2017/2018 Issue

Note from the Editor

Imagine, if you will, that your child is having problems at school. You try a variety of tactics but eventually find yourself up against a wall. What is your next move? Why, to start your own school of course! Impossible? That’s exactly what the Ferguson family did. Read the Door is Open and discover the great lengths a family will go to find the right solution for their kids.

Learn about the unexpected consequences of over watering in Sensei Chris Taneda’s Watering Children.

No question, the Okanagan is a great place to live. In her article Family-Friendly Adventure in the Okanagan, Amie Gosselin helps us off the couch with her tips and ideas for getting the family outdoors and exploring this picturesque valley.

As parents go back to work the adjustment period can be very challenging for some children. Preparing for and Transitioning to Child Care will help make this time less stressful for the entire family.

“My child is having difficulties learning to read.” The answer? Dogs! Yup, I said dogs. Kids, Books and Dogs written by Kim Braeuer talks about PAWS to Read, a great program at the Mission library that uses man’s best friend to foster a love of reading in our children.

Life isn’t always easy. Some parents are faced with the daunting task of helping a child with addiction. It’s something none of us are prepared to deal with when it happens and you need to know that you are not alone. In our Continuing the Conversation article, discover what services are available to help you through this difficult time.

Another stressful life event is ending a marriage. It’s rarely easy for parents to navigate this turn of events and Sara Klemp’s Improving the Transition is a great read for those seeking good advice.

Kristen Thompson has been kind enough to let us publish three of her articles this year and my absolute favourite is Deciding to Try Baby Sign Language. What a fantastic way to communicate with your infant.

We all want our children to achieve greatness. One of the first steps can be teaching them the power of positivity. Cynthia Crossley has written a great article: 6 Tricks to Help Your Kids be Positive. Not only will her tricks create a more positive outlook in your children, you might be surprised by how they will impact you.

The Door is Open

by Faye Arcand

Life isn’t supposed to throw you curve balls…You grow up, you meet the person that rocks your world, and you get married. After a few years you start a family…one baby…two baby…and suddenly you’re the picture of the average family and life is hunky dory…or is it?

This is the fairytale.  The ambiance of perfection… the happily ever after. You don’t even consider any other possible truth as you walk forward with a faith that is blind and trusting. Besides, you already have that mental picture of what  normal looks like…you’re bombarded by it daily via social media, magazines, and billboards. You constantly see the smiling faces of those perfect families. There aren’t any tears or screaming…they all look so happy and normal.

What happens when your family has something going on that isn’t expected or typical? Do you close the door and hide, or do you try and find a new normal?

That’s really the million dollar question, and one that the Ferguson family of the South Okanagan asked themselves as they struggled with the hidden disability of high functioning autism in their son Tucker.

When you meet the Ferguson family, (Gord, Carrie, Tucker (12), and Charles (11), you’d never know there was anything different. They’re like your average, typical hardworking parents with two active and healthy boys. It was behind closed doors where the struggle was real… and it simmered for many years before they found their own normal.

Tucker didn’t quite fit into society’s unspoken definition of normal.  This was detected immediately by a preschool teacher, who through years of experience, recognized the behavioural and cognitive issues. “Tucker was socially awkward and found interacting with other children in the school environment very stressful,” Carrie says. “Even at the young age of three, preschool proved to be very challenging for him and we knew we needed to find some help.”

They immediately talked to the family doctor and requested assessments and referrals. They jumped through every hoop put before them only to be told by a professional that Tucker had PDD-NOS or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. In other words, the professionals couldn’t pinpoint a diagnosis which meant no funding for extra help.

Tucker continued in the public school system because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? What’s the alternative? What would you do if your kid didn’t fit into the mainstream classroom? The teacher says everything is ‘fine’, but you’re having to pry your child’s fingers from the door and force them into the car to go to school… every. single.day.  The other children know he’s different and the bullying starts almost immediately. A relentless cycle of apprehension, disappointment, and confusion began to overtake not just Tucker, but the entire family unit.

“It was killing us,” Carrie says. “There were lots and lots of tears. The constant struggle was affecting our family relationships. I had mom guilt because so much of my time was spent on Tucker’s needs so Charles didn’t get as much attention. It was constant fighting and heightened anxiety.”

The change came for the Ferguson family when at nine years old Tucker was given a diagnosis of high-functioning autism.

“Yup, he’s on the spectrum,” Carrie says. “The diagnosis didn’t mean that the teacher or school suddenly had the expertise, time, or inclination on how to deal with him. It did help at home though because we could start dealing with Tucker in a different way. His brain was wired differently that’s all.”

Tucker endured the public school system until grade four. At that point he began talking about wanting to die, even to the point of imagining himself at the bottom of a nearby lake.  When he told his parents, they pulled him immediately and enrolled him in a special learning centre in Kelowna (one hour and fifteen minute drive each way). “The change in him was instant. It saved his life… it saved our family. On day one in the new environment, he was a different kid,” mom Carrie recalls.

There was talk of moving the family to Kelowna because the commute was so time consuming. When they sat down as a family to discuss the possible move it became readily apparent that there’d already been enough upheaval.  Tucker’s younger brother Charles was very happy in school and moving wasn’t the best option. So, after careful consideration and a lot of homework, the Ferguson’s took it upon themselves to open their own learning centre closer to home.

The Penticton Excel Centre for Exceptional Learning was established under the umbrella of a charitable status. It’s only for high functioning autistic children, has one full time teacher, and several specially trained assistants. The learning centre covers the B.C. Curriculum from K-12, focuses on social/practical/life skills, has an altered environment, and limited student enrollment. When you enter the centre you immediately notice there are no pictures on the walls, the lights are covered, and the floors are carpeted. “Many of the students are sensory sensitive,” Carrie points out, “these small changes make a huge difference in being able to function throughout the day.”

“There are quiet rooms that allow for self regulation, as well as work spaces with things like wiggle chairs and fidgets. Everything is designed and built with the intention of student success. This is a place where there are no bullies and the high functioning autistic child can be themselves. The philosophy of the centre is that every day is a new day, so if there was an upset the day before, it’s done and gone…you start fresh every single day.”

“In our Learning Centre, the children are assessed daily and their Individual Education Plans (IEP) are adjusted accordingly.  In addition to the academics, they learn skills like personal hygiene, cooking, taking public transit, and grocery shopping.”

Tucker is now almost thirteen years old and is thriving. He still has a lot to learn, but he’s a very fortunate young man to have such tenacious parents who believe in him and didn’t close the door to his future potential. They found their normal by opening the door, not hiding behind it.

Faye Arcand is an award winning freelance writer and author. Her vast life experiences through work and travel have provided fodder and endless characters for her writing. Faye also has 48 nieces and nephews and has spent years giving them advice, encouragement, and sometime a knock upside the head. This led to her popular newspaper column, Auntie Says… which is published by Black Press. Faye lives in the South Okanagan with her husband, teenage son, dog, and two wayward cats.  www.fayeearcand.com

Watering Children

by Sensei Chris Taneda, Kyoshi, Nanadan 

My father nurtures a substantial collection of bonsai trees. He spends hours trimming and clipping these living works of art. Plants that are on the brink of dying often find a second life if they are adopted by him. Dad can fix nearly anything. He also builds things from scraps that would be most people’s junk. These two attributes have apparently skipped a generation. When we are gifted plants, they immediately become wards of my wife. A local nursery offered a series of lectures on plant care. The expert said that most houseplants are killed by over watering. Conscientious and caring owners excessively moisturize their leafy prizes. The roots, from all the loving wetness start to rot and as the color of the plant changes to shades of autumn, the owner thinks it must be thirsty. More water is the only logical solution. The intentions have merit but the result is a dead plant. The lecturer explained that after the Christmas rush, unsold poinsettias are put in a corner and given less attention and less water. His observation was that the plants become healthier and more vibrant. Stress will cause some plants to blossom.

One quality that I do have is to right brain ideas. My inside voice said, “this is how many parents raise their children”. With love and all good intentions parents will give too much. The more the parents do and give, the less the child has to be responsible for. Skill sets for problem solving and creativity become extinct. Gratefulness and responsibility are replaced by attitudes of entitlement and unintentional discourtesy. Parents will do things for their children because it is easier than teaching the child the skill. They may even think they are being Super Parents. Subconsciously the child understands that the parent has no confidence that they can actually accomplish the task. It breeds insecurity and poor self-esteem.

I told this analogy to a group of mothers that I taught in a morning class. My son was in the class and the ladies asked him what he thought of this. Coolly he replied “Yup, I’ve never been watered a day in my life”.

Every year we have a karate youth summer camp. Children from the Dojo come to a mountain lake for a weekend of survivor type games and karate training. The parking lot is about 150 feet from the main lodge. Every camper knows that they must bring all their camping gear from the parking lot to their cabins, by themselves. This is written in their information package. We recommend that the campers pack their gear, get their sleeping bag and carry it around their house a couple of times as a test run. Inevitably there will be parents that cannot help themselves and must carry something for their kids. At first we would have a Senpai [helper] ask those parents not to help but this was often met with an uncomfortable confrontation. Now we just let the parents carry the gear all the way to the lodge and then have the child take it back to the parking lot again. Now the parents get to see that their child has the capability to actually carry this stuff twice as far. The seasoned campers will never let their parents touch their gear. Parents of twelve year olds will unknowingly have their child look incapable to a seven year old that is carrying in all their own stuff. These parents have already put their child in a precarious position in the eyes of their peers.

Too often you will see a parent loaded down with sporting gear or groceries and the child is walking behind holding nothing but a big gulp. This type of parenting has created a work force that treats customers like burdens. Customer service is becoming an oxymoron.

A pet peeve of mine is parents negotiating and letting their children have too many choices. Some families are run from the bottom up and five-year-old children will dictate what the whole family does. Parents will say they like what we do but their child thinks karate class is too hard or they are not promoted fast enough, so they want to quit. Would they let their child quit school if they didn’t like it or choose not to go to the dentist? Soft parenting will create an unreliable work force and it does not teach the children how to deal with obstacles in life. Medicine doesn’t always taste good and adults should make the adult decisions.

A study discussed in the book Paradox of Choice told how a food store put a display table of six different jams. The next day the display had 24 different jams. Although the 24-jam display got more traffic, the six-jam display sold ten times more jam. If there are too many choices no decisions happen. Think of this in terms of the choices given to small children. When I was a child our parents said we were doing something and we just did it. We trusted that our parents knew what was best for us. Doctors used to tell us what they were going to do for our illnesses. Now, the doctor and expert, gives choices to uneducated suffering patients. Some parents give too many choices to emotional and immature children.

Grocery stores can be the scenes of screaming, crying children that are enticed by goodies at the checkout. The storeowners know a way into a parent’s wallet can be through the kids. Soft parenting has led to negotiating with children and has developed unclear communication. Parents that say “No” and eventually give in and change “No” to “Yes” are teaching their children that with enough complaining or persistence it will become a “Yes” and he will get what he wants. Tough decisions are not always easy. The moral goal posts cannot change as parents are put under pressure. There was a time that you could trust a man by his word. This was considered a good and honourable thing. I find that children like clear guidelines. It makes them feel safe and they will test those borders to make sure you still care enough to keep them.

Children are always evaluating the words and actions of the parents. This communication will guide them in all their future relationships and how they treat others. Communicating clearly is another way of watering plants appropriately. Like Mr. Miyagi advised Danielsan ” Walk on road. Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, getta squished, just like grape.

Sensei Chris Taneda is a 7th Degree Black Belt with the title of Kyoshi and is the highest ranking person outside of Japan within the Original Style of Chito ryu. He is a member of Karate BC’s Technical Committee and part of Karate Canada’s Dan Grading panel. Sensei Taneda has experience with Educational Kinesiology for Kids, Touch for Health and NLP.

It Takes a Village

by Katelin Mitchell, Immigrant Services and Operations Manager at KCR

With over 200 volunteers ready to help, many items donated and planning meetings held, the Central Okanagan prepared itself to welcome newly arrived Syrian refugee families.  KCR – Kelowna Community Resources worked together with many community partners and sponsor groups to devise a plan to support and assist these families who were expected to arrive in the masses.

To date we have had the privilege of welcoming over 30 Syrian families to this community and are expecting at least another four families by the New Year.  Families are supported by private, government, or blended sponsorships and all are looking to make a good life for themselves and their families in their new homeland.

As a smaller community outside the larger metropolitan areas, we have had the benefit of being able to welcome small numbers of Syrians at one time therefore allowing us to be able to provide specialized, individualized services that best meet the needs of those we serve.  My favourite example was the day that we took eight adults and 21 children under the age of 11 to the dentist.  Three local dentists generously opened up their clinics and volunteered their time for a whole day to assist these four families.  It took four vehicles, 16 car seats, four volunteer drivers and two interpreters to pull this day off but due to our ability to customize the supports required we were able to make this day happen and the families all came away healthier for it.

We are continuously overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness that our community has shown.  Offers of household items, financial supports, dental work, English tutoring, and rides to appointments have come pouring in.  In fact there has been more support than required for the number of families destined to our region.

The first wave of these families arrived in our community in a very short time period.  This haste to settle these families so quickly created much stress and pressure on community relationships as well as a lack of time for planning and coordination.  Despite these challenges, our community came together to successfully support these families and ensure they felt welcomed.  Many volunteer interpreters worked around the clock to help families maneuver through the community. Interior Health and School District 23 adjusted their systems to increase the success of these newcomers.  Private citizens volunteered their time to welcome these families into the community.

Our challenges continue to be affordable housing options, dental and medical needs, coordination of community resources, transportation and interpretation for appointments.  Our successes have included our focus on community collaboration such as the Sponsors Network, an opportunity to share resources and work together to support newly arrived families.  Another success has been KCR’s successful volunteer management process which is designed to support and protect both the participants and volunteers as they work and learn together.

To sum it all up this process has been a time of learning and community capacity building. We at KCR feel privileged to be able to continue to play a part in such an important humanitarian cause.

KCR – Immigrant Services serves over 1200 Immigrants and Refugees annually in the Central Okanagan.  We provide assistance navigating Canadian public systems, finding work, building social networks, accessing health care and with referrals to English Language programs.  KCR also works together with the Central Okanagan Local Immigration partnership to continue to ensure our community is ever more welcoming.  For more information please contact us at 250 763 8008 or immigrantservices@kcr.ca.

Thai Yoga Stretch Therapy

by Jessica Levy, founder of Body Connection Fitness / Photography by Jura

As a new mom our body is recovering from both our pregnancy and labour. We are hunched over breast feeding and carrying around baby, we become tight in our chest and develop an overstretched upper back which leads to back and neck pain. We may also have tight hip flexors, thighs and hamstrings from pregnancy which can lead to other issues. Fitness training is super beneficial to strengthen the weak muscles and Thai Yoga Stretch Therapy will help to increase mobility of the tight joints and muscles.

Thai Yoga Stretch Therapy is used to relax the mind and body, while creating greater mobility in the joints and increasing flexibility. This allows the body to move more efficiently which can help with daily activities, sports, poor posture, fitness and more. It is an ancient healing practice that combines Indian Ayurvedic principles, acupressure and assisted yoga postures.

This therapy is amazing for anyone to experience, from the sedentary to the active. Most of us are forward in our jobs or day to day living; sitting and typing at a desk, sitting in our car, watching tv, doing chores, etc. This causes our hip flexors, hamstrings, chest and shoulders to be tight. Athletes even seek out this practice to become better players.

When you have optimal range of motion and mobility in the joints, the body moves with ease and energy in a way that even fitness professionals cannot do without assistance. Thus, allowing increased mobility so the body can function better. It has the many benefits of yoga with the patient’s body in a passive state during the stretches, not to mention it is extremely relaxing and feels amazing.

Thai Yoga Stretch Therapy is now offered in Kelowna by Jessica Levy.

Family Friendly Adventure in the Okanagan

by Amie Gosselin

My youngest daughter tromps down the beach and plunks herself beside the water. Scoop by scoop she loads sand into a bucket then pats it down with her hand.

Shovel, pat, shovel, pat. There is a rhythm to it.

“Mommy, sand cake,” she says, beckoning me to join her. I’m comfortable on the beach, staring at the open expanse of water before me, but how can I possibly say no? Together we fill up the bucket and carefully turn it over. Our ‘sand cake’ is complete with a few shiny rocks and twigs.

My middle daughter walks along the beach stopping every few moments to pick up something that has caught her eye. She turns it around in her hand inspecting it, marveling at it. Plunk, it lands at the bottom of her beach bucket. After a while she spreads all she has collected before us: two bottle caps, a feather, an oddly shaped stick, several rocks that catch the sunlight and sparkle. All these, the treasures of childhood.

My oldest, meanwhile, is exploring Kalamalka Lake with a snorkel and mask.

“What do you see?” I call to her.

“A minnow!” she hollers back with excitement.

Earlier that day we roamed the ridge above Cougar Canyon near Coldstream. We meandered up the trail to a rocky outcrop above the canyon and looked across the valley. Kalamalka Lake stretched out before us hemmed by rolling hills colliding with the horizon.

A morning hike followed by an afternoon at the beach? Yes, please!

Choosing a life of adventure with children is not easy and certainly not without its risks and challenges.  But every time we pack ourselves up, either into our car or onto our bicycles, we never regret the decision to explore as a family.

Living in the Okanagan makes these adventures a little more accessible. This spectacular valley is nature’s playground and every trail and outdoor experience offers a breathtaking reward for your labour: textured hills, sparkling water, verdant fields and orchards.

Whether it’s lake and beach, walking trails and hikes, or biking and thrill rides, there’s something for everyone within a reasonable distance.

Getting outside is good for the brain 

Sometimes people ask us how we get out so often with our sanity intact during the tiring and tantrum-filled preschool years. To this I always respond, that we love it, that our whole family loves it. Plus, we live in Kelowna. We are within a stone’s throw of all the beauty and opportunity the Okanagan Valley holds.

But the passion for being outside goes further than pure pleasure-seeking. It’s good for our overall health. Science continues to support what we sense intuitively about getting outside.

In 2012, researchers from the University of Kansas and the University of Utah found that after just four days of immersion in nature and being completely unplugged from media and technology, half of the participants demonstrated increased creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

No matter how challenging it can be to shut off Netflix and get outdoors, we always feel better after time outside.

When we’re hiking together or exploring a new path or hidden gem, we are noticeably happier, feel less stressed and relate to each other more positively.

Here are a few things we’ve learned over the years that help us get outside with young children and keep stress to a minimum.

Keep it simple

While we do plan and execute bigger family holidays, that isn’t what a typical weekend looks like. Often, we fill a daypack full of snacks and water, a couple of extra diapers and wet wipes, and drive or bike a short distance.

More than anything else, a life of adventure is a state of mind. Take an attitude of exploration with you on the little side trips and who knows what you will find. Explore a new park, take a different side street, or check out a walking trail you’ve never been to before. The simpler the plan is, the more likely you’ll actually do it.

Start an adventure list

We have an Okanagan Adventure Bucket List tacked to the wall beside our family calendar. This is where we jot down all the walks, trails and experiences we want to do in the Okanagan. Whenever we hear of a new place to explore or a new adventure to be had, we jot it down. On weekends where we wonder what to do or where to go, we can look at that list for inspiration.

The more the merrier

Invite family or friends to join the adventure. When we make plans to meet others, the benefits are three-fold: we have a wonderful experience that we talk about later; we build and nurture community and relationships; and our kids are far more likely to be motivated when surrounded by peers.

Know your limits

Pick an activity that matches your family’s skill-level. We are decidedly in the primary and preschool stage and realize that clocking dozens of kilometres on a cycling trip is simply not in the cards for us right now. That doesn’t mean adventure is over. We plan accordingly, opting for shorter experiences and adding the bigger, grandeur adventures to our adventure bucket list.

Start your own Okanagan adventure bucket list with these resources:

Walking and Hiking

The tourism boards for each community throughout the Okanagan Valley have web pages dedicated to local hiking and walking trails, including a description and difficulty level.

Tourism Kelowna:


Tourism Vernon:


District of Summerland:




Two wheeled adventures 

The Okanagan is chock full of cycling opportunities, the Kettle Valley Railway is just a starting point. Many bike trails are family friendly, away from traffic, and a prime place for kids to explore on two wheels.

The Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen has a section on its website dedicated to the regional cycling network and includes trails and an interactive map.  Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen Cycling Network:


Amie Gosselin is a communications consultant and freelance writer at www.amiegosselin.com and loves adventuring far and wide with her family of five. She blogs about family travel at www.questwithkids.com.

Helping Kids Play Sports

by Athletics for Kids  •  www.a4k.ca

Athletics for Kids (A4K) is a BC-based charity that helps children and youth participate in sport by providing financial assistance for registration fees. Our vision is that all BC children have the opportunity to play sports and realize their full potential. In 2016, we provided over 1,000 sports grants to the kids of BC, in over 40 different sports; both individual pursuits such as swimming and martial arts and team sports such as soccer and hockey. A4K works with over 400 sports organizations around the Province and receives referrals from social workers, school administrators, outreach workers, counsellors and many others.

We have a unique granting model that allows multi-year and multi-sport funding. Children across BC, ages 5 to 18 who are currently enrolled in school can receive up to $600 per year to pay for sport registration fees. To qualify for assistance, a family needs to meet one of the following: net family income under $42,000; on social assistance; the child is under foster care. Check out the applications tab on our website (www.a4k.ca) for more details and how to connect and apply with us.

The benefits of sports go on and on. Sports not only promote healthy physical activity, but also teach important life-skills such as perseverance, discipline, dedication, working with others, being gracious in defeat and humble in success. Through sports children and youth learn to make and accomplish goals, respect for self and others, being proud of small achievements, working towards long term goals, making lifelong friendships and creating lifelong memories. It is not just about learning a set of physical skills, it’s about providing kids with the opportunities that sport encourages, to develop attributes that will serve them well throughout their formative years and into adulthood.

As a privately funded, BC-based charity, we raise all the funds used to support our youth sports granting program. Our goal is to distribute over 1,500 grants in 2017 and along with our three signature fundraising events, we hope to engage individual and corporate donors, sponsors, community partners, Municipalities and Foundations to help make that a reality. By donating to or partnering with Athletics for Kids, you will support local families and children in need and help build stronger communities for the future. All kids should have the chance to play.

Inspiring the Entrepreneur in Our Children

by Marika Wolf, Realtor  •  Photography by Captured by Gagan

This year I was honoured to speak at the Kids Leadership Summit put on by some awesome people in Kelowna. The topic was Entrepreneurship and even though I am not an expert, I definitely know the ins and outs of leadership and entrepreneurship.

I create, I take risks, and I live my passion every day. As a real estate agent, I work with lots of different people, have a very flexible schedule (so that I can still take the kids to martial arts class and fairy tale dance), and I am my own boss. I am an entrepreneur and I believe the world needs more of us.

Entrepreneurs have the power to change the way we live and may go as far as improving our standard of living. Not only do entrepreneurs inspire social change, they also create jobs and conditions for a prosperous society.

I have the pleasure of dreaming not one, but two big dreams! Dream one is to be the best mom I can be and dream two is to have a successful career. I knew I could do both and with real estate this is what I have! I want my kids to follow their dreams too so I am raising them to have the mindset of an entrepreneur.

Here are seven things that are at the forefront of an entrepreneur’s mind and how I try to foster the ‘entrepreneur’ in my children:

 1.  Creativity – to be creative one needs to be curious and explore. Having interests in things outside of TV and their iPad.

2.   Self-confidence – I want my children to believe in themselves and help them build confidence by giving them opportunities to make decisions.

3. Resourcefulness – I teach them how to solve problems, how to ask questions and where to find the answers.

4. Resilience – this is a tough one but resilience is a big part of being an entrepreneur. Things do not always go our way and we need the courage not to give up.

5.   Empathy – relating to others and building positive connections is very important in being a leader. We teach empathy by encouraging our kids to be open with how they are feeling and listening to others.

6.   Optimism – I believe that there is good in everyone and I encourage my children to find good in everything!

7.   Give back – it all starts with realizing that others may not have as much as we do and getting that big box of old toys ready to give back to another kid.

Let’s inspire our kids to be leaders!

With over a decade into her real estate business, Marika has perfected her approach to buying and selling homes. Her business philosophy lies in being real and relatable for her clients, many of which are young families like her own. With personalized service, Marikamakes it her mission to make the purchase or sale of your home as easy and stress-free as possible.

Preparing For and Transitioning to Child Care

11 Tips to Help Families Navigate the Return to Work

by YMCA of Okanagan

The initial switch to child care often presents a challenging adjustment period for families. Though difficult, this introductory phase is temporary with everyone adjusting at their own pace. After working with many families throughout this transition, the YMCA has gathered the following eleven tips to help make the return back to work a little easier for you and your family.

Set a positive tone • Children often reflect the mood of their parents. If you are nervous or emotional, they will likely pick up on it. Keep a positive outlook and calm demeanour to guide your child’s reaction. Children adapt quickly and it’s often more difficult on the parent. It is important to remember you will all settle into a new normal soon enough.

Meal prep  • It’s normal for children to feel over stimulated after a full day of playing in a new setting. For the first while, they may be clingy for attention once you return home. Make freezer meals ahead of time and as much as you can, use your crock-pot and prep dinners the night before. Simplifying dinner time will allow for more quality time together to wind down and reconnect.

Spend some time apart • If your child is unaccustomed to being away from you, it’s best to gradually introduce small increments of time apart. Leave your child with a babysitter or go for a workout and leave him or her in child minding. This will help each of you adapt slowly while reassuring your child that you will always return.

Make a fun to-do list • Besides the standard meal prep and child care shopping list, be sure to include fun bonding activities on your to-do list. Make time for activities you enjoy together, particularly those that will be hard to do once you’re back at work. Go swimming, enjoy story time at the library, go for a trip together or participate in mom and me  classes that only take place during the week.

Socialize your child • Give your child the opportunity to adjust to interacting with other children outside of the home. Exposure to new places and faces at playdates, play centres and in community programs will help children foster independence, learn to play and familiarize themselves with group settings.

Manage expectations • If you expect to get out the door on time, have nutritious dinners on the table, arrive in an impeccable outfit and avoid meltdowns every single day, you are likely setting yourself up for failure. Remember to go easy on yourself. It will take some time for the entire family to settle into this new flow of life but you will get there.

Transition slowly • Ensure you give your child adequate time to adjust to his or her new environment and child care providers. It’s extremely helpful if you can spend some time at the facility with your child for the first few visits. From there, try to leave him or her for shorter ‘trial runs’ to gradually work up to eight-hour days. If possible, see if you can go back to work part-time for the first while or start mid-week to further ease the transition.

Simplify your morning routine • Streamlining routines will allow for more bonding time as a family. Shower, make lunches and lay out clothes the night before. After getting ready, put a housecoat over your clothes to avoid wearing your child’s breakfast to work. Divide morning tasks among family members. See if child care providers will feed your child breakfast when they arrive.

Allow for extra time getting out the door • The first few drop offs will likely take the longest. Make sure you leave adequate time to deal with any extra messes or outfit changes and to make sure your child is settled in nicely before you leave. If you are frantic and rushed your child will pick up on it. Tears will be inevitable and when they do come, it’s best if you’re a little ahead of schedule to squeeze in some reassuring snuggles.

Prepare for sick days • When heading into child care for the first time, it’s inevitable your child will fall ill after exposure to new germs. Although good for their immune system, this can be difficult to plan around. Stock your medicine cabinet and look into immune boosting foods and remedies. Make sure you are fully aware of the sick time your employer allows for. Share time off between parents and ensure you have back-up care options.

Be greedy with your time together • Now is the time to focus on quality over quantity and be fully present with your child. Make weekends together count, decline social invitations, unplug more often and ensure you have plenty of uninterrupted play time together. Don’t over schedule your family, especially for the first while. One hour of engaging play together is better than four hours of distracted time in the same house.

It’s important to remember that most every family gets through this transition. If you are feeling guilty, look into the many benefits of child care. Take comfort in the fact that the majority of child care providers are passionate about what they do and that Canada has many laws in place to ensure quality standards are met. Your child will eventually enjoy his or her time in child care. Remember that whether you stay at home, work full-time or part-time, the love and bond shared between a child and parent is irreplaceable.

The YMCA is a trusted charity and the largest child care provider in Canada. They are dedicated to nurturing young minds and helping children reach their full potential. Thanks to generous donors, the YMCA is able to offer financial assistance above and beyond government subsidy for families in need. Learn more at ymcaokanagan.ca.

Sunscreen and Kids

by Kristen Thompsonkristen.thom@gmail.com

It’s an overcast day at the park and my kids and I are having a familiar battle over sunscreen. In that I’m trying to smear it on their faces, and they’re wriggling to break free from the assault.

“It’s not even sunny out!” my preschooler shouts as she breaks free. And now I’m second guessing myself. Is it worth the fight? Is it full of chemicals anyway?

Figuring out how best to protect our children from the sun can seem daunting. This is partly because the market is so saturated with sun safety products, and there seems to be conflicting information about how best to keep UV rays at bay and when the sun is most dangerous.

So I reached out to two experts in skin care to find out the facts and myths around summertime sun safety and help Canadian parents be prepared.

Q: Before shelling out for the latest sunscreens and SPF rated clothing, what should parents know about minimizing kids’ UV exposure?

A: “The best thing people can do to protect themselves and their kids is to change their behaviour,” says Dr. Harvey Lui, a staff dermatologist at the B.C. Cancer Agency, and Professor of Dermatology and Skin Cancer at the University of British Columbia.

“I’m not telling people not to go outside. We’re asking people to do it sensibly,” he says.

The easiest and most affordable way to do that is to minimize exposure to the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and seek shade when you do go outside – especially at midday. That means finding parks with trees or canopies built into the play structure, and bringing umbrellas or tents to the beach.

Q: What’s your take on SPF rated clothing?

A: “SPF clothing is a great technology,” Lui says. “But … if you already have (any type of) tight-weave clothing, you will not burn.”

Since most swimsuit fabric is tightly woven, regular bathing suits tend to provide adequate protection on their own, he says.

The key is the coverage, so Lui recommends kids wear rash guard bathing suits that start at the neckline, and provide coverage down to the elbows and the knees.

Look for bucket hats with a brim that’s at least as wide as the palm of your hand, and don’t forget sunglasses – even for children (ones that wrap around the head are best).

Q: Can you expose your kids to too little sunlight?

A: Some exposure is needed to produce vitamin D, but that exposure should be before 11 a.m. and after 4 p.m., says Dr. Janice Heard, Community Paediatrician with Canadian Paediatric Society Public Education Advisory Committee.

Dr. Lui says the amount of sun you get on your face and hands a few times a week is usually enough to produce the Vitamin D you need.

“If you really want that extra dose of Vitamin D, it’s better to get it from your food, or in tablet or drop form,” he says.

Q: When it’s hot and sunny, should children be wearing light long sleeved shirts and pants, or shorts and T-shirts with sunscreen?

A: Long sleeved clothing and hats with tight weave will do a better job protecting you from UV rays, say Dr. Heard and Lui. But they may not be the best option to keep kids cool.

If you do want to put your kids in long sleeves, Dr. Heard recommends loose fitting clothing, and ensuring they are wearing sunscreen underneath.

“Strict guidelines would recommend long sleeves and pants, but that is not what is going to happen in hot weather,” she says. So emphasize sunscreen – reapplied every two hours – a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses at the very least.

Q: Are SPF 60 and 50 essentially the same as SPF 30?

Higher ratings do mean higher protection, says Dr. Lui. “So why not take advantage of it?” he asks. “It’s not like it costs twice as much.”

He says that SPF 30 is the recommended minimum, but advises using SPF 60 simply because people don’t tend to apply enough, so it’s safer to go up a rating.

Lui adds that people often miss areas that are highly prone to skin cancer, like the back of necks and the tops of ears. “If the sun can see the skin, then it needs protection with sunscreen.”

Q: Children’s sunscreen – what should we be looking for, and what should we be looking to avoid?

A: “Kids should wear minimum SPF 30, and the bottle should ideally indicate UVA and UVB protection,” says Dr. Heard.

As for whether we should be buying organic, chemical free, scent free products designed specifically for children, Lui says it’s not necessary.

That’s because sunscreen sold in this country is highly regulated by Health Canada, and is tested and reviewed – meaning that it is all safe enough to use on kids.

“There is no such thing, from a scientific point of view, as child specific sunscreen,’” says Lui. “You can buy one product for the whole family.”

Q: What’s the best way to protect babies from the sun?

A: “Babies should be in the shade with clothing covering their skin, and sunblock on exposed parts if over six months,” says Dr. Heard. “A bad sunburn in a child under one can be life threatening.”

Babies under six months should be kept entirely in the shade in a stroller or under an umbrella. “Remember that sand, snow and concrete reflect up to 85 per cent of UV rays and can burn unprotected skin even if in the shade,” she added.

Q: Are the effects of the sun the same from province to province?

A: “It is best to follow the same guidelines no matter where in Canada,” says Dr. Heard. “In reality, of course, the sun is less intense in the arctic, but for the most populated areas of Canada, which are below the 55th latitude, recommendations are the same. However, UV index is a factor, and people should be more diligent if the UV index is high. Anything over three needs some protection.”

Dr. Lui, who is a parent himself, says he understands the anxiety of Canadian parents trying to make sure their children are safe and healthy when playing outdoors, especially in the summer.

“The more you avoid being in the direct sun, the more you use clothing to protect you, then you don’t have to worry as much,” he says.

As for sunscreens, don’t underestimate their importance.

“Sunscreens are kind of like your seat belt or your air bag,” says Lui. “You obey the laws, drive carefully, and if all else fails, you have that seat belt or your airbag to protect you. Same thing with sun protection. Seek the shade, wear the right clothing, adjust the time when you’re outside, and when all else fails use sunscreen.”

More Facts and Myths

A tan is indicative of health.

MYTH. Having a tan actually means your skin is being injured, says Dr. Lui. A tan is one of the mechanisms your body has to protect itself from the sun, and its way to send a warning that it’s getting too much.

Dark skinned people don’t need to worry about sun damage.

MYTH. “I’ve seen skin cancer in all races, all colours,” says Dr. Lui, adding that while fair skin people may be more susceptible to sun damage, nobody is resistant to the damaging affects of the sun. Anyone can get skin cancer if they don’t protect themselves.

Unprotected sun exposure in childhood can lead to cancer in adulthood.

FACT. Much of the sun you’ll accumulate during your lifetime happens in the first 20 years of your life, in part because of childhood play – which is a good thing, but there’s risk in that. According to Dr. Lui, skin cancers like melanoma and basal cell carcinoma are often linked to sun exposure in youth.

Time spent in the sun can improve your mood.

MYTH. It’s actually light, not UV, that improves mood and seasonal affective disorder, says Lui. So get outside, but try to cover up.

Sunscreen needs to rubbed into the skin to be effective.

MYTH. We think we need to rub sunscreen into our skin in order for it to be absorbed, but Dr. Lui points out that we just want it to sit on the skin to filter UV rays. Apply evenly and generously, but don’t rub it in.

Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure.

FACT. Sunscreen needs about half an hour to bind with the skin, so try to put it on before you leave the house.

Waterproof sunscreen needs to be reapplied after swimming.

FACT. Sunscreen will wear off in the water, even if it’s waterproof. It needs to be reapplied after swimming and heavy sweating.

Clouds, mist and fog block harmful UV.

MYTH. According to Dr. Heard, you can still be exposed to UV rays even on an overcast day, and clouds aren’t a replacement for sunscreen.

Kristen Thompson is a freelance journalist and blogger. You can read her stories in Today’s Parent, the Toronto Star, Metro and the Yummy Mummy Club, or on her blog RunningWithSafetyScissors.com. She lives in Kelowna with her husband and two little girls. Follow Kristen on Twitter at twitter.com/KristenThom or email her at Kristen.thom@gmail.com.

Inheritance When a Child Lives with Mental Illness or Addiction

by Jody Pihl, Lawyer and Mental Health Advocate at Pihl Law Corporation

Parenting a child who lives with mental illness or addiction can be heartbreaking, challenging and exhausting for parents and other family members. Once an adult, a child living with mental illness or addiction can create a lifelong emotional and financial commitment from the parents.

When engaging in estate planning, a parent with a child living with mental illness or addiction requires special planning considerations to protect the interest of their child, the ongoing care of the child and to protect their family from potential problems in the administration of the estate once the parent is gone.

It’s not unusual that special considerations for a child with mental illness or addiction sometimes come at the expense of other children who are impacted by having a sibling who requires special care and may be unpredictable, disruptive, or destructive. This disparity between children and their needs can add to existing family tension as well as the potential for disagreement between beneficiaries once a parent is gone.

Consequently, parents facing these challenges must be careful when deciding what to leave their child and the manner in which the assets are left to the child. Individuals living with addiction and mental illness may not have the capacity to manage their money, they can be susceptible to people who prey on the vulnerable, they may engage in spendthrift behaviour, or they may spend funds on destructive behaviours causing them more harm than good.

Parents may also need to figure out how to support a child who might not be capable of supporting themself. If an individual is unable to work, the child may be eligible to receive disability benefits (from both Provincial and Federal funding and benefits sources). For these children, poor estate planning by a parent can jeopardize the child’s continuing receipt of these benefits if the child receives his or her inheritance outright.

When a child meets the definition of a person with disabilities, the good news is that parents can leave a substantial inheritance to the disabled child by utilizing a discretionary trust while preserving the child’s continued receipt of public benefits. A discussion of this planning is beyond the scope of this article, so to ensure that trust planning adheres to all applicable rules and laws, it’s best to work with an estate planning lawyer experienced with disability planning who can construct a trust carefully to protect the disabled person’s eligibility once the parents are gone.

When a child does not meet the definition of a person with disabilities, is undiagnosed, is in denial that they have a mental illness or addiction issue, or are active in their addiction, it may be even more important to ensure trust planning is in place to protect these children as well as their inheritances.

In either case, it’s often inappropriate to ask a family member or sibling to take on the responsibility of managing a trust for a child with mental illness or addiction issues whether or not that child accepts his illness and is working towards health and recovery, or is still active in his illness or addiction. It’s often best for both the child as well as any siblings, to appoint an independent third party, such as a professional Trust Company, to take on the role of managing the trust. This ensures that the necessary experience to coordinate trust payments in order to meet the government benefit provider requirements is met, as well as the authority to deal with tough situations and decisions that are in the best interest of the child are dealt with by a third party. Many families choose to appoint both a Trust Company and a family member to work jointly to manage the trust which can offer the professional services of a Trust Company along with the personal care from a loving family member.

Another important consideration in planning for the care of your child living with mental illness or addiction is to secure, where possible, incapacity planning documents. Both a Representative Agreement (RA) and a Power of Attorney (POA) are important planning documents for parents to plan for temporary or permanent incapacity of a child with mental illness or addiction issues. An RA grants a parent authority to make medical and personal care decisions on behalf of a child and a POA grants authority to make financial and legal decisions. A child living with mental illness or addiction must hold the requisite mental capacity to execute this document. An estate planning lawyer can help you learn more about these agreements.

Jody Pihl is a Lawyer at Pihl Law Corporation who offers a full range of legal services in the area of Wills, Estates and Succession Planning, including the preparation of Wills and Trusts, Estate Planning, Powers of Attorney, Representation Agreements, and Planned Giving.  Her relaxed and considerate approach helps her understand each client’s unique circumstance and specific planning needs.  For more information, contact Jody at 250-762-5434, lawyers@pihl.ca, or find her online at www.pihl.ca.

Kids, Books and Dogs

What a Great Combination!

by Kim Braeuer, Assistant Community Librarian, Mission Branch

A library may not be a place you would expect to find dogs, but at the Mission branch of the Okanagan Regional Library, children reading to dogs, is a regular occurrence.  Since 2013, the Mission branch library, has been fortunate to offer PAWS to Read, an individual  reading program for children  with volunteers and therapy dogs certified through St. John Ambulance.

The goal of PAWS to Read at the Mission library is a simple one – to foster the love of reading in children.

The use of therapy dogs in reading programs, both in libraries and in schools is gaining popularity. Research has shown that reading to dog programs not only help improve reading skills but also benefits in areas of social and emotional development.  It’s a fun and novel way for children to gain confidence in their reading.

For all children including, emergent or struggling readers, reading sessions with a dog provides a nonjudgmental, motivating, relaxed environment in which to read aloud. This practise is essential to improved literacy.

Dogs may not be able to read, but they make great listeners.   Reading a story to an attentive  calm dog can also be a bonding experience and often the kids want to come back to read, again and again.

The program is set up so that children have an individual reading session of twenty minutes. In that time, they greet the dog, pick out a book, settle in and read!  The session ends with a visit, a treat for the dog and a walk about the library.

We see many benefits in our young readers. When children come into the library and interact with a PAWS dog, smiles break out and the kids’ faces light up! When children are offered a chance to read to a PAWS dog, they rarely decline.  Once they see the dogs wagging tail, even children who may not be comfortable with dogs, come over to meet, say hello and read.

Often children anticipate their visit by bringing a book from home, which they think the dog will enjoy.  Tiana, an emergent reader, would practise her book at home for her reading session. Over the course of the summer, this four year old learned to read!   Parents often tell us that their kids have begun to read at home to the family pet.  That anticipation, excitement and willingness to read, is what it’s all about.

Of course, the program could not be offered without the time and commitment of the many volunteers who have participated over the years.

One such team is Diane Wittwer and her dog Onyx, a  lovable schnoodle  (schnauzer-poodle) who have not only logged hundreds of hours in senior homes, but have also been with  PAWS  to Read since the beginning.  Onyx loves coming to the library, greeting everyone with an enthusiasm that is infectious.  Diane finds it equally rewarding reading with and getting to know the kids.

Volunteer Maureen Watt, believes that dogs are innately gifted in reading human body language, providing comfort and empathy. She emphasizes that this is not reserved for only therapy animals, but exists in our own family pets.  Seeing her golden retriever, Dash interact with children and adults, it is clear that there is an instant bond. Dash and Maureen have a long resume including assistance with emergency personnel during recent wildfires.

We hope to continue to offer the program with the help of these two teams and past team alumni.

If you would like to learn more or register for upcoming programs, please contact the Mission branch at 250-764-2254 or visit our website at www.orl.bc.ca.

Continuing the Conversation:

Our Kids and Problematic Substance Use

by The Bridge Youth and Family Services

In a perfect world kids wouldn’t use drugs.  There would be no trauma to suppress, no pain to treat, no boredom to alleviate; all kids would grow up happy and healthy, free of mental health concerns and capable of reaching their full potential.

But: the world isn’t perfect, and even if youth are provided with everything they need to flourish, we know from the research that substance use issues can still arise. Let’s face it, drugs are everywhere: from alcohol to tobacco, from caffeine to cannabis, and from prescription medications to fentanyl; and, given our children’s natural curiosity and creativity, many of them can and do access drugs that were not intended for them.   Although substance use amongst our young people is declining in British Columbia – as it is across Canada – it is still not unusual for many children and youth to experiment and explore a variety of substances. And while most people who use psychoactive substances don’t necessarily develop an addiction, with the current opiate crisis, even recreational drug use can now have deadly consequences.

How do we know if there is a problem? Unfortunately, many normal developmental stages of being a teenager can mimic some of the early warning signs of a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Mood swings, altered sleeping patterns, dysregulated eating, change in peer group and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities are more likely to be a part of regular development than an indication of a SUD. But they are symptoms that parents and caregivers can stay attuned to, to see if further exploration is warranted.

How do we protect our kids? Fostering a safe nonjudgmental space for youth to engage in meaningful conversation about substance use is the best way to ensure that if a problem does develop they will seek help. It is not about encouraging, or condoning, it’s about safety and wellbeing. And it’s important for all parents and caregivers to remember that problematic drug use is not a moral failing (on the part of the child, or their parent).  Rather, problematic substance use is a significant health concern that warrants the same attention as any other.

How do we get help? If a youth does reach out for help, it can be a complicated labyrinth for people to navigate. The services are ever changing, and rarely are there enough publicly funded services available for youth to get help at the moment they need it.

But there is help.  Your physician is a good place to start, as is your child’s school (which in this district provides alcohol and drug counselling through ARC Family Services). Accessing the drop in services at a local Child and Youth Mental Health office can also be a good place to start to get an initial assessment and some help accessing resources. Foundry Kelowna, which will be up and running at full steam in September of 2017, will be a one stop shop for people ages 12 to 24 who are struggling with mental health or substance use concerns. If the youth in your life needs residential treatment services, Ashnola Treatment Center in Keremeos just recently opened and serves the whole province, with four beds specifically for the Interior Health Region. And finally, if the youth needs medically supervised withdrawal management from any substance they are addicted to they can access YD33, the youth withdrawal management program operated by The Bridge Youth and Family Services and funded by Interior Health.

These services are not an exhaustive list, and many of them have only come online in the last year or two. There is excellent work being done in the community to develop a strong and supportive safety net to catch and uplift youth who are struggling with mental health and substance issues in the Central Okanagan, but it is not enough.  With an estimated 68 thousand people between the ages of 15 and 24 in this province who meet the criteria for a Substance Use Disorder (SUD), services are in short supply and demand is high.  And we know that wait lists for all of these programs can result in missed opportunities for treatment, often causing people to seek help outside of the community, far away from their supports, if they seek help at all.  Youth homelessness and timely access to counsellors, support staff and residential treatment beds continue to be pressing issues that need to be addressed if the community is to truly effect meaningful and long lasting change for individuals, for families, and for our communities.

Concerned about problematic substance use amongst our youth?  Join the conversation at: #drugchatkelowna on Twitter @TheBridgeServ or Facebook.com/TheBridgeServices.

The Bridge Youth and Family Services inspires healthy communities and resilient people through innovation, leadership and collaboration. The Bridge strengthens communities, families and people by offering a constellation of services and programs that reflect our commitment to the incredible potential of all we are honoured to serve. We provide Prevention, Intervention and Treatment programs. To learn more visit www.thebridgeservices.ca.

Mothers Helping Mothers

by Shannon Christensen, Executive Director at Mamas for Mamas

Mamas for Mamas is an award winning charitable organization in Kelowna that supports mothers in crisis and provides ongoing support to low income mamas and their kids. Our mission is to change the landscape of poverty through innovative approaches to financial barriers faced by struggling families; we envision a future where no mama or child is left behind.

The most recent figures from Statistics Canada (2014) paint a stark picture: One in five BC children are poor. Fifty percent of BC children being raised by single parents are poor and single mothers are going hungry to feed their children (2016 BC Child Poverty Report Card). We can change these disheartening statistics and change the landscape of poverty in our home communities when we come together.

We are growing quickly as an organization in order to keep up with the demand and have just moved into our new forever home where we can provide ongoing support to these mamas and their children through our various programs including: our donation and comprehensive donation programs, our sustainable nourishment program-filling the gaps in farm to table nutrition, our teen mama support program and our high in demand parenting and mental wellness programs.

We are so excited to announce the opening of our Mamas Karma Market, where everything is free and kindness is the only currency you need. Find our store in our new space at 120-1735 Dolphin Avenue.

Our goal is to create a space where our mamas feel safe and comfortable when they come in for poverty relief support. We are dedicated to creating a community where no child goes to bed hungry, where no kids in our community walk to school without winter coats or with holes in their boots. We envision a community where hope prevails.

If you would like to help contribute to a safe and comfortable space for our Mamas to reach out for the help they desperately need, please drop off items to our store or email Shannon@mamasformamas.ca to make a financial donation.

Mamas for Mamas. Donate. Share. Support. Connect. We offer a community without barriers to raising healthy, happy children. For more information call 236-420-0075, email us at info@mamasformamas.ca, come by for a visit at 120-1735 Dolphin Avenue in Kelowna or visit our website at www.mamasformamas.ca.

Let’s Take More Photos of Moms

by Kristen Thompsonkristen.thom@gmail.com

There’s a photo of my mother and me that I know by heart. I’m in her arms in my grandparents’ backyard. I’m reaching out and smiling at someone off camera. My  mother’s blonde hair is cut short. She is wearing a lavender blouse and is looking down at me, smiling. She looks beautiful. And she looks proud.

I love this photo. There aren’t many pictures of just the two of us together, and I cherish the ones that I do have.

I want to leave my daughters beautiful photos like this: candid pictures that will tell them the story of my love for them. So I take a lot of selfies. If I didn’t, there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell.

For some reason, there seems to be something unremarkable about my daughters being in my arms. Whether it’s a family gathering or an average day at home, chances are few people will aim their camera our way.

It began the day my first daughter was born. Family converged on our hospital room to meet this wonderful new little person and shutters clicked as she was passed from one beaming family member to the other. We turned down the hospital photographer, figuring there would be dozens of photos of just the baby and me. Somehow, there is only one.

The trend continued through the first months of her life. When a family member picked her up, the paparazzi would swarm. But the shutters fell silent when she was in my arms. I took to begging, sometimes in tears, for people to take more pictures of us together. When they did, I didn’t often receive a copy.

I wonder if people are so used to seeing mothers and their children together, that these everyday moments no longer seem special to the people who ought to be pointing their cameras our way. The fallout is that it can make us feel invisible. And we worry about what evidence will be left behind to show our children how much we loved them when they were small.

Allison Tate wrote a beautiful piece for the Huffington Post – The Mom Stays in The Picture – about her own resolve to overcome poor body image and be in more pictures with her children. In it, she writes how much of a mother’s life goes undocumented and unseen.

“I’m everywhere in their young lives,” she writes. “And yet I have very few pictures of me with them. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped round them in a hug, how loved they are.”

You see, it’s not just the remarkable moments that should be captured for posterity: babies being held by their great grandmothers or uncles or second cousins twice removed. Posing in front of Christmas trees or blowing out first birthday candles. It’s the quiet, everyday moments of mothers and their children that we should chronicle: reading to them before bed, napping together on the couch, wrapping them in a towel and cuddling after a bath. Pictures that tell the true story of our time together.

Those are the photos I cherish in my own childhood photo album. And I reckon they’ll be the ones my daughters will cherish when they are grown.

So if you have a wife, a sister, a friend or a daughter, and she has children of her own, pull out your phone and take some pictures. They don’t have to be perfect. They’ll tell her story all the same.

Kristen Thompson is a freelance journalist and blogger. You can read her stories in Today’s Parent, the Toronto Star, Metro and the Yummy Mummy Club, or on her blog RunningWithSafetyScissors.com. She lives in Kelowna with her husband and two little girls. Follow Kristen on Twitter at twitter.com/KristenThom or email her at Kristen.thom@gmail.com.

Improving the Transition from Spouses to Co-Parents

by Sara Klemp

Transitioning from spouses to co-parents isn’t always simple, especially after a painful divorce. Conflict stemming from the relationship may have a tendency to continue even after spouses have parted ways. As with the end of any relationship, it takes time to accept that it’s over and move forward. But for divorcing parents, simply cutting ties and moving on can be much more complicated.

In this situation, it is often in the best interests of your children to work towards forming a new kind of relationship as co-parents. It may take time to get there, but transitioning into that relationship can help get you to a place where you can raise your children as partners in co-parenting. Here are four ways that can help you improve the transition from spouses to co-parents.

Confront Your Emotions

Apart from the matters that involve your co-parent directly, you may be facing other personal emotions that make it challenging for you to move forward. No matter what it is you’re facing, letting those emotions sit without confronting them now could make them harder to deal with later on. They could even start affecting your parenting and, in turn, affect your children.

Be proactive about finding emotional stability. Talk to close family members and friends about what you’re dealing with, and let them offer their support. Your close confidants want to be there to help you, whether that means listening to you talk through your emotions, helping you with household tasks, or even watching your children if you need to go out for a few hours. Apart from those closest to you, consider seeking help from a professional. Working with a counsellor or a therapist can help you learn skills for coping with your emotions. They can also help by providing you with a neutral perspective when discussing what you’re feeling, which is something that even close family and friends cannot always do. Above all, spend time with those who bring you the most joy. Having positive people around you, like your kids, can help to bring you up when you’re feeling down.

Find a Better Way to Communicate

Poor communication is often cited as a factor that can lead a relationship to end. If spouses faced poor communication during their relationship, those issues could continue once the divorce is final. However, this doesn’t mean that co-parents can’t find a better way to communicate now that they’re no longer together.

If phone calls, emails, and text messages frequently lead to conflict in your relationship, change the way you communicate moving forward. Tools built to facilitate co-parent communication can provide a better way to share information and reduce conflict. These tools can provide much more than just messaging between parents, which is important for ending the cycle of conflict. Shared parenting time calendars, expense registers, file sharing, and organized vital family information will help parents to share only the most important details without drawn out emails or vague text messages.

Stick To Your Boundaries

Going from spouses to co-parents is a big transition to make. You will need to face the fact that your relationship will no longer be the same as it once was and that it’s okay. Improving the transition relies heavily on setting new boundaries between yourself and your co-parent.

Set your boundaries high in the beginning. Let your co-parent move forward with their life, as you move forward with yours. Don’t try to dive too deep into their personal life by making your child a spy or researching your co-parent on social media. When you do interact with your co-parent, keep your conversations as clear and peaceful as possible. Treat these interactions similarly to how you would treat your interactions with co-workers. Provide your co-parent with the details that they need to know, and leave out any sidebars that could distract from the matter at hand. Keep your interactions as focused on your children as possible.

Kids First, Always

Making the transition from spouses to co-parents will affect your whole family, especially your children. In some ways, they are making this change with you. They’re facing tough emotions that may be suprising and unfamiliar. They need your support through this transition.

Dedicate yourself to making the best decisions possible for your children. Work with your co-parent to reach agreements that work in your children’s favour before anyone else’s. Be there to provide emotional support for your kids during this challenging time. Tell your children how much both you and their other parent love them, even if you know they already know. You truly can’t say these things enough.

Improving the transition from spouses to co-parents is easier when you have the right strategies in place. Confront the emotions that may be holding you back from moving forward. Find a better way to communicate with your co-parent, particularly if you find yourselves running into conflict with emails or text messages. Stick to the new boundaries that you set for yourself when it comes to managing your new relationship with your co-parent. And, as always, keep your kids in the forefront of every parenting decision you make. Again, your transition may not simply happen overnight, but taking the time to carefully transition from spouses to co-parents will help to set your family up for success as you all move forward.

Sara Klemp is a content editor and business analyst for the OurFamilyWizard® website, an online communication tool built for co-parents www.ourfamilywizard.com. She also serves as editor of the OFW Blog.

6 Tricks to Help Your Kids be Positive

by Cynthia Crossley  •  www.habyts.com/power-of-positive-perspective

Our thoughts, or rather, the way we think, have a remarkable impact on our everyday lives and wellbeing.

Don’t believe me?

Who do you think would be most successful?

1. The person who believes they can achieve anything, become whomever they want, and follows up with swift action, or:

2. The person who complains about anything, is indifferent about everything and gets nothing done out of feelings of hopelessness.

Obvious, huh? 

But whilst our thoughts may influence our lives in the present, our perspective influences our thoughts in the first place.

The power of a positive perspective

No matter how bad or ugly a situation, some people are always able to see the positive side. They don’t have some superhuman power. And they’re certainly not being inappropriate. Rather, they are simply viewing the situation from an angle which makes them feel empowered.

Depending on our perspective, we will unconsciously choose to exclude some aspects, and hone in on others. Just like a photographer chooses what he/she frames in a picture, and what they leave out. This is because everything in life is relative. If we believe something to be bad, it’s because we’re comparing it to something we think is better. People who view life with a positive perspective – the glass-half-full crowd – are experts in reframing a situation in a positive light. They look for the positive in the negative.

And those who  approach life with a negative perspective, the glass-half-empty crowd, subconsciously hone in on the negative aspects often failing to see the positive. This is why it’s important to promote a positive perspective from a young age. But it’s not something that can be adopted overnight. It takes practice.

Equipping your child with a positive perspective

When you equip your child with a positive perspective, you’re setting them up for a happy and successful life. A way of thinking which helps them overcome life’s hurdles and make good decisions, even when the chips are down.

Children have such an amazing ability to learn. They’re babies one day, and the next they’re learning language and life skills at an astonishing rate. This gives us, as parents, a very important and sometimes overwhelming duty: to teach our children every day the power of a positive perspective.

There are many things you can do each day to foster a positive perspective in your kids. Keep the following tips in mind:

1. Lead by example. From a young age, your kids pick up on more than you know. While you may live by the notion that you should always put your kids first, you also have to concentrate on your own self development. Because, when you think positively, so will your kids.

2. Watch your reactions. Just as with leading by example, you must watch your reactions, especially when things go awry. If you learn some bad news, fight the urge to have a negative reaction. Where possible, try to reframe it in a positive light and don’t yell or outwardly worry. Teach your children that sometimes things don’t turn out the way we’d hoped for, but eventually, the tides will turn.

3. Find the silver lining in challenges. As your children learn and develop, they’ll be faced with all sorts of challenges. Some of them will be easy, while others are more challenging. Be sure to point out the silver lining in any challenge your child may face. It’ll help them to see your point of view when they’re facing challenges alone.

4. Help them change their thinking. When your child is in the midst of a tough challenge, he or she might be tempted to give up. Use your wisdom to judge whether their situation is worth persisting with, and if it is, offer encouragement and motivation. Perhaps there’s an angle to the problem that your child hasn’t tried yet. Nudge them in the right direction until they find the success they seek.

5. Promote laughter. Laughter breeds happiness and positive feelings. Play into your child’s humorous side by promoting situations that your child finds funny. You can play games, go to shows, or simply have a good time together as a family.

6. Share the Love. Let them know they make a positive difference in your life and love them unconditionally.

A Happy Healthy Home

When you remember to treat your kids in a calm and loving manner, they’ll be more likely to do the same. If your child tends to panic, don’t scold them for this behaviour. Put them at ease as best as you can and show them that there’s a solution to their problem. If you panic, the situation may spiral into an unhealthy cycle.

In the end, there’s no right or wrong way to raise your kids. Do what’s best for your family in the way you know how. When you maintain a happy and healthy home, your children will learn to have hope and think positively!

We can’t shield them from all the stones and arrows life throws but we can give them the tools to stay above the fray.

Cynthia Crossley is passionate about positive parenting and the co-founder of Habyts®, a habit-building app that helps parents regulate screen time, eliminate homework distractions and motivate kids to build good habits for life! For more information email: contact@habyts.com or visit our website at: www.habyts.com.

Deciding to Try Baby Sign Language

by Kristen Thompsonkristen.thom@gmail.com

I spent the first ten months of my daughter’s life quietly begging her to beam her wants and needs into my mind during her daily (hourly) meltdowns. If a magician had existed to translate her cries for me, I would have hired that person on the spot.

Everything changed for the better one quiet afternoon, when out of the clear blue sky she looked up and gave me the sign for eat.

We’d been diligently signing several words to her since she was old enough to open her eyes, and I had been starting to feel like it was for naught. Then she signed eat  and realized she’d found a way to communicate a very pressing need without tears. And life for both of us became infinitely easier.

Two months later she was signing up, all done, and more. By 18 months she had mastered help, want, sorry, please and come. It wasn’t long before we added gentle, wait, share, and thank you, as well as food signs. This quiet means of communication eliminated a huge source of tears and frustration. It felt like a blessing. We learned our baby signs from babysignlanguage.com, a free resource for parents and caregivers that offers easy-to-follow signing tutorials for hundreds of words we use every day with children (they also have a great free app for your phone).

The key was repetition. Lots of it.

The onset of signing also came with the onset of speaking. She started saying words around the same time that she started signing. Some words she signed exclusively, others she spoke exclusively. By the age of two, she had dropped her signs altogether. Which begs the question, and a valid question at that:

Does signing to your baby improve or delay speech?

Baby sign language is not without its controversy. There are three schools of thought. The first: baby sign language delays speech because infants learn to communicate through gesture and don’t bother using words. The second: baby sign language leads to early speech because it improves cognition. The third: baby sign language has no impact on speech  – babies all start speaking at roughly the same rate regardless of whether they’ve learned to sign or not.

Delayed speech

Evidence that links sign language to delayed speech comes almost exclusively from personal anecdotes. There is no shortage of articles from frustrated moms who claim their non-verbal 18 month old hasn’t started speaking because of baby signing. But would that child have started speaking late anyway? Right now, it’s not clear.

Improved speech

Playing devil’s advocate are a host of psychologists and speech experts who claim baby signing can lead to improved language and cognitive skills, as well as a reduction in tantrums and improved parent–child relationships.

In a five year study conducted by doctors Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, babies who learned to sign at eleven months showed greater language and comprehension skills by three years than those in the control group who didn’t sign.

Dr. Acredolo, a psychology professor at the University of California, argues that crawling babies aren’t any less motivated to learn to walk, and the same is true for signing.

No impact on speech

Rounding out the hypotheses is a new study published in the journal Child Development that found baby signing classes do nothing to accelerate infants’ language development.

The researchers, from Hertfordshire University in the U.K., tracked 20 babies who learned to sign and 20 babies who weren’t exposed to baby sign language, and found no evidence the first group of babies were more advanced in language development twelve months later.

So… who do you believe?

There’s a lack of concrete evidence that baby signing hinders speech development. Most of the controversy is focused on a lack of empirical evidence that signing leads to advanced cognitive skills. But early language acquisition was not our aim with signing. Our aim was to arm our pre-verbal daughter with a means of communicating a handful of needs based concepts to reduce stress for everyone in the family.

We did not replace spoken language with gestured language. We never signed full sentences, and we didn’t sign in silence  – each signed word was always spoken aloud.

At the end of the day, baby sign turned out to be an amazing way to communicate with my daughter, and for her to communicate with me  – without the tears.

Kristen Thompson is a freelance journalist and blogger. You can read her stories in Today’s Parent, the Toronto Star, Metro and the Yummy Mummy Club, or on her blog RunningWithSafetyScissors.com. She lives in Kelowna with her husband and two little girls. Follow Kristen on Twitter at twitter.com/KristenThom or email her at Kristen.thom@gmail.com.