Back to School Weather Report

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

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

These powerful words from psychologist, teacher and author, Dr. Hiam Ginott are worthy of reflection as our children, teachers and parents head back to the school routine. While Dr. Ginott is referencing the role of teachers, I believe it is equally appropriate for anyone who has the privilege of influencing the growth and development of our children.

I was reminded of this quote after spending some time with my 7 and 10 year-old grandchildren recently. We chatted for a while and finally came around to the “getting-ready-for-school” conversation. The 7 year-old was nervously anticipating the first day as many children do, not yet knowing who her teacher or classmates would be. My oldest granddaughter explained excitedly that her teacher was new to the school, but as it turned, out she had made an assumption. Later in the day, we ran into a friend who explained that this teacher had married over the summer. She was not new to the school. I was taken aback by the instant change in my granddaughter’s demeanor – from excited and happy to quiet and thoughtful. When we were alone, I asked her about the change in her behaviour. She explained that this teacher was well known for raising her voice often. As a sensitive and empathetic child, this creates a distressing climate for my granddaughter, and she was worried. To protect her heart, I told her that when an adult behaves badly, it’s not about the children, but about the adult.

I’ m not here to judge nor condemn educators or parents. I am both, and have certainly raised my voice from time to time. We are all human after all. However, as I reflect on my own behaviour, I realize that outbursts are not a conscious choice and have little or nothing to do with others, and are more about inner feelings. Stress, in particular, hijacks our logical brain, impulse control, and self-regulation skills; leaving us under the power of our emotional brain. Did you know that children often misinterpret expressions of stress on adult faces, as anger? I can’t help but wonder what children see and how they feel as they look to each of us for understanding, support, patience, and care given the levels of stress many of us live with.

When we take care of ourselves, we are better able to care for others. What if we worked harder to create a climate for ourselves, each other, and for children, that allows us to feel secure, respected, safe and loved, rather than criticized, judged and overworked?

Caring teachers and family

 

I hope that this short reflection will help us, as adults raising and working with children, to create a climate of acceptance, tolerance and trust for children and youth to thrive.

Relationships Make the Difference

A Couple of Holiday Stories to Consider, as We Start the New Year

Our Kids Network wrapped up 2017 by taking a look at our numbers in the 2016-17 Collective Impact Report. In the report, we gathered our research statistics, attendance evaluations and survey results and we saw how the data confirms that we are making progress towards the Halton 7 (the conditions of well-being for children and youth), our common agenda. If you missed it, you can read it here.

As the year wound down, we were happy to see that the data revealed our positive progress towards ensuring that all children thrive, but we also thought about the strong relationships behind those numbers. We could see that, although it is known for its use of outstanding research, OKN is also becoming known for making progress through the power of our relationships.

Going forward into 2018, you’ll be hearing more and more from OKN, our Asset-Building Table, and our partners about how relationships – from the smallest gesture to support a child to a community taking collective action on behalf of many children – make all the difference.

Here are two stories to consider as we go forward into 2018 continuing our work to ensure that all children thrive.

Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager

The Greatest Gift of All

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

I asked my eight-year-old niece what she wanted for Christmas. Her answer surprised me. She said that Santa and her parents were taking care of most of her gifts, but what she really wanted was some alone time with me.

I quickly re-organized my Saturday and we spent the afternoon making cookies and decorating a wreath. We even fit in little shopping for gifts that she wanted to buy her family. We wrapped them together so she could put them under the tree when she got home.

It was only an afternoon of simple (but meaningful) activities with her, but my time with my niece was precious and very well spent. And it was the greatest gift of all for both of us.

Building relationships does take time but it doesn’t always have to be a lot of time. Take a moment today to take someone out for tea, send a meaningful email, or just play with a child in your life. For more relationship-building ideas, visit  http://www.ourkidsnetwork.ca/Public/Relationships-Matter.

 

Toys for Tots at the Aldershot Hub

By Sheila Slattery-Ford, Our Kids Network Aldershot Hub Coordinator

For all families, Christmas can be a stressful season. Children can have high expectations and want the latest and sometimes costly toys. No parent wants to disappoint their child. They want to provide  joyful memories for their children to hold onto for the rest of their lives. It can be a time of grand preparation, baking, entertaining, school concerts, cleaning, decorating, and shopping. Parents who struggle to pay the rent and put groceries on the table throughout the year can be overwhelmed with thoughts of providing gifts and treats during this season.

Aldershot is known for community spirit and the strong partnerships and relationships that foster that spirit. This is where the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) steps in. The police and the Aldershot Hub have been working hand in hand addressing families’ Christmas needs for eight years. The community at large gives unwrapped new toys to the police starting at the Santa Claus Parade. Also, corporations and groups donate to the cause throughout the year. The result is a warehouse full of gifts to be sorted according to ages and themes. These presents are distributed through the Salvation Army and other non-profit programs, including the Aldershot Hub, to be given to families recognized as being in need. Many Aldershot families make their needs known to the Hub, because they know it can help in accessing programs and opportunities for all families.

The police and their volunteers do the sorting – a massive time consuming task which lasts throughout December. Parents register for help providing confidential information about their families.  The Toys for Tots program is interested in each child’s wishes so that the gifts can be appropriately chosen. This way soccer balls are not given to gymnasts and aspiring dancers. Each family description with only gender, age and interests is given to the police with anonymity. Through multiple emails, texts and phone calls during the month a strong relationship is built between the HRPS Toys for Tots coordinator and the Hub coordinator. We both know that we are working with respect for families and with attention to detail to prevent any disappointment. This requires diligence and time – making a list and checking it more than twice. The program was designed for children up to 12-years-old, but since Our Kids Network serves children 0 to 18-years-old, the police adjusted their age limits. Each “Hub family”’ youth between 12 and 18-years-old is given gift certificates for the mall, movies or fast food. Continue reading

Relationships Help Us Sink or Swim

The voices of some Halton students are heard through their new video  about the importance of relationships in the lives of children

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

Last October, seven amazing students from Eastview Public School told Our Kids Network (OKN) staff what they thought about their relationships with the adults in their lives. They all agreed strongly that it is those relationships that help them sink or swim. In other words, it’s relationships that help them feel good about themselves and do well – or not.

The students told stories about times when they felt they were sinking. Each story was always about a relationship in their life. Amelie told a story about when she first came to Canada and it took her a year to find a relationship where she felt connected. “Once I got to know the girl with the fluffy white dog, I felt as though I wasn’t sinking anymore,” she said.

Zane summarized some of the things that the whole group identified as really important. He stated, “We would like to have mutual respect, and for adults to have high expectations for us. We want adults to know that we have a voice and that sometimes we need assistance to accomplish what we want. We spend a lot of time with adults so we want to have a healthy relationship, so that we can be successful.”

When the students were asked to create a video to express their thoughts and stories, they jumped at the chance. Teacher, Karen Livingston, school Vice-Principal, Cynthia Snowdon, OKN Developmental Assets Manager, Mary Tabak, and OKN Research Committee chair, Shelley Lothian, all offered to help. “We all had our own ideas to contribute, and the adults made sure that information was relevant to creating healthy relationships. It made us feel supported to know that they cared about our work,” explained Nyda.  Abdullah added, “The group got stronger because of the amount of time we spent together. The more time you spend with people, (the more) you feel more comfortable to be able to share your ideas. At first we were a bit awkward with each other but now it is really easy.”

Anna said, “I felt valued because they all were given a chance to speak out about what they were passionate about.” Danijela felt the same way, “They made us feel important and made some great relationships with us. They always pushed us to our full capacity.”

Kyaan loved the opportunity to work with others and to try out new technology. “Having to do this project was a whole new experience for me. It was really cool to get to work with other kids and create a project from start to finish with them. I also got to learn how to use a program I hadn’t used before,” he said.

The students appeared at the Our Kids Network Annual Meeting on November 23 to present their video and talk about how relationships are one of the most important aspects of feeling good about yourself and doing well.

Our Kids Network congratulates Amelie, Zane, Abdullah, Nyda, Anna, Danijela and Kyaan on their outstanding work on the video and presentation.

The video is now featured in the Building Relationships section  of the OKN website and will be used to educate professionals in their work with children and families.

A Mother’s Day Message

By Kathleen Callan

Kathleen and Bruce Callan just celebrated their 23rd anniversary. As a blended family, they have two children each from previous marriages, two boys and two girls, who are now 25 to 43-years-old, and three grandchildren. They are a proud foster family that has cared for many teens in the past five years, and are looking forward to their next experience of providing a loving home to a young person at a time of need. 


Oprah Winfrey once proclaimed that, “Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.”

Although biology may be a component, it does not necessarily have to be. Mothers are women who embrace children to become part of their lives and live in their very souls. They nurture children –  whether their biological child; a niece; a nephew; a grandchild; a distant relative; an adopted child, a foster child, or a child who is in need and is embraced simply when paths cross.  Mothers are women who are there for us at all times when no one else will do. They nurture us through our years to help us become stronger, brighter, and happier human beings. They pick us up when we fall. They seem to know when we need them, and when we can manage on our own. They teach us values to live by even when we don’t want to listen. They are our strength when we need them most. They stand beside us when the world seems too big for us to bear. They give us strength to keep trying. They listen to all our stories with intent, no matter how silly they are. They are our rock, our confidant, our grounding, and our sanctuary.

All too often, mothers sacrifice their own desires to give us ours. Some say it is a thankless job, but as a mother myself, I beg to differ. The times I have spent with my children span the good, the bad and the really ugly, but I am thanked every time I see my children succeed. I am grateful every time I see their excitement, enthusiasm, and awe of the world. It touches my soul to hear their laughter and breaks my heart to see them cry.

Even though I know I have given them the strength to get through all of life’s ordeals, I stand by each day in case my children need me because my love for them never ends. Now I watch from a distance and I see that they have the strength, the values and the perseverance to carry on. And the cycle of life repeats itself as I can see the values I instilled in my children built upon with their own children.

So, when we celebrate Mother’s Day, remember we are celebrating all those moms who have touched the hearts of children, and have helped them, or are helping them, to grow and become adults with aspirations, hopes and the will to succeed at whatever they set out to do.

So from one mom to many others “Happy Mother’s Day”!

“These two snowmobile daredevils are my granddaughter and me!
We love spending time together as a family. We had a blast that day in the snow at our cottage!”  -Kathleen Callan


Read more about the Callan family.

Celebrating the Vibrant Lives of Families Video 

Families are central to the positive development and success of children and youth and are at the heart of thriving communities. Three Halton families shared stories of challenges, successes and love in this special video. The Callans and their foster son, Kyle, are one of those special families. View the video.

Engaging youth to promote positive mental health

Welcome to OKN’s first research blog post! We will be using this space as a forum for conversations about research and to share resources with our readers. I’ll be blogging about OKN research and other research related to children, youth and families. My goal is to break down barriers about research and show how accessible, interesting and important local data is for all members of our community. In this way, we can all work together to understand community problems and plan effective strategies to address them.

Our first post corresponds with Mental Health week. What better time to share some facts about child and youth mental health in Halton and explore ways we can support youth. Mental health disorders can be devastating and are often misunderstood. For young people, the issues can be especially challenging. Young people experience major life changes on the way to adulthood, and feel pressure to do well at school, make friends, and negotiate changing relationships with parents and caregivers. Large-scale research done at the provincial level shows about 6% of young people between grades 7 and 12 report symptoms associated with anxiety and depression, and that psychological distress increases as grade goes up[i].

Continue reading