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Tag Archive for: kids health

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What to Look for in a Backpack

Backpacks are a staple for every student. They travel back and forth between home and school, lugging books and school supplies. They are put through the unavoidable daily abuse of being thrown on the ground, trampled on, stuffed into a cubby or locker, saving a spot in line, and become over-stretched and over-used with the necessities of school. They are a necessary part of your child’s education, yet how much thought do you really put into the backpack your child wears aside from maybe price or color?  Have you considered the health implications of an improperly worn, fitted, or poorly supportive backpack?

Learn what to look for in a backpack to ensure optimal support in the following infographic:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on how to select a backpack, proper fit and use watch our OT-V episode, Backpack Safety Guidelines.

 

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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No You May NOT Wait in the Car

Have your children ever asked you if they could just wait in the car while you run into the bank, grocery store or post office?  Though it may seem like a short trip where kids would be safe, they may not be.

In keeping with our posts about summer health and safety, I thought I would touch on another very tragic, but preventable, circumstance surrounding cars and children.  It was the first very hot and humid day a few summers ago when I heard of the death of a two-year-old after his grandmother left him in the car.  She just forgot he was there and went about her day.  While it might seem inconceivable that this could happen to any caring and well-intentioned adult, I read an article recently that helped me to understand how possible this is.

Several years ago a mother in Calgary was returning to her job as a University Professor after a one-year maternity leave following the birth of her second child.  She was a well-educated and diligent mother that did everything she could to protect the safety of her children during pregnancy, at home, and in the community. With her return to work the family had to adopt a new routine.  She dropped her older child at day care and proceeded to take her daughter (11 months) to her new child care provider.  The mother and daughter were singing and laughing in the car when the child fell asleep.  The mother then spent the next several minutes putting together a very detailed mental plan of how she was going to get her child out of the car seat and into the day care without waking her.  Once she visualized that process, and understood how it would all work, her mind rapidly switched to thoughts about her first week back at work and all the things she needed to accomplish.  She arrived at work, went about her day, and realized when she came to her car to go home that her daughter was still in the car seat.

Her purpose of engaging in the interview and having the article published was to help people understand how this could happen and how it can be prevented.  For her, she believes that the process of “visualizing” the drop off of her daughter made her mind believe that it actually happened.  When her mind switched to thinking about work, it was convinced that her other responsibilities had been completed.  This is the power of visualization, and of a distracted mind.

But I feel the most important aspect of the article were the strategies for prevention.  The mother went on to have other children and talked openly about the steps she now takes to ensure she does not relive this tragedy.  She explained that she always makes sure she puts something in the back seat with her children.  Her purse, work bag, lunch. This requires her to enter the back seat of her car when getting out.  Or, the opposite could also work – put a diaper bag, toy or child backpack in the front seat to cue you to their presence.  This mother also said she has asked her child care providers to call her directly if her children are not dropped off on time, as expected.  Lastly, when putting her children in their car seat she puts on a bracelet that is kept in the seat.  She takes it off when getting them out. This serves as a visual cue, but has also become part of her new car seat routine that will reinforce a new behavior (put the bracelet back in the car seat when leaving the vehicle, making her access the seat).

According to WebMD “there is no safe amount of time to leave a child (or pet) in a car”.  The temperature inside a car can rise or fall exponentially faster than the temperature outside, as your car functions as a greenhouse.  Just get in your car on a hot day and try to breathe.  Preventing child death from being left in a car is possible, and parents need to be wary of new routines, changes in schedules, and the cognitive process of remembering multiple things.  And most of all, don’t be naïve enough to believe the self-fulfilling “this could never happen to me” phenomenon.  Any oversight, regardless of how significant, can happen to us all.

 

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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Summer Reading Challenge

It can be difficult to keep children’s minds stimulated during the summer months and often many children suffer summer brain drain.  One of the best ways to put a plug on this drain is to encourage regular reading.  Encourage your child to set a SMART Goal for how many books they plan to read this summer and keep track using our free printable summer reading log.  Be sure to build in rewards when your child is on track and when they meet their goal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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Fun Ways to Encourage Learning Over the Summer Months

It’s that time again… The report cards are done, the bell has rung, and summer vacation is upon us! Summer is a time for camps, vacations, trips, cottaging and so much more.  But with all the fun in store, where do they fit in time to learn? How do we as parents make sure our kids don’t suffer summer “brain drain,” while still ensuring they get the break and vacation they need?  Check out the following infographic for ideas to keep kids brains sharp while having fun this summer vacation:

Previously posted July 2017

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule. We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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O-Tip of the Week: Encourage Active Kids with “Build Your Best Day”

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Spring has finally sprung and it’s time than to add some healthy activity to your life.  So, for the month of May our series will be providing tips to help you get physical!

We came across this great tool for helping kids ensure they are meeting physical activity, screen time, and sleep recommendations each day.  Check out Build your Best Day by Participaction to help kids find fun ways to get the 60 minutes of physical activity they need each and every day!

Participaction: Build Your Best Day

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O-Tip of the Week: Simple Ways to Turn of the Tech and Get Kids Moving!

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Spring has finally sprung and what better time than to add some healthy activity to your life.  So, for the month of May, our series will be providing tips to help you get physical!

Do you struggle to get your kids to power down and get active?  Devices can be addictive and detrimental to mental and physical health so it’s important to create a healthy balance.  Our Printable Technology Pass can help parents get their kids to power down and get active!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn additional tips to tame the technology habit in our post The Detriments of Screen Time and a FREE “Technology Pass.”

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One in Five Youth Struggle with Mental Health Problems – Do you Know the Signs?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I was recently reviewing my daughter’s school handbook and noticed the section on child and youth mental health.  According to this (and the Canadian Mental Association) 1 in 5 children and youth struggle with mental health problems.  While great strides have been made over the last several years to destigmatize and demystify mental health problems in both adults and kids, I feel this remains generally misunderstood.  In my practice, I still see the common misperceptions that people with anxiety don’t leave the house or appear nervous and anxious in public, or that people with depression sleep all day, don’t attend to their appearance, and sit around crying and feeling sorry for themselves.  The truth is that mental health is a spectrum, or a continuum if you will.  It can vary and no one’s experience will be the same.  In children, mental health problems can present differently.

As per the handbook I was reading, the signs might include:

·        Anxiety and fear that does not go away

·        Frequent crying and weepiness

·        Loss of interest in activities that were a source of pleasure in the past

·        Difficulty concentrating

·        Lack of energy or motivation

·        Problems at school with falling marks

·        Withdrawal from family, friends and school activities

·        Increased school absences

·        Loss or increase in appetite

·        Sleeping too much or too little

·        Increased irritability, anger or aggression

·        Neglect of personal appearance

·        Frequent stomach aches or headaches

·        Increased alcohol or drug use

In general, parents should be able to monitor most of these and overt changes might be obvious (suddenly disconnecting from friends, drastic changes in grades, behavior change at home, quitting enjoyed activities, not eating food or participating in meal times, etc).  But like with the continuum of mental health in adults, some of these might present some days and not others, or be so subtle that they deteriorate very slowly over time.   As parents of teens we need to be the barometer for our kids as they may lack the ability to relate some of these signs to mental health or internal struggle.

Luckily, in Southern Ontario anyway, I see the mental health problems of kids being taken seriously and there are publicly funded community supports available.  But getting your child connected with these can be the challenge.  It can be hard to convince a teen to do anything they don’t agree with, let alone getting them to the myriad of appointments with doctors and clinicians that can help.

Occupational therapy plays many roles in helping kids and teens address issues with mental health.  While some occupational therapists are trained to provide psychotherapy, others use meaningful and enjoyable tasks to help with mood elevation, reactivation and reengagement.  We are skilled at looking beyond the obvious to get a better sense of what might help at home, school or in the community to get your child or teen on track.  Sometimes it is as simple as helping them to reorganize their school work, create a process for managing assignments and tests, teaching them how to study in a way that works for them based on their learning style, or even looking at how their week is managed to make changes.  Occupational therapists tackle things like sleep / wake schedules, eating and diet, activity participation, grades and school success, managing friends and relationships, motivation through engagement, and dealing with negative pressures that create more stress and anxiety.

My advice if you are concerned about your child?  Start with your family doctor and discuss your concerns, even if your child won’t attend with you.  Involve the school in your concerns to get their support and guidance, after all your child spends several hours a day in their supervision and care.  Teachers can be a great resource and form of support as well, but you need to open those lines of communication.  Don’t expect the school to come to you – often they don’t.  If your child is in crisis, call your local Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) and ask them for help.  They can (and should) also connect you and your child to other community programs.

If you have coverage for mental health treatment for your teen (extended benefits, other insurance funding, out-of-pocket), including occupational therapy, consider enlisting a private therapist.  Private therapy often provides a larger scope of service, is more specialized, and can be provided over a prolonged period if appropriate.  Any good private therapist will try to work themselves out of a job by getting your child on track as quickly as possible and they will want you to immediately feel the benefit of their involvement.  Also, if you have private dollars or insurance coverage, I would suggest a psycho-educational assessment.  These are extremely thorough “brain tests” that look at all aspects of how your child processes information, manages cognitive tasks and addresses the complicated relationship between our brain and our emotions.  The outcome of these assessments can be extremely helpful and will provide both you as a family, and the school, with suggestions for how to best help your child to succeed.

I have always said watching my kids grow up is the best and worst part of parenting.  It is especially heart-wrenching if your child is struggling.  Watch for the signs, talk to your child and get them (and you!) support if they need it.

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How to Have a Safe Halloween

Tuesday is Halloween, a night when children dressed monsters, witches, superheroes and more hit the streets to Trick or Treat.  While Halloween can be a fun night for both kids and adults, there are many dangers associated with it.  Learn some valuable Halloween safety tips in the following from Safe Kids Worldwide to ensure your little ghosts and goblins have a fun and safe Halloween night!

Safe Kids Worldwide:  Halloween Safety Tips

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Dear Everybody: Let’s Put an End to The Stigma of Disability

Children living with disabilities often face a number of physical and mental challenges, however, on top of this are also facing social challenges such as bullying and lack of inclusion.  In fact, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital states that 53% of children living with a disability have zero or only one close friend.   Holland Bloorview has created a new campaign to help put an end to the stigma of disabilities.  The Dear Everybody Campaign aims to provide awareness, knowledge and resources to help put an end to the stigma of disability.

Learn more about the campaign and help create change by visiting their website deareverybody.hollandbloorview.ca.

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Tragedy and Terror are Everywhere – What Do You Say to Your Kids?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Co-authored by Angie Kingma, OT at 

Every generation is said to be shaped, influenced and molded by the major world events that they experience.  These events hit us so deeply that most of us can remember where we were when we “heard the news”, how we felt in the moment, and the way the world changed following the event.  Today is the anniversary of 9/11 and marks a day of mourning for those of us that still feel deeply connected to the senseless tragedy that remains the world’s worst terrorist attack.  But the threats aren’t over and the connected world we live in exposes all of us, including our children, to these events in gory detail complete with photos, video and even the live streaming of things as they unfold.  If parents are not careful, these events can have a negative, harmful and life-lasting impact on children especially if we don’t help them process what they are seeing or hearing. 

So, in the spirit of both mourning and hope, today I wanted to try and provide some suggestions on ways we can talk to our children about events like 9/11, the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert, North Korea testing missiles, the terrorism in Paris and London, attacks on Parliament Hill, or even the recent suffering caused by hurricane Harvey and the wildfires in Western Canada.  Despite the fact that I am a mom of four, I still struggle to have these conversations with my kids, and as such reached out to an Occupational Therapist friend and colleague skilled in mindfulness (Angie Kingma www.mindfulnessforhealth.ca) to get her take on how all parents can try and manage these conversations better.  Here is what Angie had to say:

Some parents take the stance that they’d rather shield their kids from the disturbing events that continue to happen daily around the world.  These parents are well-meaning, assuming that talking about these grim facts will not only upset their kids but perhaps also cause harm.  However, literature shows quite the opposite. What happens is that these kids are denied the opportunity to develop the resilience that is necessary to become a healthy, fully functioning adult. There are other parents who would like to discuss these issues but just don’t know what to say or where to start.

Mindful parenting can greatly enhance our ability to be skillful when talking to our kids about the world’s hard truths.  So, what exactly is mindful parenting? It involves the intention to bring a particular quality of attention to the interactions with our children, as they unfold moment-by-moment. To do this, we choose to consciously pay attention to what is arising in the present moment, becoming aware of what’s happening internally for both the parent and the child, as well as what’s happening externally. Mindful attention is enveloped by attitudes of non-judgment, gentle curiosity, open-heartedness (kindness and compassion), as well as acceptance.  We are especially interested in the child’s thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, as well as our own. We practice mindful listening, which just means listening with full attention, staying present, conveying to your child that you are truly listening and care about their experience.   This quality of focused attention and awareness goes beyond just listening to the words, and includes awareness of facial expressions and body language.

Here are some mindful communication tips when talking to kids about life’s difficulties:

Don’t avoid the conversation. Depending on your own comfort level, let kids know that darkness, misfortune, evil, natural catastrophes and other unpleasant life pressures do exist.

Explain issues to kids in an honest and age-appropriate manner.

Keep it simple. Kids don’t need the gruesome details, just the gist of the event.  Find out what they know about it first and then fill in the gaps with the basics of what happened.

Remind your child that you might not have all the answers but that you know it’s important to have these types of discussions. Sometimes they aren’t looking for answers, our kids just need to feel “seen” and “heard”, and to feel a sense of safety.

Stay level-headed when you’re discussing difficult news. Practice ‘radical acceptance’ of these realities, which simply means acknowledging the truth of things (radical acceptance doesn’t mean we that we have to like it or approve).

Pay attention to your own feelings.  Since events like terrorist attacks evoke strong emotions in us and our kids, be aware of what feelings are coming up in you before the conversation and during. Pay attention to your feeling(s) and observe them, breathing with them, without having to act on or get overwhelmed by them. When we can regulate our own feelings, it can help your child to regulate their own feelings (a term called “co-regulation”).

Share with your child what strategies you use to deal with distressing situations.

Seek professional assistance if you’re having feelings that are too difficult to manage on your own or your coping strategies are unhealthy or ineffective.

Pay attention to your child’s feelings.  Help them name what they are feeling, which tips us in the direction of emotional regulation. Ask them if they can describe where in their body they feel their emotion, ex. tightening in chest, butterflies in the tummy, tension around their head.

Listen open-heartedly to your child’s feelings about the situation. Ask open-ended questions such as “How does hearing about this make you feel?” or “Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about?”

Validate your child’s feelings, even if you don’t understand them yourself. Say “Of course you’d feel that way. That makes total sense to me”.

If you notice a significant increase in fear and anxiety in your child that begins to affect their daily functioning, report this to your family doctor as soon as possible and consider getting a referral to a children’s mental health specialist.

Respect it if your child will simply not talk about certain topics. Some children, particularly kids who already have anxiety, won’t be able to tolerate the conversation so don’t force it. Other kids will have a lot to say and want to discuss it at length. Neither response is better than the other.

Difficulty helps to build our resilience. Let your child know that the things that we go through in life make us stronger and teach us important lessons.  Point out specific stories of heroism, survivors, first responders or people coming together to help one another during times of need.

Teach the concept of impermanence, meaning that while difficulties in the world do exist in the present moment, things are always changing. There is hope that things will change for the better. Practice modelling attitudes of hope and optimism and discuss the importance of these with your child.

Not only does mindful parenting and communication strengthen the parent-child bond and facilitate a strong attachment, it also cultivates emotional awareness and self-regulation, which our world so desperately needs.

“Your mindful presence is the most valuable and precious gift you can give to yourself and to your children.”