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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 …
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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…

Being Emotionally Available builds Secure Attachment

Josh is going to get a little personal here.

In 2018 I ran for city council. It was an excellent experience that I will never forget but it was also a dramatic stressor on my family.

The night of the all candidates forum, just as I was about to walk out the door, my then seven-year-old son looked at me and said, "when is normal dad going to be back?"

Those words went straight to my heart.

It was difficult to explain to my emotionally vulnerable son why I was doing what I was doing, and how after campaigning, even if I got elected, I would be more available to him- or at least that was the plan.

When I didn't get elected, my children joyfully celebrated (punks). They weren't celebrating because I lost, they were celebrating because they believed their dad was going to "be back". Routine and structure might return to what it looked like before this whirlwind year. Their dad was going to be emotionally available.

Emotional availability, simply put, is being t…

Nerdy Parenting’s Comprehensive Guide to Helping Kids Sleep Better

Establishing and maintaining healthy sleep patterns is one of the most important things we can do for our children. Sleep impacts nearly every area of functioning. When I assess anxiety, depression, emotional regulation, behavioural problems or any other concern related to mental health in childhood- sleep is one of the first things I ask about. Also, children’s sleep concerns can dramatically influence parent’s sleep patterns, capacity and the quality of life experienced within the home.

Before we talk about how much sleep children need and how to help them get it, it’s important to consider how sleep has changed historically for humans. Prior to the invent of artificial lighting and debatably smart phones- humans typically slept in direct conjunction with natural light cycles. Initially, and still practiced in some hunter-gatherer societies, humans slept in small groups around a fire. Safety was determined by the presence of the group and the maintenance of the fire. As we found or…