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    

 

HO HO HOLD Everything!

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

It’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement of the holidays.  We can get overwhelmed with all the ads, decorations…and our children coming up with lists of “things” they want for the holidays. Let’s slow it down for a moment and reflect on what the holidays really mean to you.

How your holidays will look, sound and feel this year is up to you. You can choose what is really important and how you want to celebrate it.

Some considerations for when you’re making plans…

Spending lots of money?                    OR                   Spending lots of time with loved ones?

Most stressful time of year?                OR                   Most meaningful time of year?

House full of decorations?                  OR                   House full of family and friends?

Giving gifts from the store?                 OR                   Giving gifts from the heart?

A time to clash with family?                 OR                   A time to build or repair relationships?

Focus on getting?                               OR                   Focus on giving?

Eating lots of food?                             OR                   Sharing lots of food?

Standing in line?                                 OR                   Standing up for what you believe in?

Counting gifts?                                    OR                   Counting blessings?

In thinking about our work with Developmental Relationships, let’s make some space for relationships to thrive through the holidays and all year round.

Express Care                          Invite someone who is alone to your table.

Challenge Growth                   Continue an old family tradition or start a new one.

Provide Support                      Find a charity and commit to it as a family.

Share Power                           Encourage the children to help in menu planning.

Expand Possibilities                Visit and explore a small town in Ontario.

Kids hugging thier grandpa

For more information about Developmental Relationships and asset-building, visit www.ourkidsnetwork.ca/Relationships

 

 

Put Play (and Rest) at the Top of your List for National Child Day Tuesday, November 20

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

Playing was like a job for me when I was a child. I did it every day. And anywhere I went, children were playing. There were very few structured, scheduled activities. Play was just what kids did back then, no matter where we were or whom we were with. Well, until we dropped from exhaustion with a big smile on our faces…and then we slept soundly.

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

We know that play and rest are vital to positive child development, but did you know that, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, children have the right to play and rest? Just as they have the right to basic needs such as food, shelter, safety, protection and education.

Considering this, our challenge is to prioritize play and rest in our tightly-scheduled, high -stress, plugged-in world. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

PLAY

  • Find a place at home to keep a puzzle going for days.
  • Turn the music on. Maybe someone will start to dance!
  • Waiting for laundry to dry? Grab a Frisbee and go outside.
  • Teach the dog a new trick together
  • Leave board games out and visible.
  • Organize a scavenger hunt in the park.
  • Get down on the floor and build something (with Lego, cards, pillows or anything handy and safe).

Children playing outside

 

Mother playing with her son in the back yard.

REST

  • Turn lights down in the evening.
  • Continue a bedtime routine as children grow up.
  • Limit screen time in bedrooms for everyone.
  • Encourage short naps as needed.
  • Model rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.
  • Keep bedrooms and bedtimes stress-free.
  • Take your vacation time.

A child’s right to play and rest is making a comeback.  Be part of the movement!

For more information and ideas on parenting, playing and sleep, visit haltoniparent.ca. Follow us @Haltoniparent

More information and resources related to National Child Day are available through the Public Health Agency of Canada at canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/childhood-adolescence/national-child-day.html  UNICEF Canada also provides resources at unicef.ca/ncd, including a kid-friendly poster that lists the rights outlined in the UN Convention.

 

Acton Early Years Committee: “The Heart of the Matter”

By Alison Hilborn, Our Kids Network Acton Community Hub Coordinator

Around the Acton Early Years Committee table, making a positive difference in children’s lives is what we all want.  We want young children in Acton to grow and flourish, and ultimately become successful, happy adults.  We work towards this vision through the many strong partnerships around the table. Over the past four years we’ve met once a month. We’ve brainstormed, discussed, critically analyzed, grown closer, and developed supportive, mindful relationships – relationships with “heart”.

It’s important to recognize that the partners on this committee come from organizations that have their own mandates, and yet these organizations all see the tremendous value in working together to bring change for the good to the community, and to young children and their families. We’re grateful for these Halton organizations* that support their staff to participate at the Acton Early Years Committee table. The benefits from their knowledge, expertise and perspectives on child development and this community’s unique needs are invaluable. We’ve progressed from speculating on possible solutions to grounding our discussions and actions in experiential learning, best practice efforts, and strategies.

It’s easy to see how our evidence-based initiatives that support young Acton children reflect the heart and creativity of the Acton Early Years Committee:

  • Fine and gross motor skill activity kits that respond directly to the Early Development Initiative (EDI) vulnerabilities.
  • Annual Kindergarten Fun Fairs to engage with new parents and to provide necessary service support information.
  • Connect, Play & Learn Every Day! Messaging that speaks directly to parents.

We know it will take more time, and lots of hard work, to improve on current EDI results, but the Acton Early Years Committee is dedicated!  We will use our partnerships, what we’ve learned, and our “heart” to continue to work toward addressing the underlying factors that impact young children’s developmental readiness for school – and to ensure that, in Acton, all children thrive!

Approximately 280 people attended the 2018 Acton Kindergarten Fun Fair including 89 brand, new kindergarten children!

 

*Acton Early Years Committee

Halton Catholic District School Board

St. Joseph’s Catholic Elementary School

Halton District School Board

McKenzie-Smith Bennet School

Robert Little Public School

Halton Region, Children’s Services and Healthy Families

The Halton Resource Centre

Reach Out Centre for Kids ROCK

The Town of Halton Hills

Community Living North Halton,

YMCA of the GTA

Links2Care – EarlyON

Halton Hills Libraries

Halton Children’s Aid Society

Time to Turn Back the Clock and Change the Conversation about Learning through Play

By Shawna Scale, OKN Early Years Initiative Community Impact Animator

With the end of October nearby, we will soon be reminded to turn back our clocks in order to gain a few extra hours of daylight.  It’s also an opportunity for us to literally turn back time and reflect on our experiences as children and what this time of year meant to us.

As a child, for me fall was a magical time of playing outdoors until it was too dark or too cold to stay outside. I remember collecting acorns and brightly coloured leaves on my way to school and trading them with my friends at recess, jumping into piles of raked leaves in my backyard, and running through the fields at a local farm to find the perfect pumpkin for carving.

Play was as integral then, as it is now, to a child’s physical, social and emotional health and learning.  Unfortunately, as Dr. Jean Clinton recently pointed out, the importance of play and learning is not well understood among parents who are more inclined to value traditional academic and structured activities over play.  In order to shift this thinking, we need to change the conversation to address the importance of play with families, caregivers, colleagues and others who work with children during the early years.

Dad and daughter playing together in fall leaves

Thankfully, as professionals working with families, many of us have daily opportunities to highlight the importance of play within our work and how it can be beneficial to both children, parents and caregivers.  Through the Early Years Initiative, OKN and its partners are doing this by promoting Connect, Play & Learn, Every Day!, a campaign developed to raise awareness about the importance of learning through play during the early years. Parents and practitioners alike can access information, resources and play ideas online.

The more we discuss and document the importance of play with families during visits and in programs, the more likely parents will value the benefits play has at home, in school, and in the community.