Posts Tagged "Children"


How awarding perfect attendance can backfire on children: experts – National

by BBG Hub

Awards for children who never miss a day of school are commonplace in Canadian schools, but now, some experts worry it might be teaching children the wrong lesson.

Research has shown that chronic absenteeism is a predictor of poor academic performance and higher dropout rates. To mitigate those risks, some schools track students’ attendance and give out perfect attendance awards.

Although this practice may boost attendance, Nikki Martyn, program head of early childhood studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto, worries about the adverse long-term effects.

READ MORE: Self-regulation — What adults can learn from these zen pre-kindergartners

“As humans, we’re not perfect, and trying to attain that actually doesn’t do well for us because it limits us,” she told Global News.

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“It gives us this idea that we have to be in control all of the time. We can’t be vulnerable, we can’t take risks and we can’t have failures — but all of those things are important for learning.”

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In some circumstances, perfect attendance awards can actually be demotivating, as proven by a 2019 study at Harvard University.

What are young kids taught about violence against women?

What are young kids taught about violence against women?

Researchers randomly chose 15,239 students in California between the grades of 6 and 12 who had perfect attendance for at least one month in the fall term. They then split them up into three groups.

The first group received a notice saying that, if they achieved perfect attendance in the next month, they would win an award. The second group received a notice saying that they’d won an award for perfect attendance in the previous month, and the third group did not receive any letters or awards.

For students who were already low-performing academically, the impact of the awards was clear: seeing their peers receive praise for never missing a day of school only made them less motivated to succeed at school than they were before.

READ MORE: End of gender reveal parties and more family activism — Parenting trends in 2020

Martyn said perfect attendance awards can cause children to feel shame over something that could be totally out of their control.

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“Maybe they need a mental health day or they’re feeling burnt out or they’re stressed or they’re being bullied. There are many reasons why children need to skip school sometimes,” she said.

“As a society and parents and educators, we need to be able to support them. We need to teach children how to understand what they need.”

Pressure to be perfect

Incentivizing kids to never miss a day of school could encourage them to ignore their own needs in the pursuit of perfection.

“In general, we want to avoid that word ‘perfect’ for young people,” said Dr. Shimi Kang, an expert in youth mental health and founder of Dolphin Kids, an educational program that teaches children social-emotional skills.

Rates of perfectionism are on the rise in young people — particularly young girls — and it can be linked to anxiety, depression, poor body image and poor relationships, said Kang.

Advice for parents as students balance school pressure, anxiety and mental health issues

Advice for parents as students balance school pressure, anxiety and mental health issues

“We know that children who have high absenteeism rates at school are … missing out on the very important social, emotional, academic learning and community, so you definitely want to encourage attendance and discourage absenteeism,” she said. “But having a focus on the record … is not exactly the right place to put the focus.”

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Kang offers a “thoughtful attendance award” as an alternative.

“I think we should award … the person who is actually brave enough to say, ‘you know what, I can’t make it today,’” she said. “That way, we’re training people who have an ability to take care of themselves.”

READ MORE: The growth chart debate: ‘This is not how kids grow’

This, Kang says, would better address the mental health crisis happening around the world.

“One in four people on this planet have mental health issues. Stress is the number one health epidemic identified by the World Health Organization. Stress impacts our physical body, our blood pressure, our sugar levels, our sleep, our mental health,” she said.

“It is a huge burden on society when people don’t know how to manage and take care of themselves.”

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Children can have suicidal thoughts at very young age: psychologist

Children can have suicidal thoughts at very young age: psychologist

Martyn points out that mental health discussions are happening, but not enough of them are in the classroom.

“[Awards like these are] basically telling our children that they’re not good enough,” Martyn said.

“It’s only been in the last number of years that it’s a discussion to take mental health days at work … that hasn’t translated to the classroom.”

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A symptom of a larger problem

There could be many reasons a child is chronically absent from school.

John Ippolito, an associate professor in the faculty of education at York University in Toronto, believes it’s the responsibility of teachers and administrators to determine those reasons and, if possible, offer help.

In his work, Ippolito has done extensive research on the relationships between families and schools — particularly minority and marginalized families, which can often face “challenges that make regular attendance more difficult.”

READ MORE: Parents are using tech to ‘track’ their kids’ locations. Does it cross a line?

These challenges could include poverty, cultural and linguistic barriers, or a lack of safe and affordable transportation.

“These can all make it hard for kids to get to school,” he said. “[They can lead to] a communication breakdown between the home and the school.”

He recommends that schools adopt “programmatic systematic interventions” to prevent further breakdown with families.

“This can create a dialogue forum to begin to nurture open relationships between the school and the families, so that those families … who are marginalized feel much less afraid to come in and ask the school about the resources available,” he said.

Communication between teacher and student is key

Moving forward, Martyn hopes teachers and administrators will begin to foster more open communication with students and their families.

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“I’d like to suggest that we better support children so they learn resilience,” she said. “How do we support children to deal positively with adversity?”

READ MORE: Hockey? Swimming? Here’s how much parents spend on extracurricular activities — Ipsos

This can include asking students questions like “if you’re sick, what are the things you can do?” or “can you get your homework?”

Teachers should be showing kids how to “positively fight” through adversity, said Martyn.

“Not for the sake of making somebody else feel better, but fight back because it’s in our best interest, because we want to do well and we want to succeed and we like that feeling.”

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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33 per cent of all children under 5 are undernourished or overweight: UN – National

by BBG Hub

One-third of children worldwide under age five — roughly 200 million kids — are either undernourished or overweight, the UN children’s agency said in a report Tuesday.

UNICEF also said almost two-thirds of children aged six months to two years are not fed food that supports their rapidly growing bodies and brains.

In its annual report, UNICEF warns that poor eating and feeding practices start from the earliest days of a child’s life.

READ MORE: Do children need vitamin supplements? It may not be necessary

“Despite all the technological, cultural and social advances of the last few decades, we have lost sight of this most basic fact: If children eat poorly, they live poorly,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said.

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The report describes a triple burden of malnutrition: under-nutrition, hidden hunger caused by a lack of essential nutrients, and overweight.

According to UNICEF’s findings, 149 million children younger than five are stunted, or too short for their age, and 50 million are wasted, or too thin, for their height.

Can you reverse Type 2 diabetes by changing your diet?

Can you reverse Type 2 diabetes by changing your diet?

The report says about half of children under five, or 340 million, suffer from deficiencies in essential vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin A and iron, and 40 million are obese.

Worldwide, UNICEF says, close to 45 per cent of children from six months to two years are not fed any fruits or vegetables and nearly 60 per cent do not eat any eggs, dairy, fish or meat.

As children grow older, “their exposure to unhealthy food becomes alarming,” the report says.

READ MORE: New Weight Watchers app for kids could cause ‘body dissatisfaction,’ expert says

UNICEF says this is driven largely by “inappropriate marketing and advertising,” the abundance of ultra-processed foods in cities but also in remote areas, and increasing access to fast food and highly sweetened beverages.

According to the report, from 2000 to 2016, the proportion of overweight children aged from five to 19 rose from one in 10 to almost one in five. It adds that “overweight and obesity continue to rise.”

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Fore said millions of children eat an unhealthy diet because they don’t have a choice.

UN report: Changing your diet can help save the planet

UN report: Changing your diet can help save the planet

“The way we understand and respond to malnutrition needs to change,” Fore said. “It is not just about getting children enough to eat, it is above all about getting them the right food to eat. That is our common challenge today.”

UNICEF says “financial incentives” should reward the increase of healthy and affordable foods. It says “financial disincentives” on unhealthy foods can help improve children’s diets.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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Imaginary friends can have ‘real life’ benefits for your child, experts say – National

by BBG Hub

Whether it’s an alien from another planet, a stuffed teddy bear come to life or just a play pal from summer camp who lives far away during the school year, it’s very common for children to have imaginary companions in their lives.

In fact, a study by psychologists at the University of Washington and the University of Oregon found that, by age seven, 65 per cent of kids have had one.

And, according to parenting expert Alyson Schafer, they’re also completely normal. “Oh, the beauty of a young mind that’s still fresh and open and creative!” she told Global News.

READ MORE: ‘You’re going to see a different kid’: Why sleep should come before activities

“Play is the language of understanding for children. They learn through play and they’ll turn anything into play, if you give them the opportunity,” said Schafer.

For some kids, this could mean “typical” play activities, like building blocks or dolls. For other kids, their creativity is so strong that they create a brand new persona out of thin air.

“This is a creative choice that they make… they don’t need a physical object, much like a favourite stuffed bunny or a love blanket,” Schafer said.

“There’s nothing abnormal about it — it’s really brilliance, because they’re not constrained by other social norms.”

WATCH BELOW: Children with headaches: these are the symptoms parents need to look out for

Jillian Roberts, child psychologist and professor at the University of Victoria, agrees. “Kids are highly imaginative… one of the wonders of childhood,” she said.

According to Roberts, a child’s capacity for imagination increases a great deal in the pre-kindergarten years (roughly between the ages of two and four).

“It actually helps to eventually build the foundation for abstract thought, which comes to fruition in the tween to early-teen period of time,” said Roberts.

“Imaginary friends give [kids] an opportunity to practice their budding social skills in a safe environment they can control.”

However, there’s no reason to worry about your child’s imagination if they don’t have a pretend friend. “All sorts of children with varying levels of creativity may develop imaginary friends,” she said.

Should I be concerned if my child has an imaginary friend?

In Schafer’s view, imaginary friendships are to be encouraged.

“If you watch how they interact with their imaginary friend, a lot of times, because they have to play both themselves and create the world of their imaginary friend, they’re learning different perspectives,” she said.

READ MORE: Meet the parents who homeschooled their kids while travelling the world

“They’re problem-solving and learning to deal with one another, because the imaginary friend often takes a different perspective.”

In situations when the imaginary friend gets in trouble or plays cooperatively, your child is actually rehearsing real social situations.

WATCH BELOW: Why training your child like a dog may be a bad idea

“That’s wonderful practice for social skills in life and trying on different outcomes,” said Schafer.

“They’re getting these enriched experiences through this form of play… it’s something to be celebrated.”

However, Roberts believes there could be cause for concern if your child struggles to make friends in “real life.”

READ MORE: Caring for the caregiver: Raising children with a disability or chronic disease

“If that were the case, I would work to build their social network and also work on the development of social [and] friendship skills,” she said.

“Scouts and Brownies and Beavers… are all good programs for that purpose. You can also speak to the school counsellor.”

If your child has an imaginary friend beyond the age of 10, Roberts recommends a psychological consult “to ensure that overall development is on track,” she said. “But overall, I wouldn’t worry.”

Pay attention to the content of the play

Imaginary friends offer endless opportunity to your child: opportunity to practice playing nicely with others, to flex creative muscles and to deal with confusing emotions.

Schafer encourages caregivers to pay attention to the content of a child’s imaginary play, because if they’ve been traumatized, it will likely come through in their play.

WATCH BELOW: Screen consultants are coaching parents on how to raise screen-free children

“For example, children who have been traumatized [by] seeing [things like] domestic violence or sexual abuse,” said Schafer. “You’re going to see that in their play. That’s something that would set off alarm bells.”

She also warns that sometimes, children can use imaginary friends as a means to manipulate parents or caregivers — and that’s when a line needs to be drawn.

“It can get in [the way] of relationships in the family,” said Schafer. “If a child wants to bring an extra chair to the table and feed their imaginary friend, I’m fine with that. What I’m not OK with is wasting food.”

READ MORE: The cost of raising a child? Now there’s a calculator for that

In her view, if the imaginary friend starts to disturb the family order, something needs to change.

“You don’t want to give the child so much power for the reality of their imaginary friend that their imaginary friend is no longer being a co-operating member of the family,” she said. “They can’t be used as an alibi.”

How to treat your child’s imaginary friend

There are some things parents can do to further encourage curiosity and imaginative play.

For Roberts, this means not making a big deal out of the new imaginary friend.

“If your child wants to talk about their imaginary friend, fine,” she said. “But don’t force them to.”

WATCH BELOW: Should dodgeball be banned from schools?

Schafer takes this one step further and recommends asking questions about the imaginary friend.

“Tell me about your friend. What do they look like? What does your friend like?” she said.

“There’s no right or wrong.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Children get headaches — here’s what parents can do – National

by BBG Hub

Headaches are common for all age groups, but when a child gets one, it may be hard for them to communicate how they feel.

Dr. Gerald Friedman, pediatrician and headache specialist based in Thornhill, Ont., told Global News headaches occur in children and increase in frequency when they reach adolescence.

“Approximately 50 per cent of children will experience a headache during their childhood,” he said. “Migraine occurs in five to 10 per cent of children.”

Older children with headaches are capable to talk about how they feel.

“For younger children with limited abilities to verbally communicate the parents should pay attention to episodes characterized by crying, appearing pale, vomiting and relief with sleep,” Friedman said.

READ MORE: Boy, 14, dies of rare neurological disease after complaining of a headache

Dr. Daune MacGregor, staff neurologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, explains some research indicates one in 11 children have headaches.

“If you look overall and ask a school-aged population if they’ve had headaches, at least 60 per cent of them will tell you at some point in time they get it.”

And while some adults who have headaches never go to their doctors, both experts added if your child is experiencing a headache, especially for the first time, parents and health professionals need to understand what’s going on.

WATCH: How to tell if it’s a headache, migraine or brain aneurysm – and what to do next

“Obviously it depends on the frequency… but if you get a child who has recurrent headaches with periods in between then you’ve got to try to sort out what the origin of the headache is,” she said.

Even if your child is getting a headache maybe once or twice a month but they are not responding to pain medication, she says, they should also be checked out.

“It’s really a matter of sorting out whether or not the headache is what we call a primary headache disorder,” she said. “These are the ones that have genetic origins like migraines, tension-type (headaches) or stress-related headaches.”

Symptoms to pay attention to

Friedman says some headache symptoms are known as red flags and it is important to remember that headaches are symptoms.

“These include headaches which awaken the child from sleep during the night, or begin in the very early hours of the morning (between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.), especially if associated with vomiting.”

If a child is feeling a headache that extends to the back of their head, this would warrant further evaluation, he noted.

READ MORE: Changing weather conditions cause headaches in children, study finds

“Children who experience any of the red flag symptoms should see their doctor immediately. Children who experience headaches more than once a week should also be evaluated.”

MacGregor notes sometimes the pressure can change in a child bends over, for example, or there are other symptoms along with the headache that include weakness in the limbs.

She says children often describe headaches in specific ways. Sometimes this can include a pounding headache that makes the child feel sick or nauseous. Some children can describe their heads squeezing, aching or feeling pressure — either way, note down exactly how they feel.

Dr. Marissa Lagman-Bartolomoe, an assistant professor in pediatrics at the University of Toronto and a pediatric and young adult headache neurologist at the Hospital for Sick Children and Women’s College Hospital, told Global News other red flags include headaches associated with fever.

She adds rashes, blurry vision, dizziness and spinning sensations are also considered red flags. Age and sex can also matter, she added, for example, a teenage girl who is pregnant may be feeling symptoms of headaches.

“Any headache, even if they have a previous headache and its a sudden change and it is progressively getting worse over days or weeks, that is something they should [go to the doctor for].”

Treatment and prevention

Friedman says before treatment options are considered, a child has to be evaluated.

“(This is to) determine the nature and cause of the headaches,” he said. “The more common causes of childhood headaches include tension-type headaches and migraines, and the treatment options vary depending on the cause of headaches.”

Treatment options can include over-the-counter medicines like Advil or Tylenol, experts said, or prescribed medication. For some, treatment can include cognitive behavioural therapy or other types of relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing.

Lagman-Bartolomoe for most children, taking an over-the-counter medication and getting rest can help. Often, sleeping is a beneficial treatment option.

READ MORE: Canadian children’s hospitals report cases of rare, polio-like illness that can cause paralysis

She adds the causes for migraines, for example, are still unknown and more research has to be done from an adolescent’s point of view. Often, the symptom of a headache can be caused by several things like infection, sinus issues or fevers.

Other more worrisome (but not as common) causes can include infections, inflammation of the brain or bleeding in the brain.

Genetics can also play a factor — if a parent or an older sibling has a history of headaches, chances are a child will get a headache as well, experts said. “Up to 80 per cent of patients coming in with migraines will have a first-degree relative who also has migraines,” she said.

And children who have headaches, often have headaches in adulthood.

What parents can do

Friedman said parents should carefully look at their child’s nutrition, hydration status, and sleep patterns if they are experiencing headaches.

“A diary is often a helpful first tool to help the physician sort out what type of headache the child is experiencing.”

Lagman-Bartolomoe recommends parents to be observant of their child’s behaviour. “If the child is asking for the TV to be shut off or the light to be turned off… that’s important in their behaviour.”

If they are feeling nauseous, avoid giving them too much fluid and keep track of their diet.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘You’re going to see a different kid’: Why sleep should come before activities

by BBG Hub

Between after-school soccer practice and early morning swim meets, parents of active children may be exhausted.

But what about the kids themselves? Children involved in too many extracurricular activities may be low on sleep — and that can hurt them during the school year.

“Sleep really needs to be protected,” says Andrea Loewen Nair, a parenting expert and co-founder of London, Ont.-based Infinity School.

“When you’re not sleeping well enough and you don’t feel well, it affects every part of your life.”

READ MORE: Children who watch ‘Sesame Street’ may perform better at school, study finds

According to Robina Uddin, a parenting and sleep coach at Nanny Robina, extracurricular activities can be the cause of late bedtimes — especially if they run into the evening.

“If a child then goes to bed and misses the holy window of sleep, they can possibly get a second wind, resulting in actually falling asleep at a much later time, too,” Uddin said.

“They need downtime, just like you and I.”

How to tell if your child is exhausted

Loewen Nair says elementary school-aged kids really need their sleep. The Hospital for Sick Children says kids from the age of five to 10 need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep a night.

WATCH BELOW: Ask an Expert — Back to School Parenting

When kids don’t get enough rest, they can act in ways that are unlike themselves.

Loewen Nair says she’s worked with clients who were concerned with their child’s behaviour and discovered they were acting out because they were doing too many activities.

“In some cases, I could see that their [extracurricular] schedule was preventing their child from sleeping enough,” she said. “If you just fix how much sleep they have, you’re going to see a different kid.”

Another common telltale sign a child is low on sleep is when they have a hard time getting out of bed.

READ MORE: What happens when children don’t take sex-ed classes

“Elementary-age children generally wake up being happy in the morning before they go to school, so if you can’t wake them up and then they wake up angry, you know they’re [experiencing] a sleep deficit,” Loewen Nair said.

Other symptoms of low sleep include forgetfulness, frequent yawning, irritability, crying easily and frustration.

What’s more, if your child says they are too tired to go to guitar lessons or gymnastics, they could be overloaded. Listen to their cues — parents often know when their child has had enough, Loewen Nair said.

What happens when kids lack sleep

Not only is a child’s behaviour affected by a lack of sleep, so is their ability to perform in school.

One 2016 study showed a child’s developing brain regions are “hardest hit by sleep deprivation.” Another study found poor sleep was tied to lower academic performance.

WATCH BELOW: Why training your child like a dog may be a bad idea

“Research shows that having a clear mind is worth more than sometimes studying,” Loewen Nair said. “Being able to think requires a good amount of rest.”

Loewen Nair says children who have packed schedules can also experience social repercussions. If kids are so busy running between lessons and clubs that they don’t have enough time to see family and friends, their relationships can suffer.

READ MORE: ‘Snowplow parenting’ is preventing young adults from learning ‘basic life skills’

Uddin agrees.

“Quality dinner together, homework and free play time should not take a backseat to extracurriculars,” she said. “Balance is key.”

Scaling back

Extracurriculars are an important part of many children’s lives, and they offer invaluable skills. Research shows partaking in sports has physical, social and psychological benefits for children.

That being said, kids can suffer when they are exhausted.

Loewen Nair says it’s important for parents to weigh the pros and cons of extracurricular activities: does your child enjoy them? Do they work with your schedule? Does your kid have time for homework?

WATCH BELOW: How to raise mindful children

If your child can manage soccer twice a week and gets enough rest, this may be the right amount for them. On the flip side, if your child is signed up for several activities and is burning out, scale back.

On top of maintaining academics, it’s also important to ensure your child has enough time for the other things they enjoy. When extracurriculars take over another aspect of a child’s life, Uddin says it may be time to reevaluate.

Uddin suggests parents draw up schedules that incorporate all of their children’s daily activities. That way, you can see how much more your kid can handle.

“Add homework, dinner, free play time (free play time is not TV or screen time), then add an age-appropriate bedtime,” she said. “Now decide what kind of time you have to incorporate for extracurriculars.”

READ MORE: The stigma of more children after one is sick — Why some parents feel guilty

Boundaries are also key, Loewen Nair said. Parents should have rules around how late their child can stay out. For example, if your kid’s bedtime is 9 p.m., you may not let them partake in an activity that runs past 7 p.m.

Children also should enjoy the activities they are partaking in. If they are thrilled to run to singing class, it’s a good sign they are enjoying it.

“They have to be willing to go and make the effort to go every day, every single time,” Loewen Nair said.

“If they become unfriendly and frustrated, then you know that they’re too tired.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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What happens when children don’t take sex ed classes

by BBG Hub

What a child learns about sexual health can largely shape their own behaviour and views on sex, research shows.

But what happens when a kid skips out on formal sex education?

READ MORE: Parents can teach their own kids sex-ed — but that doesn’t mean they will

For years, parents in most of Ontario have been able to pull their kids out of certain sex-ed classes for religious reasons. On Wednesday, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government announced they will implement a province-wide standardized opt-out process. Children whose parents opt them out will miss lessons on sexual health and human development.

Sex education varies across Canada, with provinces and territories having their own curriculum, some more comprehensive than others.

When a child misses out on sexual health education, they are put at an increased risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies, among other things, says Alex McKay, the executive director at the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN).

WATCH BELOW: Ontario government releases new sex-ed curriculum, similar to scrapped version

“We know that sex education can have a positive impact… so it is worrisome that some children will not receive that education because their parents have opted out of those classes,” McKay told Global News.

Teen pregnancy rates

When a child does not learn about reproductive health and contraception, they may be at greater risk for teen pregnancy, McKay said. A recent study suggests that U.S. government spending on abstinence-only education programs doesn’t appear to reduce teen pregnancies, and in some areas, is having the opposite effect.

On the other hand, research has found countries with comprehensive sex-ed programs have lower teen pregnancy rates.

READ MORE: STIs rates in Canada are rising — decline in condom use may be to blame

“The very low teen pregnancy rate in Switzerland exists in the context of long-established sex education programs, widespread expectation that sexually active teens will use contraception, free family planning services and low-cost emergency contraception,” authors of one 2016 study wrote.

In the study, researchers noted teen pregnancy rates vary with levels of education and cultural background of adolescent girls.

McKay says research on teen pregnancy and its relationship to sex education has largely been done in the U.S., but has offered Canadian educators a strong framework.

READ MORE: 1 million people a day catch sexually transmitted infections, WHO warns

“On a general level, as sexual health education programs have been implemented in Canadian schools, that has occurred parallel to a pretty dramatic decrease in teen pregnancy in Canada,” McKay said.

Impact on sexual behaviour

One 2014 report on young adolescents and sexual health says early intervention is key in building healthy future relationships. When children are not properly educated on matters related to their sexual well-being, they are vulnerable to harmful sexual behaviours, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) noted.

A recent UNESCO study that looked at sex-ed courses from various countries across the world found that sexual education delayed initiation of sexual intercourse, decreased frequency of sexual intercourse, decreased number of sexual partners, reduced risk-taking, increased use of condoms and increased use of contraception.

WATCH BELOW: 5 signs a child may have been sexually abused

The report also found that sex-ed courses did not lead to earlier sexual activity in young people.

Other research suggests that teaching kids the proper names for their genitals at a young age is important “given that children are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse during the preschool years.”

McKay says that if a child does not know how to identify their genitals, they are going to be “less well equipped to report inappropriate touching or abuse.”

Understanding gender and sexual diversity

Not learning about gender and sexual identity in the classroom can have a lasting impact on children.

READ MORE: To close ‘orgasm gap,’ the National Film Board launches game to teach people about the clitoris

Specific groups are disproportionately affected by violence and harassment, including LGBTQ2 communities, women, and Indigenous women. According to SIECCAN’s Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education, sex education can be “effective in addressing discriminatory attitudes” towards such groups, improve gender-equitable attitudes and help prevent physical, sexual and emotional violence in relationships.

McKay says when kids received accurate and age-appropriate information about sexual and gender identity, they are more likely to practise acceptance and promote inclusivity. This is especially important for children who may identify as members of the LGBTQ2 community.

WATCH BELOW: Why fewer people are opting for condoms

“Classmates receiving that accurate information — not biased and inaccurate information they may have picked up in the schoolyard or through the media — [is] important in order to create an inclusive and respectful school environment,” McKay explained.

“Creating that kind of healthy school environment is difficult if the school curriculum is silent on those issues, and kids are left to the schoolyard and the internet to try to get that kind of information.”

— With a file from Reuters 

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Children who watch ‘Sesame Street’ may perform better at school, study finds – National

by BBG Hub

Kids who watch Sesame Street at home may benefit in the classroom, a study has found.

According to research recently published in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, preschool-aged children who watched Sesame Street had an improved school performance. This was particularly true for boys, black children and those living in economically disadvantaged areas.

Researchers out of Wellesley College and the University of Maryland studied the long-term effects of those who had access to the show when it first aired in 1969. They found that Sesame Street led to a “positive impact” on performance throughout elementary school, and that the effects of the show were long-lasting.

Researchers combed through U.S. census data from 1980, 1990 and 2000, and compared the educational and employment outcomes of those who had access to Sesame Street and those who didn’t.

READ MORE: Kids are developing British accents after watching shows like ‘Peppa Pig’

Their study, which was completed in 2015, found those with greater exposure to the show were “14 per cent more likely to be attending the grade that is appropriate for their age in middle and high school years” and were more likely to be employed and have somewhat higher wages as an adult.

When the beloved children’s show first aired in 1969, its primary goal was reducing educational gaps experienced by disadvantaged youth, the researchers wrote. The show was successful in that aim, researchers said, stating that “Sesame Street is one of the largest and most affordable early childhood interventions ever to take place.”

“Remarkably, the show accomplished that at a cost of around $5 per child per year (in today’s dollars),” authors wrote.

WATCH (July 8, 2019): Summer brain boost

Melissa Kearney, one of the study’s authors, said Sesame Street filled an important gap. The fact that it was on TV made it largely accessible across socioeconomic demographics, too.

Sesame Street aired at a time when enriching educational opportunities for preschool-age children were very scarce,” Kearney told Global News.

“That is probably why access to Sesame Street was so meaningful for the children who obtained access. If they weren’t watching Sesame Street, they almost surely weren’t watching a different educational program or enrolled in an in-person educational program.”

According to Julie Romanowski, an early childhood consultant and parenting coach at Miss Behaviour, Sesame Street is still effective in helping children learn because of the type of topics it covers.

READ MORE: Stressed out about summer break? Here’s how to keep your kids busy

“(It) focuses on relationships, numeracy, literacy, problem solving, feelings, concepts and good manners,” Romanowski explained.

“These can be hard to find all in one shot these days. That is why I believe Sesame Street packs a powerful punch because it includes so much quality and value.”

Romanowski notes, however, that television programs are not the only instrumental learning tool for children. It’s important that kids learn from their parents and caregivers, as well as through play.

“It is important for young children in the early years to be exposed to as much learning as possible overall in life as well as the feeling of security and attachment,” she said.

WATCH (May 18, 2019): A look at progressive moments in children’s cartoons

“This allows their developing brains to absorb as much information as possible to help further their development in a healthy way.”

Kearney acknowledges that TV shows have come along way since Sesame Street, and there’s an ambulance of kid’s shows to choose from. Still, she thinks the show teaches children today just like it did decades ago.

“The programming is still based on an educational mission and it is created by experts who study how children learn and react to specific content,” she said.

“In a time when children from different socioeconomic backgrounds and places have such different experiences and educational opportunities, the fact that all kids can watch the thoughtful, well-designed content of Sesame Street, and be exposed to not only literacy and numeracy lessons… is really quite special and critically important.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Farah Nasser: Seven flights, three weeks, two kids — how to travel with children – National

by BBG Hub

Before kids, travelling and immersing myself in a different culture was my favourite thing to do.

As soon as I had our first child six years ago, like most parents, my husband and I put our travel fantasies on hold.

It seemed too hard with kids, we told ourselves, and maybe it would work when they get older. But this also meant when we got older.

5 travel tips for parents flying with young kids

Last year, we decided to change this notion and give travelling a try with our son and daughter.  We booked a three-week vacation in Portugal — and driving around the beautiful country with our two favourite people was incredible and much less stressful than we imagined.

So this year we took it up a notch and went to four countries:  Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan.

Credit: Farah Nasser

Seven flights in three weeks, with two kids aged three and six. Most of our friends thought we were crazy. It was ambitious, not always perfect, but we have no regrets.

And along the way, we also also picked up some lessons. Here are five questions parents often have when travelling with kids — and how we dealt with them.

How do you handle the long flights?

This was originally the part I was the most stressed out about, but it turned out to be the easiest after I forced myself to let go.

I’m super strict with screen time at home, but I’m pretty sure my six-year-old spent seven hours in a row on an iPad during the flight. My daughter occupied her time drawing with pen on her leg (then my leg, then her leg).

I packed a backpack of 24 small activities for our first 24-hour journey which were only used during a longer than expected layover.

We did make two highly-recommended purchases. The first was a large inflatable foot pillow which sandwiches between the kid’s seat and the one in front of you.  It allows them to stretch out their legs.  The littlest one was almost able to lie completely flat.  We had the kid’s seatbelts on the entire flight which didn’t seem to bother them.

Is it safe to sedate your child before a long-haul flight?

These pillows were a lifesaver (note: not all airlines allow them and they only work in economy). The second was a fleece headphone/headband/sleep mask in one.  As the kids dozed off it was pretty easy to slide the headband over their eyes to help them get a deeper sleep.

Credit: Farah Nasser

We ordered kids’ meals which were super helpful.  Still, sometimes they didn’t eat.  Sometimes they didn’t sleep.  We let go. The only rule we had was you don’t kick the seat in front of you or disturb other passengers.

Bonus tip: Stay away from booze and caffeine so you stay alert, but sleep whenever you have the opportunity.  We both took many power naps on the long flights.

What about jet lag?

Our trip was a worst case situation (night is day, day is night).  That’s why we started our trip in Singapore; it was the perfect place to beat jet lag. We picked a place where everyone spoke English, transportation was simple and there were tonnes of wonderful things to do with kids.  We also picked a nice hotel in the middle of the action, so no matter what time it was, there was something to do.

Thankfully, we found jet lag was worse for us than the kids.  The issue is when it hits them, it hits them hard.  My 50 lb. son was bouncing off the walls as we jumped in a taxi taking us to a night market.  As soon as we sat down, he fell into deep sleep mid-sentence in my lap forcing me to eat a delicious curry above his head.  Our daughter woke up in the middle of the night convinced it was time to party until we took her to the lobby to show her it was empty, which seemed to work.

We gave ourselves a good four days to get used to the time change and made a conscious effort not to make a big deal about it to the kids.

Bonus tip:  Pack a lot of snacks and/or keep them in your room.  You never know when the kids will be starving.  Also, keep them well-hydrated. Plane and hotel air can keep the kids pretty parched.

WATCH: (Aug. 15, 2019) Benefits of exploring Canada on a vacation

What about picky-eaters?

This was tough.  I had fantasies of my children downing durian and eating sushi from Japan instead of just singing about it.  The trip started off with some sampling but once one of them ate something a little spicy, every spoonful was served with fear of a fiery bite.

My son who loves pad Thai here wouldn’t touch it in Thailand for the first few days.  It got better but this was something I also had to let go.  Like many moms, I wanted to make sure they were fed so if the noodles were plain, so be it.  Breaded chicken was a God send to get in some protein and of course fries, lots of fries.

Restaurants aren’t typically fun at home with kids and being away it can be worse.  We kept our phones far away and gave the kids our undivided attention by playing games while waiting for meals.  We also learned  that even though we get bored with games and food (I’m looking at you pizza), the kids don’t and enjoy something they know well in an exploratory situation.

WATCH: Tips for travelling with kids

What worked well for us were the kitschy restaurants Asia is known for. In Tokyo, our best meal was at a ninja restaurant and funny enough we ran into Kim Kardashian and Kanye West at a Monster/Hello Kitty Café! Kanye, like my husband, wasn’t a fan of the food but he told me his kids ate well.

Credit: Farah Nasser

Bonus tip:  Trying new food doesn’t have to be a big restaurant meal or street food, it could be a different flavour of chips from the convenient store or a unique fruit ice cream they haven’t tried before.

How much can you pack in?

Everything will take almost twice as long, there is no getting around that but we forced ourselves to slow right down.  After we got a handle on jet lag, I packed our itinerary right up.  After a full day at Legoland in Malaysia I thought it would be the perfect time for a night safari at the Singapore Zoo.  I learned then that physically being there and truly experiencing things aren’t the same thing.

We settled on doing two activities a day. Two in a row if they were easy and didn’t require a lot of walking, or two with a trip to the hotel between them to rest, read or watch local cartoons.

Meet the parents who homeschooled their kids while travelling the world

We took the stroller on the trip but didn’t really take it out with us, but this meant taking taxis short distances when needed.  We found the subway systems Singapore and Tokyo better than any North American city, which made things easy.  In Bangkok, the tuk-tuks were a wonderful (though at times smoggy) way to see the city.

Bonus tip:  We bought a carry-on suitcase in Bangkok which my son completely took ownership of since he helped pick it.  Though he was a little slower than we would be, it kept him busy and feeling like he was helping the team.

Will they remember it?

I’m sure many of my incredible and well-meaning friends thought we might as well have flushed thousands of dollars down the toilet because the kids won’t remember any of this.  For us, it wasn’t about the memories as much as the experience.

Much of my work surrounds diversity and inclusion — what better way to instill that in my children than to expose them to a completely different culture?  It melted my heart to see them interact with other kids who barely understood them while bonding over Pokémon characters.

Credit: Farah Nasser

Our six-year-old asked us why people in Japan all looked the same and not like us and moments later witnessed the kindness of a complete stranger pulling out his phone to help us find a restaurant we were looking for.

This was real life-education for them that we are all the same inside — something some adults still have to learn.

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They also experienced poverty. My son wrote in his journal how he felt seeing a small child asking for money on the side of the road on a sweltering hot day.  We rushed inside a nearby market to get her a fan and some food.  That one encounter led to so many questions about how the world worked.

Credit: Farah Nasser

This trip showed them that there is no such thing as ‘normal’. There are many different places and ways to live.

From mastering chopsticks because there was no fork to politely standing in lines to get into a subway car, my children have become more flexible and adaptable.  They picked up how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in two different languages and could teach adults a thing or two about going through security at the airport.

My three- and six-year-old may only remember key moments of our trip like feeding elephants in Koh Samui or praying for the school year at a shrine in Tokyo, but this trip instilled a sense of adventure that has them constantly asking — where are we going next?

Bonus Tip:  One of the few rules we had on this trip was journaling.  It was consistent, daily but tough to sit down and do on vacation.  After coming back, the writing and drawings from the trip are just as important as the photos.

Farah Nasser is anchor of Global News at 5:30 and 6 p.m.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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The stigma of more children after one is sick: Why some parents feel guilty – National

by BBG Hub

Ragne Reid faced a lot of scrutiny when she became pregnant with her son, Jax, while her nine-month-old daughter, Mira, was undergoing cancer treatment.

“My family doctor suggested that I have an abortion, but we were trying so hard to save the life of our daughter, there was no way I could justify ending the life of another baby,” she told Global News.

“I was seeing a chiropractor at the time who shook his head and told me that I needed to be more careful. That was the last time I saw him.”

READ MORE: Caring for the caregiver — Raising a child with a disability or chronic disease

Reid, who lives in North Delta, B.C., also faced criticism from friends.

“[They] suggested that it was irresponsible for me to consider bringing another child into the world,” she said. “I do think there are taboos around having a second child after [your] first was so sick.”

However, Reid and her partner were told that Mira’s cancer didn’t have a genetic component so they just tried to “shrug it off.”

“Although I was worried… we had no idea how she got her disease, and [we] thought that the same circumstances and environment was present for the new baby as was present for our sick baby,” said Reid.

Mira, 10, and Jax, 8. Courtesy of Ragne Reid.

Helping parents understand the “cause” of the first child’s illness or disability should be a top priority for primary caregivers, according to Dr. Peter Azzopardi, chief of pediatrics at the Scarborough Health Network.

“Most worrisome to me is, often, a parent tries to assign blame in terms of what happened to the first child,” he said.

“It’s important to get to the bottom of that issue so the parent doesn’t feel like the cause of that issue.”

In his view, it’s only with a full understanding of the first child’s condition — and the risk that it could be passed on — that parents can make an informed decision about having another child. This often requires an extensive amount of genetic testing, he said.

Genetic testing helps parents understand risk

“The most important thing is what is the nature of the child in the family that already has the disability?” Azzopardi said. “What is the problem and what is the risk that it could be passed on?”

If the problem is defined as potentially having a genetic component, the parents will be tested in order to determine the risk of it affecting another baby. Some illness and disability will be genetic, but others will have “nothing to do” with a family member having risk — like issues that arise at birth.

Regardless of the results, genetic testing helps parents to do away with the common feelings of guilt or shame that can occur after welcoming a child with a disability.

READ MORE: ‘It has made me a better person’ — What it’s like to raise a child with autism

For Nicole Boucher, a mom of two based in Toronto, genetic testing helped her feel more in control, even if only slightly.

She and her partner have always wanted a big family, but her first pregnancy didn’t go as planned. During an ultrasound, doctors found a cyst in the back of her son’s brain that caused it to form differently.

After her son Jacob was born, doctors performed genetic testing to determine the details of his illness.

“He has a single gene mutation that they’ve never seen before. They don’t know what it means and they can’t really give us a prognosis,” said Boucher.

Jacob, 3, and Caden, 5 months. Courtesy of Nicole Boucher.

However, doctors were able to determine that he has epilepsy, a development delay and visual impairment.

The genetic testing also showed that Jacob’s condition was de novo, which meant neither of the parents were carriers. “That was one of our biggest fears.”

For Jacob’s first year of life, his parents were just focused on “keeping him alive.” But with the genetic testing on their side, they decided to “let whatever happen, happen,” said Boucher. “And along came Caden.”

Having another child is ‘such a personal decision’

In Azzopardi’s experience, it’s common for parents in Reid and Boucher’s position to face stigma about having another child.

“I do think that parents get second looks from other people when they decide to go on and have another child, [but] it’s such a personal decision,” said Azzopardi. “It’s also very culturally laden in terms of taboos in certain cultures about having other children.”

Ultimately, Azzopardi believes parents know what is best for their family, and Calgary-native Rachel Martens agrees. She works at CanChild, a non-profit research and educational centre that focuses on improving the lives of children with developmental conditions.

READ MORE: Like mother, like daughter — Living with the same disease as your mom

“There are many things to consider from a couple different lenses,” said Martens. “Do you have a sufficient support system in your life to help your family? Is your significant other prepared to take on added responsibilities?”

Choosing to have another child is a complex decision in and of itself — disability or illness just adds to that.

“The uniqueness of who you are as a parent and a person plays a role in this decision,” she said. “It’s important to remember who you are in this and to never apologize to others when it comes to whatever future you decide for your family.”

Luke, 13. Courtesy of Rachel Martens.

Martens is also mom to a 13-year-old boy who has Mosaic trisomy 22, cerebral palsy and autism. She and her partner decided not to have any further children, and it works for them.

“We went back and forth on the subject for a few years, but [after] a brief brush I had with cancer, [we] made the decision to stay with only one. We received a lot of flak from some family [for] our decision but honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We are pretty stuck on our kiddo,” she said.

“For us, the decision came with working towards who we felt our identity was as a family unit. We make a heck of a trio.”

Finding non-judgmental support from the health-care system

While Mira was in treatment, Reid had enough on her plate without taking into account the judgmental comments and unsolicited “advice” from those around her.

“I felt awful during the time that my daughter was sick,” she said. “I was trying to prepare for what I believed was the eventual outcome [of Mira’s brain cancer] and to figure out how to be a mother to my new baby.”

Mira finished treatment in December 2010, and Jax arrived — healthy and happy — in February 2011. Reid was overwhelmed.

WATCH: How a community can deal with children and youth to help break the cycle of poverty

“It was a lot of work looking after two [babies] that weren’t walking, and one that still had lots of medical appointments,” she said. “I was trying to deal with my own mental health at the time, too. I’m sure I had (maybe have) post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Reid said she tried to find a psychologist, but due to time and location constraints, it wasn’t possible. On top of that, she was struggling to learn about how to navigate the hospital system.

“It’s so complicated and difficult to navigate,” said Reid. 

Supporting parents like Reid is Joanne Doucette‘s job. Doucette is a social worker at the Child, Adolescent and Family Centre of Ottawa, and she’s seen first-hand the difference support from a person like her can make.

READ MORE: Becoming a father can negatively impact men’s mental health: survey

“My role is to look at each family’s situation. Each is so unique and so different,” she said. “When a first child has a really complex medical condition, often there are a lot of questions about whether another child will have the condition as well.”

In helping parents decide whether they want to expand their family, Doucette focuses a lot on ensuring they have a robust support system — whether it’s family, friends or a health-care professional.

“It takes a village to raise a child — and I think that goes for every single family — but when a child has a medical illness or disability, the need for that village is just that much bigger.”

One of the things social workers and therapists should do is provide emotional support, helping parents work through those feelings of guilt and shame so they can “be in a place where they’re able to make those decisions more clearly,” she said. “I support parents whichever way they go in terms of making those decisions.”

Ultimately, the taboo around having another child after your first falls ill or is diagnosed with a disability remains taboo. Breaking down that stigma is, in part, the responsibility of primary caregivers.

“Parents are the best experts on what they need for their kids and what they need for their family,” said Doucette.

[email protected]

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Caring for the caregiver: Raising children with a disability or chronic disease – National

by BBG Hub

Amy Illingworth’s world was turned upside down when her two-year-old daughter, Victoria, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

“It felt like the ground had fallen out from under my feet,” she said.

But she wasn’t idle for long — within months she had quit her job, devoting all her time and energy to Victoria’s care.

READ MORE: Caregivers of loved ones with dementia experience distress, isolation, study says

“I entrenched myself in the care and diagnostics of Victoria… that was my focus,” Illingworth told Global News.

“I wasn’t really talking to my friends or former colleagues, I was avoiding social media, I shut down my LinkedIn account. I wasn’t doing the things I loved to do.”

It wasn’t until her husband said something that she realized her lack of self-care was harming both her and her child.

READ MORE: The CRA makes it so hard to get the disability tax credit, many don’t even try

“He said, ‘You want to care for Victoria in the best way that you can, [but] it’s important for you to be healthy, too,’” Illingworth said. “That felt like a luxury I didn’t have time for because of all the appointments.”

Since the diagnosis, Illingworth’s life had been consumed by brochures, research and meetings with specialists. She realized quickly that she knew nothing about how to care for someone with a physical disability.

“From an education standpoint, it’s very challenging. From an emotional standpoint, it’s very challenging,” she said.

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More than eight million Canadians provide unpaid care to loved ones with health issues, saving the health-care system more than $26 billion per year. Unfortunately, since caregivers are preoccupied with someone else’s needs, it often comes at the cost of their own health.

A 2016 study by the Canadian Public Health Association found that caregivers reported being anxious or worried about their responsibilities, and had increased levels of stress, and depression as well as low levels of subjective well-being. Sixteen per cent of caregivers reported “very high” levels of stress.

Dr. Dorian Traube, an associate professor in the school of social work at the University of Southern California, believes those effects can get much worse when caring for your own child.

“There’s widely documented caregiver stress… but there’s an element of having an ill child that I think triggers something particularly acute,” she said. “You have an intrinsic devotion to your child.”

The burden of having a sick child

When a child becomes sick, the parent’s entire ecosystem is disrupted.

“You have to quit your job or you may lose your job… you may lose social relationships, because human relationships take effort and nurturing and you may not have the ability to focus on those,” Traube added.

READ MORE: ‘It breaks you’ — Teacher goes viral with post about why she quit her job 

For Payal K., the stress of her daughter’s illness was compounded by the shock and confusion of recently immigrating to Canada from India. (She has asked that her last name and her daughter’s diagnosis not be shared to protect their privacy.)

“As with any immigrant, [we had] the universal challenges of finding a job, settling, acclimatizing to the weather… then you add another layer of having a child who has these needs,” said Payal.

Suddenly, Payal was going through a massive life change without any family support or community connections. She also had to learn how to navigate a brand new healthcare system — one riddled with forms and procedures that can often be confusing for people who grew up here.

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“It was a very daunting task,” she said. “[My needs] had to take a backseat.”

According to Traube, even thinking about yourself when all these other people are relying on you can cause immense feelings of guilt.

“It becomes something that your entire brain capacity is taken up with… but humans need balance,” said Traube. “There’s not room for anything else, including self-care.”

READ MORE: ‘It has made me a better person’ — What it’s like to raise a child with autism

Without balance, there’s stress — and stress can wreak “all sorts of havoc” on your biological system.

It can cause “everything from weight gain to issues with blood pressure,” Traube explained. “There are even concerns about a linkage between acute stress and higher risk for autoimmune diseases.”

Despite all this, Illingworth believes most healthcare centres fail to prioritize parents of sick children.

“Some of the advertisements — when it’s like mothers bawling their eyes out in a shower and then they have to shake themselves off — that is accurate,” she said. “You are alone.”

A gap in the health-care system

Parenting expert Ann Douglas agrees with Illingworth. She has four kids, all of whom had a number of mental health and neurological challenges throughout childhood. She wrote about her experiences in her book Parenting Through the Storm

“There are all these different layers of worry,” she told Global News. “There’s exhaustion and worry… a lot of mental and emotional labour is involved in researching the systems and supports available… work-life balance issues… and the financial impact.”

The biggest thing a hospital can do, in Douglas’s view, is put together a peer support network for parents to get practical assistance from “other parents who have walked this walk.”

WATCH BELOW: Half of fathers admit to being criticized about parenting, poll says

Traube echos the need for “social support.”

“Making sure you have the ability to reach out… if it’s family, friends, your significant other,” she said. “You need to be able to talk about your feelings… you need to be able to ask somebody to bring you dinner.”

She also encourages parents to find “purpose in the process,” or a way to grow from their child’s illness.

READ MORE: Early onset dementia — How to care for your spouse and yourself

“For example, lots of parents who have children with cancer become heavily involved in the world of cancer fundraising,” said Traube. “It’s about deciding to have another interest that you can devote at least a small amount of time to… and having a place to go and things to do with your time.”

This offers parents a chance to regain control. Traube said this is critical for the well-being of both parent and child.

“There’s a reason why, when you’re on an airplane, they always say that if the airbags deploy, you should put yours on first and then your child’s.”

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Illingworth and Payal both credit the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Centre in Toronto as being the first place they understood the need for self-care and peer support.

Now, they’re family leaders at the centre, working to support other families with similar stories.

The right way to support caregivers

Jean Hammond, family partnerships specialist at Holland Bloorview first discovered the centre when her daughter was a patient. She said there is a “spectrum of caregiver needs” among the parents she works with, and providing for those needs is one of their top priorities.

“What we’re hoping to create is a group of caregivers who feel supported, who have been given education, training and support in order to do their very important job,” she said. “Caregivers provide 80 per cent of the care, and that helps [doctors] provide the other 20 per cent.”

READ MORE: Why incorrect terms like ‘dry drowning’ can be confusing for parents

With that in mind, Holland Bloorview has a number of programs available to the parents of its patients.

The first is an informal peer support group, where some parents (called family leaders) are identified as having experience as a caregiver and they offer their knowledge to new parents.

“For a parent of a special needs child meeting another parent of a special needs child, there’s an automatic connection and a sense of ‘getting it,’” Hammond said.

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Her team also organizes frequent coffee nights and potlucks, which offer parents of inpatient children a break within the hospital walls.

“We also have an online resource hub for caregivers, and we have education workshops for caregivers on topics such as self-care, resiliency, mindfulness and nutrition,” said Hammond.

Recently, parents at Holland Bloorview met for a “paperwork party,” where they were invited to bring forms and applications they found lengthy or confusing.

“Caregivers have to fill out a form for just about everything,” said Hammond. “Understandably, these get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list frequently.”

READ MORE: Post-partum euphoria is more than just feeling happy — experts say it can be a ‘lethal condition

Members of Hammond’s team and a social worker were present to offer support. They also taught parents new to the centre how to most effectively apply for funding.

Illingworth says nights like these have been “life-changing” for her family.

“I have a better understanding of how to raise this child, and not just take her to appointments. It’s about the bigger picture,” she said.

“I would love for other hospitals to see the benefit of the holistic, client-centred, team approach. I think it makes a huge difference in the psychology of the whole family.”

For families that may not have this sort of centre as an option, experts suggest looking for support groups in the community or online.

[email protected]

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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