Notes from the Editor
To view the entire magazine click on the above cover.
Look out, kids are in the kitchen! Family life is busy. Often we are so busy that educating kids about food falls by the wayside. Check out our article Kids in the Kitchen: After School Munch which contains handy tips to help you keep your kids snacking healthy while teaching them about food choices and giving them independence in the kitchen. And while on the topic of family home life, Sanctuary: Make your Home a Haven touches on how important it is to slow down, dine together as a family, turn off those devices and make your home a safe place to come home to.
Are you a new mom or about to be? Have questions about your physical fitness routine and how to change your eating habits? Check out Jessica Levy’s article Mom’s Guide for Staying Fit, Healthy & Happy. In it she covers the benefits of a strong core, whether or not to increase your calorie intake and gives several examples of exercises you can do at home.
Want your children to learn how to deal with failure, win gracefully, be a team player all while your family binds tighter together as a unit? Read about Byron Miki’s experience with his girls and baseball. See how it positively impacted his family in long term ways and instilled healthy guidelines for living. One Parent’s Experience at the Ball Park.
The Journey from There to Here is a personal look at being the parent of a child with unexpected behaviour. Karen Copeland spent years navigating through the health care system in search of services, was put on waitlists with no alternative supports, and then told they did not qualify. Through the challenges that she faced she discovered a new way of looking at the world and learned to celebrate her child for who he was. Now she acts as a champion for families in similar situations; acting as guide, mentor and sounding board; helping others in a challenging arena where she had found little or no help herself.
Want to learn how to fight fair with your partner? No two people ever agree all the time so why not develop the skills necessary to argue without damaging your relationship. Marie Hartwell-Walker presents some handy tips in her article 10 Rules for Friendly Fighting for Couples. No yelling, no character assasination, no threats. Instead learn to express strong feelings, negotiate differences and leave room for constructive criticism. Learn to argue fairly and stay in love.
And while we’re on the tough stuff, check out The Disneyland Daddy article by James Lehman. The first time I read that article I was angry that the actions of the father weren’t addressed. But then I re-read it and discovered that the article was full of helpful information for mothers facing similar situations. And while you can’t change someone else’s actions, you can take control of your situation and make the change happen in your home. This one is well worth the read.
We hope you enjoy the variety of articles we’ve included this year. Our thanks goes out to all the writers who generously submitted material. We appreciate your contributions. And please support our advertisers because without them we couldn’t publish Okanagan Family Magazine.
Mom’s Guide for Staying Fit, Healthy & Happy
Great news, each one of you has the ability to stay fit, healthy and happy! They each go hand in hand. When you are fit you feel healthy and when you are both of those you are usually happy. Working out doesn’t have to be at a gym or an hour long or boring or hard. It can be fun, short, effective and easyish… Staying active generally makes you have more energy, better sleep, improved moods and ability to cope with stress. Plus once you achieve results you feel great!
Fit, Healthy and Happy During Pregnancy
You are pregnant? Congrats. We all hope for a smooth pregnancy. We all have tons of questions, read tons of books and look for advice for what to do to stay healthy and fit during pregnancy.
I always have the same questions come up with each pregnancy. What is safe to do for each trimester? What does eating for two really mean? Can you workout your core during pregnancy? These are really important questions to ask. Eating right and exercising will leave you feeling more energized and happier during your pregnancy, is great for baby, and allows for a faster post baby recovery to that pre pregnancy body.
Eating for Two? No. All you really need to do is increase your calorie intake slightly; by adding an extra apple into your day, or a half cup of yogurt, or one cup of fresh veggies with hummus. Many of us think that we can just let ourselves go during pregnancy and eat anything since we are going to gain weight anyway. Hold on! This weight that you gain by eating more then you need to will just be that much harder to get off once baby is born. Put the junk food away. Also, you want to provide your body with great nourishment for the growing baby in your belly. So eating whole foods and drinking lots of water is very important.
Exercise or not. It is recommended to incorporate cardiovascular endurance and flexibility activities most days of the week and muscular endurance activities two to three days per week. Very important to not overheat during your first trimester as your baby is the most at risk during this critical stage of development. Working out in a cool environment is important. Prior to starting any fitness program during pregnancy you must have your general practitioner or midwife fill out a PARmed-X form outlining the precautions and safe exercising habits for pregnancy. Also, if anything changes during your pregnancy outlined in the form you must immediately stop exercising and speak with your practitioner prior to starting up again. Exercising is very good for both you and baby and has many benefits as long as you don’t have any conditions that could be made worse by exercising. There are many changes that occur in the women’s body during pregnancy so it is highly recommended to follow an exercise program or group class led by a certified prenatal instructor.
Some benefits of a strong core and pelvic floor include:
Less low back and pelvis pain, prevents/reduces incontinence and musculoskeletal injuries, helps to push baby out, less tearing during child birth and smaller chance of prolapsed internal organs, quicker recovery after birth and leads to a flatter abdomen after childbirth.
Follow these exercises to be on your way of a stronger pelvic floor and core:
Kegels: Find a comfortable position sitting cross legged or on your hands and knees. When you tighten the pelvic floor you want to focus on lifting as you exhale. Hold the contraction for two seconds then release. Repeat ten times, then try holding for four seconds before your release. The release is equally as important as the lift and squeeze.
Baby Hugs: Starting position is on your hands in knees or forearms and knees keeping a neutral spine. Allow your belly to hang and relax, on the next exhale draw your baby up towards your spine as if you are hugging him/her with your core. Relax on the inhale. Allow the movement to follow your breath pattern. This is an excellent exercise to strengthen the transverse abdominis.
Super Moms: Starting position is on your hands and knees. Knees need to be directly in line with the hips and hands directly in line or under the shoulder joint. Slowly extend the left arm forward and the right leg back. In one motion lift both the arm and leg so you are balancing and using your core to engage. This is the superwomen position. Return to start and alternate with the other side.
Join a local Prenatal Fitness class to meet other expecting moms in your community and be on your way to a better pregnancy!
Fit, Healthy and Happy New Mom
Life is now so different. Sleep deprivation, busy and a new love that you have never experienced before. Life’s best kept secret is becoming a mother. Nothing can really prepare you for this. Now here you are, now what? Post partum bodies are what all of us struggle with. Floppy bellies, weak core and pelvic floor, engorged breasts, abdominal separation (diastasis recti), wider hips and ribs, and the list goes on. Many of us moms don’t know where to start and don’t have the education on what is safe to do after baby is born.
Diastasis Recti (DR). First you need to know if you have Diastasis Recti, 33% of women have it after baby is born. Diastasis Recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles and usually starts to occur during the third trimester of pregnancy. The separation causes the Rectus Abdominis to be further apart then usual, which can cause internal organs to protrude and the belly to pouch and may also lead to back/pelvic pain and or pelvic floor dysfunction.
How to check if you have DR? Lie down on your back with your feet on the floor so your legs are bent. Press your fingers lengthwise on your navel and move them up towards your ribs and then down towards your pubic bone and feel the composition of the body beneath them. It should feel soft. Now that you know how that feels you need to engage the muscles by curling your chin towards your chest and slightly lifting your shoulders off the floor. As you are holding this position feel again by pressing your fingers up and down. If you feel a gap between the fingers you have separation. It can be very small or over three centimetres. Always wise to have a postnatal specialist help you with your check.
What to do if you have it? You need to focus on strengthening the deep core muscles before the superficial as you can worsen your condition if you don’t. Exercises to avoid are any that put pressure on the abdominal wall such as planks, push-ups, and burpees, as well as, exercises that engage the Rectus Abdominis such as sit ups, crunches and bicycles.
Here are a couple safe exercises to practice at home:
TVA’S: These can be performed anytime. You can do them while you are eating, driving and watching TV. They are a tightening and contraction of the transverse abdominis which is the inner layer of the abdominal wall. As you exhale you want to draw the belly button in towards your spine and on the inhale release. Very similar to the baby hugs.
Heel Slides: Lie on your back with socks on and legs bent with the soles of your feet on the floor. Start by bracing your abs and slowly sliding one heel out so your leg becomes fully extended. With the same speed slowly bend the leg and return to start position. You want to focus on extending and pulling in using your abs and not your hip flexor.
Knee Fallouts: Lying on your back with both legs bent and your feet on the floor about eight inches from your glutes. In a controlled movement allow both knees to slowly fall to your sides so your hips become open to the ceiling. During the movement you want to keep your spine neutral and transverse engaged (abs braced). Return the knees from your sides back to center squeezing in through your core.
What to do if you don’t have it? Still recommended to strengthen the deep core muscles so you have a really good understanding of how to ‘Engage Your Core’, which you hear all the time in fitness videos or during fitness classes. You can still follow the exercises above but it is safe for you to also start working the superficial core muscles.
Urinary Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Issues. Our pelvic floor really takes a beating during pregnancy and labour, and many of us are left with issues after baby arrives. It is very common for women to experience leakage when then cough, sneeze, laugh or perform any impact activities. You might also experience painful intercourse, pain in the pelvic floor or find it difficult to empty your bladder. It is highly recommended to seek professional help from pelvic floor therapists if you suffer from this. Some women may have tight pelvic floor muscles and need to learn how to relax them while others may have a weak pelvic floor. Without being properly diagnosed you may make your condition worse.
If you have a weak pelvic floor you want to focus on the lift in a Kegel and if you have a tight pelvic floor you want to focus on learning how to relax and release the pelvic floor.
Fit, Healthy and Happy Back to Work Mom
A year has passed and it’s time to get back to work. How on earth do we fit fitness into our new schedules? How about a home routine, or try a Mommy and Me Fitness Class. Fitting fitness into your schedule may seem impossible but there is good news, it can easily be done! All you need is 15 minutes every day to commit to it. Doing a home workout that targets all the muscles in the body with minimal rest periods and maximized output during your work periods can get great results for you just within six weeks!
Follow these six exercises for a leaner, more toned and stronger physique:
Make sure to do a proper warm up before the workout and cool down/stretch afterwards. Complete each exercise for 45 seconds with a 15 second rest period before moving onto the next exercise. Repeat the set of six exercises three times.
Squat Bum Kicks: Preform a squat on the upward movement and kick one heel back towards your glute as if you are kicking your butt. Alternate sides with each squat.
Notes: keep the weight in the heels, knees behind toes.
Gladiator: Complete one push-up (can be on the knees), after the push-up you will draw one knee up towards your elbow but on the outside while in plank position (these are called rock climbers).
Notes: don’t sink into the shoulders, hands should be directly below shoulder, keep spine neutral and don’t sag the hips, tailbone slightly tucked and core pulled in.
Side Lunge Lifts: Step one foot out to the side so you are in a wide stance and bend the knee of that side while keeping the other leg straight, (side lunge). Step it back into starting position and then lift the leg out to the side while balancing on the other.
Notes: while in the side lunge keep back long and core pulled in, weight in the heel and knee behind your toes and don’t lock out your knees.
Breaststroke Stand Ups: Lie on your belly with your arms extended out in front of you. In one motion lift your chest off the floor and press your arms around the side then bending them as you draw the elbows towards your ribs (imagine doing the breaststroke while swimming). Then lower your chest back down to the floor and stand up. Then get back down onto the floor and repeat.
Notes: if you experience any dizziness from standing between each lift eliminate the stands. However, this is a great way to get your heart rate up.
Kicking Hip Bridge: Lie on your back with arms by your side and feet flat on the floor and legs bent. Pushing through your heels lift your hips towards the ceiling and hold this positon. From here draw one knee in towards the chest then extend the leg out then return back to where you started. Repeat on the other side.
Notes: feel each vertebrae as your roll your spine off the floor, core stays engaged.
Pilates Arm Pump: Lying on your back, bring both legs off the floor and bend the legs to 90 degrees. Your knees should be in line with your hips. Keep your spine neutral and don’t allow the back to lift and engage the core. Now lift the shoulders off the floor and start pumping your arms on either side of the hips.
Notes: four pumps inhale four pumps exhale. Don’t hold your breath! If your neck gets sore relax shoulders and head on the floor.
The hardest step is usually the first one. Getting out there and just doing it. Being active is a choice and having an accountability partner really helps if you have a hard time finding that motivation. Joining other moms or moms to be in fitness classes is your best support group as you are each going through your own body struggles and it is such an amazing way to meet new friends, share stories, get out of the home and get active.
It is always recommended to see your physician prior to starting any exercise program.
Jessica Levy is the founder of Body Connection Fitness and is a certified prenatal and postnatal Fitness specialist offering one on one and group personal training, as well as, prenatal and mom and baby classes.
Kids in the Kitchen: After School Munch
If your kids are anything like mine, the first thing they ask for on the car ride home from school is a snack… but the last thing you want to do it prepare another meal before having to get dinner ready. Start encouraging your kids to be independent in the kitchen by teaching them to prepare their own after school munch.
Kids in full time school have a long day. Adding an after school activity can make snack time even more essential. A quick snack when they get home can ward off crabby behavior and give them an energy boost to make it to their dinner meal. Also, letting the little ones take charge of snack time is one step closer to preparing and cooking meals for themselves! Imagine that?
Once the kids are in school, they are old enough to prepare some simple snacks, but they will need to learn from you. Here are a few teaching tips:
Make a plan – sit down with them and decide on five healthy after school snacks together. They are more likely to follow instructions if they have a say in the process.
Practice makes perfect – handing over the snack responsibility will not set you free just yet! Teaching them some skills in the kitchen will save you time in the long run. On the weekends, older kids can help cut the vegetables, while the younger ones can stir the vegetable dip or prepare the trail mix.
Label the portion size – use an old set of measuring cups and spoons to guide serving sizes. Label the portion size that you recommend on the container of trail mix, yogurt, or mixed nuts. That way they know that they know how much to dish out for themselves.
Clean up – the last thing you need is extra dishes and crumbs to clean up. Show them how you expect them to clean up their dishes and wipe down the table.
So here are some snack ideas:
1. Yogurt and fruit cups – have them scoop out half cup yogurt and add half cup fruit. I usually buy the larger containers of plain yogurt to avoid all that added sugar! Greek yogurt will give them a protein boost. For the fruit, my kids like the frozen berries, but any fruit will do. My kids require a squirt of honey with their plain yogurt for a little sweetness.
2. One “scoop” from the trail mix container – a quick mix of dried fruit (without the added sugar), plain cereals, nuts/seeds, coconut flakes into an airtight container and voila! Add a half cup-measuring cup so that they can measure out their own too.
3. Healthy snack bars – I’m a fan of healthy homemade snacks bars. If you have a tasty, healthy recipe, then great, but if you need to reach for the packaged snack bars, make sure to read the nutrition label. Quick tip: choose a bar with at least 2 grams of fibre, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 8 grams of sugar per serving. Easier said than done! Keep in mind that 8 grams of sugar is 2 teaspoons worth.
4. Cheese and fruit – pick up one of those non-sharp cheese cutters with the wire across the top. You can teach them how much to use it. Add a piece of fruit to go with it!
5. Smoothie popsicles – my son is getting right into making smoothies with his dad in the morning. Lucky me! They make a large batch and if there are leftovers, we pour it into homemade popsicle molds and into the freezer. This makes for a super easy after school snack that pleases everyone.
Thinking of Selling Your Home?
Here are three simple tips:
When there’s clutter and chaos and your home’s once-charming quirks are making you fall out of love, maybe you’re beyond the purge and reorganize stage. It could be time to sell. But where do you start? Family, friends and all sorts of professionals will weigh in. And when you don’t have a clear plan for the future, things can get complicated.
From first-timers to more experienced clients, it starts with a good foundation.
1. Determine your vision and set your goals. New job? Or just a new adventure? Do you need out of your house sooner or can it wait? Have a goal and a game plan in mind. Your Realtor needs to know these things, not only for developing sales strategy, but to get to know you as a client. This leads to the next point:
2. Find a Realtor you actually like. It goes without saying anyone you hire needs to know their stuff – from statistics to sneaky rules and hidden costs, a good Realtor will care of those details. But not all will take the time to get to know their clients. The better the relationship, the more they get to know you, your likes and dislikes, and it all helps in finding the best fit for your family. If you’re on the selling end, you’ll appreciate direct, honest advice on how to best stage your home for maximum profit. Share with your Realtor your home’s highlights, and make them easy for prospective buyers to appreciate.
3. Stay positive, be patient…and repeat! The Okanagan Valley is one of the best places in the world to live, work and play. We’re so lucky to be here! It’s a competitive market, and even when sales come quickly, it’s still a process when you consider everything that goes into it – from making the decision to buy or sell, acting on a property and hammering through negotiations, to stepping through that front door for the first (or last!) time. Communication is the key to all of this. And a Realtor who understands this will open the door to your real estate dreams.
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, Marika makes it her mission to make the purchase or sale of your home as easy and stress-free as possible.
Where does Dad fit in?
From breastfeeding support to making funny faces, Dads can create a special bond.
Being a dad is an important job and getting involved in all aspects of raising your baby is vital. Sharing in every experience will help create a strong bond between father and child. Here’s how to get involved.
Breastfeeding can often be a tough job for moms, but with the support and encouragement from a helpful partner, it can get easier. Dads should try to be involved every step of the way. They can share in the experience and bonding can begin.
Truth be known, fathers have a vital role to play in the success of breastfeeding. Their support and encouragement can help foster a positive breastfeeding experience.
The majority of parents will agree that breast is best. Mother’s milk is not only a great, readily available source of nutrition, but also contains antibodies to protect newborns from infections and disease. There is no preparation or clean up involved with breastfeeding, and it can be very cost effective when you add up the money spent on formula and bottles.
Be a Motivator
The first few days of breastfeeding can be daunting for some. Mom may still be recuperating from the birth, suffering from lack of sleep, while still having to care for her newborn.
Breastfeeding may not be going as well as she had anticipated and she may feel like giving up on the whole idea. Having a partner that shows his support and encouragement at this time can really help. Dads can be supportive by:
• Offering the mother a nourishing drink or snack while nursing.
• Giving the mother a relaxing massage.
• Showing confidence in her abilities.
• Praising the mother’s slightest efforts.
What happens when breastfeeding isn’t going as you both originally planned? Mothers can hit an all-time low and fathers are not quite sure what to say. Dads should keep the lines of communication going and discuss problems and concerns with Mom. Dads might also suggest seeking the support of a lactation consultant or making an appointment at a breastfeeding clinic at a local hospital.
Bonding with your Newborn
There is an undeniable bond between a mother and her baby. A mother supplies nourishment to her baby, and has the opportunity to engage in eye and skin-to-skin contact. So what about that bond between a father and his new child? Dads often feel left out and nervous because they are not involved in feedings and may not establish a bond with their child.
The paternal bond is just as important as the maternal bond when it comes to the overall healthy development of a child. Fathers can create their own unique bonding experiences between themselves and their baby. When it comes to feeding, when the baby is hungry, dads can take the baby over to Mom. Afterwards, dads can take over baby care again by diapering, playing or soothing the baby to sleep. Sharing little moments throughout the day really helps create a bond.
Holding the Baby Close
The next best thing to mamma’s milk is being held close. Babies depend on their parents to be there for them and holding them close gives a baby that sense of security and trust, and an overall feeling of comfort. Dads should make time to snuggle with the baby, or even use a sling to carry the baby around throughout the day. Try carrying the baby in a sling while watching TV, going for a walk, or doing light work around the house.
Babies are extra comforted by skin-on-skin contact. Dad can have his baby fall asleep on his bare chest. Babies enjoy the sound and feel of a parent’s heartbeat.
Bond Through the Power of Play
Play is your baby’s unique way of learning about the world around them, acquiring new skills and mastering them by learning how to move, communicate, socialize and understand their environment.
Dads should get down to their baby’s level and have some fun. Talk, sing, and laugh with the baby. Play games, read stories, make faces, speak in funny voices or just sit and be together. In no time at all, a strong bond will form.
Over the years Dale has worked with families from prenatal to parenting, she has also worked in the field of early childhood education in varying capacities for over fifteen years. She is a published author and has contributed articles for both print and online publications. Dale has successfully developed several literacy based programs that have served families, daycares, schools and organizations within the community. To date she continues to pursue her passion of writing, teaching and working as a freelance consultant within her field of education. Follow her at The Complete Family.
Prevention is the Cure
As the plane landed in Washington, DC I had to collect my thoughts and remind myself of the stark reality of why I was here. Cancer was not something that just happened to somone else anymore. I was through treatment and my hair was coming in; I was arriving at the National Breast Cancer Coalition Advocates Conference. It was kind of surreal that I had arrived here in the first place, but I could feel a strong sense of purpose in it.
The conference was a powerful four days where I connected with many others, including a strategic leader from Israel involved in integrative cancer care who had lost her own son to cancer. Miri took us under her experienced wing. As members of the NBCC (National Breast Cancer Coalition- check it out), we spent a day lobbying on Capitol Hill to bring change to policy which could further spearhead our campaign to end breast cancer by 2020. This trip was a turning point for me as I learned the truth about where we truly are at with breast cancer incidence (and with other cancers). Where cancer prevalence is concerned, we are now talking about epidemic levels within our society. I realized how vital it is for our focus to be on prevention and prevention of recurrence.
There is so much more we can be doing!
A friend and co-worker of mine had made the trip to the conference with me, and she had caught this vision while she was there, which made for interesting conversation on the flight home. Before my personal cancer diagnosis, we had worked together for years in mental health healing support services. On our flight home, we realized we could clearly see a new vision emerging before us.
We both agreed we felt called to bring change to cancer and to come against the giant of fear that comes with a diagnosis. We also felt the call to develop a solution focused approach, and to build strong alliances with other health care providers working in this regard. If you have a dream to see the end of cancer, we want to connect with you and embrace what you bring to the table. If you are struggling with cancer or wish to do all you can to prevent recurrence, we will help you find the right path.
Through personal experience, research, training and networking we emerged as Greener Life Health and Healing Solutions. We have an integrative mindset, which to us means there can be a need and a time for traditional as well as holistic approaches to cancer treatment. I witnessed on my own health journey that traditional and holistic medicine have been in opposition in the past (and still are to some degree). I believe further education can remedy that. We need both! We need all hands on deck! We welcome health solution based professionals and like-minded people who would align with us in this bigger picture and goal: to expose, to educate and to erradicate cancer.
Cancer is a journey for everyone involved. The journey shapes and molds us, and draws out our strengths and weakness. It causes us to confront our fears and our faith/belief system. I learned that cancer is hard, but I also have learned that cancer is not always what we think it is. I am believing now– and so do some other reseachers in this field –that our bodies are so incredibly made that we actually have a built in default system that can kick in under the right (or shall I say wrong) circumstances. What a different perspective! Our body wants to work with us not against us! Although a cancer diagnois can make it seem that our bodies are betraying us, this perspective shifts that horrible feeling.
I want to offer you hope and healing today!
If I could build a time machine and go back to any era, I would definitely revisit the 1970’s. From my perspective, it was a time of unparalleled freedom where the radio dial delivered Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Gordon Lightfoot. It was a time of denim cutoffs, KoolAid mustaches and sunburns. Our knees and elbows were plastered with Bandaids and the summer air smelled of charcoal briquettes, suntan oil and Deet. I grew up in a small northern British Columbia town where the biggest threat was mosquitoes; where everyone smoked cigarettes, seatbelts laws didn’t exist and riding on the tailgate wasn’t an unusual sight.
Not that I’m romanticizing an era for its lack of safety protocols, but there is something remotely nostalgic about an era where safety wasn’t the primary concern and where statistics weren’t an everyday phenomenon. Maybe I long for a time before lawsuits over scalding coffee. A time where playgrounds consisted of wooden swings and metal slides. Where there was nothing unusual about doubling on the back of your friend’s bike with no helmet, across town to swim across the lake and not be seen or heard from until dinner time. A time where mothers went to work and we were all latchkey kids.
But that’s all changed. Now, I’m a mom and the world seems like a scarier place. Perhaps it’s because I am a mom that makes it seem so. What’s more, I’m a mom navigating parenthood in the Internet age; an age where children spend more time chatting with their peers than with their families. Where they have access to pornography and disturbing images. An age where predators have access to sophisticated tools with which to lure them. From my childhood perspective, there was the time before the disappearance of Michael Dunahee, and everything that came after. To that tune, our culture suffered a loss of innocence.
In this current age of handheld devices, children are growing up with more information, and not all that we can moderate. This is an era of disconnection; where hands-on activities and problem solving opportunities might go by the wayside. Where isolationism is pushing kids towards high-risk behaviors. Where drugs aren’t just “available”, they are lethal. For working parents this can be most worrisome, especially if they’re latchkey kids.
I was a latchkey kid….but in an entirely different era. Loosely defined, the term latchkey kid; which gained prominence in the 1970’s; refers to youth of working parents who spend a portion of their day unsupervised. That time usually falls between the end of the school day and when parents return home from work. There was a time when one could argue that unsupervised time fostered independence and responsibility. It is my opinion that it does the opposite. In a time of growing disconnect and isolationism, I believe that being home alone, or wandering the mall, does little to build community.
Luckily, communities offer some solutions such as after-school clubs and music or sports programs. For single parents on a fixed income like myself, there were organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club. I don’t know what I would have done without them. Fortunately, being a self-employed artist and educator, I also had the opportunity to become part of the solution. For years I have offered after-school art programs for youth, with my daughter in tow. Not only did she serve as my big helper, but she also benefited by connecting constructively with creative peers and created some lasting friendships.
This fall marks my eighth year of running after school art programs for youth. In addition to my work with Cool Arts Society; a local non-profit disability arts group; I also teach adult painting and drawing classes for the Kelowna Art Gallery and operate an art studio out of the Rotary Centre for the Arts. But none of this would be complete without the joy of working with youth.
Youth are inspiring. They are filled to the brim with creativity, ideas and growing opinions. Paradoxically they are vessels waiting to be filled; and it is here where I feel it important to provide a safe place with which to fill it.
While I survived being a latchkey kid, I’m glad my child had alternative solutions and I’m grateful we live in a community which offers a wide range of programs for every socio-economic need.
Rena Warren is a practicing artist and award winning art educator. She teaches art to all ages independently and for the Kelowna Art Gallery. She is the executive director of Cool Arts Society, a local non-profit group dedicated to providing art opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. She also operates as Capricornucopia Artworks at Studio 202 ~ Rotary Centre for the Arts where she offers adult art classes and after school programs for youth.
Choosing Child Care
What is child care?
Child care is short-term care by someone other than a parent. There are two basic types of child care: individual and group.
• Individual providers care for only your child or children. The provider may be a family member or friend, a nanny, an au pair, or a babysitter.
• Group providers care for your child and other people’s children. Your child may attend a small or large home daycare, a child care co-operative, or a child care centre such as a preschool or Montessori school.
Finding good child care can seem overwhelming and a bit scary. It is an important decision. But if you take your time and do some research, you can find a place where your child can play, learn, and be well taken care of.
How can you find good child care?
When choosing child care, consider your child’s safety, how much you can afford to pay, and your daily routine. Make sure that it’s:
Safe. Check that it is licensed with your province (also called registration or certification). Licensing guidelines vary by province. So make sure that all care providers know how to handle emergencies and are trained in first aid and CPR . Also, ask for references. Get the names of people and agencies you can talk to about the care centre’s safety record.
Right for your child’s age, skill level, and natural outlook. Ask what ages of children go to the care centre. Think about whether your child would do best at home, in a family home setting, or in a group centre. For example, a child who makes friends easily may do well in a group centre. A shy child may do better in a small, home-based centre.
Right for your family’s values. Ask what kind of learning programs the centre has. Think about whether these fit with your family’s beliefs and values.
Well staffed. Make sure there are enough staff members to care for the number of children at the centre. Ask if caregivers are able to give each child one-on-one attention as needed. Check that the main caregivers and program directors are trained in child development and have a university degree or are otherwise highly experienced. Also, find out how long staff members have worked there. It can be upsetting for a child if the staff changes often.
Caring. Watch how the staff works with the children and if they are kind and caring with them. A good caregiver helps your child learn, interact, and solve problems while protecting him or her from making choices that could be harmful.
Affordable. The Canada Revenue agency offers two programs to help eligible families pay for child care. For more information, visit the “Child and family benefits” webpage at www.cra-arc.gc.ca/bnfts/menu-eng.html. Your employer also may offer benefits or help with child care. Or you may qualify for a reduced rate at some child care centres.
Reliable and consistent. You’ll want to know that your provider will be available when needed. Have written agreements outlining specific hours, holidays, and other breaks.
Convenient. Think about the location of the care centre and whether the hours work well with your schedule.
What if your child has special needs?
Federal and provincial laws allow equal access to public education and other services such as speech and physiotherapy for children with disabilities or certain conditions that require special care. Find out which laws apply to your child and how to get available services. Check your provincial website or see the Community Services or Government listings section in your phone book.
How to help your child get the right start?
Children need time to adjust to child care. It is common for a child to cling or cry when a parent leaves. But you can take steps to help your child do well in child care.
• Prepare yourself and your child. It may help if you both get used to spending time apart. Hire a babysitter or ask a friend or relative to help watch your child for short periods, and gradually make the sessions longer.
• Tell your child what will happen. If your child is an older toddler or a preschooler, talk about meeting new friends and doing new things. Remind your child that you will come back to pick him or her up.
• Work into the new routine slowly. You may keep the first visit short and stay with your child. Stay away a little longer each day. Follow your child’s lead. He or she may be more ready to join the group than you thought.
• Spend extra time saying good-bye for the first few days. Some children will be ready and eager for the new routine. An extra minute or two to get your child involved in a new project or with a group of children may be all that is needed.
• Let your child bring something from home, if the centre allows it. Having a special blanket or toy can be a comfort.
If you spend time with your child and are calm and loving, he or she will be more likely to adjust to and enjoy child care.
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org. © 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated.
The Journey from There to Here
by Karen Copeland, the Founder of Champions for Community Mental Wellness | Not actual photo of author and child.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be.” Douglas Adams
If there is one guarantee in life it is that it will throw things at you that are unexpected, that challenge you and make you re-think everything you have ever believed in. This often happens when you become a parent. You welcome this tiny, precious being into your world and almost instantly learn life as you know it will never be the same.
I have two children. They are fifteen months apart. I often joke that I do not remember the first two years with both of them; truth be told, it was a very overwhelming time for us. When he was a toddler, we noticed our son doing some unexpected things. We pursued medical appointments and were reassured that all was well, that he was simply a sensitive boy. I was captivated by this child who would often retreat into a world that I could not envision, but from the outside looked incredibly fascinating.
School started and that was when our world underwent some pretty dramatic changes. This was an incredibly difficult time. We saw our child begin to respond in ways that were very unexpected; I started getting ‘the look’ on the playground from some of the other parents. My son’s teachers recommended an appointment with a pediatrician, but didn’t know of any other resources to refer us to. This was the starting point to a maze of services and systems in which we would first have to source out and then become entrenched in for the next several years.
I was recently asked the question “Do you think parents focus too much on their child’s struggles?” I thought back to those early school years and what we experienced. You see, it was very difficult NOT to focus on the struggles because they were regularly drawn to our attention. When the school called, it wasn’t to share ‘good news’. Rather it was to let me know about the difficulties that have been experienced that day, or worse to request my child go home early. School meetings made brief mention of my child’s strengths before launching into the challenges.
My son would try desperately to show us he was struggling through his behaviour, and it wasn’t behaviour that we necessarily appreciated or even understood. We were told to access services, but were put on waitlists with no alternative supports; or we were told we did not qualify because our son did not have a diagnosis.
Meanwhile, programs and services in the community (such as parks and recreation) were not accessible due to staff not having the training or understanding on how to support kids who behave in unexpected ways. Stigma also persisted in our community, with sideways glances or outright hurtful comments sent our way.
It is commonly assumed that services and supports are readily available to families and that if things aren’t improving, it must be something the parents are (or aren’t) doing. Read any online newspaper article about “that” child or youth who is struggling and you will see exactly what I mean. The reality is, parents are often trying their best to find services and supports, but are faced with fragmented systems of care, waitlists, or the service simply isn’t available in their community.
In those early years, I found it incredibly easy to get caught up in all the negative emotions I was experiencing. I lived my life full of frustration and anger, isolation and avoidance. I felt like I was to blame for the challenges my child was experiencing. I was the proverbial “angry” parent. It was exhausting. At some point, I became tired of feeling like this. There had to be a better way to live. I wanted to be able to accept my child for who he was, embrace and celebrate him and my family!
Through counselling and a lot of personal reflection, I discovered that my default was to look for the bad, the worst outcome. With a great deal of effort, I have been able to shift away from pessimism towards optimism and hope. I wasn’t able to do this on my own though. Our family has been incredibly fortunate to have found a number of ‘champions’ on our journey. Our champions come from all walks of life – they can be family members, friends, doctors, teachers, and sometimes they can be the people you least expect.
Champions are the people who come alongside instead of pushing you away. They show you that your thoughts and opinions matter. They don’t just listen. They ask questions, they are curious. They know when you are venting or in a place of overwhelm. Instead of judging you for that, they offer empathy, support and assistance. They guide you forward instead of closing you down.
A few interesting things started to happen for me when my champions came alongside. I began to see my own strengths; as a result, my confidence in myself as a parent became stronger. I became better able to see my child’s strengths and not get so caught up with the challenges. I started to listen to my child more… really listen… to what he was trying to tell me, and then take the time to acknowledge and honour his voice. It changed our relationship with each other for the better. We are now in a place where my child is doing really well, and I know it is in part because of the many people who chose not to give up on us in those moments when we were not at our best.
Instead of being ashamed of my anger, I have allowed it to be my catalyst to start exploring ways that I can make a difference for other families, as well as the professionals who support them. I regularly collaborate and connect with other parents, educators and service providers, all with a vision of creating the space for conversations that allow youth and parents to be seen as whole beings – with strengths, gifts and talents; not just their challenges or struggles.
I have learned that it doesn’t take much to be a champion for someone. All it takes is kindness, curiosity and a desire to learn more about mental health and wellness, and a fundamental belief that we ALL belong.
I have become a champion, and I am right where I need to be.
Note: You might notice I use the phrase “unexpected behavior” a lot. This is for two reasons. First, my son’s story is his to tell, not mine. I am respecting his privacy by not sharing specific details of the challenges we experience.
Second, I was introduced to “unexpected” through reading about the Social Thinking Model by Michelle Garcia Winner. I like the word “unexpected” because it promotes curiosity. Too many behavioral descriptors elicit a negative emotional response which then leads to judgement (ie. manipulative, violent, lazy). All behavior is communication, and it is up to us, as adults to be curious and learn more about what is driving the behavior.
Karen Copeland is the Founder of Champions for Community Mental Wellness, an online resource where she shares personal experiences, mental health and wellness resources, tip sheets and more. You can find Champions on the web: championsforcommunitywellness.com and on Facebook: Champions for Community Mental Wellness.
Common Estate Planning Myths
Almost all of my clients share the same goals: eliminating uncertainties over the administration of their estate and the maximization of the value of their estate. Unfortunately, many of them also share myths and misconceptions around estate planning. Here are some of the most prevalent myths and misconceptions and the facts behind them:
1) Estate planning is just for the wealthy.
Estate planning is about making sure that your finances are taken care when you die, but also if you’re incapacitated, that decisions about your health care are carried out the way you’d like even if you’re not able to make them, and that your children and other heirs are taken care of when that time eventually comes. For families with young children, the most important part of a will has nothing to do with money, it’s about appointing who would care for your child or children should something happen to both parents. The guardianship clause in your will allows you as parents to decide who would care for your child(ren) should something happen to both of you and your child(ren) is under 19 years of age. In a nutshell, estate planning is for anyone who may be involved in an accident, become seriously ill or pass away. In other words, it’s for everyone.
2) Estate planning means having a will
A will is an essential part of a good estate plan, but there are at least three parts to a complete plan. Powers of attorney and (Health) Representative Agreements are the two other important parts of a plan. These are referred to as “living planning documents” because they are in effect when you are alive and end when you die. A Will comes into effect only once you die. A Power of Attorney is a legal document for personal planning in British Columbia and is a way to authorize your family or friend to manage your financial and legal affairs if you need assistance due to illness, injury and disability. A Representation Agreement is the key legal document in British Columbia for personal planning and advance health care planning. It is a legally enforceable document and used in case of incapacity, for end of life and other support needs.
3) I’m too young for estate planning.
We never know when we might need estate planning and by then, it will be too late. Unfortunately, illness and accident can happen to anyone at anytime, and it’s important to complete planning while you are healthy and hold the requisite mental capacity to do so. Furthermore, if you have a minor child, it’s time to plan now.
4) If I pass away without a will, my spouse will get my assets so I don’t need a will.
If you pass away without a will (or die “intestate”), the law of intestacy (Wills, Estates and Succession Act, or “WESA”) will be applied to determine who will get what in your estate. The scheme of distribution set out in WESA is called the “parentelic system”. Under this system descendants of the nearest common ancestor always take before descendants of a more distant ancestor and distributions are likely to be divided between the two sides of the deceased person’s family. Clients often forget that they may outlive their spouse, and possibly even one or more of their children. Even if you are fine with this uncertainty of who gets what, if you have minor children, you need a will anyway to ensure that you, and not the court or someone else, determines who should be the guardian of your child(ren).
5) I don’t need a will because I’ll be dead and my family can deal with it
Writing a Will is not about you, it is a simple courtesy for your loved ones that you leave behind. Your family and friends will not only be upset by your passing but they will be left to deal with your affairs and assets and without direction and guidance uncertainty, high emotions and competing interests can often tear families apart. Writing a Will saves months or possibly years of pain for those that you leave behind. It also ensures that most of the estate stays with your loved ones and is not wasted by legal fees resulting from a family feud. Some people think that they don’t need a will because their family or friends will “know what to do”. Unfortunately, friends and family can’t make decisions on your behalf if you pass away without a will. Without a will explaining your interest, the Court decides who gets your assets and decides who will take care of any minor children.
6) I don’t need a lawyer at all.
In my experience, very few people should consider a do it yourself will or will kit. These should only be used if an individual’s financial circumstances and wishes are very simple. You might save money up front compared with using a professional service, but if you get anything wrong you could end up costing your loved ones time and money when it comes to sorting out your affairs after you’ve died. Even worse, if you draft the will poorly, it could even mean that your will is invalid and then the law decides who your money and property should go to.
You should definitely seek the assistance of a legal professional if you meet any of the following criteria: you own a business, you own foreign property or investments, you have a blended family, you have dependants in addition to your spouse and or children, you have complicated wishes, you have a disabled beneficiary or a beneficiary with mental health and/or addiction issues; or you require tax planning. Furthermore, while these documents may cover most common situations, there may be a complicating issue warranting legal advice that you’re not even aware of. That’s why it’s still a good idea to at least run these documents by a qualified estate planning lawyer.
7) If I have a will, I don’t have to worry about probate.
While a will provides the court with guidance on your wishes, having a will isn’t what determines whether your estate must be probated. In B.C. there is no requirement that every Will be submitted to probate, probate usually becomes necessary because third parties, such as financial institutions, ICBC or the Land Title Office, want assurance that the executor of the estate has the authority to deal with a particular asset. If probate is required, the entire value of estate assets located within B.C. is subject to probate fees. This is true even if probate is required because of only one asset, such as a car or term deposit. The B.C. Probate fee is 1.4% of that portion of an estate in excess of $50,000 of value, and 0.6% for that portion of an estate valued between $25,000 and $50,000. For example, the probate and filing fees for an estate worth $250,000 are just over $3,000.
8) Probate should be avoided at all cost
The probate process does cost money in the form of Probate fees, legal fees, court filing fees, and miscellaneous costs. However, many methods of avoiding probate cost money as well. You need to understand the real costs of probate, and the real costs of avoiding probate, before you make your choice. Your financial and legal advisors can help you assess these costs.
Knowing the truth about these myths can help you avoid numerous mistakes. All people, young or old, rich or not, share many of the same concerns and considerations in estate planning – we all want to deal with what we have in the most effective way we can, doing the best for those left behind, reducing tax, and making our wishes known.
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, email@example.com, or find her online at www.pihl.ca.
One Parent’s Experience at the Ball Park
by Byron Miki
My two daughters, Lora and Sara, started playing baseball around six and seven years of age. They joined a mixed, mostly boys, house league program in Kelowna. At that age boys and girls have about the same physical ability so they can easily play together.
It was a fun time. Both my girls seemed to have a knack for the game. They practiced together each evening after school with throwing, hitting, fielding and we had the holes on side of the house to show they were hard at work. They had fun imitating the Major League Baseball stars of the day like Ichiro Suzuki, David “Big Pappy” Ortiz, and Derek Jeter.
It didn’t seem odd that this was traditionally a “boys” sport. They kept up with the boys and enjoyed their playful antics. Their grandfather used to play baseball and enjoyed it when they would call him on the phone and talk about their recent baseball adventures. Being shy, it also gave them an opportunity to meet boys in a non-classroom environment.
As the girls grew, so did their ball skills. They played in the Kelowna Minor Baseball Association (currently known as Central Okanagan Minor Baseball Association) and eventually joined an all girls baseball club (Okanagan Halos) in Kelowna where they met other, mostly older local girls and made new friends. This team merged with a provincial program and many of the Halos players went on to join the BC Selects All Girls Bantam Provincial Team.
From ages 13 to 17, our daughters had gone coast to coast playing in National Baseball Tournaments in Halifax (Nova Scotia), Saguenay (Quebec), Richmond and Surrey (BC).
In 2011, at ages 13 and 14, the girls also joined a local Girls Rep Softball team. Their baseball skills transferred over to softball and they found themselves making even more friends with a common interest in ball.
Unlike baseball, softball can open up many opportunities for girls who want to play at the elite, college level. In the US, scholarships are available for players with above average skill. Some of the greatest recent softball stars at the USA College level are actually Canadians who got their start playing right here in BC. Danielle Lawrie (sister of former Blue Jay, Brett Lawrie), Jennifer Yee and Jen Salling, are first string US National batting champions. They attended Division 1 NCAA universities on athletic scholarships and they all played on Team Canada.
With new opportunities in softball now available, my daughters practiced with even more intensity. Their skills continued to develop and some colleges began recruiting dialogues with them.
Through all this, the girls made many friends, developed time management skills, learned to work as a team, became goal-oriented, focused and very healthy. Of course sacrifices were required. Time on the road, being at tournaments or practicing meant no time for TV, parties, hanging around at the mall, or many other teenage activities. Other sacrifices involved money. Competitive ball is not cheap.
Living in Kelowna means travelling to the Lower Mainland to play against other high level rep teams. Hotels, gasoline and food are all over and above the training costs, equipment and team fees. Ball tournaments became our family vacations since they continued to play both softball and baseball. Budgets were created and fundraising efforts were ramped up.
During our peak ball activities from 2011-2014, the girls flew to Halifax twice, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, Georgia, Florida and California. We drove to the Lower Mainland almost weekly for games and practices. As well, we took long haul road trips to tournaments in the U.S. (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Idaho) and cities in the Canadian Western region (Winnipeg, Lloydminster, Nanaimo and Victoria). In one year we racked up over 60,000 kms in our new mini-van.
Needless to say, our whole family chose to commit to this hobby and lifestyle. We had great times travelling as well as discussing the game and all of life’s dramas. We met fantastic people, namely other players, parents and coaches. Some of our best friends have come into our lives through ball.
In today’s crazy world of economic uncertainty, political upheaval and ever changing technology, it’s really tough to find a way to keep the bonds between family and friends alive. It is easy to get caught up in the rat race while the important things in life are pushed to the side.
True, opportunities to live healthy lives are available everywhere but participating in team sports is one that can provide so much and for a reasonable cost. It’s also true that not every kid wants to play in a highly competitive expensive program. Baseball registrations at the house league level range around $200 per player for a season. Add some money for uniforms, equipment and a few trips to Dairy Queen for ice cream therapy sessions and you can be into the sport for under $500. All in all, that’s great value in this day and age.
At the upper end, rep softball programs can cost as much as $5,000+ per season including specialized training fees, travel fees, and pro level equipment. That may sound like a lot of money, and it is, but compare that to other sports such as hockey. Some BC hockey academies require room and board with costs running as high as $20,000 to $30,000+ per season.
Life takes on many twists and turns, many athletes with great potential never make it to the big leagues. Yet, in their efforts to pursue these lofty goals, deeper insights into their real identities can emerge. Only when you really push yourself up against your perceived limitations do you find you are much more than you originally thought.
After nine years of fun ball culminating at the highest levels possible in BC, my eldest daughter boldly chose a new path devoted to the study of Fine Arts and the essence of human creativity. Wow, I didn’t see that coming and yet it is the perfect program for her. After a courageous self study, she realized her true interests lay in a completely different direction. And only by pushing herself fully in her high school athletic programs could she explore her life at that greater depth. Of course I’m both proud and relieved that she has found something she really loves to study.
And yet, in reflecting on our family journey through baseball and softball, the real benefits affected me more than I anticipated. Of course we started out “doing it for the kids” … right? But, in hindsight, I can see that I too, grew considerably over the past ten years. I’ve made great friends with other parents, other coaches and program volunteers. Even my coaching style has changed.
I’m glad I don’t coach the same way today as I did back in 2006. I’m way more patient, balanced and understanding (at least that’s my story). Now, truth be told, I coach because I really enjoy it rather than just to support my kids’ team.
So for parents thinking of activities for their kids, consider these options:
• Baseball for girls age 8 to 14 is absolutely fine. The ball is smaller and easier to throw than a softball. Playing in a mixed league with boys is a good way to interact with the opposite sex outside of the classroom.
• Girls 14 and older can continue to play competitive baseball, though the strength and size gap between boys and girls becomes more noticeable from here on. There are also competitive girls baseball programs that are organized by Baseball BC. These programs feed into the Women’s National Baseball Team. Team Canada competed at the recent Pan American Games held in Toronto.
• Softball is a more established program for young girls. “C” Level softball is equivalent to “House League” baseball and is generally the least competitive program. Girls of all skill levels can play here and the emphasis is on fun and skill development. “B” Level ball is for more competitive players. These teams will travel a bit more in order to connect with other “B” Level tournaments. “A” Level ball is the most competitive level for teenage girls in Canada. Over the years, Kelowna has had the occasional “A” Level program. However, due to the time commitments and extensive travel, this has not been consistent. Currently in 2016, the Kelowna Minor Fastpitch Society offers one “B” Level U18 program for girls. Players from all over the Okanagan are on this “Rep” team including: Penticton, Summerland, Kelowna, Vernon, Armstrong, Sicamous and Cranbrook.
• Team sports are really good for developing a sense of structure, discipline and purpose for kids whose lives may be very chaotic or disruptive. Mastering the game can take a lifetime because of the numerous strategies involved. This can give a child a healthy context in which other life issues can be experienced.
• Baseball and softball have many complex rules. The game involves both time for slow analysis as well as split second speed and agility. Physical strength and size can help but intelligence and creativity account for just as much success. A small girl can reach the highest levels of the game.
• Baseball and softball at the house league level are very affordable team sports. Most communities have programs such as KidSport and Jumpstart, for financially challenged families. Ball sports are often well supported by local charities because they appeal to such a wide portion of the population and a dollar in this sport can go a long way.
• Sports like baseball and softball allow kids to be outdoors in supervised, structured play environments. They can enjoy fresh air and physical activity to balance the indoor classroom environment or even the dreaded video game console.
• A multi-sport, seasonal calendar provides cross-training in physical activities so that coordination and social circles are expanded. A single sport all year activity lacks balance and variety. It can also lead to repetitive movement injuries.
• Unstructured play time is also very important and allows a child to explore their world without the influence of external agendas. This will develop essential inner forces for creativity, willpower, confidence and self-awareness. Balance a child’s life by blending a team commitment with quiet time alone.
• As a parent, volunteer as much as possible in your child’s chosen athletic program. Most of these community sponsored activities only exist because of volunteer coaches, organizers, fundraisers and sponsors. Adults too will learn to work with others in a non-commercial environment. Meet new people and make new friends. It‘s important for your children to see you interacting with other children and adults. They want to see you facing challenges and overcoming them with ever improving skill. They model you because you are convenient not because you are perfect. Ultimately, we all win when we strive to be better and the ball field is a great place to apply those precious impulses.
Byron Miki volunteers as a softball coach with the Kelowna Minor Fastpitch Society. He lives in Kelowna with his wife and two daughters. When not on the ball field, he can be found promoting his successful Digital Media Business – MediaZone247
Sanctuary: Make your Home a Haven
Home, which once served as our refuge, is no longer a sanctuary for most of us. We return home to a deluge of mail, bills, telephone messages and chores. Cell phones and email connect us constantly with the outside world, at the same time interrupting our contact with our families. In some homes, the TV is on constantly, blaring news of upsetting events and life and death dramas.
To flourish, we all need a safe place – both physically and emotionally – to come home to. If children are to turn their full attention to the many demands of growing up, they need a secure, solid home where they feel protected. They need to feel we can keep them safe: from the neighborhood bully, from kidnappers, from terrorists.
And no matter how independent they are as they pursue their interests outside the home, kids need to know they can count on the presence of their parents when they get home. Your children would rather be with you than do anything else in the world for a very long time. Even after they start having sleepovers and marathon baseball games, when they come home they want two things: a safe place where they can be fully themselves, and to connect with the rest of the family in a deep, comfortable, and fun way. If your kid seems to live only for screen time, she’s signaling a deeper hunger that needs filling.
Giving your children a sanctuary is an enormous gift. It allows them to go out and do battle in the world, and return home to recharge. It also gives your family culture the cozy nest it needs to thrive. Finally, research shows that adults who consciously create homes where they find nurturance and beauty report better moods and less stressful lives.
So what can you do, in this busy world, to create a sanctuary for your family?
We all love excitement, but stress kills. Literally. Stress erodes our patience, our ability to give our best to our kids, and our health. Stress makes us fat, frantic and more likely to become furious. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can usually see how we make our lives more stressful than they need to be, simply by being unwilling to make the choice to slow down. If you want your kids to behave better, start by slowing down and not rushing so much.
Your children’s home is their santuary.
That means all household members treat each other respectfully, and no violence, physical or verbal, is tolerated, including between children.
Try not to over-structure time at home.
Home needs to be low-pressure time, not performance time. Of course, all children need to be contributing members of the household. But they also need plenty of time to chill out. Try not to swamp them with too many obligations on top of homework, basic chores, music practice, religious studies, etc. Teenagers, especially, are usually under tremendous stress.
Accept your children’s “Baby Self”.
You know the Baby Self. It’s that part of your child that emerges in the form of regression when your child has been coping with lots of “grown-up” demands. All day they work hard to hold it together at preschool. When you show up, you evoke the baby self simply by being their parent. They fall apart. They whine, or at least act a bit childish.
Should you reprimand them, demand appropriate behavior? Usually it works better if you don’t. All kids need a chance to be their baby self, and the younger they are, the more time the baby self needs to be “out”. If you let your child be “little” when they need to be (cozy times, bedtime, when they are tired) you reduce the chance they’ll disintegrate at inappropriate times (dinner with Grandma, in line at the supermarket.)
My advice is to allow young children to indulge their “Baby Selves” at home when possible. You can expect tantrums or tears or whining after a long day at preschool, or after that first sleepover, or after the school play she worked so hard on, or simply on Friday afternoon after a pressured week. All children have to work hard to perform a high percentage of the time, from sitting still at school to negotiating with friends to picking off that runner at first base. They all need a chance to let the “Baby Self” emerge without being ridiculed.
And while it sometimes seems as if they’ll be babies forever, their Baby Selves will disappear sooner than you can imagine, along with your car keys.
Provide enough structure so that children’s routines run predictably.
Kids need to know what to expect. Imagine yourself sitting working on a project when your spouse unexpectedly tells you it’s time for a visit to the inlaws. Children often feel like they have little control over their lives; exacerbating that by springing schedule changes on them invariably creates resistance. Structure also keeps things more organized, eliminating the stress of constant last-minute searches for things.
Set a good example by turning off your computer and cell phone to spend the evening with your family. Make it a family rule that Saturdays are technology-free. Worried about how you’ll cope? That’s a sure sign that your household needs to schedule in a regular tech-free day. Try it as an experiment. You might all feel awkward as you start bumping up against each other – “Hey, you live here?” – but the connectedness will blow you away, and you won’t go back.
Be aware of the impact of sound.
One oncologist I know has peaceful music, or waterfalls, in every room of his house. He cites numerous studies proving that peaceful sounds offers nourishment to the immune system as well as the soul.
The other end of this continuum, of course, is loud TV, upsetting news, and blaring traffic. For more info on TV and news, please see Protective Parenting, Your Preschooler or Toddler & TV, and Why TV Undermines Academics. Regarding traffic, you might find it interesting that seeing eye dogs who live in cities have shorter lives because of the noise stress. Anything you can do to minimize traffic sounds will protect your family physically and emotionally.
Create a supportive family culture.
How do you hold a family together? How do you make kids WANT to spend time with the family? How do you give your children the motivation to work things through with their siblings and with you? Much of the answer has to do with the family culture you create, which can take your family life from good to great. Here’s how.
1. Consciously create a family identity. Obviously, you want this identity to be positive and expansive, not limiting. Is yours an athletic family? Do you all follow current events? Talk about who’s reading what? Most families have several identities: The Traveling Smiths can also be the Bookworm Smiths who love to cook together or collect funny jokes.
2. Eat dinner together whenever possible. Dinner together as a family – without the TV on – is so important for your kids.
3. Seize any excuse to celebrate and have fun together. Seize any excuse to celebrate and have fun together whenever possible. Sock fights while folding laundry? Impromptu silly songs in the car? A race to see who can put the groceries away fastest? Food limericks at dinner? Getting drenched in a warm summer rain? The family that plays together builds relationship glue for the hard times. Not to mention, they have more fun!
4. Find ways to enjoy each other. Her music choices may sound like noise to you, and she may have no interest in that stroll on the beach that makes you happy just to be alive. But if you put a little energy into it, you will find ways to enjoy each other, whether its making waffles together on Sunday morning or a shopping trip with lunch just for the two of you.
5. Honor each others’ passions. Take an interest in each other’s fascinations. If you started dating someone whose ruling passion was antiques, you’d probably want to understand what they loved about old things, and maybe read a book or accompany them on an antiquing foray. Your son’s obsession with Star Wars novels may be seem like a waste of time (“Why isn’t he reading the classics?”) but your interest in hearing about the plots, even if they all sound the same at first, will go a long way toward making him feel comfortable talking with you about what’s important to him when something’s bothering him.
6. Keep the tone loving. Every household has an emotional tone, which changes but tends toward a particular range of notes. I tend towards a cozy sanctuary feel, my husband tends toward funny and raucous; either can be embracing. The point is to notice what creates discordance and avoid that. That may mean reducing screen time, or agreeing that certain sections of the house are for quiet pursuits, or simply monitoring tones of voice and reminding kids when they start shouting at each other. (Obviously, with young kids things tend to be loud, but that doesn’t mean the tone isn’t loving.)
7. Develop family rituals. Rituals, through their repetition, reinforce particular feelings and values. They may be the single most effective tool in creating family culture.
8. Consider drawing up a Family Mission statement. It may seem artificial, but families who do it say the process helps them focus on what matters, and annual reviews/rewrites keep them on track. There are many resources online to get you started.
The founding editor of AhaParenting.com, Dr. Laura also serves as a parenting expert for Mothering.com, Psychology Today, The Natural Parent Magazine, Pregnancy.org, Girlie Girl Army, SheKnows.com, and several other websites. She makes frequent TV and radio appearances and has been interviewed for hundreds of articles by publications as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Newsday, Men’s Health, Redbook and Parents Magazine.
10 Rules for Friendly Fighting for Couples
For some people, this is a truly radical idea: There is no need to fight with your partner. Ever. Accusations, recriminations, character assassination, threats, name-calling, and cursing, whether delivered at top volume or with a quiet sarcastic sneer, damage a relationship, often irrevocably. Nobody needs to be a monster or to be treated monstrously. Nobody who yells will ever be heard. In the heat of a moment, it is always a choice whether to go for a run or run your partner down.
On the other hand, no two people in the world, no matter how made for each other they feel, will ever agree about everything at all times. (It would be quite boring if they did.) Couples do need to be able to negotiate differences. They do need to have room for constructive criticism. They do need a way to assert opinions and to disagree. And they do need to have a way to express intense feelings (that the other person may not understand or support) without feeling that they will be judged as lacking for doing so.
A healthy relationship requires knowing the skills necessary for “friendly fighting” – dealing with conflict respectfully and working together to find a workable solution. Friendly fighting means working out differences that matter. It means engaging passionately about things we feel passionate about, without resorting to hurting one another. It helps us let off steam without getting burned. Friendly fighting lets us “fight” and still stay friends.
Couples in mature, healthy relationships seem intuitively to understand the notion of friendly fighting. Some people have been fortunate enough to grow up in families where their parents modeled how to disagree without being disagreeable. Others were so horrified by the way their folks treated each other that they refuse to repeat the behavior in their own relationships. Most couples, though, learn the art of friendly fighting by working it out together and supporting each other in staying in close relationship even when differences mystify, frustrate, and upset them. Most come up with stated or unstated rules for engagement that are surprisingly similar.
Below are some tips to ensure that conflicts will strengthen your marriage instead of harm it.
Ten rules for friendly fighting: or how to ensure that conflicts will strengthen your marriage instead of harm it.
1. Embrace conflict. There is no need to fear it. Conflict is normal, even healthy. Differences between you mean that there are things you can learn from each other. Often conflict shows us where we can or need to grow.
2. Go after the issue, not each other. Friendly fighting sticks with the issue. Neither party resorts to name calling or character assassination. It’s enough to deal with the problem without adding the new problem of hurting each other’s feelings.
3. Listen respectfully. When people feel strongly about something, it’s only fair to hear them out. Respectful listening means acknowledging their feelings, either verbally or through focused attention. It means never telling someone that he or she “shouldn’t” feel that way. It means saving your point of view until after you’ve let the other person know you understand that they feel intensely about the subject, even if you don’t quite get it.
4. Talk softly. The louder someone yells, the less likely they are to be heard. Even if your partner yells, there’s no need to yell back. Taking the volume down makes it possible for people to start focusing on the issues instead of reacting to the noise.
5. Get curious, not defensive. Defending yourself, whether by vehemently protesting your innocence or rightness or by turning the tables and attacking, escalates the fight. Instead of upping the ante, ask for more information, details, and examples. There is usually some basis for the other person’s complaint. When you meet a complaint with curiosity, you make room for understanding.
6. Ask for specifics. Global statements that include the words “always” and “never” almost always get you nowhere and never are true. When your partner has complaints, ask to move from global comments of exasperation to specific examples so you can understand exactly what he or she is talking about. When you have complaints, do your best to give your partner examples to work with.
7. Find points of agreement. There almost always are parts of a conflict that can be points of agreement. Finding common ground, even if it’s agreeing that there is a problem, is an important start to finding a common solution.
8. Look for options. Fighting ends when cooperation begins. Asking politely for suggestions or alternatives invites collaboration. Careful consideration of options shows respect. Offering alternatives of your own shows that you also are willing to try something new.
9. Make concessions. Small concessions can turn the situation around. If you give a little, it makes room for the other person to make concessions too. Small concessions lead to larger compromises. Compromise doesn’t have to mean that you’re meeting each other exactly 50-50. Sometimes it’s a 60-40 or even 80-20 agreement. This isn’t about scorekeeping. It’s about finding a solution that is workable for both of you.
10. Make peace. An elderly friend who has been married for 68 years tells me that she and her husband made a rule on their wedding day never to go to bed angry. They agreed from the outset that the relationship is more important than winning arguments. Sometimes this meant they stayed up very, very late until they came to a workable compromise. Sometimes it meant that one or the other of them decided the issue wasn’t really important enough to lose sleep over. Since they both value the marriage, neither one gave in or gave up most of the time. When one did give in or give up, the other showed appreciation and made a peace offering of his or her own. These folks still love each other after 68 years of the inevitable conflicts that come with living with another person. They are probably onto something.
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. You can like Marie on Facebook. Search for Marie Hartwell-Walker.
The Disneyland Daddy
Vicki is the single mother of Alex (12), Ryan (8) and Jessica (6). To make ends meet, she works two jobs—as a receptionist during the week and part-time catering on weekends. She has been divorced from Mike, a supervisor for a building contractor, for two years. Her relationship with Mike is strained at best, hostile at worst.
Mike gets the kids every other weekend and every Wednesday. The kids love going to Dad’s because there are “no rules.” They get to do pretty much whatever they want. Weekends are filled with video games, trips to the mall, pizza and movie outings. And candy. Lots and lots of candy. Wednesday nights are TV nights. The kids never do their homework on Wednesday nights because, after a long day, Mike wants to kick back; he doesn’t want to have to deal with questions about homework. Vicki resents Mike’s free-for-all parenting and calls him “The Disneyland Daddy.”
When Mike drops off the kids at Vicki’s apartment on Sunday night, they are wound up, bubbling about all the things they did with Dad over the weekend and not wanting the fun to end. Within minutes, excitement turns to disrespect, when Vicki asks them to help with chores and get to their homework. They talk back, act out and tune their mother out. Sunday nights with mom turn into screaming matches and tears. The anxiety always spills over into Monday morning, when she has to get the kids out of bed and get to work on time.
In her own words, Vicki’s life is “a wreck.” Her priority is to get the bills paid and provide for her kids. In doing so, she feels she is losing control of them at light speed. How can Vicki get back in control, when her parenting efforts are undone weekly by Mike?
Mike doesn’t have effective parenting skills and tries to make up for it with deep pockets. He’s also perfectly happy that the kids go back to their mother’s and act out because it’s gratifying for him; it’s a way to act out his bad feelings toward his ex-wife. Vicki feels cheated, betrayed and resentful about her income disparity with Mike and for having to carry the whole workload of raising the children.
What they both need to understand is that in divorce situations, kids develop a sort of “extra sensory perception” about statements that reflect resentment, anxiety or jealousy. They already feel caught in the middle between their parents, and this heightened sensitivity to their parents’ words makes it even more so.
Can Vicki stop the disrespect and chaos in her home and can Mike learn to be a responsible, effective parent? Yes. But here’s what has to happen:
1.) Manage your feelings. The hard pill for parents, especially mothers, to swallow, is that they have to manage their feelings of resentment and anxiety. Kids do sense when daddy returns them that mom is resentful. This raises their anxiety and contributes to the acting out. I recommend that mom sit down and talk with the kids when things are going well. Make a plan that when they return home, there should be a half hour transition time, where they just go to their rooms and unwind and unpack and have a snack. They don’t talk about the visit with daddy. They don’t talk about the chores. They don’t do anything. They just unwind. After that half hour of transition time, that’s when she meets with the kids and sets up the structure for the night (homework, chores and TV time before bed) and the week (getting up, getting to school on time).
2.) This mom needs to have a structure in the home with rules and very clear expectations. She needs to establish a culture in the home that says, “You’re accountable to me.” What happens at Dad’s house is irrelevant. Mom needs to say this: “You’re not at your father’s anymore. The rules here are these.” Then turn around and walk away. Mom can establish a structure by saying, “It’s eight o’clock. You need to start getting ready for bed. The clearer that structure is and the more it’s backed up by expectations, responsibilities and accountability, the better the chances the kids will respond to it. The simple fact is this: When the kids come back from Dad’s, they need a structure to come home to.
3.) Use a reward system. At the same time, mom can set up a reward system. The kids who do their homework on Wednesday nights when they’re at Dad’s get something extra. It doesn’t have to be something that costs a lot of money. It can be extra computer time, extra phone time or staying up half an hour later the night they get back. There’s also a much easier way to get the kids to do their chores. Give them a certain amount of time to complete a task. If they get it done, they get a reward. For example, if Ryan does the dishes within 15 minutes after supper, he gets an extra half hour on the computer that evening. Vicki should set the limits and make it the kids’ responsibility to meet them. Why? Because they can do it. Kids show us this every day. Why do you think they go home and act out, then go to school the next day and behave themselves? It’s because they can manage different environments effectively.
4.) Try to work out a fair arrangement with the other parent. I think the “Disneyland Daddy” in this case needs to be challenged to become a more responsible parent. If these parents are involved in family therapy or counseling, accelerating Mike’s responsibility needs to be part of the structure. I’ve known families who have worked out an arrangement in therapy that if the child is acting out after being at Dad’s house, the father has to come over and help calm him. It puts some responsibility back on the father and discourages him from creating the problem. This can only happen if parents are empowered through the divorce decree and custody arrangement or through regular or court-ordered family therapy. But it’s important for parents in these situations to have that empowerment, so that the family has a structure for the co-parenting task.
“The Disneyland Daddy” by James Lehman is reprinted with permission from EmpoweringParents.com. EmpoweringParents.com is an online community and resource for parents offering practical content that addresses child behavior problems.