School’s Out! Start the Summer on a ‘Positive Note’

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

Report cards, locker clean out, last day drama, plans for the summer…

There is a lot going on with families as school draws to a close. It’s easy to get caught up in last day of school details and summer planning. But before you wrap up another school year, consider starting the summer on a positive note – with a positive note to children and youth in your life.

Why?

Getting a note from someone you look up to about your positive traits and behaviours is a very powerful gesture of caring and support. It helps to reinforce expectations and boundaries while celebrating important things like effort, unique personalities and meaningful relationships.

Not sure where to start?  Follow this template or use the guide below.

            Dear ______,

            Congratulations on a successful school year.

            Thinking back on your year, here are a couple of highlights for me….

            My favourite memory of this school year was….

            Three qualities that I really appreciate about you are….

            One area I think you’ve really grown is…..

            My hope for this summer is to….

Take a few minutes now to make a child or youth’s day brighter. And I promise, you will be giving a boost of confidence along with a note that will be kept forever. 

Youth Caught…Helping Others…Contributing to Community…Doing the Right Thing…

National Youth Week May 1 to 7:
Honour Their Involvement and the Good They Do Everyday

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network, Developmental Assets Manager

Our young people contribute so many great things to our lives and community. They are vibrant, passionate, hopeful, and committed to making the world a better place. Sensational headlines too often overshadow the everyday positive, courageous and caring behaviour of our youth.

National Youth Week is May 1 to7. It’s a perfect time to highlight and honour youth initiative and involvement. Recreation, drama, sport, dance, civic engagement, art, on the job, volunteerism, or leadership – every single day young people are engaged in positive and meaningful activities that benefit others.

They Could Have Kept Walking…

Last March, I was walking my dog on one of those cold days that was neither winter nor spring. Two teenagers along the trail with a shivering cat that had been out in the cold much too long. They asked me if I knew who owned the cat – I didn’t.  By the time my dog had calmed down after seeing the cat, these caring and responsible young people had already come up with an action plan. They decided to take the cat home to warm it up, put a picture of the cat and a phone number on flyers, and then post them around the neighbourhood. They also planned to knock on a few doors and call the Humane Society. Their enthusiasm and sincerity was heart-warming. I thanked them and acknowledged that many people would have just kept walking. 

Catch Them!

This week, and all year long, catch youth doing good. Catch them at home, in the neighbourhood or at the local mall. And when you’ve spotted them, reach out and let them know how impressed and inspired you are – and why. Once you start looking, you’ll be amazed at all the great things you’ll see. 

L to R: Teen volunteers at OKN’s Buskerfest event 2012. Connecting in the community. Youth volunteers at OKN’s Burlington Play Day 2018.

For inspiration, watch this video with real-life examples of youth in everyday situations behaving responsibly and sensitively, and often with humour

The Child and Youth Engagement section of the Asset-Building Toolkit has numerous ideas and resources to engage youth in your work and life.

Relationships Reno – Securing the Foundation

NEW and IMPROVED OKN Asset-Building Toolkit

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

Every structure needs a strong foundation. The OKN Asset-Building Toolkit is constructed of valuable resources and information that have been used by Halton professionals for years in building Developmental Assets. They’ve also used the toolkit to help families build Family Assets. Important accomplishments, but we felt something was missing to make this work really concrete.

It was the Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships Framework that steered us to a missing key ingredient – relationships. This important foundation focuses our attention on the central element of relationship building, which underpins the Developmental Assets and Family Assets work.

All Asset-Building in Halton is grounded in relationships. Relationships with each other, our children and youth, our families, and our communities, are the foundation of successful interactions, interventions, programs and outcomes. We can build assets more effectively and efficiently if we build meaningful relationships first. 

  • Josh Shipp, a teen expert with lived experience, supports this thinking in his story about the power of one relationship in his life.
  • Leaders can consider the preconditions necessary in organizations for relationships to thrive, and address barriers to building relationships by reviewing this summary from the Search Institute. 

These examples are just three of numerous new resources that have been added to the “relationships foundation” of the improved Asset-Building Toolkit. Watch for a highlighted NEW! as you tour the website.

Did you know use of the Asset-Building Toolkit is going up year after year? People in Halton, Canada and well beyond, are accessing and using this comprehensive resource that we built together. 

We know about the power of relationships in Halton. In the spirit of continuous improvement, this NEW and IMPROVED toolkit gives us even more tools, ideas and resources to elevate relationships in our work.

Take some time to explore our renovated Asset-Building Toolkit and discover how you can use it in your work today.   

Neighbourhoods Can Help Kids Thrive!

Our Kids Network Neighbourhood Profiles and Municipal Data Available Now!

By Rebecca Abavi, Our Kids Network Research & Knowledge Broker Intern

Good neighbourhoods can help children thrive. Research tells us that in neighbourhoods where people get along, share values, and trust each other, youth have better mental health. And we know that neighbourhoods with lower social support and higher levels of poverty can negatively impact children’s development.

OKN Neighbourhood Map

 

 

It is because neighbourhoods can play such a key role in supporting positive development of children, that Our Kids Network (OKN) collects and shares data on child and youth outcomes at the neighbourhood level.

 

 

Our brand new Neighbourhood Profiles showcase data from six different sources: the Early Development Instrument, Education Quality and Accountability Office, IntelliHealth Ontario, Kindergarten Parent Survey, Statistics Canada Census, and Tell Them From Me Elementary School Survey. Together, this data provides a snapshot of how Halton children 0 to 12 years-old are doing at the neighbourhood level.

 

Image: families in neighbourhoods

The Profiles provide Halton-specific information, enabling professionals and agencies to identify areas of vulnerability and strength in this population of children. The neighbourhood data can reveal gaps in services, help to identify changes needed, and support the implementation of those changes, all at the local level.

The OKN Neighbourhood Profiles are complemented by municipal-level data from the Tell Them From Me Secondary School Survey, which provides information on the wellbeing of secondary school students in grades 9 to 12 in Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville.

Data becomes more meaningful when it is shared, debated and discussed. Use the OKN Neighbourhood Profiles and municipal data to create opportunities for discussion and collaboration with your colleagues and the community, and to better understand and respond to the needs of children and youth in Halton.

What is an Our Kids Network Neighbourhood?

Our Kids Network partners, researchers, and community professionals identified 27 different neighbourhoods for the purpose of collecting, analyzing and sharing important local research. The neighbourhoods’ borders reflect Statistics Canada census boundaries, and natural, transportation, municipal, regional boundaries.

 

References

Donnelly, L., McLanahan, S., Brooks-Gun, J., Garfinkel, I., Wagner, B.G., Jacobsen, W.C., Gold, S., & Gaydosh, L. (2016). Cohesive neighbourhoods where social expectations are shared may have positive impact on adolescent mental health. Health Affairs, 35(11).

Morrissey, T.W., & Vinopal, K.M. (2017). Neighbourhood poverty and children’s academic skills and behaviour in early elementary school. Journal of Marriage and Family, 80(1).

Think about the Hearts of Our Children this Family Day, February 18

By Nikki Taylor, Senior Manager, Early Years and Family Supports, Oakville Parent-Child Centre

“Children must never work for our love; they must rest in it.”
Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Developmental Psychologist   

 

As a young child, I recollect watching my parents as they played, celebrated, and worked with friends and family. When I think back, I remember happy and joyful adults who enjoyed being together in the good times and bad. It provided me with a great sense of security, a belief that I could trust adults; that I belonged with them and they would take care of me. I was relaxed, knowing I was safe. In the words of Dr. Gordon Neufeld, I could “rest in the relationship”.  Security created a space where I felt protected from stresses in life and could focus my energy on the important things in childhood. My parents helped to keep my heart soft because they had soft hearts.

Interdependence is defined as “the state of being dependent upon one another”. Deep down we know that we are better together. We crave connection and belonging, yet are often confused by the dichotomy created by the commonly-held view that strength and competence require independence and self-sufficiency. If we believe this, we can resist connecting with others and receiving their support.  We can fear that trust and vulnerability might be judged and criticized. Over time, this fear can be too much and a “wall” grows to protect our hearts .

Nature has designed us to be interdependent and it is our deep, caring relationships that keep our hearts soft and vulnerable. Those of us who influence, teach and raise children require soft and vulnerable hearts to do the job well.  Brene Brown’s parenting manifesto PDF is one of my favorite parenting resources and speaks to the need to be vulnerable, authentic, make mistakes and love unconditionally.

I love a challenge and here is one for you.  On Family Day, this Monday, February 18, allow your children to experience a day where you have put away distractions and are focused on what really matters.

  • Let them feel what it is like to be truly seen.
  • Smile and say hello, even to strangers.
  • Let your guard down, put your phone down, and spend some time in the present moment.
  • Light up when they walk in the room.
  • When they look at you, make sure you are looking back at them with kind eyes and a soft heart.

The only thing that matters to them is knowing that they exist, that they are important, and are worthy of your time, attention and love. At the end of the day when it’s quiet – reflect. I suspect you may find more inner peace, less stress, and happier children. And I bet everyone will sleep more soundly…and little softer too.

Happy Family Day from my family to yours.

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”
Jane Howard, journalist