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Five tips for helping our children and all of us feel better about our bodies

First off- I know I’m a man. I know the way I interact with the world and the experiences I’ve had are unique to having been embodied as a male. I know my brain, chemistry and development is a little different and  I in no way presume to be able to fully understand the experience of being a girl or a woman in the world. Further, I think any discussion of bodies can be intimate and vulnerable and as such I’m cautious in even writing something, especially as a man writing about female teenage bodies.

But here’s the thing- I’m not really writing about bodies- I’m writing about brains. There are some small changes that we can all make in our parenting or interactions with young people that can go a long way towards promoting healthy body image. Sadly, concerns about our bodies are common and can dramatically impact how well we do in the world around us.

It turns out we are not great at guessing how we look to others. Authors of a German study a couple of years ago found that about 50% of …
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Schools out for summer; now what?

Exams are completed, graduations are coming to an end, and your children are now home for the summer. For nine months the home was yours, now your offspring and co. are invading your premises. It is a transition that comes every year, some parents dread it and others are like the father in the Staples back-to-school commercial from years ago: ‘It is the most wonderful time of the year!’

Children used to having their planners filled from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. now have about eight extra hours at their disposal and they aren’t 100 per cent sure of how to invest that time. School is out, now what do we do? All of us: children, students, and parents need ideas. As clinicians, we know this can be a trying time for a number of parents. It is a transition and all transitions have the potential for additional stress.

We all have the dreams of what we want to do this summer: weekends at the lake, time spent out in the sun, quality time together, and many other wholesome interactive activities…

Three essential strategies for raising emotionally healthy boys

Early in the process of raising our son it became clear to me that I needed to rethink some of my conceptualizations of gender and the influence of it on behaviour. Despite what I felt were some fairly egalitarian approaches to parenting, as my son reached his toddler years his behaviour was dramatically different than what I had seen in my daughter. Where she would neatly arrange toys and create social scenarios for them, my son would find a way to throw them into each other, jump them off of things, or make them fight. Every stick became an opportunity for a firearm, sword, or ballistic missile despite no real contact with media portraying these things. Rough play was craved- almost as though there was a daily quota that needed to be met. He was very much a boy as defined by popular culture.

When we look at the expression of gender across the population there is a great deal of variation. The biological controls for gender sit far deeper than whether or not our genitals are innies …

Read This With Your Kids!: The Invisible String

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst is an important reminder of how we are connected to those we love and care about.

The Invisible String is about two children who get scared from a storm during the night and seek out connection with their mom. Their mom then shares an important lesson she learned as a child about an invisible string that connects us to those that we care about, no matter how far away they are, or if they have passed on. We can feel and send tugs on the invisible string when we need a douse of connection.



While reading a book to our child is awesome as is, stopping to ask some questions can help with comprehension and the ability to personalize the story. So here are some talking points:
You can ask your child if they have ever felt tugs on the invisible string?When grief is brought up, you can discuss family members and friends that you still feel connected to even after a loss.At the conclusion of the book, ask who are some people you are connected to by an invisi…

Children and Loss: How to support children when bad things happen

Loss is a painful but inevitable part of life. Children regularly experience small losses like misplacing a favorite toy, changing plans away from something they were looking forward to or not being allowed the candy bar they had their heart set on. Sadly, childhood often also includes more intense loss like a beloved friend moving away, a pet dying, disasters such as flooding or house-fires, the reorganization of a family unit through divorce, or the death of someone close to us.

We can feel a variety of emotions when new lose something we care about. Sadness, or emotional pain, is always at the core of this. Sadness is a powerful and uncomfortable emotion. We love our children and don’t want them to hurt. However, it is important to remember that sadness is a healthy response to loss.

When we lose something rewarding to us we feel sad. We feel sad as a way to promote continued engagement with the things we find rewarding. If we did not feel sad we might be less motivated to search …

Things to do with our kids that can help end bullying

I hate bullying. I have been privy to hundreds, and likely thousands, of stories of the devastating effects of it in the children that have come through my office doors. However, I think sadly most of our attempts to stop bullying miss the mark.

Years ago one of my favourite professors and a well-respected expert on children’s behaviours told me that I should never tell a child to do something a dead person could do. What he meant by this is that children are designed to think in terms of action and not inaction. Rather than telling them to stop doing something we should give them something active to do.

Instead of telling kids to stop bullying we need to tell them what to do instead. I think the thing we need to be asking our children to do and training them in is empathy. Simply put, empathy is imagining the experience of others. Through practicing empathy kids get better at it. We all do.
Empathy allows children to know when they are being hurt and know when those around them are …

Small Changes- Big Results

Often times when we think of changes we want to make in our lives we imagine dramatic transformations like strict obedience to workout regimens, major reorganization in diets or huge shifts in the way we parent. However- thinking about change in this way often makes it feel overwhelming.

In working with families I’ve learnt that dramatic change- whether I think it’s needed or not- doesn’t often work out. I’ve been lucky to share space in thousands of families lives over the years and within that invitation have been lucky to observe or be part of some huge changes. None of them started out as a major change though. All of them started with a small change.

I remember hearing a story years ago about a train arriving at a station it wasn’t meant to be at. When the route was reviewed it was discovered that a switch had accidentally been engaged hundreds of miles earlier. The switch was small, taking up only a few feet of track and worked through a simple mechanical mechanism. However, be…