Celebrating 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

Thirty years ago, many world leaders made a commitment to the world’s children by adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international agreement on childhood rights.

Take a moment to review the rights. Are there any surprises? Did you feel that you had these rights when you were young?

Download the child-friendly language poster.

It’s become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history and has helped transform children’s lives around the world. However, until every child has every right, our work is not done.

November 20th is designated as National Child Day. This day is an opportunity to reflect on how we can advocate for, promote and celebrate children’s rights to make the world a better place for children.

30 Ways to Celebrate and Reflect on Children’s Rights

  1. Discuss the rights with children and youth in your life.
  2. Donate to an organization that works to make the lives of children better.
  3. Donate children’s supplies to a local charity.
  4. Sponsor a child. Foster a child.
  5. Send a child a letter of appreciation. Here’s an example to get you started.
  6. Appreciate all that Canada has to offer children and youth now, and consider the work still to be done.
  7. Introduce a child to something new in their community.
  8. Write a letter to local politicians supporting children’s rights.
  9. Learn about the Indigenous culture and community in Canada.
  10. Send the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to someone who works with children, and tell them they are doing a great job.
  11. Post the child-friendly version of the rights on your social media channels.
  12. Ask a child how they want to celebrate, then do it.
  13. Do something to make your neighbourhood safer.
  14. Give a young person a job.
  15. Connect youth with their passions.
  16. Ask young people what they think of the rights.
  17. Give parents a break.
  18. Invite your extended family for dinner and discuss the rights.
  19. Discuss the rights at work. Is there anything you can do there?
  20. Use the OKN Data Portal 2.0 for a deeper understanding of the status of children and youth in Halton.

And 10 more…put the Developmental Relationships Framework into practice to demonstrate children’s rights.

  1. Express Care. Show me that I matter to you.
  2. Provide Support. Help me complete task and achieve goals.
  3. Share Power. Treat me with respect and give me a say.
  4. Expand Possibilities. Connect me with people and places that broaden my world.
  5. Be Dependable. Be someone I can trust.
  6. Listen. Really pay attention when we are together.
  7. Navigate. Guide me through hard situations and systems.
  8. Empower. Build my confidence to take charge of my life.
  9. Advocate. Stand up for me when I need it.
  10. Inspire. Inspire me to see possibilities for my future.

All kids are our kids. Let’s keep working together to make this world a better place for children and youth.

We Have A Voice

National Child Day is celebrated in Canada on November 20th in recognition of our country’s commitment to upholding the rights of children and two historic events: the 1959 signing of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

For more information about The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child visit https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention

Ever wonder…

how Halton youth are doing?
where are the fastest areas of growth in Milton?
how many children under the age of 5 live in Burlington?
what are the social demographics of Oakville neighbourhoods?
if you should expand your program or what community should you try to reach?
how to convince a funder about the needs of your neighbourhood?

By Elisabeth Wells, PhD, Our Kids Network Researcher & Knowledge Broker

Data is more than just numbers. It is about asking questions, telling stories and then inspiring action. For years, Our Kids Network has been using data to better understand the “why, when, where and how” of helping children and families do well. The original OKN Data Portal was designed to be another resource to help us access, visualize and use data to improve the lives of children, youth and families in Halton. Since 2014, Halton professionals have been using the Data Portal as a resource for program planning, resource allocation, to identify needs and to support funding applications and reports.

We’re excited to share that we have recently upgraded the Data Portal to version 2.0. This upgrade has the same features you know and enjoy using, but gives you more options and control. New and improved features include the complete customization of your maps, charts and graphs in the way you visualize your data. The streamlined and simplified look makes it easy to find the data you’re looking for, and work with it to tell even more compelling and meaningful stories about the children, youth and families of Halton.

You can continue to use the Data Portal 2.0 to better understand and interpret data. Ask questions, spark conversation, plan and design evidence-based services and program, and turn research into action.

Here are a few examples of how Halton professionals have been using the Data Portal 2.0:

Halton Region Children’s Services have used the original Data Portal at team meetings to respond to staff questions about their clients and service delivery, and to help visualize their caseloads.

The Neighbourhood Groups program used the Data Portal to explore their neighbourhood groups locations, and develop plans to address any gaps in programming. They looked at Early Development Instrument scores, neighbourhood demographics and the Map my Data feature to plot program participants.

Milton Community Resource Centre used the Data Portal to make a strong case for funding. They used the Map my Data feature and demographic data to demonstrate the need for transitional funding to convert a preschool room to a toddler room.

Burlington Public Library used the Data Portal to support collaboration and partnership with their community-led model of library service delivery. They explored OKN early years data and plotted schools and their branch locations to give staff a greater understanding of the schools within their catchment and the challenges and opportunities they face.

And of course, we’ve added our latest data from the Kindergarten Parent Survey, Tell Them From Me (TTFM) / OurSCHOOL elementary survey, and the latest Census data from Statistics Canada.

Visit About the OKN Data Portal 2.0 for resources and to learn more. Send me an email and let me know what you think. Get mapping!

Halloween! Exciting, Fun…and Stressful!

Maggie Perrins, Resource Consultant, Halton Region,
Our Kids Network Early Years Mental Health Committee Member

Halloween is an exciting time for our little ones!  The countdown has been on since the end of September.  Children are excited about deciding on a costume, and are anticipating dressing up for school, Halloween parties, scary sights, and of course, the treats!

As with any exciting time, there is also stress for children – and adults. Feeling stressed can translate to challenging behavior in younger children.  Dr. Stuart Shanker, a renowned expert on child development and self-regulation, says that recognizing the difference between what is misbehavior and what we call stress behavior is important.  Misbehaviour implies that a child could have acted differently. They are aware that they should not have done something. Stress behavior is when the child is not fully aware of what they are doing and has limited capacity to act differently.

Help children self-regulate to lighten stress load

Stress behavior can be caused by a high stress load.  Adding to a child’s stress load, even with fun and exciting stress may cause stress behaviours.  As educators, we want children to have fun at Halloween, but it is important to recognize that it can also be a very stressful time for them. “Self-regulation refers to how well we manage stress, how much energy we expend, and how well we recover,” Dr. Shanker explains. Helping children to self-regulate during these times, lightens their stress load and, ideally, can prevent stress behaviours.

Ideas for lightening the stress load

  • Encourage children to get a good night’s sleep before the big event. Sleep is essential for coping and recovering from stress.
  • Give more time to complete tasks and limit demands.
  • Provide down-time in class and help them practice mindfulness.
  • Prepare children in advance of changes to their daily routines. Classroom parties and costume parades add to the stress load for some children.
  • Maintain a quiet area for children who need a break from sensory overload during Halloween events and other celebrations.
  • Limit sweet treats or make healthy Halloween treats in the classroom.
  • Co-self-regulate!  Be present with children and slow-down. They can sense and take on other people’s stress. Take the time before class starts to consciously regulate yourself so that you can be genuine in your tone and body language.

Remember…exciting times can also be stressful times for both adults and children.  Plan ahead to lighten the load and be mindful of stressors in your students and your own children.  Limiting these stressors can prevent stress behaviours so everyone can enjoy the fun and spirit of Halloween!

To learn more about self-regulation and how it relates to the mental well-being of children, explore the Halton Early Years Mental Health Toolkit.

Take it further by exploring the Executive Function and Self-Regulation area of the Early Years Mental Health Tools and Resources section

Battles

By Our Kids Network Milton Hub Coordinator

“Be kind to everyone. You don’t know what battles they’re fighting.” is paraphrased from a quote written by Scottish author Ian MacLaren in 1897. It still rings true today and never more than when we are working with adolescents. Life is hard enough through this period of development, but these days youth contend with social media and the tremendous impact that it has on their lives. School yard bullies wait for them now via social media. Too often home is no longer a safe place to hide at the end of the day. Keyboard stalkers are there at every click to criticize and bully. The pressure is on to fit in and get noticed by the number of likes and views on hundreds of social media and gaming platforms. Youth struggle to be “unique” in a world where rich media celebrities and music icons promote unattainable luxury lifestyles and model shallow, destructive behavior.

The competition to get into a post-secondary school and find a good job is substantially more stressful now than it was even fifteen years ago. And both families and young people are bearing the financial burden of higher education.

Adults are more stressed these days for their own reasons, and that affects the young people around them. All of this adds up to much higher rates of youth struggling with depression and anxiety at younger and younger ages.

“Be kind to everyone, you don’t know what battles they’re fighting.”

Imagine yourself as a youth: you arrive at school and not one adult smiles as you walk in the door. Not one adult addresses you by your name or asks how your morning is going. Not one adult takes an interest in you, guides you, or supports you. No one seems to see or care about the battles you’re fighting. They are preoccupied with imposing their own agendas on you, and might criticize you if you can’t follow through. You would certainly feel disheartened and hopeless, and overwhelmed. The pressure would seem unbearable. Then you arrive home and encounter stressed parents, who may be dealing with the needs of their own elderly parents and have no time for yours. When you imagine yourself in this situation, it’s easy to understand how anxiety and hopelessness can build up.

“Be kind to everyone, you don’t know what battles they’re fighting.”

Now let’s think about this quote when we look at interacting with young people, including our own children. Let’s be the adults that smile when a youth walks into the room. Let’s make an effort to know their names and learn something about them. Let’s guide them and always support them. We’ll ask them how they’re doing and, if we’re concerned that they may not be doing well, we’ll ask them privately and find out how we can help.
It’s possible that you may be the only person in a young person’s day that reaches out to them, praises them, and sees the good in them. Let’s model how to be caring, empathetic and supportive for all youth that we encounter each day.

Teacher helping a troubled student

“Be kind to everyone, you don’t know what battles they’re fighting.”

When we meet youth that may need more support than we can offer, we want to be able to provide them with information about professional supports in the community. It’s important for us to know where to find information or who to ask for the appropriate supports so we can respond quickly to their needs. The Our Kids Network website is an excellent knowledge-building resource that includes Developmental Assets and Relationships First, found in the Building Relationships section. Try Halton iparent for information on Halton-based parenting programs and information.

Police constable talking and laughbing with teenager.

Most of all, remember, the easiest way to make a connection – smile and simply ask how they’re doing today.

Back to School Stress – 7 Ways to Help at Home

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

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” Fred Rogers, host of the television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

After a fun-filled and relaxing summer, it’s time for children to head back to school. Some families rejoice in anticipation of getting back to the routine and structure that the school year brings, while others feel reluctance, butterflies in the tummy, or more intense anxiety about the situation.  Even for those who are excited, there is always an element of stress associated with this familiar transition.

Positive stress is a good thing, and in fact, an essential part of healthy child development. According to the Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University:

“Positive stress refers to moderate, short-lived stress responses, such as brief increases in heart rate or mild changes in the body’s stress hormone levels. This kind of stress is a normal part of life, and learning to adjust to it is an essential feature of healthy development. Adverse events that provoke positive stress responses tend to be those that a child can learn to control and manage well with the support of caring adults, and which occur against the backdrop of generally safe, warm, and positive relationships. The challenges of meeting new people, dealing with frustration, entering a new child care setting, getting an immunization, or overcoming a fear of animals each can be positive stressors if a child has the support needed to develop a sense of mastery. This is an important part of the normal developmental process.”

So it turns out that the stress experienced by children as they head back to school can be good for them; but how do we ensure that it remains in the “positive stress” category?

Here are 7 tips to consider as your family makes the transition to school this fall:

  1. Children express stress in different ways. Know how your child shows you they are stressed.
  2. Stress is contagious. Be aware of your own stress and do your best to manage it well. The kids are watching.
  3. “Name it to tame it.” Dr. Dan Siegel talks about the importance of naming feelings for children. Stress is reduced when we acknowledge children’s feelings rather than denying or distracting them. Mix things up a little and try using some new emotional vocabulary. This list of feelings can help get you started.
  4. Get back to basics. A consistent routine, healthy nutrition, physical activity and ample sleep all help to reduce stress for everyone.
  5. Children’s stress is significantly reduced when parents are present, focused, calm and available. If life is super busy, consider scaling back a little on the activities. Busy lives often result in chaos and disconnection. Spending time together, such as family meals, are shown in research to help build relationships, lower stress and is a wonderful way to connect with each other.
  6. Pillow talk is a bedtime strategy that can be highly effective in reducing stress. Allow enough time for your child to relax, process the day and talk with you about anything that may come up. Focus on listening rather than advising or solving problems. Children who have regular bedtime talk sessions with parents come to count on them and they often help children to relax and sleep better. This can take quite a lot of time, so be prepared.
  7. Stay connected to the school. When children see that you are interested and engaged in positive ways to the school community, it tells them that school is important and helps you to understand some of what your child is experiencing every day.
Father talks to his son

Other Resources for Families

For more information on Family Assets (the everyday interactions, values, skills and relationships families can focus on to help them thrive), ourkidsnetwork.ca/Public/Families-Matter.

keepconnected.searchinstitute.org
Keep Connected offers all kinds of families—and organizations that support them—ideas, activities, and experiences to help build strong family relationships. Our goal is to strengthen family relationships to help kids be and become their best selves.

haltoniparent.ca
Halton iparent gives families easy, online access to Halton-based parenting programs, plus helpful, relevant information and resources on a wide range of child development topics in the Information Hub.