Category Archives: Parenting

Do You Want to Increase Mental Fitness?

imagesWe all know how it goes…. Someone tells you not to worry about something and while it may help marginally, it generally doesn’t. Worrying does not just automatically stop when someone suggests that you stop. Something else needs to happen. You need to be able to tell yourself not to worry and this requires you to have a certain amount of control over how your mind is working.

Hearing from someone else that you shouldn’t worry gives you the idea that for others the thing you are worrying about is not necessarily that worthy of worry, you may even feel that things won’t turn out so bad when you are reassured by another. But to take control of your mind, to actually train your mind to not get stuck in loops of worried thought, that can be a harder thing to achieve and it requires a focus on mental fitness.

Research has emerged that is suggesting a possible link between chronic worrying and the likelihood of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is but one very important reason why mental fitness training needs to become a focus in people’s lives. In the Epidemiology Department of Michigan State University, researchers have found while studying participants over a long number of years, those who as children were prone to worrying a lot over everyday occurrences were much more likely to develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a traumatic event. The statistics indicated clearly that chronic worrying is an indicator of vulnerability to developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder rather than the chronic worrying being a feature that develops as a result of the trauma.

We can’t necessarily avoid the trauma that happens to us as kids or on our journey through life, but there are things we can do to better prepare the next generation to meet trauma with resiliency. Tuning in to how much worrying children do is the first good step in helping them take control of minding their mental health. This is a key part of mental fitness training but it is only a first step. If the child has a natural propensity towards worrying, you can guide them to an alternative way of thinking, not by saying not to worry, but by increasing their own awareness about what thinking is behind the worried feeling. Helping them to explore what thoughts are causing the worry and then to look at the evidence to suggest that that particular thought is not essential. For example, a child who is worried about what may happen in the schoolyard may be feeling worried because something difficult happened in the yard the week before. By exploring the child’s thoughts around this, they may be able to come up with a strategy to deal with the particular situation and then will begin to develop a belief that is along the lines of ‘I am able to problem solve.’ If this belief becomes strong over time, mental fitness increases. This is not only then a route to better mental health but as the researchers in Michigan have found, it may also be a part of the resiliency a person develops to the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is worth learning about and focusing on mental fitness. A fit mind keeps kids psychologically safe.

 By: Anne McCormack

Anne

For simple tips to increase mental fitness, follow Anne @mentalfitnessXX

Talking to your kids about sex and sexuality

family_couchFor many parents it can often seem like a daunting task filled with awkward conversations and maybe a clumsy demonstration or two. Conversations about sexuality don’t have to be awkward at all! Engaging in healthy conversations about sexuality sets the stage for talking, without guilt or embarrassment, about body parts and their functions. Setting them up for success to feel positive about their own bodies and to make conscious, well informed decisions that protect their sexual health.

Here are five suggestions to help parents de-stress and raise kids to become sex positive adults:

1. Think about your early experiences with sexuality

Take some time to really dig deep into your memory banks as you attempt to remember how and when you first learned about sexuality. Reflect upon those early conversations about it. Were they positive, negative or did they fall into a gray area? Would you change anything about the ways in which you learned about sexuality?

It’s important to tap into these early experiences as they play an integral role into how you feel about sex and your own sexuality throughout your life. Your feelings and experiences may then be passed onto your children in a variety of manifestations whether they are presented as fears, insecurities, shame or positive views of sexuality.

The key here is to own your feelings by acknowledging and owning them whether they are good or bad. Knowing the “how” and “why” behind your views of sexuality can then be used as invaluable tools when the time comes to take your own child on the journey towards understanding sexuality in all its forms.

2. Use the correct language for body parts

One of the most important things you can do for your children and their understanding of sexuality is to refer to body parts by anatomically correct names. Making an effort to do so from birth will serve as reinforcement for your child as it will be considered normal and they will follow your lead.

The use of the proper names of body parts fosters a positive body image and self-confidence.

3. Keep things casual

Feel free to forgo the urge to tackle one big discussion about sexuality at once. Instead, find ways to approach the subject during normal conversations and activities while avoiding scare tactics. Make it a point to keep things fun while you’re at it, too. It’s totally acceptable and encouraged to get a little silly with things if it helps.

Try to look for teachable moments when attempting to relay information in an inviting way. Doing so will teach your child that sexuality is a positive part of life all while providing them with age appropriate information. Finding opportunities to discuss sexuality with your child will be relatively easy. Do not shy away from using TV shows, music videos and overheard conversations when looking for an excellent starting point when you want the time to come to discuss sexuality.

Definitely encourage your child to come to you with any questions they may have and keep the conversations going.

4. Keep it age appropriate

A large part of sex positive parenting lies within your ability to discuss sexuality with your children from an age appropriate perspective. However, we must first jump the hurdle of the common misconception that “sex education” should be relegated to the annals of reproduction, sexually transmitted infections and contraception. When we abandon and de-stigmatize the standard views of what sexual education “has” to be, we then can openly communicate with children about sexuality in a more honest and informative manner.

Opening this dialogue encourages you to inform your child in an age appropriate manner about a wealth of topics that are crucial to developing a healthy sex positive attitude. The list of topics that are vital to furthering sexuality education includes: love, pleasure, empathy, consent, sexual assertiveness, diversity and preferences, self-image, gender stereotypes, respect for all, boundaries, healthy relationships, intimacy, safety and trust.

5. Lastly, remember it takes a village.

If you’re ever at a loss, talk to your friends, family members, family physician, teachers, community agencies, or your local clinical sexologist for support.

By: Kelly McDonnell-Arnold

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Sex After Pregnancy and Baby

GTY_baby_166272556_jt_131103_16x9_608“Not now, honey, I’m tired” takes on a whole new meaning when you’re a new parent. You’re exhausted, sleep deprived and have a world of new responsibilities. You barely recognize your body in the mirror, let alone want someone else to see you naked. Sex may be the furthest thing from your mind. If this sounds like you, don’t worry. It’s normal to lose your libido after having a baby. There are ways to put the desire back into your relationship and balance family life with sex life. Here are my top three tips to finding (and keeping!) that balance in your relationship:

ONE: Be Realistic

Accept that you are both going to be over extended and less likely to be jumping each others bones. Being a parent is tiring. That’s just a fact of life. Your whole perspective and focus also changes when you become a mom. Yet, it’s still important to nurture your relationship with your partner(s). Just because you are now a mom doesn’t mean you stop being part of a couple. Try to focus less on the lack of wild sex and more on what you can do that feels comfortable. Even simple things like more eye contact, heartfelt compliments, and a long hug can go a long way in fostering that connection and intimacy as a couple instead of just parents. Everyone likes to be told they look nice – especially after having their body changed after pregnancy!

TWO: Channel Your Creativity

Sometimes, it really is the small things that make the biggest difference in our day-to-day lives.  Sure, you may want a weekend get away, but that’s not always feasible. Instead, try a ‘stay-cation’ by spending time relaxing in a bubble bath after baby has fallen asleep. You could even spice it up a bit by inviting your partner(s) to join you in the bath. You’re going to have limited time and energy as a new parent. Ask yourself “Do I want to spend my time picking up toys and making complicated dinners, or do I want to enjoy time with my partner(s) and order takeout?” The exhausted stage isn’t forever. Don’t put your energy in places you may regret, like vacuuming the house just because you are worried about what visitors may think! What do you think? You’re more important than a house guest.

THREE: Let’s Talk About Sex Baby

Communication is an important part of any relationship. The most effective way to get more of what you want is by talking about it with your partner(s). Open lines of communication about wants and needs in the bedroom are key to a happy relationship and healthy sex life. Think about it. You talk about money and parenting style, why not talk about sex? Just like anything else, if it’s not talked about, the problem will fester and become a bigger and bigger issue in the relationship. Don’t let your fear or talking about the subject inhibit you from building a stronger relationship. The bond is more than just physical. By talking through all aspects of your relationship with your partner(s) – from money, to parenting style, to sex – you only make the relationship stronger, not weaker. Talk it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Having a baby doesn’t have to mean the end of your sex life. It just brings a whole new dimension to your family and relationship. Savor your relationship with your baby, but also savor your relationship with your partner(s). You deserve to have it all.

By: Kelly McDonnell-Arnold

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Young People and Social Media Use – How Parent’s can support them Mind to their Mental Health

socialmediatree-540x440For young people today, social media is an integral part of their world. Parents accept this to be the reality but because parents of today have only ever experienced social media as an adult, it can be difficult for parents to know how best to support their child to mind their mental health while online. Parents can find it hard to relate to what it is to experience social media use as a young person, as they never had the chance to experience social media during their adolescent years. Supervising their child’s interactions online may work at the start for parents but eventually, young people will seek greater independence from parents and that is normal for them to do. Therefore, it is good to think in terms of equipping young people with tools and strategies to mind themselves mentally as well as physically online. There will be times when parent’s are not there by their side so it is good to see the value of preparing young minds for what they may encounter going forward.

One tool or strategy that works well for young people is having knowledge about how their mind is working. For young people about to start into adolescence, the task they are beginning to face in their mind is the task known as identity formation. That means that young people are beginning to look outside of their own small world of family and close friends more. They are beginning, on an unconscious level, to ask themselves who they are in the world and what their place within the world is. Because this task is faced in the unconscious part of their mind, it is therefore not within young people’s awareness. Because of his task, young people can become very fixated on feedback from others online as a way to garner information about what others think of them and therefore, what they are like as a person in the world. This can be a difficult process in many ways for young people as social media is a very narrow filter through which to work out your worth. If young people are given information about their stage of mind development and if this task that they are facing in their mind is explained to them, they at least have the knowledge in their conscious mind and have awareness. They will have awareness about the fact that they are trying to work out their identity. They also will have the knowledge that other people their age are busy working out identities too and that gives them a context within which to understand the behaviour of their peers. Knowing themselves on the inside is a vital tool when it comes to young people minding their mental health. Giving them information about their own mind is one step parents can take; mental health matters so much.

By: Anne McCormack

Anne

How to Deal with Bullying

Unfortunately, many of us have been or will be bullied at some point in your lives. This can take a serious toll on your mental health and self-esteem.

Bullying happens when a person abuses their position of power or authority, physical strength or position in life to hurt someone else, whether that is emotionally or physically. This is done due to a need to boost their ego for personal satisfaction or even to impress someone else. The truth is that a bully has personal issues that they refuse to deal with head on, so they use relieve their frustration by taking it out on others.

So what can you do to stop or avoid being bullied?

It all depends on your situation.

In most cases, the best thing to do is nothing. This shows the bully that you are not affected by their actions. Bullies thrive off of making you uncomfortable and putting you down. So showing that you are not affected by their antics actually makes them lose their interest because they also lose a sense of accomplishment. Most bullies are acting out to get attention, so if they are not getting a rise out of you, they are likely to move on and leave you alone. It is also important to have someone that you love and trust to talk to for support while all of this is going on.

In other cases, it may be necessary to have a parent, counselor, or teacher get involved. You will know that this is the right thing to do if the bullying has gone beyond the limits of your ability to cope with it on your own.

People often think that if you remove what makes you different and if you conform to the norms of society, that you will reduce the chances of being bullied. But we must realize that those things that make us different and unique are also what makes us special and can take us far in life. So go forward boldly and unapologetically because the world needs you just as you are, regardless of anyone else’s opinion.

5 Tips to Help Deal with Sassy Kids

kids-on-grass-2It seems to be that there comes a time in every child’s life when they transition from a cute and loving child, to a snarky and sassy tween or teen.  In this phase, kids go from good-natured to short-tempered, accommodating to resisting, happy to hold your hand to embarrassed to even be seen with you.

 

Let the eye-rolling begin.

Some parents roll with this change with remarkable good humour and grace; the rest of us may end up resorting to less-than-helpful responses to our kids.  If you think you may fall into that second category, here are five tips for getting your relationship back onto a better path.

1. Take a deep breath and don’t take it personally. 

Yes, it’s true that sometimes our kids can find just the right thing to say to cut us to the quick.  But they’re not necessarily trying to wound us that deeply, they’re often just trying out different ways of relating to others and seeing which ones give them a feeling of control and confidence.  It’s ok to respond calmly with something like, “That was very disrespectful.  I don’t like being spoken to that way, and I’m going to leave the room until we can agree that we’ll speak to each other more pleasantly.”

2. Harness the power of role modelling. 

As much as parents like to joke about the “do as I say, not as I do” method of parenting, children don’t tend to see the humour in it.  While there’s no doubt they can quite effectively push our buttons, a part of them is watching us to see how we’ll handle it.  Our kids look to us to learn how to behave in the world, and if we respond to them with anger, or an attempt at control by trying to put them in their place, then they learn that this is an effective way of responding to someone who is upsetting them.  While it might not seem like it in the moment, continuing to model respectful behavior towards our kids (and ourselves) does give them a blueprint for how to stand up for themselves appropriately and how to navigate difficult conversations.

3. Take a time out. 

We often get into the habit of believing that every parenting issue must be dealt with immediately.  But the reality is that sometimes we all need space to cool down, before we can get a real handle on the situation and think about the big picture.  It’s ok to tell your children, “We’ll talk about this later,” and then follow through and do it.

4. Catch them being good. 

You may have heard this phrase before; it’s something of a staple in parenting.  If we catch more flies with honey, than we want to be on the look-out for opportunities to acknowledge and appreciate those times when our kids express themselves assertively while still being respectful.  They don’t have to be talking to you; if you happen to overhear a conversation between two of your children, or one of your kids and a friend, it’s ok to pull your child aside later and quietly let them know that you thought she handled herself very well in that difficult situation.

5. Keep a healthy perspective.

While you may worry that the attitude demonstrated at home may be transported out there into the world at large, you can breathe easy knowing that it typically isn’t the case.  Kids generally reserve their worst behavior for family (lucky us), and they have a pretty good idea of what would and wouldn’t be considered acceptable with friends and other adults.

These little moments may not be the best part of parenting, but hang in there.  Keep in mind that a strong relationship is your best insurance against the dismissive and disrespectful attitude from our children, so don’t lose touch with them.  Find opportunities to chat and share, create little moments of connection, and soon the scales will start to tip in the other direction.

 By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

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Boosting Your Child’s Self-Confidence

Purple Butterfly on HandIt can be hard to watch someone you love struggle.  Whether it’s with a complicated math problem, or a cartwheel, or a difficult friendship, our kids will run into a challenge that tests their mettle.  And at the same time, most parents would put “self-confident” on their list of qualities they hope their children will have.  Since we can’t dictate how our children feel about or respond to a challenge, what can we do to help them feel confident in the face of adversity?

The parenting author Jane Nelsen defines self-esteem as “the belief that I count, I’m capable, and I can control what happens to me, or how I respond.”  This is a fantastic cornerstone to our efforts to boost the self-confidence of our children, and helps us break down this notion of “self-confidence” into practical and manageable ideas.

I Count

All of us need to feel that we matter.  That desire for belonging never goes away; we need it as adults, too.  One of the most important ways to help a child feel that he counts is to really listen when he talks.  This means everything to kids – no one likes to feel as though they aren’t being taken seriously or that their problems aren’t significant enough to warrant time and attention, and it’s easy for us as parents to forget that when we’re preoccupied or when our children are experiencing what we might consider to be minor dramas or quick fixes.  Ask questions more than giving answers or your own observations or solutions.  Being included in decision-making through family meetings is an important way for kids to feel that their voices and opinions matter, and that they are an important, contributing member of your family.

I’m Capable

We gain confidence not by being told that we’re great, but by experiencing the overcoming of obstacles.  Being told “You’re the best!” doesn’t mean much compared to that feeling of actually conquering a challenge.  Kids need opportunities to learn new skills, fall down and get back up again, and then look back and see how far they’ve come.  As tempting as it might be, don’t jump in and get involved right away.  Have faith in them that they can find their own solutions (perhaps with you as a coach) when possible.  If you step in too quickly, your child may get the message that you don’t believe in him, that you don’t think he’s able to handle the situation on his own.  “I believe in you” and “You can do it” are among the most powerful words you can say to a child.

I Can Control What Happens To Me Or How I Respond

There are times in life when we can choose the outcome of a situation.  For example,  if we choose to spend the night before a big test or exam out watching a movie, we may very well be choosing not to do well on that test.  Sometimes our actions have a direct relationship to the results we get, and in those times, we need to empower our children to recognize the control they do have.  But sometimes we can’t control what happens to us, that’s very true.  As humans, a feeling of control over ourselves and our surroundings is extremely important to us.  Which is why it’s critical in those moments to remind our kids to recognize that there is something they can always control – regardless of what is happening – which is how they respond to challenges.  They can choose to be angry, resentful, or bitter.  They can choose to be defeated, despondent, or hopeless.  The can choose to be determined, focused, or accepting.  Armed with the understanding that even if they can’t control what happens to them, they can always control how they respond, our kids can learn to look for the elements of a situation that are in their control and take action.  At the end of the day, there are millions of ways to have a positive impact on your children’s self-confidence.  Spending one-on-one time with them, teaching them a skill you have, having a hobby that you share together, showing interest in their school lives and friendships, asking them what they think they should do next, reminding them of their successes, giving unconditional love…the list goes on and on.  Let I Count, I’m Capable and I Can Control What Happens To Me Or How I Respond be the structure of how you think about your child’s self-confidence, and fill in the rest with all of those little moments that happen every day.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

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Join Kimberly For An Interactive Twitter Party!

URbanBarnLeaside-TP-Promo-Tile_thumb

Are you tired of this freezing weather?! When the the sun is only an occasional visitor and the temperatures have us running for the indoors, we often just want to be at home. Home fills us with those comforting and cozy feelings of welcome and warmth. We can cuddle up on the sofa with a book, light candles and sip tea in front of a crackling fire place; an escape from the harsh real world. Home is where our loved ones gather and together we can feast on home cooked meals in an elegant family dining room. Our bedrooms provide us with a safe haven for rest and sweet dreams. Have you created a “nest” for your family? Need inspiration? Look no further than Urban Barn!

To help everyone create their own perfect nesting space and to celebrate the re-opening of the revamped Urban Barn Leaside which is opening on Saturday, February 21st, Kimberly is having a Twitter Party!!

We hope you can join Kimberly as she will talk all kinds of tips and tricks to making the most of your family time as well as one-on -one time right at home!  Of course, what would a Twitter Party be without prizes!!  So much fun!  Mark your calendar right now – this party is happening this Thursday night and we’d really like to see you there!

Here are all those details again so you don’t miss a thing!

Date: Thursday Feb. 19th at 8 PM EST

Follow: @urban_barn, @KimberlyMoffit & @SassyModernMom

Hashtag: #UrbanBarnLeaside

Please RSVP using the linky below.  See you soon!

*Please be sure to enter your Twitter Handle “@yourTwitterhandle” in the Link/Blog Title field, and your Twitter URL “www.twitter.com/yourtwitterhandle” in the Link Field*



Staying Connected To Your Tween

The-best-top-desktop-purple-wallpapers-purple-wallpaper-purple-background-hd-28If you’re the parent of a tween, you may look at parents of younger kids, out for a walk at the mall or on their way to school, and see the little ones willingly reach for Mom or Dad’s hand…and cry a little on the inside.  You may find yourself butting heads with your 10 year old and think, what happened to the little guy who was easily distracted by a hug and a game of Uno?  Gone are the days when you begged the kids to go play in the other room because you needed some peace and quiet!  Now you’re the one being shooed out of the room.  Sigh.  We know they’re growing up, but did it have to happen so soon??  We typically expect teens to be much more connected to and interested in their friends than in their parents.  But we need to not give up on them, because friends are not a good replacement for parents.  We need to stay connected, even if that connection evolves, so that we can continue parenting and leading our kids.  And that evolution starts well before they actually hit the teen years.

Step one: spend some good time together.  Between homework and racing kids to activities, it can be easy to become disconnected.  Start by making sure that not every interaction you have with them is a negative one!  If the only time you really seem to have their attention is when you’re disciplining them, you’ve got a problem on your hands.  A few kind words in the morning, leaving little love notes for each other, a little chat over tea in the evening, interesting discussions at the dinner table, and turning off the TV and the electronics during all those windows take little time but can pay back big dividends in a relationship.  It doesn’t have to be anything big, but create some good times together. Building in regular time with you and/or as a family – weekly game nights, perhaps lessons in a sport you can do as together – helps to give you all something in common.

Spend time getting to know your kids’ friends.  If you don’t know who your tween’s best friend is, make a point of learning, pronto.  Including friends in some of your fun family outings is generally painless and informative (and may make your tween more interested in participating!).  And as far as that goes, find out more of your tween’s other “favourites”.  Nothing makes a kid sigh in exasperation louder than having his parent go on about his favourite food/tv show/singer/movie, when the kid has already moved on and has a new favourite.  Don’t get hung up on who you think your child is; you might be clinging to an idea that’s outdated, which might lead him to feel that you really don’t get him at all.  Be curious about your kids and their evolving ideas and tastes.  It’s these little things that help kids to feel as though you’re really on their side, and that you’re okay with the independence they’re developing.

Your child is turning into an adult, so don’t be afraid to change the way you relate to him or her.  Share more of yourself; talk about your day, what your “favourites” are, what you’d really like to do over the next year.  I’m not saying you should talk to her like you would your best friend, but you might be pleasantly surprised by the insight and personality that’s developing in your not-so-little one.  And the relationship you cultivate now will keep you closer and more connected in a few years when she’s just that much older.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

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Coming Out to Family & Friends

Getting Over BreakupWow!

Congratulations on making this decision!  But isn’t it terrifying too?! Every experience of deciding to tell your social circle you are gay, lesbian or bisexual is different. It is also unpredictable. You may assume it will be okay because you have an open-minded parent, BUT there is a difference between being open to anyone else being LGBT and your own child. This can be a challenge for any parent.

I do not say this to scare you, but to prepare you. You will need to have either a trusted person in your life to talk to during this process or a professional to support you. This is especially the case if you come from a faith community or culture in which being LGBT is simply not accepted. It is important to keep in mind that this time is not just about you. Please recognize that you may be changing the perceptions and worldview of the people in your life. This will take time. Please be compassionate but ALWAYS expect and insist on being treated with personal respect.

If you have a family that is willing to work it through with you, you will need to create a safe place for the people in your life to say and ask what they need to in order to take this new information into their spirit.

Examples:

  • Your mother may wonder what she did wrong.
  • Your sibling may feel there is an important part of you they have never known and need to grieve this.
  • Your grandmother may worry about you and you being judged by others.

Yes, there are some stereotypes inherent here and it will be easy for you get angry. However, these are also real feelings and concerns for your friends and family members. If a safe place is created to explore this together, this can be a time to strengthen yourself and your family.

However, if the reality of your family is that it is not accepted, please remember that you deserve love and respect. There is support out there. I wish you love and light!

By: Lisa Shouldice

Lisa Shouldice