Youth Talks: HEAR US OUT! North Oakville Youth Council event

Developmental Relationships Framework in Action with Youth in North Oakville

By Siobhan Laverdiere, Our Kids Network, North Oakville Youth Project Coordinator

On March 3, the North Oakville Youth Development Council (YDC) hosted their very first event and Youth Talks: Hear Us Out was a resounding success! Youth in North Oakville and beyond shared their thoughts and opinions about topics that were important to them; and took the opportunity to connect and build relationships with adults in the community. The event was produced by the Youth Development Council, and supported by the YDC valued adult allies and Our Kids Network.

Over 75 adults, youth and children attended – and the adult attendees were definitely engaged in hearing what youth had to say:

“The community of Oakville is a better place with the leadership of the youth I heard tonight.”

“Very interesting, diverse and meaningful presentation/event.”

“Great that you were able to bring youth and adults together.”

YVM event adult attendees

Adults in the audience took the opportunity to ask questions directly of youth which opened up communication; applauded their presentations; and made sure to record the event.

Some of the most meaningful feedback on the event came from the youth who planned and participated in the event. Their comments are reflective of the Developmental Relationships framework which centres on surrounding young people with relationships that can help them develop strengths such as positive identity and commitment to their community. These relationships include those with family, schools, community programs and neighbourhoods.

There are five key categories:
1. Expressing Care towards youth
2. Challenging growth in youth
3. Providing youth with support
4. Sharing power with youth
5. Expanding possibilities for youth

What did youth have to say about how planning and participating in the event made them feel?

Did you feel cared about to some degree while participating in this event?
YDC members who produced the event said that the adult allies were very supportive of them during the planning process. The adults in the audience were also very encouraging by engaging in the conversations. They also expressed that they appreciated what youth had to say.

Youth speakers said
“I felt that my opinion was quite valued and that they (adults) understood many of the concepts brought up in my speech/ the event.”

“While participating in this event I felt valued because for around 8 minutes I had the stage. It was my turn to speak and I could share my opinions about world issues and what I thought with the community.”

Youth presenters at event

Left: Giovanna Gerada, a Grade 9 student, gave a tutorial to the audience about how to draw. Centre: Talia Nicholls provided adults with information about the benefits of social media. Talia is in Grade 8. Right: Teresa Baricevic, talked to adults about life as a youth in 2018. Teresa is a Grade 9 student. Continue reading

Family Day is the Most Important Day of the Year!

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

Once upon a time there were 52 “family days” in a year.

Imagine…..children, parents, grandparents, friends and family gathered together to share food, play and enjoy each other’s company. There were no agendas, few distractions, no particular place to go, and people were together.

Some of you may remember these days. They were known as Sundays. Yes, for those of you much younger than me; let me explain. Sunday was a day when stores and businesses were closed; many people did not work; technology was just in sci-fi movies; and for that one day –  every week the world slowed enough to allow a focus on family and friends. We created memories, relationships and traditions that became the glue that held us all together. One of my favorite memories of Sundays is the long drives we took with no particular destination. They were always an adventure in the making.

Fast forward and I must say, I find it a bit ironic that we now have a declared a holiday devoted to the most important thing we can do – spend quality, connected time with our loved ones. On the usually frosty February Family Day, we slow down and we give ourselves permission to tune in, focus, put the distractions away – and have a little fun together.

If you think about it, couldn’t every day be a little more like Family Day?

Here are a few simple things that you could try to keep that family day feeling going

  1. Slow down (even just a little). Carl Honore, Canadian journalist and author of In Praise of Slow (Vintage Canada 2009),  speaks persuasively in his TED talk In Praise of Slowness
  2. Share a family meal together as often as you can: Need to know why? Check out the Family Dinner Project for recipes, conversation starters and for you information junkies, lots of research on the benefits.
  3. Believe in the power of relationships. You are your children’s first and most important teacher. Check out Halton’s very own Family Relationships Matter video featuring local families.
  4. The family that plays together stays together. This Psychology Today article by Peter Gray, research professor and author of Free to Learn (Basic Books, 2013), offers 5 important ways to know if it is really play.
  5. Connection is the key. Check out this Zero to Five commentary and learn more about the connect before you direct approach and invite more connection and cooperation from your children.
  6. Empathy goes a long way to bringing us closer to children and adults alike. Brene Brown is a researcher, professor and speaker on topics such as vulnerability, courage, and authenticity. Check out her video for some humorous insight.
  7. Love and parent with authenticity and a soft heart. Learn more from Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.

Your children are miracles, gifted to you for a very short time. Enjoy them, learn from them and hold them dear. Trust and believe in yourselves and each other. You are truly all your children need.

My challenge to you – create as many “family days” in 2018 as you can. What will your “once upon a time” stories be?

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.

National Child Day is a good time to reflect on the fact that “children are people, too”

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets manager

Children are often viewed in society as something to be tolerated, reined in, or hovered over. Perhaps, there are some things that we need to learn – things that only they can teach us.

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 the world a better place for children.

In Halton, we believe that all children are competent, capable, curious, creative and rich in potential and experience. They deserve our respect and our openness to hearing their voice in all matters that affect them. When we refocus our view of children from “problems to be fixed” to people of vast strength and potential – our experience changes, and our relationships with them deepen.*

Everyone can play a role in bettering the lives of children. In fact, one of the rights that children have is that all adults should do what is best for children, and that when adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children.

I recall a party that I hosted for my daughter’s 7th birthday. I was hoping for a sunny day as it was a pool party in the back yard and 10 girls were coming. I had 2 tables set up for them – one was a big, beautiful picnic table close to the pool and the other one was an old fold-out card table which, in my rush, I left up on the back deck. Not thinking about how this set-up would affect seating, I continued with the party. When I asked them to come for lunch, I was horrified to find 9 girls squished onto the picnic table and one little girl sitting all alone at the card table on the back deck. It didn’t occur to me that I had set up an environment where it was possible that someone didn’t fit. It was like a dark cloud had covered the sky. We quickly moved the card table beside the picnic table and covered the whole thing with a table cloth so it looked like one big table. The 10th girl joined the group and it was a sunny day again!

It seems like such a small thing to think about but what a big difference it made to one little girl. Ten years later, she thanked me for moving that table. I had forgotten about it, but she hadn’t.

So, it isn’t just about what we give children or how we view them that is important, but also how we set up the spaces where they grow and learn to become caring supportive adults. It’s also important to consider how we, as adults, have the power to control the “weather”. Will it be a sunny day where you are, or a dark and cloudy one?

By observing children and reflecting on our own behavior, instead of judging and tolerating them, we can create a space for relationships to thrive.

For more information about the UN Convention on the Right of the Child, visit www.unicef.org/crc

For more information about Developmental Relationships, visit www.ourkidsnetwork.ca/Public/Relationships-Matter

*How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, 2014