, etc. I use aromatherapy, deep breaths and meditative music to take me to a place of relaxation when my senses are going into overdrive or I’m feeling uncomfortable in a particular situation.
Sensory stimulation in moments of chaos can feel very overwhelming, but learning about your own personal sensory diet can help you tune into the sensations that are pleasant for you when you are in situations that might be a little more uncomfortable or under/over stimulating for you.
Although we cannot totally control the external environment; the sirens screaming by, the long line up at the grocery store, traffic jams, frustrating or sensory overloading experiences, we can learn more about ourselves and look into our personal sensory diets and so give our body and mind the assistance that it might need to perform optimally in daily situations.
At Three Temples Sensory Design we specialize in designing these environments in schools, long term care facilities, hospitals and other medical spaces. Sensory design was originally created to accommodate individuals who live with developmental disabilities and age-related illnesses, but we now know that everyone can benefit from this type of design and are implementing it in more spaces. For more information about sensory design and our services, please visit our website www.threetemplesdesign.com and our Instagram page @threetemples.
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The Sound of Story
Provided by Okanagan Regional Library
Spinning a story around a campfire may even predate the first time a human ever painted on the walls of a cave.
People are continuing to tell stories in the same way, except these days the voices are recorded and the narratives are created by professional authors and thousands of these stories are available through the Okanagan Regional Library (ORL).
“Audiobooks are a great resource that can be used virtually anytime,” said ORL Marketing and Communications Director Michal Utko. “It is particularly convenient for people to listen to books while they’re engaged in another activity such as cooking, cleaning house, walking, running or exercising at home.”
The ORL’s e-library offers free access to almost 10,000 audiobooks in a wide range of fiction genres including a collection of classic literature with such gems as Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Mysteries such as A Better Man by Louise Penny, The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke and A Necessary End by Peter Robinson. And thrillers like Past Tense by Lee Child, A King’s Ransom by James Grippando and Void Moon by Michael Connelly.
Titles in other available genres such as suspense, science fiction and fantasy, romance and horror are also available. Addtionally, the ORL collection features almost 2,300 nonfiction titles including works of history such as The Necessary War by Tim Cooke, autobiographical titles like Molly‘s Game by Molly Bloom, biographies such as Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy by Nicholas Reynolds and The Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt.
Did you ever want to read or listen to a book that you’re shy about checking out in person because of the genre or even the cover? Now with an e-library title no one will know what you’re actually listening to or reading. You are free to read or listen to whatever title you want.
If you wish to set up your device, android tablet or iPad to read or listen to e-books and e-audiobooks, please go to www.orl.bc.ca/elibrary/ebooks-eaudiobooks/orl-ebooks. You will need a valid library card and four-digit PIN in order to access and download titles. If you do not have a library card and PIN, please go to www.orl.bc.ca/using-the-library/E-card-station.
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Music School Turns 45!
by Lucy Benwell, Executive Director • Kelowna Community Music School
We begin our story in 1976, when several music-loving parents were in search of an established string program for their children. This search culminated in the birth of the Kelowna Music Society in the living room of founder member Marjorie Denroche and classrooms soon began to grow in school buildings and churches across town. Founding father Denis Letourneau began the work of building a strong student body, one of whom went on to teach at KCMS and continues to do so today. Denis is still very active in the local music scene as violinist and former concertmaster of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra among other musical ventures.
In 1990 the KCMS family finally settled in their present home on Dehart Avenue where they have been ever since, nurturing their charges by offering programming in a wide range of musical disciplines. The growth and sustainability of KCMS over the years can undoubtedly be attributed to its family-friendly atmosphere. Artistic Director Jessica Crawford is very well-placed to share many stories during her 13 years at KCMS. “I started at KCMS in 2008 as a piano teacher, fresh out of University. I was immediately struck by the strong community and how the instructors always put their students’ education first and foremost. Whether coming in on weekends to do extra lessons or staying late to mark theory exams, our Faculty are dedicated to giving the highest quality of music instruction. It has been a gift to watch our students grow over the past 13 years, from young beginners in our fun preschool music groups to accomplished musicians performing with the OSO! Working here as an instructor and now also as Artistic Director, I am still in love with the family feel of KCMS.”
Executive Director Lucy Benwell has had the privilege of meeting many who have come through the doors at KCMS since she joined in 2013. “I grew up in the UK where I studied and performed for many years, before moving to Canada in 2011. The combination of a legal/administration background and my years of experience in the music world afforded me the opportunity to work at KCMS on both the administrative and academic sides. I have met many wonderful people on faculty, staff, our Board and of course the students and their families. We also enjoy strong relationships with many of our extended family members in the performing arts community in the valley, province wide and beyond. When I started my musical journey, the sense of belonging was sudden and apparent and I see that in many of our students. It has been a pure joy to see (and hear) personal and musical growth over time and witness in others what I felt as a fledgling musician.”
As parents themselves, both Jessica and Lucy have seen their own children enjoy the benefits of music, watching them develop skills in harp, piano, guitar, percussion and music theory. Lucy’s son is now studying to become an audio engineer and his studies in piano and theory at KCMS have been a vital foundation to set him on course for this exciting career.
The KCMS family has a large Faculty of highly trained musicians, all committed to excellence in music education and supported by a dedicated administration team. Students range from young children to older adults and the focus is on helping them achieve their personal goals – whether taking an advanced piano exam, learning violin for the first time or developing their relationship with their school band instrument, either as a beginner or when dusting it down following many years apart. Whether achieving high-level goals, playing just for fun or somewhere in between, lessons are offered in a variety of instruments including violin, viola, piano, cello, voice, guitar, harp, clarinet, flute, saxophone and trumpet. Subject to health restrictions, affordable group programs are also available, including choir, string ensembles, musical theatre, sight singing and dictation and theory.
Just like any family, KCMS has seen many challenges over the past eighteen months. Group lessons were cancelled in March 2020 and all teaching went online. However, in-person teaching began gradually in June of last year, building through the 2020/21 school year. Sadly, most groups are still not operational, but the school is hoping for the best while planning for the worst so that disruption to any programming can be minimized. Says Lucy, “Despite the necessary changes in operations through the pandemic, we have seen a steady stream of enquiries and students can’t wait to get back to lessons. The sheer dedication and tenacity of our teachers has known no bounds as they have worked hard to continue sharing their wonderful gift in new and innovative ways.
My administration colleagues (Jessica Crawford and our office administrator Lori Bourgeois) have worked tirelessly to maintain a steady course through this very difficult time. Our volunteer Board of Directors have been an invaluable resource throughout the pandemic, walking alongside us as we navigate each unexpected turn of events. The work of those behind the scenes is crucial to the success of the operation and very much appreciated”.
Music is an oft underrated force; it brings us together, reduces us to tears, soothes in stressful times and transports us to faraway places in our memory. Music is everywhere: movies, commercials, spa days…that car driving past from which emanates a tune you recognize, can’t quite place and will be in your head for the rest of the day. Learning those lines for a play can take days, but we can have song lyrics down within an hour and how do pre-schoolers learn the alphabet so quickly? We forget why we went into a room, but can recall the words to a 1986 chart topper without thought. It is commonly known that music enhances our personal, social and emotional wellbeing, but wide-ranging research also demonstrates the profound effects on the brain and body. While we may not be aware of it, our brains must work to make sense of the relationship between one note and the next. Just by listening the structural, architectural and mathematical properties of music create quite the workout and it follows that learning an instrument can only serve to enhance our cognitive capacity.
Our bodies also benefit – aside from the obvious and unexplained desire to dance to a certain pulse, the physiological effects include reduced blood pressure, improved sleep, mental alertness and memory.
Kelowna Community Music School has, for almost half a century, been pivotal in making music in our community and will continue to do so for as long as possible. This cannot be done without community involvement whether it be taking lessons or giving support through volunteerism or donations.
More information can be found at the website www.kelownacommunitymusicschool.ca. Join our family and help us celebrate!
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Leave Your Baggage Behind
There are many hardships that come with the experience of homelessness. Some are to be expected but others might be surprising, like the challenge of carrying all your personal belongings, everything you own, everything you need to survive, with you wherever you go.
“I had a woman once who I helped with her resume,” said Sherry Landry. “She got a job interview and she was so excited about it. Well, she arrived to the interview with a cart full of her belongings and the employer pretty much ended it there.”
Sherry has been connected to the homeless serving sector in Kelowna since she arrived here in 1992, so she knows how stigmatizing it can be for someone to carry their belongings with them. Today she’s well known among Kelowna’s community of people experiencing homelessness. They know her by name. She completed the Human Service Work program through Okanagan College, she’s one Indigenous language class away from finishing her degree in Indigenous Studies and Anthropology at UBCO, she was a youth coordinator at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, she’s an advocate for Indigenous people and programs, a member of the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society’s Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness and an outreach volunteer. She has also experienced homelessness herself.
“A secure place to store personal belongings opens doors for people experiencing homelessness,” Sherry explained. It removes the physical and emotional burden of pushing a cart or carrying a large bag from one place to another. It also allows access to places people couldn’t go otherwise, like restaurants, stores and other businesses that won’t let you inside with a cart or a bag. The biggest benefit in personal belongings storage for Sherry comes in the dignity it provides.
“It’s a way that people can leave their baggage behind, literally,” she said. “People judge you when you’re pushing a cart full of stuff. They make a lot of assumptions about you. A safe place to store your stuff lets you move more freely, but it also lets you escape that judgement for a little while.”
Michael Anctil agrees with Sherry’s point about dignity. “They had storage at the Gathering Place in Vancouver when I was there. You put your stuff in a 150-litre bin that you checked in with a staff member there and then you could go to appointments or meetings or things like that and it wasn’t embarrassing.”
Michael grew up in Kelowna and has returned to the city after some years away. He has a Class 1 trucker’s license and drives a local route in the Okanagan. He volunteers with Metro Community whenever he can, he runs an outreach ministry on weekends and he’s looking for an opportunity to work full-time supporting people on their journey out of homelessness.
“I just love loving on them,” he said. “I try to remember their names so I can greet them by name when I see them. It makes them feel important, I think. Makes them feel special.”
Like Sherry, Michael has personal experience with homelessness. He spent approximately two years in the mid-2000’s without a home. He moved around a lot in those years spending time in Vancouver, Kelowna, Seattle and other cities across the Pacific Northwest.
He indicates security is another reason personal belongings storage programs are so important. Theft was always top of mind in his experience of homelessness and he always felt the need to babysit his backpack. No surprise, considering everything owned was in that bag. Cash and other items were obvious targets for theft but there were other things that were even worse to lose, like ID.
“Your ID opens the door for so many different things,” he explained. A health services card or driver’s license is generally needed to access support services and health care, so having those things stolen is a major setback. “It’s a long, hard process to have those things replaced,” Michael continued. “Especially when you don’t have a fixed address or you may be dealing with an addiction.”
A home is more than a sheltered place to sleep. It also provides a corner of the world where a person and their family can feel safe. A place where personal safety is taken for granted, where belongings can be left with the expectation they won’t be stolen, a place to leave their baggage behind so they can move freely through the world. Everyone deserves this sense of freedom and security, including those who experience homelessness.
Homelessness is a reality for too many people in Kelowna. Alongside its partners, the City of Kelowna is working to improve conditions for people experiencing homelessness in pursuit of the goal that every Kelowna resident has a home.
The City recently received a $3.2 million grant provided from the UBCM-Strengthening Communities’ Services Program by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia. The City and its partners will use funds from the grant for a variety of initiatives, including creation and operation of personal belongings storage sites in Kelowna. Learn more about funding the outdoor sheltering strategy in the City’s grant announcement.
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